KAI-EN-TARY #5 (2/28/01):
I want to start this week on an independent note congratulating all participants in the ECWA’s Super 8 Tourney 2001. I am anxiously awaiting the tape to begin circulating since I could not attend what sounded to be a great show. The two matches of the night were the semi-final battle between the American Dragon (Brian Danielson) and Reckless Youth and the tourney finals between the American Dragon and Low-Ki who was crowned the Super 8 champion for 2001. I had believed going in that these two pairings could be show stealers because of the great potential for meshing of styles punctuated with stiffness and indeed they were. The American Dragon turned a lot of east coast heads and was named the MVP of the tourney for his incredible efforts. Thanks to everyone who gave opinions and highlights of the show only building my anticipation to see it.
On the west coast side of things, I have to once again put over Revolution Pro especially for the incredible Super Dragon vs. Rising Son match from 1/5/01 at the Rudos Dojo. This was a match that mixed Japanese stiffness with a little lucha flying and followed it up with some more stiffness and extremely sick innovation (see Super Dragon’s PsychoDriver and Pendulum of Pain rocking Rising Son’s head through the dojo wall) resulting in some great junior action and definite candidate for indy match of the year – a must see!!! Rev Pro had their re-start in Santa Fe Springs, CA at the new Rudos Dojo on 2/24/01 and by all accounts it sounded highly successful in terms of action. The Super Dragon vs. Excaliber match was said to have been brutal and the Rising Son vs. B-Boy mach sounded very solid as well (the tape to verify it should be available late next week – I’ll be sure to give you a full run down once I have it).
Back to the east coast, I got a chance to watch the 2/10/01 Combat Zone show this past week. The highlight of the tape, in my eyes, was my first look at both Red and Joel Maximo – both students of the redheaded menace, Mikey Whipwreck. Red looks sort of like what would be a love child of Rey Jr., Low-Ki & Jody Fleisch physically speaking while Joel Maximo looks like a slighter larger version of Super Crazy. Mikey’s boys worked with the Briscoe Brothers (I think that’s how they spelled their name and they don’t work in a body shop) who were solid in their own right and actually won the match. Red pulled out some of the most insane (and smooth) flying that I’ve seen in some time – if his knees hold out, look out because you will be hearing a lot more from him in the future. He hit a standing shooting star press, a hot twisting plancha and a double springboard variation of the firebird splash – another must see. Some of the other tape highlights are Tajiri and Super Crazy working it out in the opening match (and paying tribute to ECW Arena’s hat guy), a solid 3 way ladder match with Super Crazy, Nick Mondo & Rick Blade and Trent Acid locking up with Nick Berk for a tough junior tangle with some junk in the mix
WCW started their Cruiserweight Tag Title Tourney this week on Nitro and Thunder with some good action – I must say that I am disappointed in the brackets though as far as the teams participating - do we really need Swinger & Lee or Kwee-wee & Mike Sanders or Elix Skipper & Kid Romeo??? Aren’t there some great indy teams (too short of notice to import the Japanese talent I’m sure) that could have much better filled those slots to beef up the first round??? Modest & Daniels, Super Dragon & Rising Son, the FBI, Kid Kash & EZ Money, the Backseat Boys - I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. So, it looks like other than the 3 Count / Knoble & Scotty O (once known as Scotty Sabre, who I hope to be an improvement over Evan in terms of tagging with Jaime Knoble) match, the best will be saved for the second round and finals which I’m looking forward to. I got a chance to see the Sin and Superbrawl PPV cruiser matches this week – if you’re getting a comp tape put together, these matches are all worth getting with some really strong wrestling (even if it gets a bit loose at times). At Sin, Shane and Chavo Jr. bring in out big time (the up coming re-match should be another keeper), and the Young Dragons match against Knoble & Evan (much like their match against Styles & Paris) was a hot match that surprised everyone. The Superbrawl match highlights included Jaime Knoble throwing in a little swank lucha arm drag work, Shannon Moore bumping like crazy on to the floor several times, Sugar Shane unleashing the Vertibreaker with Kaz pulling his head up at the last split second, the Dragons hitting the double asai moonsaults, even Evan hitting a press slam into a spinebuster that looked pretty cool for him, Rey Jr. nuking Chavo Jr. with a rana off the ring apron that bounced Chavito hard off the floor and Chavo dropping Rey directly on his head in a sick looking brainbuster as a receipt. This main core of WCW cruisers have been working really hard and it’s beginning to show as their matches get tighter and faster with a widening variety moves and even a little psychology, in some cases, each time out.
Mark out of the Moment: The WWF No Way Out PPV 2/25/01!!!
The 4-way IC Title match between Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and X-pac was just brilliant on so many levels. First off, STIFF!!! Benoit knocked the hair off Jericho’s chin and the teeth out of Jericho’s mouth with one lariat late in the match – those 2 laid into each other for maximum hurt factor. Everyone’s chest was ripped up and turning red or purple during this smooth moving match. Even X-Pac laid in some big time kicks dimming some running lights. Secondly, the start of Chris Benoit’s face turn was set into motion with the subtle heat and undermining between he and Eddie Guerrero. The result of which should be some of the best matches on US soil in some time (if the WWF gives them the time). Third, the finish sequence was hot with Benoit hitting the big diving headbutt, locking in the Crossface only to have Eddie hit a nasty rolling neck snap and Jericho score the fall on X-pac with a Canadian old school WWF IC championship finish, the roll-up into the bridge (see Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith - Wembley, UK Summer Slam 92).
HHH vs. Steve Austin 2 out of 3 falls was a match that may re-define the classic 2 out of 3 falls style of match. The first fall had some real solid mat work (after the punch-kick opening brawl) with Austin coming out on top (nice little, “he’s not supposed to win that fall,” booking). The second fall brought out the blade jobs, big bumps and brutality – I just loved Austin wasting HHH all over his body with a flurry of great sounding chair shots. HHH goes over to even it up even after taking the big backdrop through (and almost missing, landing on the chairs next to) the Spanish announce table after Austin reversed the Pedigree off JR and the King’s announce table. The third fall was gripping and the barbed wire to the face spot took it up a notch from Mick Foley’s WWF barbed wire board use (may have been made greater if Austin had re-bladed like HHH did). The finish with HHH falling back first on Austin capped off a great match with both men selling for several minutes as the crowd applauded their efforts.
Kurt Angle lost the WWF title to the Rock in a real sprint to the finish style match. The best part of the match was Angle getting a little insane and dropping the F-Bomb in The Rock’s direction as he was trying to make him tap out to his new favorite hold, the ankle lock. Rocky countered the submission attack of Angle using the Sharpshooter, and The Rock took a bunch of solid suplex variations from Angle as well. The only downside to the match was the appearance of the Big Show, even being that brief, it slowed the momentum of the match which was otherwise quite surprisingly not booked 15 ways to Sunday. Overall, the match gave the show a strong closer.
KAI-EN-TARY #4 (2/20/01):
I hope that everyone had a chance to give the Chris Daniels interview a read, I wanted to get that up so my column has gotten neglected a bit lately – I apologize to everyone who has been stopping by the site to check out my thoughts and not getting any. I also urge anyone who is a first time visitor to the site, or if you want to check out some info from an older column, click on the archive link at the bottom of the page. Well, strap in for a long-winded stream of wrestling consciousness.
Let’s start with Japan notes, since I promised that in my last writing, and my hopes for the up-coming 3/2/01 Zero-One debut PPV. The main event has definite match of the year contender potential as Hashimoto & Nagata lock up with Misawa & Akiyama – should be super stiff and quite historic in nature. Nagata is an interesting (and great, considering what other options New Japan had) choice for Hashimoto’s tag partner considering first his Chosyu ties (in context of the recent “feud” between Hash and the old bastard of booking disasters Chosyu) and second the build up between Nagata/Kawada that was run in the All Japan/New Japan feud at the end of last year (more on that later). I don’t know if they will use this match as a way to further heat between the two since Nagata got in the ring against NOAH opponents, and Kawada would like to put Misawa in the hospital for splitting All Japan, or if the big tease was no more than that between the two (which would be such a waste). The rest of the card doesn’t look spectacular, but Otsuka & Takaiwa vs. Takayama & Omori shows some potential as long as Omori carries most of his team’s in-ring time. Marufuji’s match against Hoshikawa will be another proving ground to see if he can continue stringing together his recent strong series of matches. New Japan continues to amaze me with the fact that they can be in bed with everyone at once and get away with it – I’m not complaining though because it has given us the occasionally strong match to New Japan’s recent suck lately. It is pretty shocking considering the overt heat between All Japan and NOAH that New Japan can work with both at the same time (working with NOAH, of course, under the Zero-One front). At the 2/18 New Japan PPV the most notable matches fall under the above inter-promotional type feuds as the Nagata/Iizuka match against Nagai/Kakihara (who suffered an eye injury in the match and most likely will not be able to participate in the All Japan CC 2001 as was earlier hoped) sounded very good. Also at the PPV, the growth of Mutoh’s splinter group continued as Taiyo Kea (from All Japan) has been joined by not only Don Frye but post Mutoh’s 2/18 match by Shinzaki. Kea & Mutoh showed up with Shinzaki as a second at the 2/18 All Japan show to team successfully with Johnny Smith in the main event of the show.
Now, time to talk about some highly anticipated Japan matches, which I had a chance to watch recently on video. I was talking about the Nagata/Kawada build up earlier, the 12/14/00 New Japan PPV match is where it stems from. The heat is pretty huge for this match, especially the fast paced sections where Nagata and Kawada are kicking the hell out of each other, which rules in all sorts of ways. The match is balanced out and paced by Fuchi playing the very old, dick-ish heel roll while choking, in a variety of very uncomfortable ways, or being choked out by Iizuka in much slower sections. They get rolling towards the draw finish with each team working dueling submission spots that are pretty cool. Kawada, being the baddest motherfucker on earth, gets pretty brutal with Nagata who dishes it out best he can in return which makes this match a must see. Kenta Kobashi, now appropriately looking like Darth Vader in his black robe, generally has 2 expressions during his big October matches – pissed and really fucking pissed. I’m sure it has something to do with pain he was in at the time and the fact he gets stabbed in the back by Omori at the finish of the solid 10/8/00 tag match against Akiyama and Takayama. The vengeance match between Kobashi and Omori is captured on the equivalent of the NOAH fan cam from 10/11. Kobashi gets all sorts of medieval on Omori blooding him early on and delivering a pretty nasty looking roaring chop that drives Omori face first into the ring post. The match is stopped in around 10 minutes after Omori, who is gushing about a level 4 blade job on the Honma scale, gets lariated into unconsciousness by Kobashi. The match was not as good as their Champion Carnival match in 2000 being shorter in duration and based around an angle giving it more of an American feel, but was cool because the raw filming perspective, the tons of hurt and the juice in Omori’s killer blonde mullet. The best match of the three NOAH main events was the 6-man tag match that headlined the 10/20/00 show pitting Kobashi, Misawa & Taue against Omori, Takayama & Akiyama. The match opens pretty hot with Kobashi and Omori tearing into each other. The action picks up later when Kobashi and Akiyama run through a no-sell series that lands Kobashi on the floor to be mauled be No Fear and eventually on the ramp taking a nasty tombstone from Akiyama. Team No Fear has the best double team moves out of any of the regular NOAH (or recent All Japan) teams, and they show them in this match after Omori crushes Misawa with an Axe Bomber. They run a triple team corner series getting Akiyama into the mix following that up with a choke-slam back suplex combo that Omori caps off with his top rope knee drop. No Fear then hits the double impact elbow smashes (one from the front and one to rear) and double impact lariats only to scoop Misawa up into a combo back drop suplex/Hart Attack clothesline that all flow so smooth. Takayama gets in trouble late in the match getting caught with a Taue choke-slam followed by pair of Kobashi lariats, one from behind into the corner and one right in the face to end the match. This final tag match continued to build heat towards the classic 12/23/00 match between Kobashi & Akiyama
As for what’s been going on the US, let me just give you a quick list, in no particular order, of things I’ve definitely liked from the WWF in February:
1) The Hardyz vs. Dudleys tag team title table match – pretty damn great for a TV length match, using a little psychology from their previous matches, a sick looking bump as Matt & D-Von’s heads clip the very edge of the table that they fell short of off the ladder and the big Bubba Bomb off the stage was a big and different ending.
2) Chris Jericho vs. Matt Hardy – solid match that is capped off with the return of Eddie Guerrero!
3) Chris Benoit vs. Al Snow – another strong effort with Benoit going over.
4) Benoit/Saturn vs. The Hardyz – MONSTER top rope knee drop from Saturn onto Matt who Benoit was holding the back breaker position – OUCH! They actually got longer than their normal match length for TV too.
5) Jericho vs. HHH – These two show real solid chemistry and more Eddie too.
6) Eddie Guerrero vs. Jericho – Hot match with Eddie pulling out some sweet new variations - the finish sucked though with an X-Pac run in. Also liked the match that turned cluster from Monday with that combo of three and Justin getting into the mix as well as Benoit – not sure where they’re going with that and who will get who at the PPV just yet.
7) Austin vs. Benoit – You have to love these two in the ring together since it brings out Austin’s wrestling side, which is my favorite Austin, for at least some of the match.
8) Matt and Lita lay in some tongue for the TV audience – could this be the split of the Hardy Boyz starting??? It should definitely get Matt some heat with the WWF male audience.
9) Benoit & Angle vs. Austin & Rocky – Lots of punch/kick but some good wrestling in the mix with HHH boiling over on the mic. Another in the continuing series of matches used to build up the No Way Out PPV (with the 2 out of 3 falls HHH vs. Austin match which shows potential for greatness if it doesn’t get over booked, and we get a strong mix of wrestling and gushing that both are more than capable of). Speaking of Rocky, has the time come for Kevin Kelly to snap and have some most evil revenge on the Rock for all the abuse he has suffered doing interviews over the last year??? It would be a story rooted very deep in recent WWF history – all Kelly needs is someone (or some workers) to carry out his madness.
On the WCW side of the coin, it’s all about the cruiserweights and their collective push! The WCW Cruiserweight tag belts have been confirmed and the tourney starts next week on Nitro – guess we can expect 2 great matches on the March PPV (Cruiserweight singles title match with Shane Helms & Chavo Jr. and the Cruiser tag finals) and some interesting tourney matches on Nitro as well. It’s nice to see this hard working and talented crew get some well-deserved attention as they by far out class the WCW heavyweights in terms of talent. I’ve yet to see the 4 corners 6 men elimination match from the Superbrawl PPV that sounded strong with Sugar Shane Helms coming out on top – I have to put over his matches against Kidman and Kaz from early February too. I really liked the debut match of AJ Styles & Air Paris against Knoble & Evan K (who hit a great looking finisher a-kin to Otani & Takaiwa) – Styles looked great in the ring showing a little more than raw potential and his Shooting Styles Press is a huge move! Styles is one to keep an eye to see if he continues to evolve. Add to this mix, the news that EB is headed to Japan to try and bring in some Toryumon and New Japan junior talent to further sweeten the picture – word is also out that Joey Matthews, Christian York & Kid Kash may be brought in as well. WCW is really loading up for what could be some of the best action North America has seen (outside of ECW, the Super 8 & King of the Indies tourneys) in quite some time. Not to be forgotten, Chris Daniels and Michael Modest are waiting in the wings to join (and school) the mix as well.
Welcome home!!! That’s correct – Dick Togo returned to M Pro to congratulate the Great Sasuke after his successful near 20 minute NWA Middleweight Title defense against, one of my favorite Battlarts psychos, Ikuto Hidaka on February 11th. Togo should start a full time M Pro schedule sometime in the next two months after being exiled in Osaka Pro for what seems like forever. Dick Togo is the heart of the charismatic & notorious Kaientai DX who set the standard for the modern heel group in Japan!!! Dick Togo is THE MASTER of the SENTON BOMB!!! Dick Togo has tore down the house with Kaientai be it in 6 man, 8 man or 10 man tag competition against whoever M Pro threw before him! Togo has crushed the likes of Danny Collins, Super Delfin, the Great Sasuke & Jushin Thunder Lyger giving the wrestling world some classic action in the process. The question now remains, how long before we see Togo gather Kaientai in some form (be it with Teioh or Super Boy or even Taka on his occasional trip to Japan) to give M Pro new life and reek havoc on the Japanese wrestling scene??? Welcome home Togo – your presence brings with it the hope of greatness!!!