Friday, June 11, 2010

NJPW G1 Climax 1992

Before we begin, a brief history lesson:

In 1991, Ric Flair was the NWA Champion but his boss Jim Herd decided that WCW needed to be more like the WWF in terms of gimmicks that appealed to kids, and that Flair, a distinct link to the past needed to freshen up his image (namely to get a hair-cut, an earring and a name change to Spartacus. No, really.) Flair understandably balked at the idea, fell out with Herd (who he hated anyway) and bolted ot the WWF without ever dropping the NWA title (Flair had posted a bond on the actual possession of the belt and Herd refused to cough up, instead choosing to slap a gold plate that read 'World Title' over the old Western States Heritage Title belt and award it to the winner of a Lex Luger/Barry Windham match). The NWA meanwhile opted to strip Flair of the title now that he was under contract to the non-NWA affiliated WWF, thus forever shattering the lineage NWA World Heavyweight Title.

WCW then revoked it's NWA membership before Herd was fired and replaced with Kip Allen Frey. Frey himself only lasted a few weeks before WCW brought in old-school thinking former Mid-South/UWF cheif Bill Watts to balance the books. Watts re-opened WCW's relationship with the NWA, which at the time was still looking to crown a new NWA champion (as well as NWA World Tag Team Champions). With New Japan Pro Wrestling also affiliated to the NWA, it seemed like the perfect choice to award the winner of New Japan's already established G1 Climax tournament the NWA World Title, whilst WCW took the NWA Tag Team Title tournament (which ran over the course of the 19th Clash of the Champions and the 1992 Great American Bash events).

So we have participation from both New Japan (Masahiro Chono, Keiji Mutoh, Tony Halme, Scott Norton, Bam Bam Bigelow, Shinya Hashimoto, Kensuke Sasaki, Super Strong Machine, Hiroshi Hase) and WCW (Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, Jim Neidhart, Terry Taylor, The Barbarian, Ravishing Rick Rude), and we're under single elimination rules as opposed to the traditional G1 Climax round-robin format.

Things kick off with every wrestler in the tournament being introduced along with some officials for the unveiling of the trophy and the title belt which follows a brief history package detailing the lineage of the NWA Title and the reasons for it being held up. Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair are all name-checked. The ceremony and the lighting set-up remind me of a big-time boxing fight for some reason, and just adds to the atmosphere and importance of the tournament.

Masahiro Chono vs. Tony Halme

Tony Halme gained later fame as Ludvig Borga, evil environmentalist in the WWF, and even later fame as a singer, boxer and television presenter in his native Finland. Here he's presented as a Road Warrior/Cyborg-inspired shoot fighter with the cut-off gloves boxing stance. And he lives up to his gimmick by punching Chono. A lot. And the crowd absolutely hates it and boos him with increasing fury every time he does it. It's a pretty weird match as Chono gets pretty much nothing from the off and gets dumped outside, all the while just getting pounded on by Halme. You know, I find it kind of interesting that despite being Finnish and working in Japan, Halme tends to favour the English language by shouting "FUCK!" a whole bunch of times. I guess you can get away with stuff like that in foreign countries.

Anyway, the crowd continues to boo as Halme continues to punch whilst Chono attempts to make his comebacks and teases some submission spots, before he finally catches Halme on the mat and submits him at 12:20 with the STF.

This actually had a very MMA kind of feel to it with Halme as the puncher and Chono as the wrestler just trying to hang in there long enough and take the repeated body shots from Halme whilst hoping to get that elusive chance to grab a hold on Halme, knowing that Halme wouldn't have the spirit in him to refuse the submission. On the other hand, it was a lot of punching and booing and Halme shouting "FUCK!" and not much else.

Keiji Mutoh vs. Barry Windham

Windham was looking a little pudgy here which wasn't a good sign (his weight gain not-so-unusually coincided with his in-ring decline) but he was still rocking it through 1992, and his opponent was Mutoh (of the orange wrestling tights variety, not the face-paint and mist-spitting version) so I was expecting good things and good things I got. Unfortunately, while watching it I couldn't help but think that if only this had been '87 Windham and '89 Muta we'd not have had good things but great things, and that was probably the saddest part about this match to me. I think the thing about Windham was it came so effortlessly to him that by the time he'd lost that youthful fire that made him catch fire in the '80's, he really did just look like a guy who wasn't putting in the effort.

Like I said though, Windham in 1992 could still rock the house and though this didn't reach the heady hights of Windham vs. Flair or Muta vs. Sting, it did it's job in a neat and tidy 10:17 when, after an earlier tease, Mutoh hit the power elbow, the handspring and the match winning moonsault to advance.

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Scott Norton

I think Bigelow is one of those guys who sits comfortably alongside the likes of Arn Anderson, Ted DiBiase, Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts etc. who could quite concievably have been a World champion but never quite made it for whatever reason (some guys never needed the belt, some guys just came along at the wrong time when there was already an established champion etc). I mean, here you've got a 300+ pound guy with a bald head covered in tattoos and flames all over his tights, who can do a cartwheel and a moonsault and possess the ability to have great matches with a variety of opponents (The Steiner Brothers, Rob Van Dam, Bret Hart, Taz) and yet he never got a serious look in as a title contender. I can only assume it was a combination of "right place, wrong time" and the fact he really never stayed in any one place for too long that led to him always being an upper card guy rather than the top guy.

Bigelow again gets to showcase that ability of working with a variety of opponents here in a decent little big man match, with a basic power vs. power effort that never outstays it's welcome. With his ribs taped up, Norton finds himself in the unfamiliar role of underdog here, and a primo bladejob just furthers his cause, really getting the fans behind him. The fan support and an apparent adrenaline rush give Norton what he needs to complete an unlikely comeback and he finishes Bigelow at 8:16, the shortest match of the entire tournament. Post-match, Bigelow calls for help for the bloodied Norton before bolting to the WWF.

Steve Austin vs. Arn Anderson

The battle of the Dangerous Alliance, and a battle between two established heels so naturally they shake hands pre-match to a nice round of applause. An interesting side-note to this match is that Austin and Anderson apparently spent the night previous on the town getting absolutely plastered on sake and naturally felt worse for wear here resulting in a below-par match. That's not to say it's a bad match of course; Anderson and Austin have such high standards that a below-par match for them can still be a pretty decent match.

Here they kick things off with some fine mat work and the occassional high spot (usually something off the ropes) before going back to the headlocks, hammerlocks and reversals. I'd be remiss in not point out that Austin looks utterly terrifying when staring at the camera during a headlock, sort of like a cross between a serial killing Nailz-cum-Waylon Mercy. Anyway, the wrestling continues as things build to...more mat wrestling and reversals. Just when you're expecting the pace to pick up, they keep things nice and easy before Austin takes the pin at 8:58 with the Stun Gun (though it seemed like he couldn't be arsed bumping on it initially).

Like I said, an under-par match for these two can still be a decent match, and this was a decent match but it just never seemed to get out of third gear and turn into the storming classic that it was threatening to do.

- And that ends the first round, at least as far as the commercial tape is concerned. I've no idea why the bottom half of the bracket didn't make the cut, instead being limited to black and white stills of the winners but to fill you up on the rest of the developments, Kensuke Sasaki pinned Jim Neidhart in 8:20, Shinya Hashimoto pinned The Barbarian in 11:29, Ravishing Rick Rude pinned Super Strong Machine in 11:54, and Terry Taylor took a bye directly into the quarter finals due to an injury suffered by Hiroshi Hase.

Koji Kanemoto & Osamu Nishimura vs. Hiroyoshi Yamamoto & Satoshi Kojima

Kojima is the future unified IWGP and Triple Crown champion looking really young. Yamamoto is the future Hiroyoshi Tenzan, he's got a sort-of skinny TAKA Michinoku kind of look going on. Nishimura I'm only familiar with through a match he had in ECW against Al Snow. Kanemoto's an ass-kicker. WCW officials Bill Watts and Dusty Rhodes are sat together in the crowd for this one.

Nishimura is so skinny but his interaction with Kojima is pretty fun and I can imagine a singles match between those two being worth a look. Yamamoto tries to be the commanding force in there but something isn't clicking. It's decent but it's not particularly great or interesting. At times it looks like a cross between your standard catch-as-catch-can match and a UWFI style worked shoot but it's all a bit messy until Kanemoto comes in and kicks some ass allowing Nishimura to pin Kojima. He celebrates it like he's just won a title.

I'm not really sure why this was here, other than perhaps New Japan just wanted their future stars to be featured.

Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoit) vs. Jushin 'Thunder' Liger

I was really looking forward to reviewing this one until Benoit went and slaughtered his family and himself and some 3 1/2 months later I still don't feel particularly interested in re-watching any of his work. This is somewhere between **** and ***** for those that need to know.

Terry Taylor vs. Kensuke Sasaki

As an aside, Dusty Rhodes and Bill Watts are again in the crowd but no longer sitting together. Not that I'm trying to stir it or anything.

Anyway, I'd previously seen this one on the G1 Climax Hyper History release and was pretty looking forward to it based on that. Sasaki isn't quite the worker he'd become, still in his early-90's luminous cycling shorts and pre-Hellraisers phase. Taylor's at about the end of his WCW run, not even working as The Taylor Made Man here.

I always wondered why Taylor never went to Japan to escape the Red Rooster stigma but I think he was too big to be a junior and too small to be an effective heavyweight and his lack of hard-hitting moves are another strike against him. He's still a useful performer though, and Sasaki was a pretty solid worker at the worst of times. Without a quality opponent to bring either guy up to the next level however, it never really begins to get interesting and is kinda just there. My train of thought veers away from the action a couple of times until Sasaki begins his comeback, at which point the crowd finally gets into it. You know, this match has shown me what clipping can do for a match, as the last couple of minutes here are pretty exciting and I can see how the cut-down Hyper History version would make you think this was going to be pretty great. As it is, it's kinda dull until the crowd gets into Sasaki's firey rally towards the end, and he wraps it up with a weird hiptoss roll-through into a pin.

Ravishing Rick Rude vs. Shinya Hashimoto

Shinya Hashimoto has always been a curiosity to me. I first became familiar with him through pictures and articles in mark magazines and was intrigued with the fact he seemed to be a top player in New Japan despite looking like a tubby Elvis Presley. I'd read about how his size and look were decieving and that when it came time to go, Hashimoto could really deliver, kind of like a 90's version of Samoa Joe but throughout my years of wrestling fandom I've somehow managed to miss his most lauded matches and still wonder what it was that made him so great. I mean, I can understand the appeal he has based on his physique and his big round head and sideburns but I've yet to come across anything of his that showed anything more than flashes of what might be.

This match was kind of like that. Just based on his look alone, Hashimoto is a guy I really want to like. I'm sure it was a big part of his enduring popularity - he looks like a bit of a couch potato (albiet a fairly fit one) so perhaps theres hope for the rest of us. But beyond a couple of nice moves here and there, this is just a match. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to make me sit up and go "You know what? This guy is actually fucking great".

Madusa ends up distracting Hashimoto (drawing some serious heat from the crowd in a country where interference is a rarity rather than the norm) and Rude ends up taking it with a nasty-looking spike DDT from the top. Afterwards, Hashimoto heads backstage in disgust and won't talk to anyone before burying his heads in his hands and crying like a man who's just been robbed blind. And you know what? I actually empathise with him. He WAS just robbed of his shot at the NWA World Title and I demand he seek vengeance! His body language here was just stunning and I'm starting to understand why so many people loved the guy. It was because they REALLY loved the guy. He's your neighbour. He's your uncle. He's your buddy at the bar, and he's a man's man who just got screwed over. I believe in you, Hash!

Steve Austin vs. Keiji Mutoh

This was shocklingly dull until Mutoh started busting out the Muta. Once they actually kicked it into gear (dropkick, handspring elbow, fighting on the floor) it really picked up. Mutoh missed a handspring elbow attempt on the outside and crashed into the steel railing around ringside which led to the heat segment from Austin. Unfortunately though, Mutoh seemed to blow the ending as he slipped off the ropes as it looked as if he was headed up for the moonsault, and rather than just carry on, he decided to work it as if he was exhausted and duly fell outside the ring. It wasn't such a bad idea in theory only once Austin dragged him back in, Mutoh recovered right away to score a back breaker and get what ended up being a somewhat anti-climactic moonsault for the win.

Cut out the first six or seven minutes worth of chinlocks and avoid the blown moonsault and you've got yourself a hell of a match. Otherwise it's about ***1/4

Masahiro Chono vs. Scott Norton

So the rest of this review is being written about 3 1/2 years later as my zest for updating this blog waned like a casual fan's interest in watching WWE after Triple H won the World title one too many times. It might account for a change in writing style - but it could be an excuse for saying I'm no longer creative enough to come up with much more than a couple of lines about each match, such is the case here.

I think Norton's kind of underrated in his role, and Chono's Chono but this just sort of laboured along and the big tip off was the crowd. I'd switched to cataloguing some Quantum Leap DVDs that had just arrived and at no point did I hear the crowd going crazy enough to make me really start taking notice. As an aside, I'd just watched a really good Takao Omori vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi match from Day 1 of the 2009 G1 Climax tournament, so I was maybe holding this match up against that one and this just felt flat by comparison. Still, I loved Norton's very believable selling of the injured ribs and and Chono taking the winning pin off a crucifix roll-up from an abdominal stretch. Very psychologically sound, but pretty dull.

The Steiner Brothers (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) vs. Kensuke Sasaki & Keiji Mutoh

This feels like a re-match of sorts, The Steiners having famously beating Sasaki & Hiroshi Hase to win the IWGP tag team titles at the Starrcade '91 in Egg Dome card the previous March before having dropped the straps to Hase & Mutoh on November 5th, 1991. Hase & Mutoh themselves lost the titles to Big, Bad and Dangerous (Big Van Vader & "Crusher" Bam Bam Bigelow) on March 1st, 1992, who in turn dropped the straps on June 26th to...The Steiner Brothers. Now we've got Mutoh & Sasaki challenging for the gold.

So this isn't quite as blistering as the fabled Steiners vs. Hase & Sasaki Tokyo Dome match, but it's really good. I mean, c'mon, it's the Steiners in 1992, of course it is. What's interesting is the Steiners clean house early before Mutoh & Sasaki get the heat, working as de-facto heels (switching off behind the referee's back) despite the crowd being totally behind them. And just at the point I'm noticing this, Scott decides he's had enough getting beaten up for one day and kills the heat on the hot tag by DDTing Sasaki out of nowhere, suplexing Mutoh and just rolling over to tag in big brother Rick, more-or-less ruining all the work done up to that point. To add to the confusion, Rick and Scott switch heel and start to get the heat on Sasaki but it doesn't last long before the whole thing breaks down into four guys destroying each other with every big move they've got, Scott's Frankensteiner on Mutoh not even finishing the match, but rather his top rope DDT (again to Mutoh).

I know some people complain about the tag team 'formula' but there's a reason for it as this match felt a little bit disjointed and not the all-time classic it could have been, although the crowd was red hot for the action. And so, despite my criticisms, I do have to say the action was hot and heavy, the crowd heat was up, the anticipation was there - this was a really good match, just not quite a great one. ***3/4

Trivia time - The Steiners would lose the belts on November 22nd, 1992 to Scott Norton & Tony Halme, while Sasaki & Mutoh would win the titles a bunch of times but never as partners.

Shiro Koshinaka & Kengo Kimura vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Osamu Kid

Ravishing Rick Rude vs. Kensuke Sasaki

Masahiro Chono vs. Ravishing Rick Rude

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Friday, September 25, 2009

The Glory of YouTube

Yeah, YouTube's pretty amazing really. Daily Motion, to give it its due, is also pretty damn stellar. Music videos, on-air gaffes, long forgotten 80's cartoons - it's all there. And wrestling. Lots and lots of professional wrestling.

Obscure matches. Bizarre gimmicks. Great angles. Long forgotten memories. There's so much great stuff available that it's kind of hard to know where to begin. I plumped for a search of "WWF - 1992" and just watched whatever came up.

P.S. I wrote these reviews about three/four years ago when YouTube first 'came out' (accounting for a different writing style and my habit of occasionally dishing out star ratings and occasionally not. If any of the videos are still alive, I'll bung them up in case you fancy a goggle too).

Nailz vs. Ken Wayne (WWF SummerSlam Spectacular, August 11th 1992)

The referee frisks Nailz to start. Cute. Nailz chokes out Wayne in the corner and Irish whips him out of ring. Nailz slides under the ring as if he's escaping under barbed wire. Cute. Again. Nailz is facing Virgil at SummerSlam dontcha know? Back in and Nailz slams Wayne then kicks him in the ribs. More choking and Wayne takes the Cactus Jack hangman spot whilst Vince shills the pay-per-view. More choking. Clothesline and Nailz gets a choke/sleeper for the win at 3:29. After the match, Nailz scares of the referee and continues to work over Wayne with The Big Boss Man's nightstick. 1/4* for the character traits. If you like chokes, this is the match for you.

Rick The Model Martel vs. Joey Maggs (WWF SummerSlam Spectacular, August 11th 1992)

Hey, it's Jumpin' Joey! This is bound to be a squash but it should be pretty decent. Vince is still shilling SummerSlam. Martel slaps on a headlock and wont let go. Hammerlock reversed by mags but Martel drop toe holds himself out of it. Irish whip is reversed by Martel and he avoids contact with a cartwheel. Fancy. Armdrag and Martel does jumping jacks. Shouldn't that be Joey's gimmick? Collar and elbow tie up and now it's moderately famous angle time as Sensational Sherri makes her way to ringside while Joey gets in some token offence. Martel takes a look at Sherri and Joey gets a roll-up but Martel kicks out and Sherri leaves. She was with Shawn Michaels at this point you see, but Michaels had cost Martel the Intercontinental title in a match with Bret Hart a few weeks earier by interfering and attacking The Hitman so Martel was out for revenge on Michaels at Summerslam. Sherri was worried though that both men were going to come to fists and both were too handsome to let that happen which led to a unique no hitting each other in the fact pact and the announcers began to wonder if Sherri had a crush on Martel despite professing her love for Michaels. Anyway, backbreaker sets up the Boston Crab for a Martel win at 2:42. 1/2*

For some reason, searching "WWF - 1992" even brought up some '92 WCW matches. Not that I'm complaining:

The Steiner Brothers (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) vs. G.Q. Stratus & Mike Sampson (WCW TV, August 2nd 1992)

Scott starts with Stratus and gets a hiptoss. Stratus complains. Legtrip and Stratus moans to the referee again. Stratus backs up Scotty into the corner and wails away but Steiner reverses on a whip and gets a belly-to-belly suplex. Half crab and in comes Rick who just kicks Stratus square in the face. Rick flapjacks Stratus into the corner and allows Stratus to bring in Sampson who gets an elbow smash in the face and takes a stiff Steinerline. Scott gets back in with teh tilt-a-whirl slam and Scott hits the Frankensteiner at 2:36 for the pin. In case you didn't get it, The Steiner Brothers were awesome back then. 3/4*

(No vid, so here's a delightful pic instead):

Ron Simmons vs. Mike Superior (WCW Worldwide, August 2nd 1992)

Simmons was fresh off his WCW World Title win against Vader here. Superior shows his strength but he's less ripped than Simmons. Simmons wrestles his way into an early pin attempt then starts to fire away on Superior after Superior cheap shots him. Simmons just pounds the guy and doesn't look back. Well, you just don't step to Ron. Clothesline from Simmons and the big powerslam wins it at 2:12. 1/2*

Joey Maggs vs. Bob Cook (WCW Saturday Night, October 1992)

This is being promoted as a Battle of the Underdogs since both guys are enhancement talent. 29. Cook wont shake hands. Collar and elbow tie-up and they do some basic wrestling whilst Jim Ross tries to explain the level of talent on display since they're both jobbers. This is an equal playing field and one of them is going to get what could be an important win. Cook gets a drop toe hold into a front face lock but Maggs takes it into a hammerlock. Cooks turns that into a fireman's carry and Maggs counters with a head scissors. Ross wishes his mother a happy birthday since there's nothing more interesting to talk about. More basic stuff, just displaying the fundamentals really. Armdrag into an armbar by Maggs. Cook with an elbow and uses his experience to avoid a corssbody and works away in the corner. I like his subtle heel-isms. Maggs catches Cook with an elbow on a corner charge but misses a European-style dropkick. Cook sends Maggs into the turnbuckle. Scoop slam by Cook but he misses the elbow and Maggs gets an enziguri and fires away in the corner. He goes for a monkey-flip but Cook pushes him off and gets a floatover suplex for the pin at 4:05. Back and forth stuff. Maggs showed some fire but never went anywhere because he was too small. Cook just didn't have the look or the body to be a star but they put together a decent little match. 3/4*

Kamala vs. Burt Stiles (WWF SummerSlam Spectacular, August 11th 1992)

Doctor Harvey Wippleman introduces Kamala. Kim Chee is in Kamala's corner for this one. The big guy has a date with The Dead Man himself, The Undertaker at SummerSlam. Vince McMahon is worried about Kamala putting Undertaker in a pot and cooking him! If only. It's weird seeing Kamala pushed as a legitimate force when you've just watched him doing exactly the same act and not looking a day older whilst getting squashed by Umaga on Raw. Kamala dominates and slaps his belly a lot. Superkick by Kamala! Bobby Heenan wonders how many people in Uganda are going to order SummerSlam on pay-per-view. Slam, thrust to the throat and a big splash which should be academic but Kamala tries to pin Stiles whilst Stiles is still layed out on his front. Wippleman tells Kamala to roll him over so he does. And again and again before finally getting it right and getting the pin at 2:30. 1/4* After the match, Kamala threatens a splash from the top rope but Kim Chee talks him out of it.

Meanwhile, in a Peoria local news story, The Nasty Boys have been stabbed:

I watched a tribute to Tony Atlas which was just a load of pictures set to a background of Hand Jive. It's not on YouTube any more so here's something else - Tony Atlas vs. Vinnie Vegas in Jesse Ventura's "Strongest Arm In WCW" tournament. Something else indeed.

Next? Al Bundy introducing the November Saturday Night's Main Event. I had that show on tape (still do - love the Ultimate Maniacs vs. Money, Inc match) but my tape cut in after this little skit. And it's not on YouTube any more either so here's the second SNME theme (one of my favourites):

A sad story about Andre The Giant's love child. Andre hardly ever saw her even though she wanted to get to know him. Andre passed away in January of 1993, just a few months after this piece was made. Feature runs 4:14, and it's not on YouTube any more either so here's Andre fighting Chuck Wepner instead. And why not?

A bunch of promos from the 1992 Royal Rumble. Runs 9:23.

Blood, Sweat and Jeers

A famous Wrestling Expose news piece about the sex and drugs lifestyle of pro wrestling. Bruno Sammartino says Vince McMahon's need for monsters led to steroid abuse, notably with Hulk Hogan who tells kids not to do drugs. Superstar Billy Graham calls Hogan a liar, a coward and "the scum of the earth" for lying to the kids. Graham claims to have personally injected Hogan in 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan (at WrestleMania III), again at The Keil Auditorium in St. Louis, MA and finally at The Cow Palace in San Fransisco, California. David Shultz also claims to have given Hogan drugs and Billy Jack Haynes says he and Hogan injected each other. Hogan himself claimed to only use steroids three times and only for medical purposes but refused to talk about it on the expose. Talk moves to cocaine and Hogan telling Billy Graham not to do it because it's too addictive to get off whilst shooting up three lines himself. Haynes claims that if you want a job with Vince McMahon and he wants you to do steroids, you better do it. Haynes says he got addicted to steroids and had a bad reaction on a plane and woke up in a hospital where he was faced with the choice of shock treatment or a pacemaker. Hell. Haynes took the shock treatment then recieved a call from Vince McMahon telling him he needed to make his dates or be fired. What a shitty business. Meanwhile, we go back in time to "Dr. D" David Shultz slapping reporter John Stossel on 20/20. Shultz claims McMahon told him to blast Stossel for making a joke of the business in his report but then fired him when word got out of the assault. Jim Stewart, Vince's personal limousine driver from 1985 to 1990 backs up Shultz, claiming he heard Vince saying he shouldn't have told Shultz to slap him. Stewart also calls McMahon a "pig" and claims he uses people then tosses them away. Next, Murray Hodgson claims he was fired by the WWF for refusing to have sex with the Vice President of Operations (Pat Patterson). Patterson was never charged with sexual harassment but resigned when Hodgson filed suit. Hodgson apparently told Patterson "You've got the wrong guy" but Patterson replied "Not if you want to keep your job". A few weeks later, Hodgson was unemployed. Reporter John Johnston then catches up with Vince McMahon himself who refuses to answer any alegations and tells Johnston that the proper way to go about this is to talk to Steve Planamenta (presumably a WWF lawyer). Johnston says he talked to Planamenta and claims Planamenta told him McMahon wasn't available to comment so McMahon tells him to try again. Johnston called back the next day and was again told that McMahon refused to answer any of the allegations. The WWF however did send a letter dated April 27th, 1992 in which Murray Hodgson asked Vince McMahon for work on the WBF project (and in my opinion, he seemed really insincere in his interview). His case was due to go to court later that summer. Absolutely fascinating piece which runs 7:18 in total.

Big Van Vader vs. Bobby Baker (WCW TV, 1992 or 1993)

This is listed as 1992 or 1993 so I'll review it anyway. Vader's the WCW Champion at this point. Eric Bischoff and Teddy Long on commentary. Vader headbutts Baker to start and pounds away. Three shots and Baker is out. Short arm clothesline and Vader poses. Backbreaker into a fallaway slam. Bischoff notes that it's been eight months since Vader broke Joe Thurman's back so that should place this. Powerbomb and thats all she wrote at 1:33. Brutal. 1/2*

Match is gone, so here's Vader killing some other bum right before Fall Brawl '93:

Big Van Vader vs. Joe Thurman & ? McCoy (WCW TV, 1992)

This was some time after Vader beat Sting for WCW title at The Great American Bash in Baltimore.

Vader splashes McCoy in the corner and lets him tag in Thurman. Vader mows Thurman down and hits the short-arm clothesline. Pump-handle chokeslam and people in the front row are grimmacing. Powerbomb folds Thurman over, breaking his back. Vader rolls him over gingerly and leans over him for the pin at 2:10 as everyone crowds Thurman to check if he's OK. Vader looked visibly shaken. 1/2*

Vinnie Vegas vs. Todd Champion (WCW TV, 1992)

This is from a Canadian WCW telecast (I think) and is pre-WrestleWar '92. Lock-up goes nowhere. Pretty slow to get into things. Hardly surprising with Nash involved. Top wristlock by Champion and Vegas trips Champion. The pace is what Jim Ross might call 'deliberate'. Champion goes for a full nelson but Vegas yawns (he was probably blown up by this point). He nails Champion with a back elbow and goes to a full nelson of his own but Champion drops out. Vegas goes to the abdomen with a knee but misses a clothesline. Champion tries to slam Vegas but Vegas is too big and Vegas goes after the back. Bearhug and we're clipped to Champion coming back but he misses on a charge and Vegas gets a backdrop suplex and his feet on the ropes for the win at 3:15 shown. 1/2*

Unfortunately I found the original match on Daily Motion so I'll have to find another way to shoehorn the Vinnie Vegas theme music video in:

Intercontinental Title Ladder Match - Bret Hart [Champion] vs. Shawn Michaels [w/ Sensational Sherri] (WWF Prime Time Wrestling, June 1992)

This is split into two parts for easier digestion but I've seen it on tape plenty of times anyway. So the backstory goes a little something like this: With SummerSlam '92 fast approaching, Bret Hart (or Davey Boy Smith, depending on who you believe) went to Vince McMahon and proposed holding the event at Wembley Stadium in London, England, given the WWF's massive level of popularity throughout Europe at that time. Vince's other plan was to hold the event in Texas and have Bret Hart drop his Intercontinental Title to talented young mid-carder Shawn Michaels who had been groomed for success from the beginning of the year and right through WrestleMania. Bret's idea was to drop the belt to Davey Boy in a 'family feud' if the event was held at Wembley (to capitalise on Smith's home-country popularity) or to Michaels in a Ladder Match if the show was to take place in Texas. Vince was curious to the Ladder stipulation but didn't fully understand the concept, so asked Hart and Michaels to go out and perform an 'exhibition' of sorts of this whacky new match at a TV taping. Fortunately for all of us, the WWF filmed the match and released it on tape through Coliseum video shortly after. This is that match.

Collar and elbow tie-up into the corner and Michaels goes to work right away with punches since there's no referee in the ring. Bret gets a pair of clotheslines and punches back. Backdrop by Bret and Michaels bumps hard off an an Irish whip. Uppercut and Michaels takes another huge bump. Bret goes for the ladder but Michales cuts him off and takes control. Michaels knees Bret in the stomach and goes out after the ladder but Bret waits on him and nails him as soon as Michaels drags the ladder down to ringside. Back in and Bret elbows Michaels and goes out to bring the ladder in but Sensational Sherri (Michales' valet) grabs the ladder and wont let Bret pick it up. Bret forgets the match and chases Sherri down the aisle allowing a heart-in-mouth moment as Michaels sneaks out and brings the ladder in himself and Bret has to sprint back to the ring to prevent Michaels from getting the belt. They slug it out in the middle of the ring and Micahels goes down allowing Bret to dash up the ladder but Michaels is quick enough to pull him back down. Michales goes to work on Bret with the ladder but misses a charge into the corner.

Micahels sets the ladder up in the corner but puts his head down on a whip and Bret kicks him in the face. Michaels reverses another whip and sends Bret running into the ladder and decides to climb but Bret pulls him down and the ladder falls right on top of Michales. Bret makes a reach for the belt but Michaels knocks him back down and takes control again. They fight over the ladder in the corner until Michaels sends Bret headfirst into the ladder and sets it up in the corner again. Bret gets his foot up on a charge then gives Michaels a slingshot into the ladder and Michales takes yet another huge bump off that. Backbreaker by Bret and he goes up but Michaels shakes him down and they both hit heads on a charge. Michaels sets the ladder up and they both climb up opposite sides and both fall off the side trying to knock each other down. They slug it out and Sherri trips Bret allowing Michaels to get the reverse crescent kick (superkick) and his pattented side suplex, giving him another chance to climb the ladder. He gets his fingertips to it so Bret dropkicks the ladder and Michaels lands crotch-first across the top rope. Ouch! Michaels falls outside the ring giving Bret the opportunity to go up the ladder and grab the belt to retain the title at 14:34. Absolutely great match for drama, crowd heat and psychology, as the match was structured around the chase rather than the big spots that modern ladder matches are based on. As a consequence, wrestling fans from the Attitude era onwards might not appreciate this as much as maybe they should. Fuck 'em. ****1/4

Incidentaly, McMahon chose Wembley as the site for SummerSlam and Bret dropped the belt to Davey Boy Smith for the show-closing superpop. Davey himself dropped the belt to Michaels at the October Saturday Night's Main Event taping to set up a title vs. title match with new champion Michaels against Bret who had recently won his first WWF title from Ric Flair. The ladder match concept itself lay dormant until WrestleMania X in April of 1994 when it was used for the Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon Intercontinental Title match that made both guys megastars, and the match became synonimous with Michaels despite having been Bret's baby and a staple of Stampede Wrestling. Needless to say, Bret could never quite let that one go.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

WWE - Survivor Series (23.11.2008)

So when I saw the pseudo-spoiler "Survivor Series 2008, was awesome!" I was excited to see the show. I had a feeling Edge was showing up based on that picture that did the rounds on Sunday and then accidentally saw a picture of John Cena with the World Title belt. Such is not being able to see the show live.

Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, The Great Khali & Cryme Tyme vs. John Bradshaw Layfield, John Morrison, The Miz, MVP & Kane

I really, really liked the opener. Moreso since they got rid of shitty Cryme Tyme and shitty Kane real quick. I was worried it was going to be a situation where they just had rapid-fire eliminations just to give the singles matches some time but since they went about 20-25 minutes after the deadwood got booted I was pretty happy with it. I loved Shawn getting busted up hardway from JBL's punches, I loved Rey's splash from the top of Khali's shoulders (and Striker's Snuka/Andre reference) and I love, love, loved JBL's elimination. I know a lot of people whinge about count-out finishes but I think there's a place for them or they wouldn't exist and this was perfect with Shawn ducking the Clothesline From Hell, JBL avoiding the superkick and Shawn noticing the referee's count and simply outsmarting JBL into getting counted out. Bliss. JBL's reaction was perfect too. I also really liked the closing shot of Khali in the middle, Shawn on the bottom rope and Rey on the middle rope so they could all be the same height. Cuteness.

Beth Phoenix (WWE Women's Champion), Mickie James, Jillian Hall, Candice Michelle & Kelly Kelly vs. Michelle McCool (WWE Divas Champion), Victoria, Natalya, Maryse & Maria

The Divas match was useless. I'm glad Beth went over because I'm a fan of hers but Santino did largely nothing (apart form the good old air trumpet) and I was suprised they didn't use the set-up (Raw vs. SmackDown!) to set up more issues and give the brand champions some immediate challengers. As a match it was just a mess and with five heels and five babyfaces involved, I'm surprised they didn't just do a straight face-heel match.

The Undertaker vs. The Big Show (Casket Match)

Undertaker vs. Big Show was where I lost interest. I gave the Divas match a chance expecting that like the opener the deadwood would be beaten in a couple of minutes and the workers would carry it but it was just a mess. Coming off that with two guys I've got little interest in outside of about one match every two years or so wasn't going to do much to win favour with me and the first portion was standard big-man slugging and walking. Yawn. Worse was the second period with all the bullshit special effects, dual caskets, druids and a hokey-looking finish. Poor.

Batista, CM Punk (WWE Tag Team Champion), Kofi Kingston (WWE Tag Team Champion), Matt Hardy (ECW Champion), & R-Truth vs. Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Mark Henry, William Regal (WWE Intercontinental Champion), & Shelton Benjamin (WWE United States Champion)

Final elimination match was dull stuff. It's getting a bit more praise than I think I'd give it but I was really turned off after the last two matches. I did like Regal's surprise elimination right at the start and Layla pelting Punk in the face with her shoe but beyond that it just felt entirely predictable and a little bit tired. It was pretty clear to see the gulf between the stars and the jobbers-to-the-stars and that's all it ever felt like, just waiting for the inevitable. That being said, I really liked the finish once it was down to Orton, Batista and Rhodes and it's clear that Cody is being groomed to be a real player a couple of years down the line.

Triple H (WWE Champion) vs. Vladimir Kozlov

HHH vs. Kozlov was really dull. I get the theory behind doing it that way to make the ending more impactful and I also get the theory behind Kozlov just not being at the level to have a particularly exciting pay-per-view semi-final match. And while I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing to make a match boring to maximise the payoff, you can't deny it was still tedious to sit through. Still, the ending with Vickie Guerrero coming out and saying the triple-threat match could go ahead (pop), announcing that "He's here!" (BIG pop) and then Edge trotting out (SUPER POP~!) and winning the belt with Jeff Hardy showing up for real and costing HHH the belt was superb and sets up some really interesting scenarios for the next couple of months at least for the Road To WrestleMania~.

Chris Jericho (World Heavyweight Champion) vs. John Cena

Main event wasn't too hot to start with but I liked the psychology with Cena being worried about his neck and overcoming his nerves to come off the top rope, and I really got into the last 15 minutes or so despite the obvious outcome. Cena and Jericho have some pretty good chemistry together as this and previous matches have displayed and I'd like to see more, though I think Cena should have had to 'earn' his title shot. Coming out of a major loss at SummerSlam to Batista, not wrestling for three months then having a main event world title match doesn't put any sympathy on Cena, it just makes him look underserving like he gets special treatment. And yet they wonder why some people hate him.

Overall it started strong and finished strong and had some strong spots in the middle so it was hardly close to being one of the worst shows of the year, but you could have taken somewhere from 90 minutes-2 hours of tedium out of the rest show and you wouldn't have been anywhere quiet as bored for lengthy periods.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

WWE No Mercy (05.10.2008)

In typical WWE fashion, this was like most of the cards I watch with no anticipation or excitement going into it - surprisingly good. If I think a card looks bad on paper, it tends to be good (perhaps from lowered expectations) and No Mercy was another such pay-per-view.

Really, the Jericho-Michaels Ladder Match was absolutely stellar, and the HHH-Hardy match was the first HHH match since the Last Man Standing match with Randy Orton one year ago that I actually enjoyed (or indeed, was able to tolerate - I'm completely sick of Hunter if you couldn't guess). Ultimately, the right man went over (though the marks again whinged about how it was the 'right' time to give Jeff the belt. Hint - it wasn't, you just got manipulated by a great finish and can't see that).

The finish to Undertaker-Big Show I really liked as well as it was so out-of-the-box and gives Show a whole new dimension, much like Undertaker had with the triangle choke (I remember a lot of people at the time including Bryan Alvarez claiming that choke was a gogoplata but if MMA is real and wrestling isn't then how could it be the same thing?)

The rest of the card was as expected though unlike some, I really liked the MVP/Randy Orton/Simply Priceless/CM Punk/Kofi Kingston angle (even if it was straight out of an episode of Raw) and I wasn't paying $40 for the privelage so, ya know.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

PCW - Pro Championship Wrestling Live! (20.10.2007)

366 miles. 10 hour round-trip with no iPod. Freezing your tits off in the middle of nowhere, long after midnight and with no plan for the evening. Four guys sleeping on the floor of a cheap Birmingham travelodge designed to fit two. Somehow spending about £20 whilst eating practically nothing all weekend. It can only be a road trip to see some shitty indy wrestling~!

Hereford Leisure Centre, Hereford, Herefordshire (350 crowd).

Spud vs. Derice Coffie

I'm used to seeing Spud as a heroic underdog comic book superhero type babyface, and the fact he also looks like a small child means all the kids in the crowd can live vicariously through him in the same way they would with that other great heroic underdog comic book superhero type babyface, Rey Mysterio. Of course, it also means an unfair amount of stick from the 'smart' fans in attendance because it's the cool thing to do in a John Cena infested 2007 but tonight, Spud earned the boos.


Because, rather unexpectedly he unveiled his narcissitic, self-absorbed 80's rock star character, string vest, pink spandex, headscarf and all!

Derice Coffie on the other hand had an entirely unexpected 1990's WWF gimmick character all of his own - Jamaican bobsleigher. So whilst Spud was riffing on This Is Spinal Tap, Coffie paid homage to another movie none of the kids in the crowd were likely familiar with in Cool Runnings. The parents lapped it up though. For his part, Coffie came out in full bobsleigh apparel and managed to work the gimmick into his wrestling in a quite brilliant spot. Sitting behind Spud, he weaved from side to side as if they were a two man bobsleigh team, dizzying up Spud enough to get a two count. Spot of the year, right there.

Coffie had also added a really bizarre Bushwhackers-esque gesture by swinging his arm around, and soon enough all the kids were doing it though I've not got a clue what it was supposed to signify. Maybe a bobsleigh official does it for a clean run like an umpire raises his arms for a six in cricket, who knows.

The biggest question I had about this match though was in what universe does a rock star and bobsleigher have enough of a personal rivalry that they feel the need to settle it locked in the mortal combat of a profressional wrestling match? I mean, it's fairly clear that they were going for the campy WWF style characters they probably grew up watching that you just don't get in an indy scene made up of kickpad-clad flippy headdroppers, but when you look back you had guys like The Big Boss Man (police officer) and his natural enemies The Mountie (corrupt Canadian officer) and Nailz (embittered former convict) or The Undertaker (undead zombie) and his revolving cast of b-movie monsters like Papa Shango (voodoo priest), Kamala (Ugandan cannibal), The Berzerker (er, berzerker) etc. Policeman vs. Criminal? Sure. Inhuman SuperFreak vs. Creepy Witchdoctor? I guess so. Rock Star vs. Bobsleigher? I don't get it.

As for the actual match, it was pretty dull after five hours on the road and repeated stops for no real reason at overpriced, undermaintained roadside hotspots (although the one with the motherfucking Mushiking card game machine was awesome~!) It's not a knock on the workers since they really didn't do anything wrong and the kids were crazy into everything they did, but as someone who's been around the grappling block a few times it was just one massive Larry Zbyszko stall-fest for what felt like an hour or so as they ran through all the easy heat spots you've seen a million times (including Spud's threats to leave the venue if people don't show him respect and stealing Tracy Smothers' dance off gimmick, refined to a hair metal gimmick-suitable inflatable guitar showdown). Still, this show was clearly aimed at the 8-year old fanbase and not the cynical 24-year old who'd tagged along just for a day out and a free ticket, and certainly there was no need to go killing youself on house show way below the radar of the average workrate-centric indyphile.

The Damned Nation (Majik & Dragon Aisu) vs. The Coalminers (Coalminer A & Coalminer B)

Can someone explain to me why I'm supposed to give a shit about The Coalminers? I'm supposed to love these guys because they spend their days doing hard labour in a dirty cave? We haven't even had any coal in our house since about 1986! Or maybe I'm supposed to hate these guys for that? I mean, I hate people who like Scrubs and I hate the Conservative Party but a pair of coalminers? They're just two guys, nothing more, nothing less.

What's even worse about the gimmick is that they wear those yellow hard hats to the ring and wrestle in overalls and steel-capped working boots. I can hear you asking yourself "What's so wrong with that?" and I'll tell you: They're clean as a fucking whistle. Not a hint of dirt anywhere, not on their faces, not on their overalls, nothing. Remember that last paragraph were I wondered why I should like them for doing hard labour in dirty caves? Hard labour my ass. They look they've somehow managed to sneak off work under the foreman's nose every day for the last twenty years and gone to get pampered at a health spa. Yeah, I definitely hate The Coalminers.

Damned Nation meanwhile are of the science fiction-intrigued metalhead variety, and Dragon Aisu seems to be somewhat of a hypocrite. Having previously complained about a wrestler bringing his title from one promotion to another (in this case Britain's 1PW) on the grounds that (rightfully) nobody at the 1PW shows would give a shit about a belt they'd never heard of and wouldn't recognise, Damned Nation proceeded to wear their 1PW tag team titles to the ring here. At an indy show with no connection to 1PW. In a building made up of 348 eight-year old WWE fans and their parents (who based on their response to the heel/face character reversals of 1PW regulars Spud and The Iron Lions one can only assume don't even follow 1PW) plus two smarks along for the ride who ultimately didn't care either way.

This. Is. INDY~!

Damned Nation won.

Brandon Thomas & T-Bone vs. The Dream Time Boyz

Who the fuck has a name like T-Bone? What is that all about? What does that even mean!? Oddly enough, the guy who looked like the typical goth/metalhead/warlock indy wrestler with the daft name (who I expected to be the one called T-Bone) ended up being Brandon Thomas, a hairy guy who looked like my sci-fi and Tommy Vance-loving uncle did in the 80's but without the beer belly and a shiny new set of kickpads. Brandon Thomas meanwhile looked like a mildly flabby version of Santino Marella with a different head. Some gym time and he'll be set.

As for The Dream Time Boyz, who the fuck in 2007 does a Backseat Boyz tribute? I didn't want to see Full Pack do it in 2004 and I certainly don't want to see it 2007. I mean, did anyone bar a couple of hundred geeks even want to see the Backseat Boyz themselves in 2003?

Brandon Thomas and T-Bone went over but I'll be damned if I can remember anything else about this.

Ashley Steele vs. Caimen

Steele (representing England) is about as bland a patriotic babyface as you can get. He basically looked like an expensive hairdresser (possibly gay as most male hairdressers seem to be) and wore some long neon aquamarine tights with nothing on them. No stripes, no pattern, no name across the arse cheeks, just plain, neon aquamarine.

Caimen (representing closely approximated Wales) wore nothing to really distinguish himself as being Welsh, instead pairing up his long black hair and blonde handlebar moustache with a blindingly neon pink singlet with the word "Caimen" emblazoned across the front of it. I'm not even sure what Caimen means or if it's even a word. A check up on Wikipedia suggests that the Spectacled Caiman is a crocodilian reptile, but he doesn't seem to be playing up to that in any way at all.

Of course, the home country hero went over, and I was left to further ponder if it it's hypocritical of me to support the English national football team whilst generally disapproving of most other aspects of such nationalism.

"Proud to be British!".
"Rule Britannia!".
"Keep the pound!".
"Americans are all big stupid fatties and I hate them despite all my favourite TV, film, clothing lines, fast food and music originate from there!".
"French people are all arrogant and smelly unlike me even though Paris is a beautiful city and my family on my dad's side is of French ancestry!"
"We beat the Germans twice in world wars that I wasn't even alive to be emotionally involved in!"

Lets get dead already.

Team Charming ("Sadistic" Jack Storm & "Human Hate Machine" Dave Moralez) w/ "Charming" Don Charles vs. The Iron Lions (Andy Boy Simmonz & James Tighe)

Fucking hell, Dave Moralez is absolutely fucking massive in width!

Fucking hell, James Tighe appears to be headed the same way!

Fucking hell!

Jack Storm still looks like a 14 year old girl though. Get a haircut and stop moaning about your parents not letting you play Papa Roach loudly you hormonally moody teenage freak!

Sadly, nobody recognised Andy Boy Simmonz. You'd think with everyone here being a WWE fan (the kids in front of us had enthusiastically debating the drestuctive, mostrous prowess of Big Daddy V earlier in the night and every other kid was sporting some form of Rey Mysterio apparel) they'd have spotted Simmonz just a couple of days after his THREE gimmick matches with Umaga had aired on both repeats Raw and he was acknowledged by name by Vinny Mac himself on the show but apparently not.

"Mr. Vain" Pete Collins vs. Eamon O'Neill

Pete Collins is apparently a World Of Sport-era veteran although nobody (even the parents) seemed to have heard of him. I presume he just appeared like one time when he was about 19 losing a semi-squash to Rollerball Rocco or Johnny Saint or something.

With that said, I have to question the point of bringing in someone and promoting him as a World Of Sport verteran if you're not going to play that up when it comes to bell time?

Coming out to early 90's German Eurodance trio Culture Beat's 'Mr. Vain' (naturally) but looking like your middle-aged uncle who's interest in music started with Deep Purple and ended with Steppenwolf, Collins did nothing to evoke memories of the old Good Afternoon Grapple Fans, Two Falls, Two Submissions Or A Knockout, In The Blue Corner, He Recieves His First Public Warning days The Queen Mother used to swing her handbag about to. No British stylings, no rounds, just a standard American Wrestling match between some old, out-of-shape bloke and his younger, non-descript opponent. Collins eventually won a dull match that nobody was really interested in, kind of like those popcorn matches the WWF used to put on pay-per-view right before the main event.

The thing about indy shows is that you never really know who's going to be there or what kind of show you'll get. So far, we'd gotten some whacky cartoon gimmicks that sort-of missed the point but at least gave a bit of colour to some guys who'd otherwise just be skinny kids in kickpads (the bobsleder, the rock star, both coalminers), some generic indy guys, some mark guys doing tribute gimmicks to the 2001-2002 US indy and X-Division guys they watched whilst still backyarders, some really non-descript guys, and a middle-aged veteran supposedly brought up in the old-style of British catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling doing an unsuitable gimmick and working the same match as all the other young guys on the show.

Which brings us to our main event.

Rhino vs. "Wildcat" Robbie Brookside

Yes, THAT Rhino. Of ECW, WWE and TNA fame. Against THAT Robbie Brookside. Of highly-respected British wrestling veteran and Video Diaries fame.

Rhino's had a few intriguing indy matches in 2007. Martin Stone in IPW-UK. ROH/NOAH's Nigel McGuinness at the King Of Europe Cup tournament. A bout with Necro Butcher that I really hope shows up on DVD somewhere. And this seeming clash of styles with Brookside.

What an odd set-up. An otherwise worthless, standard, stand-alone house show full of whacky gimmicks and self-preservation wrestling to give the local WWE fans a taste of live action and their parents a cheap and easy distraction for their kids for the night, and they fly in Rhino. And despite PCW's relationship with Len Davies and RQW (who broadcast matches on TCW-Fight in the UK and have the best video and editing set-up in the country), this match isn't being taped for TV and subsequent promotion of PCW. Even more oddly, RQW is running a TV taping event tomorrow night in London and Rhino isn't booked as he's on the first flight back to Detroit in the morning. And neither was he over for a bigger 'supershow' or anything and decided to stay over an extra night even though noted flyer-in of talent 1PW has just run another Doncaster Dome card. Very puzzling.

Ultimately, they played it safe. As mentioned previously, this was a stand alone house show for the kids just happy to see a superstar live in the flesh. A little bit of wrestling, a little bit of resting, Brookside heeling it up, GORE! GORE! GORE! and that was all that inside ten minutes. They knew their audience and exploited it to a T.

This match, all 10 minutes of it, were later described as "boring" by one of the aforementioned INDY~! wrestlers on the show. Just so you know.

And on a related note, here's a video of the road trip including some footage of the Rhino-Brookside encounter. Check that pop!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TNA Slammiversary (17.06.2007)

The best pay-per-view TNA has done in absolutely ages.

I really liked the opening video package, going back to the opening from the early days of the promotion before bombarding you with a barrage of crappy angles set to some duelling banjos. But just as you begin to wonder what the hell they were thinking with this goofy redneck nonsense, the rock music kicks in over a montage of today's top talent hitting their big spots. It's a hell of a contrast, but just as THAT sinks in, here comes the surreal: Mike Tenay and Don West calling the action at a golf tournament with Tiger Woods about to make a trophy winning putt. No, really. But THEN, Tiger's ball is stopped inches short of the 18th by the boot of Jeff Jarrett who proceeds to smash Woods over the head with his grey balsa guitar before some hillbilly rock band performs the theme song for the show. Well, that was quite the unique start to a wrestling show.

The Latin American Xchange (Homicide y Hernandez) [w/ Konnan] vs. Rhino & Senshi [w/ Hector Guerrero]

Super hot opener, crowd was really into it which was pretty much the theme of the night. Senshi was a last-minute replacement for Chris Harris but no reason was given. I actually didn't realise at the time having not followed TNA's mostly God-awful TV show in recent months but it was a pretty good substitution that set up an even dynamic between the two teams, and Rhino/Senshi really clicked as a team despite this being their first outing with little prep time.

This was just a nice little match to get the crowd going (and man, were they ever going!) with everyone doing what you'd expect - Senshi bringing the kicks before getting caught by Hernandez who threw him around like a ragdoll before Rhino scored the hot tag and cleared house. The seconds then got involved - Konnan threw in the slapjack to Homicide but with the referee distracted, Hector Guerrero jumped up and pulled Homicide throat-first across the top rope allowing Rhino to hit the match winning GORE! GORE! GORE! at 8:24 of a fun opener.

- Backstage, Mrs. Brooks tried to convince Eric Young to sleep with her but Gail Kim intervened and told Eric he needed to focus on Robert Roode.

X-Division Title: Chris Sabin (c) vs. 'Black Machismo' Jay Lethal

I wish we could get Kevin Nash and JBL on the same commentary team, I really do. Nash was a riot here, even if you don't get what he's referencing half the time but the line about changing the name of Jonesville to Nashville in honour of his basketball career was hilarious.

This was another fun match with the crowd deeply into Jay Lethal's Macho Man take-off, and they were rewarded when the unlikely title contender scored the pin at 8:52 with an awkward looking Big Elbow after some typically good action. Don West just added to the whole situation by insinuating that Nash was Lethal's dad, and the title win must be a great father's day present. The only thing I didn't like here was TNA asking fans to vote on who they thought would win the World Title match later via text message which was just really distracting while the match was going on.

- I just noticed Earl Hebner was rocking the old-school blue shirt with black dickie bow style referee garb tonight. In fact, all the referees did that. Cool.

James Storm & Ron 'The Truth' Killings vs. Jerry Lynn & Frank Wycheck

Frank Wycheck, competent wrestler. Who'd have known? Everything he did here was perfectly acceptable for a non-wrestler celebrity whilst Killings and Storm in particular were absolutely hilarious in being complete and utter dicks. At one point it seemed like Storm was going to get over as a babyface until he donned a Tennesee Titans helmet mid-match, hiked a football to Killings and spilt the following pass in a ridiculously comical manner to HUGE heel heat. It was absolutely amazing. Eventually, Titans player Kyle Vanden Bosch got involved which led to Wycheck pinning Storm with a cradle piledriver in 8:53. Crowd loved it.

This was another fun match and I wouldn't worry too much about Storm doing the job here since he can be built up again easily enough, especially if he continues to show the kind of character traits he put on display here, and Wycheck going over was just the icing on the cake for the live crowd, pretty much guaranteeing TNA a hot market to return to in future. That's something WWE seems to want to kill for whatever reason, their latest example being the following night's Raw when they jobbed out Mickie James in her hometown even though the crowd was completely molten for Mickie like she was Hogan '84.

Alex Shelley vs. Bob Backlund

Backlund is in great shape for a 58 year old. I actually wish I could be in the same kind of shape now and I'm 23! : Short silliness with Backlund going over via roll-up at just 3:46 before Chris Sabin came out for a beat down followed by Jay Lethal and Jerry Lynn to save for Backlund. That brought out Kevin Nash who booted Lynn's head off, presumably setting up Nash, Shelley & Sabin against Backlund, Lethal & Lynn down the line, and in turn giving us NASH VS. BACKLUND II: This Time It's Personal~!

- Chris Daniels cut a promo on Sting.

The Voodoo Kin Mafia (Kip James & BG James) vs. Damaja & Basham [w/ Christy Hemme]

It's kind of weird in a promotion full of one-time ROH starlets, WCW veterans and WWE cast-offs, The Voodoo Kin Mafia to me just seem really out of place. I was deeply into their act as a 14 year old but I need never seem them wrestle again. This ended up being the shortest match on the card (just 2:47) before Kip cradled Damaja for the pin. If pro wrestling was real, there's no way either of these guys could beat Doug Basham, he's just leagues ahead in terms of in-ring talent. Like someone said, charisma goes a long way although even that seems to be running out for the VKM.

Post match SHENANIGANS! I CALL SHENANIGANS! saw Kip chase Christy up the ramp only for her to run in to Lancy Hoyt (wearing a WOMEN's tank top, the fucking fruit) who delivered her back to ring. But that proved to be a swerve as he kicked Kip's head off then made out with Christy. Seems like TNA has a new stable on it's hands.

- Meanwhile, LAX beat the shit out of Hector Guerrero at the Spanish announcers desk. This was great, as while WWE pay-per-views seem sterile and formulaic, this felt really unexpected, fresh and exciting. It's a shame Konnan has bailed but hopefully TNA will stick with LAX as a Homicide-Guerrero match could be pretty interesting.

Robert Roode vs. Eric Young

Another good match as Eric Young fought to gain his freedom from Robert Roode in the outright winner for 2007's Most Convoluted And Nonsensical Angle Of The Year Award. The basic gist appears to be that Roode owns Young's contract and if Young wins here, he's free of Roode but if Roode wins he can fire him from TNA. I'm not sure how or why as the build has been utterly horrific with Traci Brooks propositioning Young, Roode trying to find out who Young's friend was, why Young having a friend even mattered and why after all of this was revealed we ended up with a Roode vs. Jeff Jarrett match but if you ignore all THAT bullshit, this was pretty good until the Dusty Finish kicked in.

Brooks got involved, Young exposed her arse, he hit a few highspots then Roode nailed him with a steel chair for the anti-climactic pin. BUT THEN! Jim Cornette came out saying that was bullshit and he had the match restarted, and of course Young almost immediately after got the pin with a roll-up to earn his freedom. And then they cut away almost instantly. Why the FUCK does TNA insist on doing this? It's worst when they do it at the end of a pay-per-view after a major title change but there's another example coming up later.

TNA Tag Team Titles: Team 3D (Brother Ray & Brother Devon) (c) vs. Rick Steiner & Road Warrior Animal

Animal was the mystery replacement for the injured Scott Steiner and he got a monster pop and a bunch of LOD chants. Steiner and Animal both looked like used-to-be in-shape middle aged men but the crowd was molten for them and really happy to see them and somehow, rather than feeling like you were watching Legends of Wrestling or 6:05 - The Reunion, this felt more like NWA 1989. Yep, TNA managed to make Rick Steiner and Road Warrior Animal relevent again, even if just for one night.

Sadly, the teased Doomsday Device was not to be, and the Dudleys (rightly) retained in 6:39. Neither Steiner nor Animal embarrased himself despite age and ring-rust limitations, and the match never outstayed it's welcome. All in good spirits. Not sure why Rick was the one who got pinned off the 3D though, surely Animal would have been the better choice for when the inevitable 3D-Steiners match goes down.

Sting vs. Christopher Daniels

I really do hope Sting sticks around after his contract expires, he's proven outside of the crappy gimmick matches he can still go, and this was bell-to-bell energetic stuff, like watching a Sting from 15 years ago. Daniels went for the Last Rites and Sting reversed into the Scorpion Death Drop. I'm assuming this is going somewhere since it seems odd to have Daniels drop the big bout with Sting first time out.

No Disqualification: Abyss vs. Tomko

I was actually expecting this one earlier and unintentional comedy came from TNA promoting this as Abyss' comeback match when he wrestled unnanounced on TV last week.

First few minutes were completely skipable since everyone knew this was just going to be about the silly bumps and they didn't disappoint in that regard. Abyss took a back bump into the tacks, a barbed wire baseball beat over the head then Tomko dug a piece of glass into Abyss' face. They ended up brawling up to the scaffold surrounding the big entrace set and climbed that for your typical WWE-style fall off the set spot.

Tomko swung the bat but Abyss grabbed it and pulled him off the scaffold sending him hurtling to the stage, then followed that up with a dive onto Tomko from the scaffold. This would have been great if WWE had done it - they'd have crashed through a thin plane of wood for the cracking sound, cut to a close up of the guys rolling around on a concrete floor (giving the illusion thats what they landed on) and a bunch of fireworks would have gone off 'accidentally'. Since this is TNA, they just pulled to wide shot revelaing the most conveniently placed set-up of gigantic fall-breaking boxes you've ever seen, which also explained the lack of any sound when they fell. Shit. SHIIIITTTT.

Back in the ring, Tomko took the Black Hole Slam on the shards of glass which looked nasty, gimmicked glass or not. At least Abyss gets to wear a shirt when he bumps into the tacks! Full credit to the referee too for counting the three with GUSTO~! despite all the crap in the ring.

On a show with great undercard matches, celebrity involvement, story-advancing angles, a star studded main event with a guaranteed title switch and even a hint of feel-good nostalgia, this was fine with me although they cut away almost instantly instead of keeping the camera on Tomko's back so the horror of it all had absolutely zero time to sink in. Get it sorted, TNA.

- Backstage, Samoe Joe and Kurt Angle agreed to kill each other in the main event. Sounds good!

- Jeff Jarrett gave an interview via video about the history of TNA and how his late wife Jill was the inspiration for him and gave him the belief TNA could succeed.

TNA World Title, King Of The Mountain match: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Christian Cage vs. Wildcat Chris Harris

Chris Harris ended up being the replacement for an absent Jarrett (explaining his disappearance from the opening tag match). This was all action like most King Of The Mountain matches usually are. Joe and Angle went at it first before Styles and Christian did some great stuff with Christian demanding AJ lay down for him so he could become eligable to hang the title belt but getting upset when AJ demanded he return the favour.

Everyone took some big bumps and the crowd was going absolutely nuts for it (like they had been all night). Angle hit an Olympic Slam on Harris to become eligable before Joe hit AJ with a muscle buster then locked Angle in the rear naked choke. The referee then got bumped which actually added to the story as Angle tapped out but Joe never gained eligability as the referee didn't see it. Joe then revived the referee but Christian stole the pin on the still-down Angle.

AJ and Joe then climed to the top of the penalty box and AJ took his requisit insane bump, crashing through the announcers table, completely wiping him out. Christian and Angle fought over the belt on the ladder until Harris made a last-ditch dive and took out himself and Christian but missed the ladder leaving Angle standing with the belt. With Joe on the floor, Angle hooked up the belt to win his first TNA World Title.

Post-match, Joe actually offered his hand out of respect to Angle, but Angle being a glory hogging bitch booted Joe in the gut and gave him an Olympic Slam to end the night on a shocker.


Anyway, that was fucking fantastic. The set-up with the big stage, the low-camera and the better lighting and audio than previous non-Orlando pay-per-views (Bound For Glory, LockDown) plus the 3,500-4,000 crowd made this look and feel like TNA was actually a big league outfit, and they certainly matched that in terms of sheer entertainment value. Not every match was a classic by any means, and there weren't any Match Of The Year Candidates but I was sheerly entertained for three hours solid with that card and I can't ask for much more than that.