Category Archives: April 2014

(04/20) Super Shisa & Dragon Kid vs. Eita & T-Hawk

Dragon Gate
Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum (Osaka, Japan)
2 Count & 3 Rope Escape Match 

Dragon Gate ran another 2 count & 3 Rope Escape match in Osaka as part of the build to their Dead or Alive PPV in May.  This one is a little different than some of the others from the past six months.  There is no CIMA, for one.  Dragon Kid – and to a lesser extent T-Haw & Eita – bring a different (more high impact) style to the match well.  All of that makes for a different type of 2 count & 3 rope escape match than the kind that CIMA and Super Shisa would have versus one another.  However, this match does provide further support for the notion that the gimmick is an effective one that can be used with wrestlers of differing styles (not just for mat work/submission focused matches).

A good gimmick match is one that slightly alters the rules to create unique and/or expanded possibilities, while still retaining the fundamental elements of a pro wrestling match.  A standard cage match can be a good gimmick match because the match alteration is the cage around the ring that prevents interference and otherwise all of the fundamental elements of a wrestling match are left in place.  An escape-the-cage match is a bit trickier because the gimmick alters one of the fundamental elements of a pro wrestling match.  Instead of trying to defeat your opponent, you are trying to escape from your opponent.  It is a major alteration.  That is not to say that all gimmick matches of that ilk are inherently bad.  A ladder match replaces pins/submissions with climbing which is certainly a major alteration, but ladder matches can still be executed well.  They are just more difficult to pull off, I think.

The beauty of the 2 Count & 3 Rope Break gimmick match is that while it alters the traditional match rules and elements, it does not do so at the detriment of the fundamental components of a pro wrestling match.  Basically they take a normal match and just remove some of the room for error by tightening the rules.  These matches can and often do play out like normal matches, only with altered rules that open a world of cool possibilities.

For example, CIMA and Super Shisa have worked their singles matches under these rules as mat based submission-heavy bouts.  The rules favor the wrestler that has forced his opponent to use his rope breaks so submissions become a very handy tool.  Once the rope breaks are gone, submissions become a great finishing weapon because the only escape is to physically break the hold.  They use the rules to create a match that makes sense, is unique, and yet still sticks to those fundamental elements.

In this match, submissions are used but are not necessarily the focal point they are in the CIMA vs. Super Shisa bouts.  Instead, a greater focus is given to two areas:  (1) pinning combinations and (2) saves.  With only a 2 count needed for victory, a quick roll up or cradle is suddenly a much more valuable weapon.  There are some cool flash pin attempts in this match from all of the wrestlers that create legit near falls throughout the match on moves that would otherwise get little or no reaction.

There is also a strong focus on breaking up pins.  Dragon Kid, T-Hawk, and Eita use much of their “normal” offense throughout the match and particularly late in the match, moves are landed that we would expect to get at least a two count.  Since that would end the match, tag partners are diving in to the ring for saves early and often which creates a cool, frantic feel.  I think that utilizing high impact moves in a singles match with these rules would become problematic because kicking out of so many big moves after a one count flies in the face of established wrestling logic.  In a tag environment where saves are utilized big time, it works well.  There was only one time in this match – after a Dragon Kid spinning tornado DDT – where there was a one count kick out that seemed to be pushing the envelope a bit.

The submissions in here are also cool.  Super Shisa goes for a bunch and as we have seen in the CIMA matches, he has a nice arsenal of them.  The Millennial duo bring a few to the table as well – including a couple of ones that involve neat looking transitions and set ups.  T-Hawk and Eita eventually seize control of the match by forcing two rope breaks (one right after the other) on each of their opponents to leave them without any.  Eita rather quickly capitalizes on the situation by forcing Super Shisa to submit to the Numero Uno (arm bar).

This was not the best of the 2 Count & 3 Rope Break matches but it did do the gimmick justice.  I don’t think I’d want to see a full card of these rules on a regular basis or even see the gimmick used on a regular basis.  Like any gimmick match, it is best served in moderation.  However, I am convinced it is a gimmick that should be used elsewhere because there are certainly some creative wrestlers currently who could utilize this gimmick match effectively and interestingly.

2 Count, 3 Rope Escapes| Worthwhile | Quality & Gimmick Match

(04/26) Tommy End (c) vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.

Turbinenhalle (Oberhausen, Germany)
wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship 

Tommy End might be the Ricochet of Western Europe.  I say that because Tommy End – like Ricochet – has transformed himself from a pro wrestler with obvious upside but few tangible results, to a wrestler on the brink of putting it all together.  Their wrestling styles are far different, but both Ricochet and End have (at times) during the first 4+ months of 2014 felt like wrestlers on the cusp of something bigger.

End enters this match just a couple of months shy of the one-year mark as the wXw Unified World Wrestling Champion.  Davey Boy Smith Jr. is the most well-known of End’s title challengers to date – a list that includes several wXw regulars and a trio of mediocre junior heavyweights with international resumes (Ricky Marvin, Zack Sabre Jr., and Jonathan Gresham).  The son of the British Bulldog has maintained a relatively low profile since leaving WWE.  He has found himself largely relegated to the tag team division in New Japan and is an infrequent presence elsewhere, only popping up from time to time in random promotions in the US and Europe.

On paper this match was intriguing to me because End works a kick-boxing, submission style that he has progressively become more adept at.  Smith Jr. trained with the late Billy Robinson and has additional grappling & submission training experience even if he rarely shows it off in New Japan.  There were all the makings for a strong stylistic pairing here.

Sure enough they do just that, beginning with a lock up that leads to some grappling and jockeying for position.  It was all very smooth and fluid.  The match ends up on the ground in short order with Davey Boy largely controlling things.  There are a couple of standoffs thrown in for good measure and End bails out of the ring at one point to pout.

One of the reasons End appears close to putting it altogether is that he has developed a strong character and heel persona.  “Angry Dutch kick boxer” might not seem like much of a gimmick but it totally gels with End’s look and wrestling style.  I completely buy him as this jaded, wannabe, self-trained kick boxer who washed out of that scene, turned to pro wrestling out of necessity and now finds himself cursing his bad luck that it is Peter Aerts pulling in a $28,000 per match salary from IGF when it could be him.

The match goes to the outside but for only a brief moment.  End slams Smith’s knee on the apron before he getting a taste of his own medicine.  Back inside, Davey Boy goes for a stomp to the midsection and feels a tweak in his knee as he does so, which he gets across with a great subtle sell.  Smith’s knee becomes something of an irregular target for End the remainder of the match.  This is not a limb work match at all but End tends to attack Smith’s leg when the opportunity presents itself.  Smith does the same with End’s arm.  The selling from both guys is exactly where it needs to be given the match layout.

Smith locks on a nice rolling arm bar at one point that End might have stayed in for too long.  For the stretch run of the match, Davey Boy pulls out his simple but effective array of power offense (slams, power bomb, and things like that).  This is the one part of the match I was not completely enamored with although to be clear, it was perfectly fine.  The crowd wasn’t really buying that Davey Boy – one of several outsiders working this Superstars of Wrestling card – was going to win the title.  As a result, the attempted near falls didn’t register much of an impact and probably could have been downplayed some as a result.  The ending was well-executed and the match ended at a good spot length wise.

I want to watch this again because I won’t dismiss the idea that some of my enjoyment came from the fact that they more or less wrestled the style of match I hoped they would.  However, on first viewing I liked this quite a bit.  It was a solid heavyweight match which is a rare commodity these days outside of the top promotions.  The match felt like one that you could stick almost anywhere on a past or present WCW or WWE PPV card and the event would have be better for it.

Singles Title Match | Watch It | Quality

(04/26) Matt & Jeff Hardy vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe

Union Pines High School (Cameron, North Carolina) 

The pre-match hype and commentary put over this match between the two brother tag teams as a dream match.  Certainly on the dream match spectrum, the Hardy Boys versus Briscoe Brothers falls somewhere.  A case could be made (and the lead announcer attempts to make it) that this is a pairing of the two most successful brother duos in recent memory suggesting that not since the Steiner Brothers versus Harlem Heat endless series of matches in WCW have two brother tag teams as talented as these squared off.  I don’t know if anyone views Steiners/Harlem Heat series as a historically notable series, but I think his main point might be true.  I am hard pressed to think of any brother tag teams over the past 15 years that were more successful or more high-profile than these two.  Fans of the Young Bucks might disagree but they are at least a notch below these two teams.

With the dream match hype machine in full effect, the Hardys and Briscoes laid out a decidedly epic match.  I came away with the feeling that they crammed a three or four match series into one bout.  I understand why – the desire to get in all of their ideas in what might be the only time the match is run – but the match probably went in too many directions to truly be effective.

The opening is standard – but well executed – fare.  The Hardys come out hot before the Briscoes take over and work on Jeff.  Mark looked particularly good in this match combing his usual fun offense with some nice athletic moves and bumping.  In ROH, Jay has looked the better of the two over the last year but I am starting to think that is more due to positioning than anything else (Jay has had featured singles matches while Mark has been stuck mainly wrestling multi-man matches and lower card singles matches).  Jeff eventually gets the hot tag to Matt who cleans house.  This felt  like the ending of match #1 (the traditional southern tag formula).

Jeff gets taken out on the floor shortly after the hot tag to Mark.  He is helped to the back by referees and Shane Helms.  Matt gets worked over for a while.  The Briscoes’ offense during this segment is decent and Matt is very good at fighting back here and there.  The added background of this match was that Jay and Matt are (or at least were) feuding in ROH with Jay feeling that Matt (who is the heel in ROH) cost him the World championship.  The idea was that the Briscoes took out Jeff so they could get their revenge on Matt.

After an extended beating that included chair shots and with the official knocked, Willow the Whisp emerges from the back with his trusty umbrella in hand.  Like a deranged Mary Poppins, he whacks the Briscoes with the umbrella evening things up for Matt before disappearing.  This felt like the end of Match #2.

Several minutes later – with Matt now on slightly more equal footing – Jeff staggers from the back looking woozy.  Shane Helms implores Jeff to not go to the ring, but he does anyway.  The third “match” begins at this juncture.  Jeff gets the hot tag and later does the same to Matt.  They do a prolonged finishing stretch that would have not felt as long had so much not proceeded it.  The Briscoes kick out of a bunch of signature Hardy moves and the Hardys escape defeat continually before the Hardys pull it out with a victory roll.

There was a lot in the match that I really liked this.  These are two teams that get tag team wrestling better than most going today.  There were fun double teams, good face in peril segments, good use of the legal man, and a bunch of drama.  As mentioned earlier, the main issue was that it was really three matches in one and as such I was feeling burnt out by the end.  I think they could have taken the three distinct parts of this match and had a great three match series.

Match #1 – The first part of this match through the hot tag to Jeff, ending with a DQ when Jeff gets taken out.

Match #2 – Jeff is still not cleared to wrestle so Matt goes it alone.  Second part of this match takes place with Willow the Whisp coming out to even the sides.  Jeff comes in against doctor orders, the Briscoes win or the match ends in a no contest, and the third match is set up.

Match #3 – Essentially the third part of this match with maybe an opening tacked on.  Hardys finally get their revenge and the win after a near fall heavy, grudge-match sprint.

All of that was basically crammed into this one match.  While it was still a good match, they could have given everything a little more breathing room by spreading it out over multiple shows or simply leaving some ideas on the shelf.

Southern Tag | Worthwhile | Quality

(04/27) Averno, Mephisto, Ephesto, Puma, Tiger & Niebla Roja vs. Rey Cometa, Stuka Jr., Triton, Delta, Guerrero Maya Jr. & Valiente

Arena Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico)
2014 Rey del Aire Toreno Cibernetico

The 2014 En Busca de un Idolo qualifier cibernetico featured more dives than I could keep up with and was generally a very fun, action-packed near-30 minute match.  Coming so close to the 2014 Rey del Aire, it was going to be hard for the Rey del Aire to top it in terms of an action packed high-flying spectacles.  In the end, it didn’t top the En Busca de un Idolo qualifier, but it was still a decent cibernetico on its own merits.

The highlights for me were the topes.  I have no problem with a tope con hilo or any other flip dive and at one point likely would have preferred those to a standard tope.  However, I’ve heard the argument that a regular tope that is delivered with a lot of impact and catches a large distance is the prettiest dive there can be and I think I buy it now.  There are several nice topes here including an excellent one from Valiente.  Chubby guy and fat guy topes that are well-executed are the best and Valiente certainly qualifies for the former category.  He just gets great distance on this one at such a top speed that it really is a thing of beauty.  Valiente also busted out the running springboard moonsault that is awesome looking.  I was hoping we would get him in this year’s Best of Super Juniors after his cameo in last year’s NJPW Junior tag tournament, but it would be ridiculous to complain about “only” getting Mascara Dorada instead.

Puma and Tiger continued to have strong 2014’s with their participation in the tournament.  They are already at a stage relatively early on in their careers where it felt like they were largely responsible at times for holding this match together.  The not-often-seen these days Rey Cometa also had a strong showing with a nice hurricanrana off of the ring apron and a cork screw plancha.

I enjoy Stuka Jr.  His tucked-in form on all dives always gets me.   It was nice to see him grab the win here.

You can’t go wrong with this collection of wrestlers in a cibernetico so it is worth checking out, although it you can only make room for one 2014 cibernetico on your schedule that should probably still be the En Busca de un Idolo qualifier.


Cibernetico | Worthwhile | Quality

(5/3) Shinsuke Nakamura & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Rolles & Daniel Gracie

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Fukuoka Convention Center (Fukuoka, Japan)

This match was intriguing on paper because in Nakamura, the Gracies have their first NJPW opponent theoretically capable of helping them bridge the gap between their MMA background and pro wrestling. NJPW fans groaned at Nakamura being paired with the Gracies because it is seen as a “waste” of one of the promotion’s better workers. Of course a perfectly good use of one of your better workers is to pair him with your more inexperienced workers to attempt to get the most from them. This is particularly true in this case given that Nakmura’s MMA background and pro wrestling style makes him uniquely qualified to work with pro wrestling newcomers, Daniel and Rolles.

NJPW is going to push the Gracies. They might as well put them in the best position to succeed. Right now, that means working with Nakamura.

Like most Gracie matches so far, all four wear gis to the ring, with Nakamura sporting an appropriately unique and outlandish red one. Nakamura begins for his team and leads the Gracies through some slow grappling sequences. Nakamura appears to understand that grappling and feeding body parts for submission attempts is the best way for the Gracies to look competent as pro wrestlers but neither party seems entirely comfortable working that style early on. As the match progressed, I felt Nakamura got a better grasp on how to mix that stuff in with his traditional pro wrestling spots. Perhaps even more important, there were times in this match when the Gracies looked comfortable pulling off moves in a pro wrestling environment which is a big step in the right direction for their New Japan careers.

The reason this match was still more fun than good is that Daniels and Rolles were never particularly great fighters and as such, they are not very adept pro wrestlers – at least not at the present. The Gracie matches have been referred to as “fake MMA” in a pejorative manner. The implication there is that the style of these matches is inherently bad. The style is not the problem; the inexperience of the Daniel and Rolles is. Nakamura got big reactions for his knee strikes here because they were utilized as a high spot after the slower earlier build. Sakuraba’s signature leg kicks and jumping stomp worked as high spots as well for the same reason. The Gi choke finish worked very well and got over with the live crowd. One of the Gracies utilized a good-looking roll through Kimura.

This match it not “fake MMA” as opposed to shoot style pro wrestling, despite some attempting to make that distinction. This match was merely a shoot style pro wrestling match that just wasn’t very good largely due to the inexperience and/or ineptness of one of the teams. It is a flaw in execution, not in style.

Sakuraba gets choked out which worked well as the finish. Saku pounces around in frustration post-match which I thought was a nice reaction to help put over the outcome as meaningful. Daniel once again challenges Nakamura to a title match which he accepts for May 25th in Yokohama. Sakuraba takes on Rolles on that same card. Like this tag, they might not be great matches but if New Japan is going to use the Gracies, shoot style matches with Nakamura and Sakuraba constitutes the best usage of them.

Shoot Style | Worthwhile | Intrigue & Uniqueness