Category Archives: February 2014

(02/22) Yugi Nagata (c) vs. KENTA

NOAH
Differ Ariake (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Heavyweight Championship

There is not a ton to say about Nagata’s first GHC Heavyweight Championship defense other than it was a surprising match on two fronts. For one, a title change appeared imminent when the match was announced. Nagata appeared to be a transitional champion in order to get the title back on KENTA when he did not end up in the WWE. KENTA’s title shot was rushed – something KENTA apparently acknowledged himself upon its announcement – all of which pointed to a title switch that ended up not occurring after all.

Secondly, the match was a bit of a surprise in how good it was. It is a step (or more) below the best stuff from this month and this year, but exceeded my expectations.

The Differ Ariake crowd was far from hot, but they maintained some level of noise throughout the entire match yelling for KENTA which helped. This wasn’t as back-and-forth as some NOAH and some KENTA matches can be. Nagata controlled a decent portion of the match and looked good doing so. Nagata is rather middling at this point in his career – if he hasn’t always been – and the lackluster title win versus Morishima did little to inspire confidence for his GHC Heavyweight title run, but he was good here. The pacing and the selling were also a bit more my style in this match, which I cannot say about a ton of NOAH matches.

The ending was well-executed with several teases and near falls on the backdrop suplex before he finally catches KENTA in it a final time and puts him down. Good match overall, but unfortunately KENTA is probably one of the better (best?) opponents for Nagata in NOAH so I still don’t have high-expectations for his title reign.

Diagnostics
Japan Singles | Common| Quality & Title Match

(02/23) HARASHIMA (c) vs. Masa Takanashi

DDT
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
KO-D Openweight Championship

For our still ongoing re-watch of 2000’s US Indies, we watched quite a few matches involving wrestlers that were not necessarily the big stars of that genre and era. These matches were hyped or recommended at the time they occurred by somebody (usually Phil Schneider, currently of Segunda Caida/DVDVR fame) but you always go in wondering if the match is going to be genuinely good or simply “better than expected” good. There was probably a mixed bag of results between those two options (and maybe a couple of matches that just weren’t very good at all) during that project. I think its natural to go into some matches with that sort of skepticism. I won’t be blamed for questioning the true quality of 2000/2001-era Elax versus Dixie matches (for the record, they were by-and-large pretty good).

That’s my long-winded way of pointing out that sometimes matches seem good because they are unexpected and it takes time to sort out which ones fall in that group and which ones are just good on their own merit. I am not sure yet which group HARASHIMA vs. Takanashi falls into after a first watch, but I liked it a whole lot. So much so that I am going to squeeze it into the January/February re-watch group and give it another look.

The opening minutes are your basic, but very well executed, feeling out and opening mat work minutes. It has hopefully become evident by now in my writing that I value good opening foundation work like this, which is why I mention it so often. I am a bit of a DDT novice (what I have watched 2014 wise hasn’t done much for me) so admittedly I probably dug this part a bit more because it was unexpected, but to keep with the theme of the opening paragraphs, I am not so sure it wasn’t also strong work on its own merits. Both guys fight over leg and arm holds while continually jockeying for position. It is just the kind of foundation setting hold exchanges that is right up my alley.

They transition out of that opening period about 5 or 6 minutes in. HARASHIMA works a headlock for a little while which Takanashi eventually escapes out of kicking off a quick sequence that appears to be heading towards a standoff. Instead, Takanashi does forward rolls all around the mat before settling in the center and turning himself into a ball Johnny Saint-style. The ball has its usual desired effect on both HARASHIMA and the crowd – the guy in the front row rocking a plaid blazer, white t-shirt, and gold chain combo goes into hysterics over it – with Tananashi transitioning into some arm work (he began working the arm in the opening period). I loved all of this.

HARASHIMA takes over shortly after and just brutalizes his opponent for several minutes with stomps, kicks, and all sorts of brutal offense that looks like it kills the slender Takanashi. For those that look for these sorts of things, HARASHIMA is awesome here favoring his arm for a little while even while on offense until slowly shaking it off. Takanashi makes a short-lived comeback once again targeting the arm, mixing in some painful-looking arm bars with more traditional ways of working that particular limb. He also keeps going to the roll ups to good-effect. The pacing is very good in that Takanashi’s offense is all arm-focused or pinning combos so this match never gets all that close to “too much” territory.

HARASHIMA takes over again with a dropkick that Takanashi takes a BIG neck bump on which rivals the one Ibushi took off of an Okada drop kick in their March 6th match.

The near fall section of the match is good for much of the same reasons mentioned above about the pacing. They don’t do anything all that big and the innovative moves they pull out work well and don’t seem out of place. They get a few strong near falls along the way, with the match wrapping up about when it should have (it is about 19 minutes long overall). HARASHIMA kills Takanashi dead with a pile driver delivered from the side that spikes Takanashi right on the head; just brutal looking.

Takanashi looks like an emaciated homeless man. HARASHIMA – despite being almost 40 – is a nondescript babyfaced Japanese wrestler in appearance. The match takes place in a promotion known for bizarre gimmicks, even stranger angles, and a whole lot of comedy. So maybe all of that worked to make this an unexpectedly good match that isn’t actually as good it seemed on first watch. I am not so sure that’s the case . . .

Japan Singles | Watch It | Quality

(02/22) Adam Cole (c) vs. Chris Hero

Ring of Honor
Pennsylvania National Guard Amory (Philadelphia, PA)
Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Championship

I like a good opening segment as much as I enjoy a good stretch run. Of the Chris Hero matches I have watched since he left WWE developmental, most have good, solid opening segments and transitions. That stands in stark contrast to a lot of indie matches – and that’s not just limited to the so-called ‘workrate’ ones – where the opening segments are often flat and the transitions nonexistent. I am not looking for anything world class – just a solid, well-formed foundation for the rest of the match.

The first six or seven minutes of this match from ROH’s 12th anniversary show might be my favorite stretch of any ROH match in quite some time. Hero controls with headlocks and cravats early. Cole twice goes for what at first appears to be a lazy kick-to-the-gut transition, only for Hero to block it. I hate the knee lift or kick to the stomach transition so I really enjoyed that tease and reversal.

After being thwarted several times to get any offense going, Cole bails to the outside. He stalls by leaving the ring several more times and it is very effective. Cole has developed a very nice cocky heel champion persona, which the stalling nicely compliments. At one point Cole will not get back into the ring, so Hero bails out as well. They have a standoff on opposite sides of the ring. Hero fakes going one way and Cole makes the mistake of running in the opposite direction. In a nice touch, he is jawing with the fans as he runs away so he is completely unaware when Hero changes directions and comes charging at him with a big boot from the other side.

Hero stays in control for the first six minutes or so of the match before he makes the mistake of attempting a dive after Cole yet again bails to ringside. Previously, he played Cole’s stalling correctly by ignoring it or out-smarting him, but this time he plays right into his hand and the dive is countered with a kick to the end, putting Cole on offense. I thought the whole build up to and including that transition moment was very well done.

Cole’s control segment was pretty decent as well. Relative to other members of the ROH roster, he keeps his offense relatively contained and more importantly, utilizes elements like stalling, jawing with the crowd, and facial expressions to fill time rather than simply going to the next move. At one point the Philly crowd starts making a noise that sounded to me like a cross between a sarcastic and maniacal laugh presumably directed towards Cole. He lets this completely distract him, which the crowd eats up, so they keep doing it throughout the match whenever Hero kicks out of a move. The Philly fans weren’t into the near falls all that much, but their laughing at Cole’s inability to finish Hero made up for that heat-wise.

Hero has gone big boot crazy in some matches of his recently (the Raymond Rowe match from Texas being a prime example) and uses it a lot here, but not to the point of overkill. The kicks also all looked very good, including a through the ropes feet-first dive where he catches Cole square on the jaw.

Like I said before, the near falls did not get much of a reaction which was one issue with the match. The finishing stretch itself fell a tad flat for me as well and veered towards overkill a bit, even if it wasn’t anywhere close to what you get in other modern day ROH matches.

The ref bump was fine for setting up a re-match. I liked the attention to detail where Nigel McGuiness checked on referee Todd Sinclair after his spill to the outside, so that when Cole fouled Hero both the official and Nigel (still an authority figure of some sorts in ROH) both missed it. Also thought the kick out of the Florida Key after Sinclair comes to was the a good near fall (the only really good one of the match) because the ending would have felt a bit flat and telegraphed coming right then.

Definitely the best ROH match I have seen this year and probably the best in a while. The match is not a world-beater, but it is solidly worked, tells a straight-forward story, contains some neat spots, and doesn’t spiral into offensive overkill. That’s all I really am looking for, particularly for a match shown on free TV.

Diagnostics
US Indie Singles | Worthwhile | Quality

(02/26) Black Terry, Dragon Celestial, Emperador Azteca & Fulgor I vs. Skayde, Aztlan, Kanon & Vortize

IWRG
Arena Naucalpan (Naucalpan de Juarez, Mexico)

The feud between Skayde and Black Terry has been slow to build. First there was a cibernetico between Terry’s IWRG students and the students from Skayde’s gym that ended inconclusively when both men refused to accept victory after a missed foul call led to the finish. That match was a fun showcase for the students, with good opening segment and a rushed elimination period.

The cibernetico rematch that took place one week later never aired in full (it too ended in controversial fashion). This is the third match in the feud but the second to air. Skayde and Terry get directly involved in the action for the first time, teaming with three of their pupils in an eight-man tag.

The match begins largely on the mat like you would expect from an IWRG match and especially an IWRG match involving Skayde and Terry. Terry works regularly during the opening fall. Skayde does not. The way it played out seemed to indicate that Skayde going to be the rudo in this feud although things have continued to play our murkily since this match so it is hard to tell. I thought Terry looked good here mixing it up with Skayde’s students and Skyade. Terry’s team picks up the first fall with pins pins on the three non-captain members of Skayde’s team.

You also might expect for the best portions of this match to come when Terry and Skayde are in the ring at the same time and that’s exactly what happened. The two veteran luchadores and trainers largely worked a straight up technical style versus one another when no funny business or hints at either one going rudo. When they are in with the other guys, those segments are also okay. It was the IWRG vs. Skayde Gym trainee segments that were lacking a bit and got a bit sloppy at times. I am not positive that the action was all that worse than the earlier cibernetico, but perhaps the student’s work just paled in comparison to Terry and Skayde’s work, making it more noticeable.

Terry gets pinned for the second fall. Skayde’s team eventually makes it two straight falls for the come-from-behind victory when they pick up a split fall on the non-captain members of Terry’s team.

There was some good stuff in here, particularly when Skayde and Terry were in the ring, but nothing blow away. Still, the Skayde and Terry issue is easily the most interesting story going on in IWRG right now so it might be worth checking out for that reason.

Diagnostics
Multi-Wrestler Tag | Common | Angle/Feud

(02/27) Bo Dallas (c) vs. Adrian Neville

WWE-NXT
Full-Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
Ladder Match for the NXT Championship

On the US indies, the ladder match is still (largely) all about big spots and big bumps. In the WWE proper, I am not sure what the selling point of the singles ladder match is anymore. They really do not run them often enough these days to get a good feel. You get a Money in the Bank ladder match (or two) per year and a TLC match, but straight up singles ladder matches are few and far between in WWE.

Given that, it was kind of cool to get a straight up, non-big bump focused singles ladder match here since they do not come around too often. This was far from a stunt show. Neville and Dallas used the ladder for a few agility spots and there were one or two relatively safe falls. That is a fine line to walk in a ladder match but they pulled it off well. If the wrestlers pull out very little value-added ladder spots, then what’s the point of even having a ladder match? If they do a lot of big moves and bumps, they run the risk of turning the match into a messy stunt show. I thought they towed that line pretty well here.

Neville’s springboard over Dallas onto the ladder was the highlight move of the match. That took great agility and not an easy move at all to pull off as seamlessly as he did. I thought the ladder-assisted tornado DDT out of the corner was also a cool spot. There are other moves I am forgetting for sure, but in general I thought they did a nice job of providing a few cool moves without going overboard.

The slow climbing sections were also kept to the bare minimum. Those can be such a momentum killer in a ladder match.

The ending was somewhat unique for a ladder match, but well executed. Many ladder matches end with both guys climbing the ladder at the same time or one guy climbing to an easy victory after taking out his opponent with a big move. Here Neville climbed the ladder with Bo down outside the ring. Bo scrambled to get back in and climb with Neville already near the top. For a split second I thought he might cut him off. I thought it kept the ending from being completely telegraphed.

Diagnostics
High Impact | Worthwhile | Quality