Current Watch List:
- Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Matt Taven & Michael Bennett (ROH)
- Beer City Bruiser vs. Mikey Webb (ROH)
- Alberto El Patron vs. Christopher Daniels (ROH)
- Big Daddy Walter vs. Sha Samuels (wXw)
- Axel Tischer vs. Mike Schwarz (wXw)
- Tommy End vs. Axel Dieter Jr. (wXw)
- Absolute Andy & Waschbären Auf Koffein (Franz Engel & Laurence Roman) vs. Die Schilds (Bobby Gunns & Vincent The Beast) & Karsten Beck (wXw)
- Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (NOAH)
- Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin & Taichi) vs. Mohammed Yone, Naomichi Marufuji & Taiji Ishimori, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste in an elimination match (NOAH)
- Atsushi Kotoge (c) vs. Daisuke Harada for the GHC Junior Heavyweight championship (NOAH)
- Hiroshi Fukuda & MEN’s Teioh vs. Kazushi Miyamoto & Seiya Morohashi (UNION)
- FUMA & Isama Kodaka (c) vs. Shuji Ishikawa & Masato Shibata for the UWA World Tag Team championship
Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Matt Taven & Michael Bennett
United States & Canada
Ring of Honor
Essentially an angle to set up the debut of ODB, it was a pretty fun “out of control” brawl with decent heat while it lasted. In ROH and really, a lot of US indie matches the action moves out of the ring on a regular basis (more on that in Alberto/Daniels) making it hard for a match that is meant to be violent/out of control to stand out. They got that across here with unprotected chair shots and through smarter means like having two officials at ringside trying restore order so the match could officially begin. Jay & Mark are good at these kinds of brawls and I enjoyed how the DQ happened very soon after the bell rang. Doing so added to the idea that these four were out of control. Its always annoying when a WWE or any other promotion starts with a wild brawl, only for the match to settle down into a normal match. ODB’s debut came off well.
Beer City Bruiser vs. Mikey Webb
United States & Canada
Ring of Honor
The last couple of years, ROH has focused on larger guys in their Top Prospect tournament. Talent is talent and they shouldn’t get so focused on finding good big guys that they miss other valuable wrestlers, but ROH could certainly use more big men. Wrestling in general could use more fat guys that have something to offer other than their size, At first glance, Beer City Bruiser might meet that criteria. He’s a fat guy that still wears normal trunks, which is a timeless look. A lot of bigger guys try to wrestle like smaller wrestlers today. Bruiser did hit a flip dive off of the ring apron, but otherwise wrestled more or less like a big guy should. He had good, relatable offense and good interaction with the crowd who was all over him from the start due to his look. The problem with this particular match was that it was a 1st round tournament match. Webb lost which means he is likely not coming back to ROH anytime soon. Given that, this should have been a relatively quick win for Bruiser. Instead, Bruiser sold a lot of Webb and even let him get in a suplex (albeit, after multiple tries). The layout seemed counterproductive to that end. I do want to see more of Bruiser though. He could be a fun mid-card level guy for ROH.
Alberto El Patron vs. Christopher Daniels
United States & Canada
Ring of Honor
Alberto came across fine in his in-ring ROH debut largely because the Nashville crowd treated him like a really big deal. Daniels worked lighter than usual which is saying something. On a couple of moves, it looked as if he was gently laying Alberto down on the mat rather than performing a wrestling move on him. This match had the usual ROH problem of spilling outside for almost no reason. They started off nice and slow working headlocks, then without any reason for the match to escalate, they were outside whipping each other into the barricades. As mentioned in the Briscoes match, when every match quickly escalates to the point of brawling on the outside, you completely lose outside brawling as an effective booking tool. Okay TV main event that did its job in giving Alberto a competitive TV win to start him off in ROH, but it was not without its problems.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
I am not sure I get the point of this developing feud. Nakajima is probably a tick or so above Zack Sabre Jr. on the NOAH food chain but he is not high up enough to elevate Sabre Jr. by feuding with him. I don’t see the point in Nakajima entering an issue with someone below him when he is not high enough to elevate his feud partner. Seems like placeholder booking, so maybe that is exactly what it is.
I liked this match quite a bit. It was better than their 1/12 match, largely because it was more of a Zack Sabre Jr. match (lots of arm work) than a Nakajima match (lots of strikes of various quality). They did strike and what they did was good, largely because they stuck to the best strikes from both guys. Despite the ending, Sabre Jr. controlled the vast majority of the match. He looked good doing so. In no way does he wrestle World of Sport style, but he gets A LOT closer than guys like Thatcher and Gulak whose styles are often categorized as being WOS-like. Sabre Jr. did a variation Jim Breaks special in this match and his offense generally has more of a WOS flow to it (fluidity, working a basic hold and branching it out from there, ect.). Not that working something closer to WOS style makes one wrestler better than the other, but the description is slightly more (though not totally) apt for Sabre Jr. than it is for some other guys it gets stuck on.
Not a MOTYC or anything, but a fun match that made me want to see a re-match, which was likely the entire point.
Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin & Taichi) vs. Mohammed Yone, Naomichi Marufuji & Taiji Ishimori, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste
After the first few minutes, I was all giddy and ready to declare this one of the best matches of January. The home team’s game plan was to cut the head off of Suzuki-gun and hope that the rest would fall. They attacked before the bell and immediately isolated Suzuki. One guy tried to dump Suzuki and when that didn’t work, he tagged out. Next in tried the same and couldn’t get it done. Ishimori entered and given that he is 5’4 on a good day, he opted not to try and throw Suzuki over the top but to try and catch him with a roll up instead. The idea was that the face side wanted Suzuki gone first. Maybe for strategic reasons or maybe just to humiliate him. It was obvious and well executed. Suzuki eventually got enough separation to tag out and live another day.
Suzuki-gun then went to work. In quick succession, the pinned both Yone and Ishimori to take a decisive advantage in the match. I loved everything up until this point. Nothing fancy in terms of the offense, but the story was both clear and logical.
The match didn’t quite keep up the hot start, but it was still a good match overall. The NOAH team fought back to even it up before quickly falling in a deficit once again. The match came down to TMDK versus Suzuki, Archer & DBS Jr. This part was good but nothing special. They never got that level where you living and dying withe very TMDK kick out and hoping they could pull off the comeback. It was lacking that drama and heat down the stretch that might have taken the match to another level. TMDK eventually fell in face of the odds with Suzuki-gun managing to win with three of its members still alive.
Loved the opening and really thought they might be heading to something special, but in the end it fell well short of the more memorable New Japan 10-man tags of yesteryear. Good match and some good ideas, that was dragged down by a mundane and non-heated final 5+ minutes.
Atsushi Kotoge (c) vs. Daisuke Harada
GHC Junior Heavyweight championship
In the 36 hours that proceeded me watching this match, I happened to re-watch Otani/El Samurai (1/21/96), Otani/Ultimo Dragon (08/04/96), and Pegasus/Black Tiger (06/11/96) for the first time in years. I consider all three among the half dozen (or so) best junior matches of all time and all time classics. So any junior heavyweight match that I watched next was going to have a hard time living up to those lofty standards. Unfortunately, this GHC junior title bout is a poor match on its own merits and not just in relation to those all-time greats.
The match started well enough with a couple of stalemate lock ups and some basic mat work. That was more or less the peak. From that point on, the match had a lethargic and disjoined pace to it. There was a complete lack of urgency to the match. Even if I were a fan of all of the moves they used, very few were delivered with any gusto or in any meaningful way. The ring apron teases (Harada has used ring apron death valley drivers in the past) felt the most intense and like a title was actually at stake, but also had the downside of being a huge bump that ultimately meant little to the rest of the match. It wasn’t that the wrestlers weren’t working hard or were being lazy. It was more a lack of urgency and a lack identifiable rhythm.
In an attempt to get heat (the Osaka crowd wasn’t hot for much of the show), they pulled out near fall after near fall after the end. It didn’t really work. There was a top rope DVD with several minutes left in the match. There were more big moves later and none got the big reactions one would hope from those moves. The biggest near fall reaction came on a schoolboy. I am not trying to make a “simple” vs. “innovative” move argument, but clearly in this particular case the more simple move worked because of the way it was delivered (urgently and dramatically). Even when they were doing big move near falls, the match never felt hot at all. For all that they pulled out, you would expect the ending to be heated and tense, but it was anything but.
Hiroshi Fukuda & MEN’s Teioh vs. Kazushi Miyamoto & Seiya Morohashi
This is Fukuda’s “return” to UNION match after he is been gone for a few months on loan to All-Japan. Not sure he was gone enough to constitute a return match but UNION is not exactly the most conventional promotion to begin with. Case in point, the early portion was worked around Fukuda doing Hulk Hogan inspired pose spots with the much more impressively built Morohashi countering with his own. Fukuda took a few quality bumps. Teoih’s offense is still fun almost twenty years after the M-Pro glory days. The other team wasn’t up to much. Really, the match was just a set up for Morohashi and Teioh to turn on their respective partners. The turn came at the end of the match and was telegraphed by Teioh. Definitely worth skipping.
FUMA & Isama Kodaka (c) vs. Shuji Ishikawa & Masato Shibata
UWA World Tag Team championship
Ishikawa and Kodaka have had good tag matches opposite of each other over the past year or so (the May 31st BJW one standing out as my favorite) but those were with other partners. I definitely appreciate good big man offense, but Shibata does not have that. It was not methodical and bear-like; it was slow and at times, weak. FUMA was a bit better but nothing memorable. The match crawled towards a run in about 12-15 minutes in from the newly formed Teioh/Morohashi duo. Post-run in they agreed to restart the match. The post re-start consisted of five minutes of unconvincing near falls. They shouldn’t have restarted the match to begin with. The point of doing a run in/non-finish after a long match is to deprive the fans of getting to see a finish they wanted to see. Based on how the match transpired up to that point, I am not sure the crowd was dying to see a finish anyway. If they were, the run-in was negated by giving them the finish anyway. It felt unnecessary and didn’t help the match at all. After the run-in, I was just ready for it to end. Not the best effort from these guys.
Big Daddy Walter vs. Sha Samuels
Big Daddy was fresh off his shocking loss of the Unified World Wrestling championship to Karsten Beck (thanks to the “debuting” Vince Russo) a week prior. I understand the pressure to run a full length match here given that the card was seven matches long, this was the first match (fourth one on the card) that had two wXw regulars in it, and the promotion only comes through Steinheim once per year. At the same time, it would have been better off if Walter came out and destroyed Samuels (or someone else) in five minutes to take out his frustration of losing the title in such a frustrating manner. Instead, Walter didn’t show much more anger than usual and Samuels got in a little more offense than what would have been ideal. You could tell they wanted to put Walter over Strong in the match, but having it go 11 minutes made that difficult to full get across. Ideally, the work would have more closely resembled the Gulak/Alexander James match from the 1/10 CZW show. As it was, the match was a solid, replacement level match but it would have done more for current storrylines if Walter got an angry, quick, and decisive win.
Axel Tischer vs. Mike Schwarz
Like the previous match, this also would have been better served with a few less minutes to fill but for different reason. Tischer and Schwarz are decently fun big men. As an American and someone who has spent a grand total of three days in Germany during my lifetime, these guys fill my stereotypical viewpoint of what German wrestlers should look and wrestle like. They are tall, big and mean looking. They lumber around and hit hard. That’s exactly what they did in this match. They had more than enough offense to fill a 6 minute match, but they really stretched it at 10+. I want big German wrestlers to wail on each other for 5 minutes. There was no need to needlessly stretch this out. Also similar the Walter match, everything they did was fine from a pure execution standpoint but they simply did not do enough to fill the time given. Also, given their respective styles, both are much better suited for sub-10 minute matches.
Tommy End vs. Axel Dieter Jr.
I am big Tommy End fan and have written about that in the past. I think he has a lot of plus tools from look, to personality, to overall move set. His one drawback is that his layouts sometimes fall short. He has a tendency to work a little too much give-and-take with guys he shouldn’t and/or trade too many near falls. I consider those important issues, but also issues that are relatively easily corrected. All that is needed it someone (or himself eventually) laying out his matches so they are a bit tighter and a bit more focused on getting his strong offense over as killer offense. He has that indie worker tendency of working all matches even without regard to his and his opponent’s position within the promotion. End is maybe 85% of the way there to being a top flight wrestler, he just needs to tighten all of that up.
Axel Dieter Jr. is your typical promotional upstart. He broke out last year with a somewhat surprisingly tag team title run (with partner Da Mack) and to start 2014, he is getting more play as a single. He is getting beat but putting up a good fight. End is a former champion and one of the top guys in the promotion. Ideally, this would have followed the tried and tested fired up babyface opening – – > long heel control segment – – > short babyface comeback – – -> heel victory formula. The match sort of unfolded along those lines but not as tightly as I would have considered ideal. Instead of the long control segment, it was a bit more back and forth. Rather than the short Dieter Jr. comeback at the end, the ending was also back and forth. That seems like nitpicking, but I point it out because all of the other elements were there for a good match. The offense was overall strong and there was a fine heel/face dynamic. Structurally, it fell a bit short. I think I liked the Gulak/Dieter match from the prior week a tad bit more because Gulak worked the match more along that standard “formula” and the match flowed better and was more entertaining because of it.
Absolute Andy & Waschbären Auf Koffein (Franz Engel & Laurence Roman) vs. Die Schilds (Bobby Gunns & Vincent The Beast) & Karsten Beck
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the main event of wXw’s Steinheim show was a very good 15 minute match stretched out over 27 minutes. The story was that Andy and Beck are feuding. The other guys are simply their backup. Beck is a cowardly heel who just back-doored his way into the promotion’s top title by committing the biggest sin a modern wrestler could commit in aligning himself with Vince Russo. Beck and teammates got a jump on Beck’s partners before Beck even made his entrance. Beck steered clear of Andy, only entering the ring when the others were in or after Andy had been beaten up. There was a long heat segment on one of Andy’s partners that led to a satisfying and well-received hot tag. Die Schilds are a solid team and they executed their relatively (by inidie standards) offense effectively.
All of that’s great, but after the hot tag, the match continued on for about 8-10 more minutes. It just did not feel necessary to me. The last 8 minutes weren’t bad, but they peeked with the hot tag to Andy. It had been built to well and the tag got a nice reaction. That was the peak of the match. It should have ended shortly there after with Andy pinning one of Die Schilds much to Beck’s horror, just like he did about 10 minutes later. I do understand wanting to put a long main event at your one stop in this town for 2015, but it is probably better off not forcing it. A lot of good work in the match that was unfortunately offset some by going too long.