Tag Archives: Trios

(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

(05/25) Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Tursas, Nøkken & Ares) vs. The Spectral Envoy (UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked & Frightmare)

Palmer Center (Easton, Pennsylvania)

More than eleven months – just short of a full twelve months – passed in between “official” Chikara matches. Icarus and Eddie Kingston wrestled to a no contest in the main event of the June 2, 2013 anniversary show in Philly which would be the last match on an official Chikara show until this one on May 25, 2014.

In the meantime, Chikara sought to answer the age old philosophical question of “if a wrestling promotion does not actually promote any wrestling matches, is it really a wrestling promotion?” True to its avant-garde form, Chikara spent the past year as a promotion that existed in name only while running a year-long storyline centered on the near destruction and then re-birth of the promotion. The angle had its supporters – those who found the drawn out story to be just the sort of out-of-the-box pro wrestling concept that attracted them to Chikara in the first place. Other Chikara fans found it frustrating that a wrestling promotion they enjoyed wasn’t – you know – actually running wrestling shows. Others who were not necessarily what one would consider fans of the promotion before the angle were left confused, baffled, and in some cases angered at the downright unorthodox situation.

The entire one-year ordeal was as polarizing as pro wrestling can get.

With all of that as buildup, there was certainly interest from all sides as to what Chikara might look like one year since holding its last match and show.

The answer – in general – is about as you remembered it. That is, with one potentially large caveat.

The ring announcer – the intentionally atypical Gavin Loudspeaker – received a several minutes long chant upon entering the ring. The BDK – the mustachioed Ares and mammoth Tursas – marched to the ring accompanied by the kind of consensually negative response rarely seen in indie wrestling. The Spectral Envoy – winners of the 2012 King of Trios – got a hero’s welcome upon emerging from behind the curtain, led by twelve year Chikara veteran UltraMantis Black. The good guys were greeted rudely by the debuting Nokken – another very large wrestler – and we were off. It all had a very Chikara-feeling to it.

The match itself was also classic Chikara. The ring work was solid, built around a steady blend of comedy and wrestling style that felt part lucha influenced and part lucha tribute. The BDK were effective as rudos with Tursas moving well for a man his size. There was some sloppiness, but the crowd reacted like the match was a big deal and the wrestlers held up their end of the bargain just fine. At least in my eyes, this was match was rather indicative of how I remembered Chikara before the long sabbaticals and viral videos.

The major difference – the caveat mentioned earlier – was that this re-born version of Chikara has a much larger feel to it than the Chikara we last saw in 2013. The crowd size had a lot to do with that perception. The announced attendance was 1,500 and it looked every bit of that. The hard camera pointed towards the entrance way where the chairs on both sides went 25 rows deep. The crowd was not only very large, they were very boisterous. There is no denying that many of those in attendance had waited a long time for Chikara to return and they were going to enjoy every single second of it.

Production wise, the slightly tinted lights and unique backdrop at the curtain gave the ordinary rec center (that looked like a rec center on National Pro Wrestling Day) a polished, professional feel. The graphics before and after the match were crisp and clean. Commercials played throughout the show hawking the Chikara card game, the 2014 King of Trios tournament, the Ashes of Chikara featured film, the soundtrack to that film (available on iTunes and Amazon!), and not one but two mobile phone games available on your iOS or Android devices. Chikara has always been an ambitious promotion that was not content with being a small time indie, but watching their return show they felt like an honest-to-goodness big deal which is something very few promotions anywhere in the world can pull off these days.

Whether they prove to be overly ambitious and whether the spike in attendance is short-lived remains to be seen. What was obvious to me just one match in is that Chikara has a lot of momentum going right now. Regardless of what people thought about their decision to not run for an entire year and keep their fans largely in the dark, they are at the very leaving giving off the perception that they have returned stronger and with far more momentum than they left with.

Trios | Common | Intrigue

(05/04) Evolution (Triple H, Bautista & Randy Orton) vs. the Shield (Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns)

Izod Center (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

The Shield and the newly reunited Evolution work a trios match at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view that is up there with the best six-man tags in the promotion’s recent history. That is of course heavy praise – and probably a bit divisive of a comment as well – given the seemingly never ending supply of quality six-man tags the Shield have produced during their nearly one and half year run in the WWE.

What set this match apart from other Shield six-man tags for me was the nearly flawless structure. The Shield came out hot and dominated the first several minutes with Evolution (although mainly Triple H) bumping all around the ring for them. I thought that element was missing from the February PPV Wyatt Family vs. Shield match. That match lacked a fired-up opening baby face segment and just sort of settled into a more mundane Shield control segment. This match started hotter and carried the momentum because of Triple H bumping all around the ring and the Shield bringing their high-octane offense to the table (with Rollins leading the charge).

Evolution eventually cuts them off and we are treated to a sustained control segment by the heels. All three members of Evolution were solid in their roles, tagging in and out whole running through their usual offense. These guys individually do not have the greatest control offense, but in a six-man the importance of that is far lessened with the ability to hit a couple of moves, tag out, and keep things constantly fresh, which they do to a tee.

The match breaks down as all Shield matches inevitably do. The Shield have this part of the match down to a science and this occasion was no different. They run through their usual high spots – the Reigns’ running kick (which was a punch this time), Superman punches, dives from Rollins, and Ambrose’s high-energy stuff. All six guys really laid the clotheslines in throughout this match as well, adding an additional element of violence and heat to the bout.

Breaking from the Shield routine just a bit, Orton, Triple H, Ambrose, and Rollins head into the crowd for some late-match brawling while Bautista and Reigns are laid out in the ring. I was skeptical when they headed over the barricade because my memory of Triple H and Orton crowd-brawling segments is not exactly positive. A lot of times there isn’t a noticeable game plan beyond “let’s hold each other as we walk through the fans” but this time there was a clear end result and high spot they were building to, with solid spots along the way to keep things moving. Triple takes a bump over the guardrail in the stands (which the cameras miss) and Ambrose tumbles down the steps to keep things moving. This all builds to a balcony dive from Rollins that – thanks in part to WWE production – felt like it came out of nowhere rather than the ECW/indie style balcony dive that is telegraphed and built to. The entire thing was really well done.

Back in the ring, Bautista and Orton come to. That is maybe my one qualm with this match – those two should have been given something else to do rather than lying prone in the ring for several minutes during the brawl. Ultimately it doesn’t matter much because the cameras rarely showed the ring during the brawl, but as soon as the camera cuts back I couldn’t help but reminded that they were lying prone for an awfully long time. Reigns spears Baustista and picks up the pin, with Big Dave taking his second PPV loss in as many months.

All-in-all, this was another excellent six-man tag in a year filled with them. It was also perhaps the finest Shield six-man during their run thanks to airtight structure and great execution.

Trios | Must Watch | Quality

(03/03) Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) vs. the Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose)

All-State Arena (Chicago, Illinois)

The slow-to-unfold breakup of the Shield has been well-executed. This an act whose identity is and was tied up in being a cohesive unit. They were able to dominate in trios matches with the John Cenas, Randy Ortons, and Undertakers of the WWE world because of that strong cohesion. Given that, it would have been a disservice to the gimmick if they were a group that fell apart due to one minor misunderstanding or no real instigating event at all. It feels right that a group known for being on the same page should take a while to completely fall off of it.

The progression has been very logical. Reigns gets some extra attention as a singles. Ambrose – always portrayed as unhinged – predictably shows a little jealousy. They sort of work through it, however, and continue to win. The Wyatt Family – the first and only unit to really threaten them as a cohesive group – adds a little external pressure that compounds their growing internal strife. Two months of all of that has brought them to a near breaking point.

This match seemed to be the next, big step in the story.

The Chicago crowd apes the Elimination Chamber crowd by ridiculously chanting “This is Awesome!” before the bell rings. My issue with the EC match was that they squandered that heat from the anticipation by working a normal, building opening segment. Here they smartly go all out from the get-go with the Shield (specifically Rollins) pulling out a match worth of dives in two minutes. It was the sort of high intensity start that I thought the EC match was lacking.

What I have liked most about the breakup teases so far is besides for one or two moments in prior matches where Ambrose became almost unrealistically overzealous, all the other teases have been subtle by wrestling standards. Ambrose will do something dumb, Reigns will either shoot a quick look or not react at all, and that will more than get the point across. They worked a spot early in this match where Ambrose bumps into the ropes knocking Rollins to the floor. This makes Reigns upset, too much so I thought for what was a minor infraction (and an accident at that). It was maybe little too heavy-handed.

The big angle-progressing segment takes place a little later when Rollins has the opportunity to make a hot-tag. Ambrose hops off the apron before Rollins is close to the tag to tangle with Bray Wyatt outside. Reigns goes to fetch him. Rollins reaches the corner, but nobody is there to tag. There was nothing subtle here, but it was well done and a nice way to move the Rollins “child caught in the middle of two fighting parents” part of the story along.

Rollins refusing a tag from Ambrose later was even the bigger moment as it was the first time the Shield had a legitimate and major breakdown in communication. It makes sense for that moment to happen to Rollins. Ambrose is aloof and Reigns is too focused to see what is going on. Rollins has enough of being caught in the middle and walks. The Wyatt Family are already the Shield’s equals when both teams are at full strength so with Rollins bailing, the outcome is inevitable even if Reigns and Ambrose put up a strong fight. That’s been a cool element of this entire angle as well. Reigns might be tired of Ambrose’s act and Ambrose might be aloof, but (until this point at least) they still continued to fight as a unit even if that unit wasn’t as a cohesive as it once was.

Story aside, there were a half dozen or more dives in this match all of which looked very good. An argument could be made that the Shield is as much responsible for WWE’s current focus on multi-wrestler tags as well as the huge rise in dives the promotion has had over the past year. Both are obviously positive developments. Reigns bumps over the announce table were also a highlight here.

Good match and good angle.

Trios | Worthwhile | Quality & Angle

(02/23) Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) vs. the Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns)

Target Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Before the match even began, the crowd was totally psyched. Everyone involved deserves a big pat on the back for that. It is hard to remember the last time an undercard match on a WWE card created such great and genuine anticipation.

The match was – to completely misuse a popular phrase – “too big to fail”. The booking and buildup to the match – essentially starting 15 months prior with the Shield’s big league debut – had been so well thought out and so strong that it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the match could have fallen flat on its face. It was uniquely positioned to be good before the bell even rang. This might be a reach, but the eye-rolling “This is Awesome!” pre-match chant sort of serves as proof of that. The fans were not reacting to the match quality given that the match had not begun yet. It was the build that they were calling “awesome”.

When the match actually starts, the wrestlers are not able to convert all of that anticipation into actual heat. I went from the edge of my seat back a few steps. I don’t like to fantasy book matches that have already taken place, but it feels like they could have some done something in this instance to give the match a hotter start given how ready the crowd was to see it. The crowd does go down as they work a relatively mundane (though still good of course) opening few minutes before kicking it into high gear near the end of the Rollins heat segment. This was a match that needed some sort of hot opening, rather than a normal step-by-step ramp up of the action.

Rollins was awesome here (I was about to say “Rollins was fun to watch” before I caught myself . . . I have been listening to WWE announcers far too much recently). I loved the fire during the comeback. I actually think at this point, his post-Shield future is brighter than Ambrose’s. Rollins is over and a good enough bumper that he should make it. Then again, I basically just described an upgraded version of Dolph Ziggler so who knows.

Harper was the star for the Wyatt Family even before the great tope. Reigns continues to be booked remarkably well. They are presenting him like a big deal and a huge threat, without setting him up for the big push backlash (at least not yet) since he is not presented as unbeatable. Not sure if that is a conscious decision in light of what has gone on with other guys they’ve pushed recently but it is smart.

The ending was great booking with Harper and Rowan landing the Spanish announce table powerbomb on Rollins to get it going. I can lose focus momentarily during a match causing me to miss a spot or two. So when Reigns was left alone in the ring with all three members of the Wyatt Family at the finish, I figured at first I must have missed some obvious spot that incapacitated Ambrose. That ended up being part of the story – should have Ambrose been in the ring to help Reigns or was he too hurt? – which was some nice in-match subtlety that WWE has been known to lack. Reigns’ expression upon seeing he was way outmanned was great, as was his attempt at fighting all three of his opponents off. The finish – with Reigns taking all three out before falling to Bray and the numbers came – was the right call.

After the initial viewing I wouldn’t necessarily expect this to be a true match of the year candidate for me. It was very good, as our all Shield matches. That’s sort of the point. I think they missed the opportunity to properly capitalize on the anticipation of the match and pre-match heat. What they did was perfectly fine, but it didn’t feel all that much above the bevy of great Shield matches we have seen the past 15 months. They had the shot to make it really special given how hyped the crowd was for this, but worked their normal opening segment stuff instead. Grading a match on what it could or should have been is something I try to avoid, but here I thought it directly impacted the quality. That’s nitpicking though – still a match well worth watching.

Trios | Watch It | Quality