KAI-EN-TARY #13 (7/10/01):
Well, well, well… No, it isn’t Joel Gertner, at least not yet, but the WWF did indeed produce the blow away RAW that they promised last night (at least the second hour was). In fact, the WWF didn’t really produce the blow away factor, it was the return and re-uniting of ECW that really put some heat and much needed life into the Invasion. I enjoyed the Booker T/Kurt Angle match – strong work by both – and was not looking forward to what I thought would be the squashing of Mike Awesome and Lance Storm by Kane until Chris Jericho came out to at least raise my level of interest seeing Jericho and Storm working together. When the match looked to be heading to a finish, the emergence of Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Damn from the crowd started my marking out only to have me verbally rooting out loud when the “WWF” crew of Tazz, Raven, The Dudleys, Rhyno and Justin Credible hit the ring, looked at Lance and Awesome and all turned to beat the snot out of Kane and Jericho. It had happened, what ECW fans have been waiting for since January and longer, the re-uniting of the Tribe of Extreme – ECW!!! ECW!!! Paul E. got in the ring and cut one hell of a promo that had the crowd popping and chanting – I was right there with them and all the smiles that were on their faces – old friends (maybe with the exception of Awesome) back together again!
Later in the show, things got even more swerving as Shane McMahon and Paul Heyman struck a WCW and ECW alliance, as Steph (who Paul always put over in his commentating, mind all of you who are trying to pole holes in this turn of events – even comparing it to Russo in WCW which is an entirely bogus comparison – can’t critics just enjoy this one and mark out for once) became the new “owner” of ECW. I’m not too sure that I like the “green goblins” of WCW high-fiving with the ECW crew, but it does open up a wealth of possibility (and maybe Paul can tap some miles out of the WCW crew) in the mix for some wrestling oriented product to come out of the new ECW/WCW.
So, this also totally scrambles the match making for the Invasion PPV one would have to think, but there are many pieces in place already for the storyline to grow. One of the first things I would expect Vince to talk about was underestimating the invading forces – so some WCW and ECW talent are going to get a major rub here I would have to believe in the Invasion main event (if not throughout the entire card). The main event that I would like to see for the card would be Austin, Angle, Jericho, Regal and Tajiri against Booker T, Lance Storm, Tazz, RVD and Tommy Dreamer in an elimination style match that would turn Tajiri against the WWF to join ECW costing the WWF the match and possibly Austin the fall the Booker T or Tazz. Another strong fantasy booking of the main event would pit Austin, Angle, Jericho, Edge and Christian against Booker T, Lance Storm, Tazz, RVD and Rhyno (with Tommy Dreamer at ringside) in an elimination style match with Edge or Christian costing each other or Angle costing Austin as ECW/WCW goes over. A little more realistic (and somewhat unfortunate, but still very solid) main event would pit Austin, Angle, Jericho, Kane and the Undertaker against Booker T, DDP, Lance Storm, Tazz and RVD in a match that I would have to think you see ECW/WCW go over with Tazz or Booker T getting the fall off a WWF mistake to continue the feud (doubting they’d do elimination too). Tazz should be seen as a top ECW rep with his recent history with Austin being a very relevant set up point as well as his rather bad ass stance that he has renewed recently. They may also book the WWF LHW Title match as a 3-way dance pitting X-Pac against Kidman against Justin that would be an OK match I’d think (with X-pac getting heat as a WWF rep/FACE – WTF?!?). As you can see, there are an endless number of possible “dream” combinations and booking ideas to grow out of this situation (including once Tajiri or Jerry Lynn get established, turning on the WWF to join ECW, missed both in that ECW crowd last night). There is also room for ECW and WCW to have heat with each other for blowing matches to build storylines (and end that alliance) to turn things into a more 3-way angle long term (though I think that shouldn’t happen quite so soon). I think that the WWF should most definitely stick to promotion vs. promotion matches on the show, kind of shutting down internal storyline driven matches, to highlight the importance and threat of the Invasion. The only thing I most definitely wonder about is how much the quality of this feud goes up if Chris Benoit were healthy and involved (obviously, because of his great in-ring talent and especially with his history in all three companies). Well, I’ll be happy to take what I can get, and as long as ECW/WCW aren’t buried by the WWF right out of the gate, this event may be the turning point that gives birth to the next national stars (who will finally get their chance to shine) and upward cycle in the wrestling business. Last night certainly gave me a feeling in my gut that I’ll remember for a very long time to come – ECW!!!
KAI-EN-TARY #12 (7/4/01):
Well, it has been a while since I’ve had time to write (working, moving, digesting), and I’m sorry for once again leaving all of you in silence – let’s just say from here on out, like the Iron Chefs, I’ll do my best (to keep writing regularly). I have updated the headlines streaming above when I could, and I also added a few of the comps and shows I had promised to the Kaientapelist (and there are more in the works) so be sure to check that out as well. There have been so many things that have gone done in this last two historic months, I’ll try to shed a little light where I can (and catch up on those things I may not get to).
Since we are a little beyond the mid-point of the year, I’ve noticed quite a few people throwing around questions for early calls on both possible wrestlers of the year and matches of the year candidates. I’d like to throw some of my choices for the masses to consider:
: Chris Benoit - I know that his recent successful neck surgery has ended his wrestling for 2001 (heal up fast Chris - you’re already sorely missed), but the strength and number of amazing matches out of Benoit only continued to grow throughout 2001 (and mind you, the best part of this run was when he was wrestling with some serious pain and numbness) making him a serious contender. Benoit’s feud with Kurt Angle provided several memorable matches including the GREAT cage match recently on RAW. Chris’ work with Steve Austin in Canada was incredible, and tagging with Chris Jericho against Austin and HHH was amazing to watch as the fans were captured by the intensity. Benoit and Jericho were outstanding in their first title defense as part of the TLC match, and also Benoit’s ladder match against Chris Jericho cannot be overlooked from earlier this year. One last match that I have to include from Benoit’s great run was his RAW match against Eddie Guerrero that was a real PPV/NJ quality match which was Benoit’s launching point into becoming a face.
: Toshiaki Kawada – He had been the man that has kept All Japan alive and kicked a serious amount of ass in 2001 – he is the baddest man on the earth so nothing less could be expected. Kawada took New Japan and the Tokyo Dome by storm in January, continuing to lead the fight in the All Japan vs. New Japan wars, blowing the roof off against Tenzan in a brutal contest. Kawada showed no mercy on the home front either having a particularly nasty match against Nagai in March. Despite being worn down by injury, Kawada also had what was said to be an incredible match with Keiji Mutoh (kick starting his recent re-birth) in April before Kawada would take time off from his incredibly punishing style of wrestling. He marked his return in June by having two more crushing matches against Kojima and Tenzan re-igniting the AJ vs. NJ feud. A re-match between Mutoh and Kawada seems to be looming on the horizon with the Triple Crown hanging in the balance.
: Keiji Mutoh – With the birth of the Shining Wizard and the BATT group, Mutoh seems to have once again found his working boots despite his worn out knees. Mutoh seemed to come alive fighting against New Japan with Taiyo Kea, Shinzaki and Hase at his side. Mutoh’s singles re-birth began with his match against Kawada in April headlining an All Japan show. Mutoh continued pushing forward producing a near 40 minute match against his surprise opponent at the 6/6 New Japan show Hase that was very old scholl in nature. Keiji Mutoh then took his streak of great match wins to 3 as he defeated Tenryu for All Japan’s Triple Crown Title in a match some described as near perfect. Mutoh has big matches set with Chono and possibly Kawada that may help to seal the wrestler of the year crown for him.
: Stone Cold Steve Austin – Since returning from neck surgery and shaking the rust off, Steve Austin has had a run of great matches that cannot be ignored. Austin started things off in January with a great RAW main event against Kurt Angle that the fans and flashbulbs popping. Austin followed that up with a colossal 2 out of 3 falls match against HHH in February. The main event at Wrestlemania (even with the heal turn) through out so many Bret Hart references and in your face exchanges that it delivered in a huge way. Austin then moved on to his recent work with against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho that has been tremendous (as has his growth into his obsessed, semi-bad-ass character and promos). Booker T seems to be Austin’s immediate future (though after this week the WWF vs. WCW angle is looking not so hot – maybe Monday in Atlanta will help) which will be interesting without question and Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and The Rock (once he returns) all seem to be lining up as well.
: Yuji Nagata – The man who should be the IWGP World Champion and has made some history early in the year (and may be making some more very soon). Nagata closed 2000 out as part of an incredible 20-minute tag war (w/ Iizuka) against AJPW’s team of Kawada and Fuchi. Nagata then took part in the main event of the first Zero-One PPV tagging with Hashimoto against NOAH’s team of Akiyama and Misawa. So, within 3 months Nagata had wrestled and hung with some of the top talent (and bitter rivals) on either side of the All Japan split – rather historic I think. Nagata’s rise to claim the IWGP title, which seemed like it would finally happen after such high profile matches, stalled this summer unfortunately (though the 6/6 match against Fujita was very hot and much better on tape than I had anticipated), but another possibility has risen. Nagata seems to be the focal point for Akiyama’s desire to invade New Japan from NOAH (either against Nagata or tagging with) coming out of New Japan’s G-1 Climax tourney/tour which may make things very interesting heading into the fall (and building up speed once again).
: HHH – “It’s all about the game and how you play it," quote Lemmy, nevermore. Once again HHH, even though injured, cannot be ignored for continuing his top-flight super heel efforts in 2001. Helmsley pushed himself through a bloodbath of a 2 out of 3 falls match in February culminating his feud with Steve Austin (at least for now). HHH ended up the odd man out at Wrestlemania but continued on having a strong few matches against the Hardy Boyz. The effort HHH put forth to finish the fantastic tag team match where he and Austin dropped the tag titles to Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho showed big time guts and toughness. HHH will be to surely make an impact around Survivor Series so expect a strong run (maybe initially as a face) for HHH to finish the year.
: Super Dragon – He is my top Indy Wrestler of the Year candidate since returning in January to Rev Pro. Super Dragon has strung together a series of matches with Rising Son, B-Boy and Excaliber that all built on each other and have grown increasingly stiff/nasty. Dragon’s matches have great flow and story telling often stretching out between 20 and 30 minutes of innovative action. Dragon mixes stiff kicks with sick air and brutal head-dropping. Super Dragon has shown down with East Coast sensation Low-Ki coming up in July and Tokyo Gurentai returning to Rev Pro (to compete against or possibly join).
Many of the match of the year candidates are mentioned above (so don’t discount them, I just don’t have the time to re-list them all below), but here are some of the other matches that have been a cut above the rest in 2001 (in random order):
: The American Dragon vs. Low-Ki – 2/24/01 - This was the intense finals of this year Super 8 tourney which is a must see with Danielson pushing Low-Ki and both men really tearing the house down. The finish is especially brutal considering Danielson was working with cracked ribs suffered earlier in the night.
: Michael Modest vs. Vic Capri - 6/2/01 – Modest re-captures the APW Universal Title in a hot match as Modest and Capri bring it All Japan style including a hot no sell suplex for suplex sequence and finish.
: Marufuji vs. Takaiwa – 4/18/01 – This was the opening match on the second Zero-One PPV and these two juniors meshed incredibly well stealing the show big time. Marufuji brought the air and quickness to the match while Takaiwa was Takaiwa bringing power and nastiness.
: The Spanish Announce Team vs. Chris Devine, Quiet Storm & Brian XL – 6/8/01 – This match that took place in CZW is perhaps the best MPro 6-man tag style match to take place in the US ever (not involving MPro workers). This match was built upon sequence after sequence of great reversals, high spots and fast paced offense right to the big finish. The SCD (Storm Cradle Driver) is a must see move that nearly killed Red – just insane!!! Red’s standing shooting star press and flying ability is unreal and the Spanish Fly that the SAT often use as a finish is one of the coolest double teams I’ve ever seen.
: Minoru Tanaka vs. Takehiro Murahama – I’ve yet to see this IWGP Junior Title match, but the talk is that it is off the page which doesn’t surprise me at all, so I thought that I would have to include it blind.
: Low-Ki vs. Xavier – Ladder Match – 6/30/01 – Again, this is a match I’m including blind (will being seeing it very soon), but the talk is there surrounding it big time as it was the final main event to ever be run in the Madhouse of Extreme in Queens, NY taking place under the UCW banner. This match was said to have brutal in all aspects and was a fitting final match for the rather historic venue.
: Mark Briscoe vs. Jay Briscoe – 5/19/01 – This was a second round match in the CZW Best of the Best Junior Tourney that stole the show. I think that considering both wrestlers age and experience, although not perfect, this match was pretty amazing. They certainly played up the brother vs. brother aspect of the match, which was important and after starting strong on the mat destroyed each other in the air and with All Japan style head-drops. It was a strong effort and with time I believe that with time the Briscoe Brothers may be able to re-fine and intensify their rivalry (just hope CZW doesn’t waste it too soon, let them grow more as wrestlers and save it as a big re-match down the road in a year or more).
Well, that list is start for the best of 2001 – I’m sure that as the months go by I’ll have a chance to re-fine and add to that list (in the meantime make an effort to see some of those matches if you haven’t already). I’ll get tackling the Joshi side of things down the line after seeing some of the action that has taken place more recently.
Speaking of recent Joshi, Arsion ran on 7/3/01 at Korakuen Hall headlined by a pair of matches that I can’t wait to see as Lioness Asuka went over Mariko Yoshida (pictured above in her new ring attire) in nearly 15 minutes and Ayako Hamada defended her Queen of Arsion Title against Michiko Omukai in what looked to be a semi-bloody affair (again pictures above) clocking in at just over 18 minutes. I wanted to thank “Trocar Slush Weasel” from the Crazy Max Joshi Board for putting up the great images. I also wanted to put over the GAMI/Ayako Hamada match as what I felt was the best match from the ARS 2001 tourney (that turned out to be used as the May Samurai TV block). GAMI was in a rather serious ass-kicking mood, which really drove the match in which she and Ayako beat the crap out of each other with GAMI going over Ayako (they played Ayako having a bad shoulder throughout the match).
In other Joshi news and recent viewing, the 2/18/01 (aired 3/1/01) Oz Academy show produced one of the best Joshi tag matches I’ve ever seen in the semi-main as Carlos Amano (very Mariko Yoshida like is you’ve never seen her in ring) and Chikayo Nagashima (who builds tremendous finish sequences and does some awesome hanging arm submissions) faced off against Meiko Satumura (who I often compare to Yugi Nagata in terms of her work and style) and Sumie Sakai (solid worker with great quickness) in around 15 minutes of Joshi bliss. I can’t begin to put into words how great this ultra swank match was start to finish – it is a MUST see!!!
As long as I am putting over recently watched tapes, I thought that as a whole the Battlarts 5th Anniversary show was excellent (taped 4/19/01) and the best recent Battlarts show I’ve watched. Super Crazy re-igniting his feud with Ikuto Hidaka brought out a match that topped even their great ECW matches of the past and was the top match on the show. The undercard also provided a pretty little nasty tag match as Taira teamed with Alvin Ken (the Shark Boy of Battlarts) against Junji.com and DDT’s fabulous super Rider. I also thought that the Usuda Independent Junior Title defense against Jun Kasai (who was wrestling only days after beyond obliterated in Delaware) was an interesting mix and change of pace since it provided some great comedy in turn with some Battlarts hurt. The top match on the card was a bit strange I nature as Alexander Otsuka went to a 20 minute draw with Mohammed Yone (in a B-rule, submission or KO victory only) match. The match was hurty, although lacking much of the great suplex crushing that went on in their Young Gen Battle match from 2000, and it appeared as if Otsuka was in extra surly mode perhaps even teasing a heal turn by the end of the match – not exactly sure where that story is going. I recommend that show (added the the Kaientapelist recently) and am excited to see several of the up-coming Battlarts shows that should make Samurai TV as there has been a great deal of outside mixing recently from Zero-One and MPro to take the competition up a notch.
I think that is a sufficient ramble for now – thanks for coming back to check out my thoughts – more soon.