Berwyn Eagles Club (Berwyn, Illinois)
AAW Heavyweight Championship
This was a very fun match from start to finish, but it was the finish that really brought it to the next level. The entire match had Jimmy Jacobs’ finger prints all over and his performance is the one that stood out, although Hollister played his role well.
The first few minutes were very good with some quick-moving mat work and counters lead by Jacobs. Jacobs was positioned as the determined underdog which has always been a good role for him. It is how he originally made his name – as the goofy but never-say-die Bruiser Brody enthusiast – and although he has largely wrestled as a mastermind heel in recent years, the undersized babyface role is still a role he plays well. He fights from underneath here effectively, mixing it well-placed hope spots and comebacks. For his part, Hollister is fine working Jacobs over for much of the match.
Jacobs establishes early on that that he feels he will need to pull off a big move to get the win. He teases the Contra Code in the ring, on the apron, and on the floor throughout the match but never hits it. At around the fourteen minute mark Jacobs makes a comeback that peaks with him locking on the guillotine choke. Hollister powers out, but the move comes into player later. At around 20 minutes, after trying for the Contra Code on the apron, Jacobs finally pulls off the big move he was looking for when he hits a great through-the-ropes spear that sends Hollister crashing violently into the guardrail. It also busts Jimmy open.
Back in the ring – with Jacobs now bloodied – the stretch run begins in earnest. Without giving everything away, the violent move and the blood adds an air of desperation. Jacobs goes back to the guillotine choke but the blood loss and general fatigue has potentially already taken its toll. This leads to a good and unique ending stretch that helped both guys walk away from the match looking strong.
At the end of the day, this is probably my favorite US Indie match of the year so far. I don’t think it would be fair to view that on a sliding scale either. The match is legitimately good, even if the standards of the current US indie scene are all not that high. The match didn’t go too long, had nice bookends (a fun opening and hot ending stretch), with a good narrative holding it altogether. It is definitely worth checking out.
Title Match | Watch It | Quality & Individual Performance (Jacobs)
NWA Southern All-Star Wrestling
SAW Mill Arena (Millersville, TN)
NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship
Cliff Compton – the former Domino of WWE Deuce & Domino fame – enters as the reigning and defending NWA Southern Heavyweight Champion. Brody – as the name would suggest – works a Bruiser Brody tribute gimmick. Compton is a good heel, which he demonstrated on a larger stage last year during his run as part of SCUM in Ring of Honor (and seems to be heading back to Ring of Honor shortly to work with Kevin Steen). He’s good here as well, stooging when appropriate and doing a fine job as the champion heel.
For a title switch, this is a really short match (under ten minutes). The finish sees Compton leap off the top rope, stumbling as he does so. To catch his balance he grabs at the ceiling ripping a tile off in the process. As part of the planned spot, he lands right in Brody’s open hand and gets planted by a choke slam for the victory. The tile ripping top rope leap proves to be a moment of serendipity – it adds some chaos and grittiness to a finish that otherwise seems like it would have felt flat.
TV Main Event | Skippable | Title Match
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Heavyweight Championship
This match is a relatively rare example of a match that is given too much time but where the best work comes in the later stages of the match.
Most of the time when a match goes “too long” it is because it builds to a high point and then keeps going, going, and going. With the GHC Heavyweight Championship on the line, Morishima and KENTA are sluggish getting out of the gates. The first five or so minutes are not only slow, but sort of disjointed as well. Both guys bail out of the ring early on not so much as a stall tactic but just because. There is no real flow. Mid-match things start to pick up and by the near fall stretch at the end, it feels like a pretty good little title match. The ambivalent crowd gets into the near falls, Morishima throws some big lariats and other power moves, and KENTA keeps fighting. It is a good stretch run without move overkill or one-count near falls which is a far rarer occurrence in big time matches than it perhaps should be.
The match is too long but if KENTA and Morishima went home five minutes earlier, the match would have never gotten the chance to go from “nothing” to “pretty good” like it did. Who’s to say they still wouldn’t have started off sluggish even if five minutes of their allotted time was chopped off before the match, as well.
Morishima as champion once again certainly is not fresh but I am not sure NOAH had a lot of other options at that moment. It appears that both Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls are being slowly elevated but neither is quite at that level yet. Morishima is clearly a step or two slower from his best work in Ring of Honor but he was really good down the stretch, at least in this match. Perhaps giving him some fresh opponents will keep him going. This was not a head-turning start to his latest title reign, but it was a good start.
Japan Main Event Singles | Watch It | Title Match
All-Japan Pro Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship
Eyeing the card for All Japan’s January 2nd Korakuen Hall show, the match of the most interest to me was Ultimo Dragon defended the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship against Atsushi Aoki. Let me restate that – a juniors match between a well past his prime Ultimo Dragon and the nondescript Atsushi Aoki was (on paper at least) the matchup on an All-Japan card that I was drawn to above anything else on the card.
This is not your father’s All Japan.
All Japan’s struggles aside, Ultimo Dragon is still a remarkably solid professional wrestler even in the twilight of his career. It was more than a decade ago that Dragon’s in-ring career was thought to be over due to a back injury, but here he is in 2014 carrying a slightly-off Atsushi Aoki through a perfectly acceptable junior heavyweight title match.
Aoki targets Dragon’s arm with very basic but effective arm work for the bulk of the match. This comes after an opening section that ultimately leads nowhere, which was a staple (and largely a negative one) of junior matches during their mid-90’s heyday – a heyday that Dragon was a big part of. Dragon impresses during these opening minutes with some mat work and arm drags that are as smooth as ever. Aoki, as mentioned, is effective working over the arm and Dragon’s selling of the arm does it justice. The small, uninterested All Japan crowd at Korakuen even byes a false finish when Aoki is able to apply a cross arm breaker.
Objectively, this was just a run-of-the-mill mid-90’s junior style match but in 2014, we don’t get many solid matches in that style. For that reason, it sticks out. It is the best match from this card, even if by default.
Juniors | Watchable | Title Match
Arena Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico)
Mexican National Light Heavyweight Championship (2 out of 3 falls)
Pro Wrestling championships might grow on trees down in Mexico, but it still sort of nice to begin the year with a championship match, right? Besides which, CMLL rang in the New Year in both 2012 and 2013 with rather memorable title matches so maybe we will get in a third in a row. 2012 saw Terrible defeat Rush in a tournament final for the vacant CMLL World Heavyweight Championship – a title Terrible still holds to this day. In 2012, Polvora retained his CMLL World Welterweight Championship in an early match of the year candidate versus Titan.
This year, it is the veteran Atlantis trying to capture his first Mexican National Light Heavyweight Championship by stepping into the ring with the reigning titleholder, Mephisto.
Atlantis continues to be a crowd favorite at Arena Mexico and the fans are firmly behind him during the near falls during the third and deciding fall. The Arena Mexico fans begin 2014 still waiting for the long teased but not yet delivered Atlantis versus Ultimo Guerrero mask vs. mask match. They will likely have to wait a little longer for that – nothing is on the horizon – as they will also have to wait for an Atlantis title win. Mephisto begins the New Year by retaining his championship two falls to one.
The match itself was relatively non-descript and certainly a notch below last year’s Titan/Polvora New Year’s bout, but it’s definitely watchable if you are looking for a solid match worked in the Lucha championship match style.
Lucha Title Match | Watchable | Title Match