Category Archives: June 2014

Catch Up Post #1: The Lucha Edition

(03/02) Charles Lucero vs. Silver Star (Monterey)
(06/22) Charles Lucero vs. Silver Star (Monterey)
(07/05) Charles Lucero vs. Black Terry (Monterey) 

Just realized I never wrote about the first match in March, so let’s get this catch-up going with a triple dose Charles Lucero!

All three of these matches are of course from Monterey.   The Silver Star matches are more or less one-man performances by Lucero.  Utilizing his signature blend of traditional and visually pleasing lucha match work, Lucero leads Silver Star through a pair of enjoyable title matches.  To be fair, Star does keep up fine and I enjoyed his fat-masked-wrestler dives in both matches, but Lucero is the one doing the heavy lifting.  The first match was the slightly more enjoyable one for me although one is not significantly better than the other.  Lucero’s appeal lies more in the style he works (a throwback mat-based lucha style) than anything else.  I wouldn’t put him the same class as Negro Navarro or Solar in terms of great lucha maestros but if you like that particular style you will like these matches.

The Black Terry match from the LuchaMania show was solid, but fell a bit shy of my admittedly lofty expectations.  The mat work was probably what disappointed me the most.  You anticipate a match like Terry/Lucero for the mat wrestling.  The mat work we got largely felt rushed and perfunctory.  By comparison, the mat work in Solar vs. Negro Navarro from Masked Mania in April came off as more high-level than the work here.  The match is just a tick over ten minutes though and there is still plenty of good stuff though (including a wicked top rope brainbuster by Lucero) so it’s worth a look.

(05/02) Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Daga & Steve Pain (AAA) 

Jack Evans and Angelico can be somewhat hit-or-miss.  They rely on strong high-flying offense, charisma , and selling while trying to get by on what is generally very weak non-flying offense.  As long as they (and their opponents) can downplay that big, glaring weakness they can get by.  On the occasions when they wrestle a match where that lack of “other” offense isn’t as egregious as it can be, than good things can result.

In this match – opposite two solid, well-rounded wrestlers in Daga and Steve Pain – Angelico & Evans click which produces very solid results.  Their flying is there as always, but everything in between is much better.  They pull off some cool double teams, including a very neat double team block/transition move that is worth checking out.  Daga and Pain are able to keep up when it is there time to control as well.  Pain is on in this match, landing a great dive to go along with other solid offense.  The resulting match is fast paced but well-structured and a very fun tag match.

(05/11) Ultimo Guerrero vs. Tiger Ali (Toryumon) 

When matches from DragonMania – Toyumon’s big annual event(s) at Arena Mexico – showed up online, I watched it out of that sick, irrational need to watch anything that is rare or different.  There were no matches that really intrigued me but that didn’t matter.  I have an insatiable thirst for variety in wrestling.  Tiger Alit – a Brit moonlighting as an Iranian heel – wrestling Ultimo Guerrero in Arena Mexico for the Toryumon Copa Mundial quenched that thirst.

Too bad the match was terrible.

Ali – who I have seen look competent in both M-Pro and in the UK – was no good here.  He went too overboard with the evil foreigner shtick and even if he hadn’t, he was any good at the basic evil foreigner stuff.  UG did not seem to have any desire to even attempt to right the quickly sinking ship that was this match.  I can’t say that I blame him.

(07/11) La Sombra vs. Shocker (CMLL) 

Shocker’s shockingly (!) great year continues when he and Sombra go mano-a-mano as part of the build towards the Negro Casas/Rush hair match.

Shocker takes a beating in this one, absorbing Sombra’s offense in a way that makes all of it look really impactful.  He spends the first fall and a half both getting his ass kicked and his ego bruised by Sombra who doles out the offense and takes plenty of time to gloat about it as well. During one such gloat, Shocker shakes out the cobwebs and with his fist clenched, he nods at the crowd as if saying “enough is enough.” He fires back and takes the second fall with some fine offense of his own.

The third fall is very good.  Both guys work stiff and show off some of the better stiff, high-impact work you will see in CMLL this side of Rush & Casas.  Shocker has – and has always had – a beautiful tope.  Sombra’s double knee stomp in the corner that he is doing a lot these days looked awesome here.  He needs to go back to Japan (tag league in December with Rush?) and bring that move with him.  Shocker has victory in sight after one top rope elbow drops and decides to try for a second one for good measure.  This draws out Rush to save his partner, but he is attacked from behind by Casas before he can get involved.  The distraction is enough, however, to allow La Sombra to foul Shocker and get a roll-up victory.

Good match and more good build towards the Rush/Casas hair match.

(07/19)  Negro Casas & Shocker vs. Rush & La Sombra (CMLL) 

The prior week’s singles match sets up this CMLL Tag Team Championship match and it’s a doozy.  In a year that has been relatively weak on tag team matches, this match stands out above the rest.

Sombra and Rush come over dressed for the match in suit coats and dress shirts.  For good measure, Sombra once again sports a black fedora on top of his black and white mask.  It’s an incredible look.  The first two falls are not as useless as they sometimes are and set the tone (read: intense hatred between the two teams) quite well.  The third fall, as it often is, is where the action is at.

The third fall is a whirlwind of hard-hitting moves, furious saves, and intensity.  It is controlled chaos at its finest.  Sombra is fantastic in his current role.  He is fully committed to playing the part of the brash, borderline aloof but nonetheless nasty rudo.  His taunt of lying between the second and third rope as if it were a hammock makes you want to slap the fedora right off his stupid masked head.  Rush and Casas are fantastic against each other as always and Shocker appears to be working extra hard these days.  He’s seeing the results of his work as well with a lot of quality matches to his name in 2014.  This match clicked on most all cylinders producing one of the finest tag matches of 2014 I’ve seen so far.  If that wasn’t enough it served the additional role of building up the August 1st Rush vs. Casas match in an effective manner.

This is one that is worth seeking out.

(07/20) Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. LA Park vs. Mascara Sagrada vs. Pirata Morgan vs. Hijo de Dos Caras vs. Demon Clown (IWRG) 

How many luchadores does it take to pull down a title belt hanging from the ceiling?

Trick question.  Going off of this match, it takes six luchadores and one referee.  Even then, that does not quite get the job done.

IWRG brought in an impressive array of talent to compete in a six-man ladder match for the IWRG Heavyweight Championship that was vacated (mercifully) by Vamprio earlier this year.  Name value alone, however, could not save this one from itself.

The match begins – as most matches involving Parka and Wagner do – with longwinded promos.  When things get underway, the match inoffensively meanders about for a bit.  As it reaches the middle stages, Parka takes some big time bumps on some okay looking moves.  It might be enough for you to let your guard down and think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all.”  Don’t be fooled.

Ladders aren’t made for the big bodies of LA Park, Demon Clown, and Wagner Jr. to climb and land on.  After some ladders-as-weapons spots and some climbing, the two ladders in the match are so destroyed they are rendered useless.  Someone retrieves a normal one-sided ladder from . . . somewhere . . . and the referee holds it up so the wrestlers can climb.  The match falls apart at this point as it becomes more about getting through it than putting on any resembling a good wrestling match.

At last – with both the referee and Pirata Morgan steadying the ladder – Hijo De Dos Caras climbs the backup ladder and retrieves the title belt to win the match – only, not quite.  Dos Caras gets his hands on the belt but as hard as he pulls, the darn thing won’t budge from the rope.  Time virtually stands still as Dos Caras desperately trues to unhook the belt by tugging on it.  He losses grip of the ladder at one point, leaving his feet to comically dangle above the mat as he holds onto the title belt for dear life.  Demon Clown props Dos Caras on his shoulders (nice save) but the stubborn title belt still won’t fall down.  The other wrestlers attempt to help, all the while giving a half-ass attempt at pretending to continue the match.  Eventually, Dos Caras and the belt fall to the mat, with Dos Caras being declared the winner immediately upon impact.  The entire ordeal – which lasted far longer than one might assume – made for quite the scene.

If you are into train wrecks, well, than this is your match.

(07/21)  Ultimo Guerrero, Euforia & Niebla Roja vs. Atlantis, Valiente & Volador Jr. (CMLL) 

Los Guerreros defend their CMLL World Trios championship versus the makeshift tecnico squad of Atlantis, Valiente and Volador Jr.  The title match is more than a booking device to further the yet-to-be-resolved issue between Atlantis and Ultimo Guerrero, although it does serve that purpose.  It is one of those fun, easy-to-watch CMLL trios matches that makes you think “why can’t they all be this good?”.  Atlantis hits a pair of topes, the second of which is part of a well-timed (and well filmed) string of topes by all three tecnico team members.  Los Guerreros pull out some fun double and triple teams including a great alley-oop on the ramp onto both Valiente and Volador.

Not a match that is necessarily going to stand out amongst the pack, but I thought it was in the upper tier of CMLL trios match from 2014 to date.

(07/29) Titan vs. Cavernario (CMLL) 

It has been twenty years since a pair of 19 year-olds named Rey Mysterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera wowed lucha and worldwide wrestling audiences with their matches in the AAA promotion.  At 20 and 22 years old, respectively, Cavernario and Titan are a bit older than Mysterio and Guerrera were in 1994 but their ability to have such a strong singles match versus one another at such a young age compares favorably to what Rey and Juvi managed to do twenty years prior.

Titan looked like one of – if not the – most impressive high flyer in the world in this one.  He pulls off some extremely high level of difficulty moves with relative ease, including a tornado DDT spot that needs to be seen to be appreciated.  Cavnerario is less flashy than Titan as expected – they are not the same style of wrestler.  However, his tope rope splash looked equal parts impressive and terrifying as usual and he bumped/caught all of Titan’s offense with impressive precision.  While these two are certainly not as ground-breaking as 1994 Juvi and Rey were, it would not be a stretch to state that they are more polished than either of those two were at a similar stage in their careers.  This match is by no means a spot fest or collection of moves.  The two young luchadores bridge effectively from move to move and sequence to sequence, choosing their highspots efficiently and effectively.  They smartly toy with the standard lucha title match formula in order to work to their respective strengths, opting for a tad less mat work in the first fall and a much longer second fall than normal.

As far as lucha singles matches go, this one is up there with the best from 2014.  Well worth a look.

Round Up

Must Watch:  Titan vs. Cavernario; Rush & La Sombra vs. Negro Casas & Shocker
Watch:  Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Daga & Steve Pain
Worthwhile:  Ultimo Guerrero, Euforia & Niebla Roja vs. Atlantis, Valiente & Volador Jr.; Charles Lucero vs. Silver Star (x2)
Common:  Charles Lucero vs. Black Terry
Skip:  IWRG Ladder Match; Tiger Ali vs. Ultimo Guerrero

(06/29) Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger

TD Garden (Boston, MA)
Money in the Bank Ladder Match 

The Money in the Bank ladder match has garnered the reputation as a foolproof gimmick match.  The gimmick – six or more guys in a ladder match – lends itself to at least a solid match.  The traditional NWA/WCW War Games concept was often viewed in a similar fashion.  In both cases, the theory is that the gimmicks themselves make it easier to have great matches regardless of who is actually in the match (within reason, of course).  With Money in the Bank matches, it is a pretty solid bet that the match will at least be entertaining.

This was the first of two MITB-style ladder matches on the 2014 Money in the Bank PPV and was probably the better of the two.  That is despite the fact that 4/6th’s of the participants served very little importance beyond being warm bodies.  The only issue in the match was between ex-Shield members Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.

Ambrose – who, true to form, has gone off the deep end following Rollins’ betrayal – attacks Rollins immediately upon entering the match.   Rollins and Ambrose are not always in the ring (together or separately) but they are always the focus of the match.  Swagger, Kofi, Dolph, and RVD all get their moments, but the issue between the former Shield teammates is presented as the centerpiece.

There were many ladder bumps and neat spots in this one, but two stand out above the rest.

The first came when Kofi was perched on a ladder with a few of the other wrestlers in the match standing around outside the ring.  Ambrose tipped the ladder to keep Kofi from grabbing the belt.  As the ladder fell, Kofi jumped off and landed a plancha on the guys on the outside.  It was perfectly executed and not telegraphed at all.

The second great – or insane, if you prefer – spot saw Kofi backdrop Rollins off of a vertical ladder onto a horizontal ladder that had been propped up by the 1st ladder and the ring ropes.  Rollins’ back hit HARD off of the ladder causing him to bounce up in the air before landing on the mat – just an insane move.

Ambrose was taken out mid-match with an arm injury.  Heroically, he returns near the end of the match to keep Rollins from winning (temporarily).  The match ended – as it should – with Ambrose and Rollins as the only two wrestlers left standing.  That is until Kane came out to put away Ambrose and hand the briefcase to Rollins.

This was a fun ladder match with a few insane spots.  The focus on Ambrose and Rollins gave the match an additional focus beyond “six guys fighting for a title”.  The angle of Rollins holding the briefcase while Ambrose does everything in his power to prevent his former teammate from cashing in could be a lot of fun.  Both guys have been excellent in their post-Shield roles thus far.

Ladder Match | Watch It | Quality & Bumps

(06/29) Jimmy & Jey Uso © vs. The Wyatt Family (Eric Rowan & Luke Harper)

TD Garden (Boston, MA)
WWE Tag Team Championship 

It has been a relatively quiet year on the tag team front on a worldwide basis.

Historically, WWE is not the promotion one would look to when searching for quality tag team wrestling.  In 2014 with a weak tag team landscape, however, they have arguably offered the best tag wrestling of any promotion in the world.  That is due – in large part at least – to the work of these two teams.

The Usos and Wyatt Family kicked off the Money in the Bank event with a high-energy championship bout.  The teams are a nice compliment for one another both from a stylistic standpoint and a visual one.   The quick, high-flying baby face team versus the big, powerful heels is a time tested match up.  It works even better when the big heels are also athletic enough to eat their opponent’s offense, which is the case here with Harper.

The spot where Rowan caught and held one of the Usos on an attempted plancha only for his brother to follow up with the same to finally knock the big man down was cool.  Harper hit a pair of topes – one on each of the champs – which got a big reaction.  Harper has taken nicely to the maniac big man role in terms of the moves he utilizes, his facial expressions, and the ability to bump for smaller guys without losing any of his mystique.

Despite their run of good work and they continued ability to remain over, the Usos have been treading water lately so this match had the feel of a title chage.  It goes as a marginal surprise then that the Usos retained with a pair of frog splashes on Rowan.  It would not be surprising if they re-match in the near future with a different ending, as the Usos seem to be running out of challengers.

US Tag Team | Worthwhile | Quality

(06/28) Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Yujiro Takahashi

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
NEVER Open Weight Championship 

Wrestler of the Year candidate Tomohiro Ishii gets the chance to main event a Korakuen card, defending his NEVER Open Weight championship versus former CHAOS compadre Yujiro.

For those that are already sick of the Bullet Club – the interference, general cheating, and championship dominance– avert your eyes.  Anderson, Gallows and Tonga get involved.  Yujiro knocked over the referee.  When the match was over, the NEVER championship was around Yujiro’s waist, adding yet another championship to the Bullet Club’s impressive collection.

However, the match is also a perfectly fine Korakuen Hall main event.  Although Korakuen crowds can sometimes react against the grain, they boo Yujiro unmercifully when he stalls at the start of the match.  Ishii does an admirable job working with a lesser wrestler.  If you already thought of him as a strong Wrestler of the Year contender, this match likely only strengthened that opinion.  If not, there’s a chance this match would improve your opinion given how Ishii smartly switched up his usual formula to work to Yujiro’s strengths (being a big, goofy chicken of a heel).  When Nakamura and Okada run off the Bullet Club and help their CHAOS teammate, it gets one of the loudest reactions of the entire show.

In other words, this match was a near perfect representation of the ongoing divisiveness over the Bullet Club and current New Japan booking.  For those that don’t like what NJPW is doing, there was plenty to dislike.  For those looking at the positives, there were plenty of those as well.

With Yujiro’s victory, the Bullet Club is now the proud owners of every non-Junior specific championship in the promotion.  The payoff is likely coming before the end of the year with the Japanese wrestlers restoring order to the promotion’s hierarchy – just have patience.

Japan Singles | Worthwhile | Booking, Title Switch & Quality

(06/28) Tetsuya Natio, Kota Ibushi & El Desperado vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan) 

El Desperado’s on-again, off-again attitude problems flare up once again in this mixed junior and heavy trios match.

If there is a quintessential NJPW Korakuen Hall semi-main event, this it is.  It builds to a couple of near-future matches and puts guys together that normally do not get much of a chance to work with each other.  None of these six are likely to mail in a performance even on a mid-level show and they don’t here.  The action is fast paced and fun.  We get glimpses into fun but rare pairings such as Naito-Tanahashi, KUSHIDA-Naito, and Ibushi-Tanahashi.

They pack a lot of action into the 11-minute bout.  In a year where they has been more fun trios matches than can be counted, this one will get forgotten in the mix but it was nonetheless a good TV-style bout.  It set up both Shelley vs. Desperado and the junior title match of Ibushi vs. Kushuda on July 4th, as well as allowing Tanahashi and Naito to mix it up just several days before they are set to team in a straight tag on that same card.

The match is also noteworthy for El Desperado’s late-match and post-match actions.

Towards the end, Depserado – who has straddled the fence between good guy and rule breaker since his first day in the promotion – pushed Shelley towards the referee.  Shelley put on the breaks in order to save the official, but the distraction allowed Desperado to land a foul and get a cradle for the 3-count.  Just as was the case after his debut match back on January 5th, neither Desperado’s partners nor his opposition were happy with him after this one.  Desperado walked off, again teasing a full-fledged heel turn, while Ibushi and Kushida stared off prior to their big title confrontation.

Trios | Common | Angle & Quality