KAI-EN-TARY #3 (1/31/01):
Rumors continue to fly about the internet about the future of ECW with the signing of Justin Credible and letter of intent signing of Tajiri to the WWF this week. I believe that Paul’s crew will stick with him as long as possible, and Vince signing guys may be his way of helping to protect Paul from WCW talent raids as Vince doesn’t seem to have problem with loaning WWF talent back to ECW. I don’t think Vince wants to see ECW go under either, he knows that 75% of his roster has done valuable time in ECW. I still think that Paul will pull off a deal, and ECW will live on – at least that is what I’m hoping for. If Tajiri does move on to the WWF full time, it will leave a big hole in ECW. I don’t really need to go on and on about how his matches were often show stealers – you all know his level of sickness and greatness in the ring. It will be interesting to see if Vince actually has the brains to give his juniors some respect and let them run with the ball in a division based on competition, not so much storyline. The WWF could really use some action on their undercard, as WCW looks to be wisely realizing, and this would be the answer. There is a long list of names of very credible juniors in the WWF that could have some brilliant matches – Dean Malenko, Essa Rios, Taka, Sho, Crash Holly, The Hardyz, and add Tajiri to that list along with possible Super Crazy, Spanky and Brian Danielson (American Dragon) – what incredible matches there could be especially if they are allowed some time to work!!! These guys could all bounce out to work with guys like Jericho and Benoit as well to build credibility showing that the division focuses on wrestling style and work rate more than the issue of size.
In a related note, the current state of the WWF as far as wrestling continues to worsen as Kaientai are being treated as nothing more than a comedy act (no putting over of their in ring ability at all), the Big Slow has returned being pushed to moon and match lengths on RAW seem to be shrinking even further in recent weeks – it is really hurting the shows. The only place you see a decent length match anymore is the upper mid-card or higher of a PPV. The highlight of RAW for me this week was the Undertaker’s promo as he juiced for the camera and sounded a little like the late, great Bruiser Brody.
I know a bunch of you are probably wondering where the hell all my Japan content is, well, I haven’t gotten many tapes recently and don’t like to comment too much on things I’ve yet to see. I’m expecting some new videos in the next 2 weeks so the Japan talk should pick up then. Quick notes about the All Japan 1/28 Dome Show – wanting to see Funks monster blade job, Kakihara/Nagai vs. Otsuka/Yone looks to be really strong and the Mutoh/Mossman match sounded solid. It also sounds like New Japan really turned the Zero angle, headed by Hashimoto, into another recycled idea this week by “re-defining” the battle lines – too bad since Hashimoto’s original smaller group angle showed more potential (the jump of Mutoh looks really out of context as well). Now, it looks like Choshu’s Boys vs. Inoki’s Outcasts for the most part – at least, it appears that NOAH will still factor into the top of the card heavily on Zero shows which gives us some signs of hope. Dick Togo worked in Mexico this weekend – anyone have any word on how the shows were???
WCW put together a really good first hour or so for Nitro this week. I really liked the 4-way cruiser dance with Yang hitting a big time asai-corkscrew moonsault (did anyone else catch his Chono-ism, “I’m Yang!” during the match) – Jamie Knoble should have gone over though, I thought we were going to see a second rope tombstone piledriver for the finish. Lance Storm and Devon Storm (Crowbar) put on a strong match with a great finish hitting the Maple Leaf as a reversal to the top rope rana! And then there was the return of Dusty Rhodes – the crowd went off – I marked out – the interview was hilarious – there is just some major magic that goes down when Flair and Rhodes are in the ring together. It was a great!
Mark out of the Moment: Steve Corino!!!
The Past and Present: He’s the King of Old School! He is the former ECW World Heavyweight Champion! He hits intense, level 9 blade jobs! He cuts the best promos in ECW (especially when Jack Victory is involved – HIGH SPOT! \/ \/)!!! In the ring he has had classic matches with Tajiri (insane & one of the top 5 US Matches of the Year in 2000), Jerry Lynn, Cham Pain, CW Anderson and was at the center of the incredible St. Charles massacre match that began against Tommy Dreamer as a bull rope match only to end up with Tajiri, Jack Victory, The Sandman & New Jack bumping the hell out of each other!!!!! He will be facing Barry Windham for the Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling Title in February working for Dusty Rhodes. He will be challenging Mike Rapada in a 2 out of 3 falls match for the NWA World Title in Florida as well. Steve continues to regularly update his website with great commentaries (click on the banner below) which is extra cool since we haven’t been able to watch or hear him tear it up on TV recently.
The Future: The sky is the limit. Steve buried the hatchet with Justin Credible and is now a part of the new Impact Players in ECW – if Justin should leave, well then, if Steve can bury the hatchet with Justin in the storylines, why couldn’t Steve do the same with CW Anderson to form the North Carolina Wrecking Crew or the Brainbusters 2001 – call them what you will, they could have an extreme impact anywhere they may end up wrestling. As a singles competitor, Steve established himself in his time as ECW Champion as a traveling champion, defending his title in whatever territory he worked in. If Steve were to regain his ECW World Title, that would be another tradition, in the spirit of The Funks, Harley Race, Ric Flair and a few other greats, The King of Old School could proudly carry on with.
KAI-EN-TARY #2 (1/25/01):
Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho stole this year’s Royal Rumble proving that a singles ladder match still had the potential to capture an audience and compete with the greatness that tag team ladder matches have brought to the late 90’s in pro wrestling. Benoit and Jericho beat the hell out of each other, built the best singles ladder match since HBK & Scott Hall set the bar, and had their best match thus far in the WWF. They gave us some incredible and innovative spots like the Tarantula/Walls of Jericho a-top the ladder, the Russian Leg Sweep with the ladder off the second rope, Benoit dumping Jericho from the ladder after being pinned under it and naturally Benoit’s diving headbutt from the ladder (even though he missed). They also built off some the cliché ladder match spots, Benoit moving the ladder when Jericho used the sliding dropkick and then Benoit blasting him is just one of those moments. One of the nastiest spots in the match, and of the night, had to be Benoit getting nuked with chair shot from Jericho on his suicide dive. My congratulations to both men on an outstanding match that is an early Match of the Year candidate. As for the rest of the show, other than the booking it 17 ways to Sunday part, I enjoyed the WWF Title match between HHH and Kurt Angle. The crowd was a little cool, but I loved HHH working Angle’s legs – HHH is becoming more of a cross between Ric Flair and Hiro Hase each time out. I liked HHH’s little tip of the hat to an old friend, throwing a Razor’s Edge into his offense as well. As for the Rumble itself, anytime the Hardyz work together it’s a good thing – Jeff’s bump out of the match was sick! I thought Austin hit a great blade job too, the cameras really caught a great moment with Austin in the crimson mask burning a hole in The Rock. It was a strong show to start the WWF’s new year.
TV this week was fairly quiet on the WWF side from a wrestling standpoint – the Jeff Hardy/Bradshaw vs. Matt Hardy/Farooq from Smackdown stood out as Matt & Jeff as a team or against other, in this case, shine brightly. As for RAW, Benoit & the returning Big Slow vs. Jericho & Rocky topped the show with Benoit carrying the match and just smoking Rocky with everything from chops to the rolling Germans. WCW was smart and strong to push the cruiserweights this week (the rest of both shows were sleepers). Chris Daniels and Mike Modest has a very strong match on Nitro drawing some praise in the back from guys like Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. It was impressive that WCW gave them the time they did to work and put them over – their APW matches were classics and their Nitro match was just a slight taste of that. Thunder opened with the solid 2 segment cruiserweight challenge match that showed Shane Helms has risen above much of the division over the few months – he really stood strong. I think WCW has the right idea if they keep building back the importance of their cruiserweight division, and rumored cruiser tag division as well, since it was always the heart of their talent, in terms of work rate and great matches, when they were on top.
Mark out of the Moment: Kenta Kobashi!!!
He is the true dealer of death in Japan (be it All Japan or NOAH). His matches have been legendary battles telling stories with great psychology and punctuated in brutality. Kobashi is the master of some of the sickest head-dropping moves ever delivered. He possesses the most devastating and dangerous move in pro wrestling – The Burning Hammer! The respect the wrestling world holds for him has been earned by his courage and dedication.
It was announced this week that Kobashi’s career was in danger of ending as both his knees were in need of surgery once again - upon further examination it was discovered that he had been working with a broken bone in this arm and one in his leg. The prognosis after two surgeries this week appears to be strong with a return to the ring a good possibility. I wish strength and healing for him as he embarks on what may be his toughest journey back to the ring.
A few of my favorite matches to date:
: 8/31/90 vs. Jumbo Tsuruta – Monster corner flying body press to the floor, Texas Clover Hold & beautiful moonsault press. A great struggle between a young Kobashi and the master of the All Japan style Tsuruta.
: 10/25/95 vs. Misawa – An Orange Crush in the ring followed by a powerbomb on the floor, then Kobashi hit a dragon suplex back in the ring after roaring chops to the back of Misawa’s neck that crumple him - all in the opening minutes of the match!
: 10/31/98 vs. Misawa – Kobashi takes a release fucking Tiger Driver off the apron to the concrete and continues the match!!!
: 4/15/00 Champion Carnival Finals vs. Omori – Big heat, STIFF CHOPS, sleeper suplex, powerbomb into the triple turnbuckle, Burning Lariat!!!
: 12/23/00 vs. Akiyama – Eye swollen shut and huge from an Akiyama elbow, half nelson suplex on the ramp and the Burning Hammer!!!
KAI-EN-TARY #1 (1/17/01):
I’d like to start with some random thoughts from Japan, having watched the Noah 12/23/00 PPV this past weekend. This was best show NOAH has produced since the split with All Japan, though the under card was still thin, the top end weighed in heavy. The first match of note was the WEW Tag Title match with Marifuji, NOAH’s only junior of note who continues to impress with each time I’ve seen him, and Honda losing their straps against the FMW crew of Kuroda and el gordo grande himself, Fuyuki. Marifuji carried the action in the match hitting some great spots including a HUGE springboard over the guardrail and a hot over the top acid drop variation. On to the triple mains, Hashimoto and Omori was much better than it looked on paper (having only a 7 minute match time) – real stiff (check out the axe bomber into the corner) with some big time heat. Vader and Misawa was solid with a devastating release German suplex by Vader nearly killed Misawa in spectacular fashion. Misawa worked Vader’s arm and went over with some sick, thudding elbows. The final match of the night is a Match of the Year Candidate without question, Kobashi vs. Akiyama. The pacing to the match was a little different than your normal “All Japan” style match (a touch slower) as it wasn’t a strike vs. strike match (like Kobashi/Misawa or Misawa/Kawada), but a strike vs. submission match with Kobashi chopping Akiyama to pieces and Akiyama working Kobashi arm primarily. The other strange thing was the ramp, which never existed in All Japan really, was put to good use making some huge bumps much more visible that were normally reserved for the first few rows at ringside. Kobashi took an elbow to the eye about 10 minutes in and it started to swell shut and huge. Kobashi, being the dealer of death, worked Akiyama neck when he carried the match building towards the incredible finish sequence with both men escaping each other’s primary finish. Kobashi unleashed the Burning Hammer out of a counter sequence at just under 36 minutes. Akiyama took a bump that looked even more crushing than the Hammers Misawa has taken as his full body weight was over his head as he hit and the crowd explodes.
On the US front, I’m pulling for Paul Haymen to come through and save ECW. They have become the last major that still brings wrestling at the heart of its product. The ECW guys are extremely loyal and hard working – if you’ve seen an ECW show live, and I’ve seen some great ones, there is no feeling of connection like being in that audience. ECW gave us 2 out of the top 6 North American matches of the year with Tajiri vs. Corino at Hardcore Heaven 2000 and Mikey & Tajiri vs. The FBI 8/26/00 in NYC (my other 4 MOTY being Benoit vs. HHH at No Mercy 10/00, TLC match with the Hardyz, Dudleys, & Edge/Christian at Summer Slam, Benoit vs. Regal at the Pillman 2000 show & Chris Daniels & Mike Modest vs. West Side playaz 2000 12/00 in APW). ECW also gave us 2 of the best Feuds of 2000 with Tajiri vs. Crazy (vs. Guido too) growing to new levels of sickness in early 2000 and the FBI vs. Tajiri & Mikey highlighting the later half of 2000 with their unreal efforts. I’m really missing ECW already. WWF TV was pretty sleepy this week building into the Rumble – the main was OK, but nothing like last week, as I thought that Austin vs. Angle with the HHH return was amazing – you could feel it in the great suplex build up, false finish sequence and crowd reaction. I’m really looking forward to the Benoit vs. Jericho ladder match – match of the year and show stealing potential there without question. WWF Metal looks like it should be a solid show this weekend with appearances by Steve Boz & Jason Reign, ‘Ice Pick’ Vic Capri & Chad Collyer. On the flip, WCW showed some signs of life this week – I like the fact they were placing emphasis on how great their cruiserweights were, though we saw no Young Dragons or Knobley Kourageous who were said to have stole the show at the Sin PPV, as Chavo Jr., Crowbar, Three Count and the Animals put on a spot-fest.
Mark out of the Moment: EZ MONEY!!!
He’s the leader of Hot Commodity, who may be the Freebirds of next millennium, the leader of great men in Julio Dinero and Confederate Currency Chris Hammrick. He’s got the burns. He’s got the swagger. He’s got the tights, which he makes by the way. He’s got some really raw ability and can fly for a big man…
Favorite Matches to date:
: 8/11/00 vs. Tajiri – Money in the Bank, Tom-Tom back-flip splash and the Pendulum of Pain!
: 8/25/00 in Tag Team Tourney – It’s NYC and the anal floss is out for all to see!
: 10/1/00 vs. Kid Kash – Anarchy Rulz and these two open the show with their best match to date. Money Bomb (Orange Crush variation) nearly breaks Kash, Electric Dreams (twisting vertical suplex) and the top rope power bomb reversal (by Kash, but it takes two you know)!
: 1/7/01 w/ Julio Dinero vs. Doring & Roadkill – Guilty As Charged in NYC, and the debut of yet another pair on classic tights (Billy Gunn take some notes, this is how you wear see-through floss tights and back it up)! Money Clip over the guardrail and into the crowd and the big moonsault press!