Tag Archives: Watch It

(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

(06/16) Rey Escorpion © vs. Atlantis

Arena Puebla (Puebla, Puebla, Mexico)
CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship 

Nobody in CMLL can touch Virus when it comes to quality singles title matches.  His matches versus Titan and Fuego earlier this year were both superb.  While Virus’ opponents held their own, in each instance it was Virus who really carried the day and made each match what it was.  Titan and Fuego are fine wrestlers but they aren’t the artists on the mat that Virus is.  It was the mat work – Virus’ mat work – that really made those matches something special.

Rey Escorpion’s World Light Heavyweight title defense versus Atlantis – while not as good as the 2014 Virus title defenses – is more of a joint effort.  That does not necessarily matter in the long run.  A good match is a good match regardless of how it arrives at that point.  It is only noteworthy because the mat work ion this match comes across as two equals exchanging holds in contrast to the Virus matches where he is clearly the better technical wrestler in the match.

The first fall is excellent and demonstrates the above point.  Escorpion and Atlantis work very well together on the mat.  Ninety percent of the first fall is a fluid exchange of holds, submissions, and pin attempts.  The wrestlers only truly break contract three times during the fall, each time ending up at a stalemate.  Late in the fall, they hit the ropes for the first time.  Atlantis gets the better of that first exchange by landing a couple dropkicks.  He maintains that momentum and taps Escorpion to get out to the early lead.

After a quick second fall where Escorpion evens up the score with a submission victory of his own, the match picks up the pace for the deciding third fall.  In many of the non-Virus CMLL title matches this year, the third fall has been used for big move near fall after big move near fall with little structure in between.  This match stays a tad closer to the Virus format of ratcheting up the moves and pace, without the match becoming a series of near falls.  Neither method of working the third fall is necessarily better than the other; it is just two ways to attempt to achieve the same goal.

The final fall of this match is good, but not great.  At 51, Atlantis moves a little bit more tentatively than he used to.  The execution of a few moves down the stretch is a tad bit rough although nothing too significant.  Escorpion hits a flipping tope.  He later takes a huge bump over the top rope courtesy of an Atlantis’ monkey flip before eating a tope as well.  There are some nice near falls – Escorpion’s top rope drop kick and Atlantis’ dual tilt-a-whirl backbreakers come to mind – but nothing that really sends the match into that next gear.

The ending too is a tad bit flat, with Escorpion hitting his package piledriver somewhat out of nowhere to retain his title.

The first fall is a ton of fun particularly if you enjoy mat work.  The other two falls – while not as strong as the first – are far from let downs.  The match is also a reminder that Escorpion is criminally underutilized in CMLL.  He is a terrific base, a very good mat worker, and a great bumper.

Lucha Title | Watch It | Quality

(06/21) Kota Ibushi © vs. Ricochet

Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum (Osaka, Japan)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship 

As one of the few true junior heavyweight dream matches that exist in the year 2014, there was quite a bit of anticipation for the first ever meeting between Kota Ibushi and Ricochet.  It was anticipated to the point of there being internet chatter on how this match was a significant drawing factor for the Dominion event and that it should have been the main event.  Both talking points might be a bit of a stretch but they are indicative of the anticipation and dream match feeling that the match announcement created.

Both guys are amongst the most athletic and acrobatic wrestlers going today.  The match featured several truly jaw dropping spots.  With Ricochet standing on the top rope, Ibushi did a springboard from the apron and caught Ricochet in a top rope springboard hurricanrana which he executed perfectly on his end.  Ricochet flipped over as usual but managed to land on his feet.  Words don’t do justice to just how very difficult of a move that was pulled off, nonetheless to pull of flawlessly.

To compliment his impressive defensive maneuver, Ricochet hit a ridiculous top con hilo over the corner turnbuckle without using his hands as a springboard.  It took about a 6 foot vertical leap and significant hang time to clear the ring which he did with more than enough room to spare.  Ibushi – not to be totally outdone – pulled out his signature running springboard moonsault to the outside.

The visually stunning moves set Ricochet apart, but that has always been the case.  What has moved him forward this year has been the ability to effective bridge the gap between the high spots.  His kicks on Ibushi looked as good as they have all year and have become a nice transitional offensive weapon in his arsenal.  His suplexes have also added a lot to his game, allowing him to space out the high flying for maximum effect.  While I thought that overall the BOSJ final versus KUSHIDA was the stronger of these two matches, I thought Ricochet’s better individual performance was versus Ibushi.

It might not read this way exactly, but these two were clearly holding a bit back for a future match.  The near fall section was mundane by their standards.  Rather than a series of kick outs on big moves, they focused on avoiding each other’s respective finishers.  At about 13 ½ minutes, the match wasn’t short but it certainly wasn’t main event length either.  They wrestled the match like the appetizer to something bigger – perhaps a title switch – somewhere down the line.  Epic does not always equal better but so there is no guarantee future rematches will top the initial meeting.  They certainly left the audience wanting more if nothing else, which is almost always a good thing.

Ricochet is still a Dragon Gate wrestler.  He has a contract with Dragon Gate USA (which essentially only bars him from Ring of Honor) but is not under contract with the DG Japan office.  It is clear he is loyal to them, however.  New Japan wants to use Ricochet as their top foreign junior heavyweight – a role which Prince Devitt used to fill.  It would stand to reason that Ricochet will end up in New Japan on a more regular basis sooner rather than later but that will all have to be sorted out.  If he does, he seems like a strong candidate to take the title from Ibushi (whose future is in the heavyweight division) and serve as the ace of the NJPW junior division for as long as he wants to.

Junior Singles | Watch It | Quality & Hype

(06/21) Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson) © vs. Time Splitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley)

Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum (Osaka, Japan)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship 

The Young Bucks have run rampant over the New Japan junior tag team division since debuting with the promotion last fall.  Given that they have gone through every team in the thin division at least once in the past eight months, a title switch is more than due.  The Best of the Super Juniors was used to – among other things – push the Time Splitters as tag and singles contenders.  Shelley and Kushida both qualified for the semi-finals (with Kushida advancing to the finals).  In addition, both guys picked up first night wins versus the Jackson brothers during the tournament to set up this match and the imminent title switch.

The Time Splitters did leave Osaka as the new junior heavyweight tag champs, but that story took a backseat to the quality of the match.  The Young Bucks and Time Splitters produced one of the more enjoyable opening matches of 2014 in the form of a 15-minute, high octane, tag team sprint.

The style itself – quick paced, a lot of double teams, a lot of counters, big moves, and an extended finishing sequence – is in no way flawed, it is just hard to pull off because the margin for error is so small.  It is so easy to cross that line from “action packed” to “too much”.  It is also far easier to mess up in a tag match centered on high difficulty/high precision moves and sequences than it is in one built around a six or seven minute heat segment.  The Bucks have become quite the masters of this particular style, however, and are one of the few teams that can pull it off on a regular basis.  They showed that in New York in May versus reDragon and perhaps even more so in this match.

Matt & Nick Jackson have great timing and a very strong sense of where to place moves in a certain match.  There is a build to their spots – not only from beginning to the body to the end, but even within in the ending sequence.  They are not doing big time death moves and then continuing on for five more minutes of lower impact stuff (relatively speaking), which is a trap many guys fall into.  A lot of guys have spectacular spots.  The Young Bucks are getting quite adept at laying them into a tag team match in a logical progression.

The Time Splitters are great compliments for the Young Bucks.  Shelley and Kushida are probably more well-rounded wrestler than either Jackson.  At the same time, they are also athletic enough to keep up with the pacing and high spots of the Bucks.  Shelley and Kushida have some fun double teams and Kushida’s submission arm finish that he used throughout the BOSJ is really getting over.

Due to the high degree of difficulty working a match and style like this, it is not necessarily something that should be done on a regular basis.  There are a lot of individuals and teams that cannot pull it off and might be better off playing it safer.  These two teams are a couple of the exceptions however, and the result was an incredibly fun tag team opener.  This match replaces the May 3rd GHC junior tag title match as the best junior tag year-to-date.

Junior Tag | Watch It | Quality & Title Switch

(06/15) Virus (c) vs. Fuego

Arena Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico)
CMLL World Super Lightweight Championship

In modern pro wrestling there is very little that is truly scared; very little that is untouchable.  We live in a pro wrestling world where the Undertaker now has a loss at a WrestleMania.  It is a world where Shocker is no longer unbeaten in hair matches and where JTG is no longer on the WWE roster.  It is a world where we have indisputable photographic evidence that indeed, Kidman can be power bombed.  With so few truths for wrestling fans to hang onto, there is at least one reality that is still unwavering:

If Virus is wrestling in a title match, that match will be no less than good.

Okay, even that might not be exactly sure – I wouldn’t doubt that a stinker of a Virus title match exists somewhere.  Nonetheless, watching Virus masterfully craft another traditional Lucha style title match it is hard to imagine a scenario where he could produce a poor title match these days.  Virus has already produced one of the best matches of 2014 with his January title match versus Titan.  While this particular title defense is clearly at least one notch below that veritable classic, it if nothing else serves as further evidence that Virus is one of the best mat workers in the world.

The opening minutes of the first fall feature effortless but effective basic holds and counters.  Virus works a headlock early and feeds to Fuego to do the same.  The action heads to the ground soon after with both wrestlers jockeying for advantage on the mat.  There is a neat counter 2 ½ or 3 minutes in.  Fuego goes for a school boy but Virus continues to troll through and ends up with up Fuego’s arm captured in a potentially dangerous arm bar setup position.  Virus’ body language is great there, giving off a “this is too easy” sort of vibe which might have been overconfidence on his part as Fuego nicely escapes into a half crab.

Both wrestlers focus largely on the leg in the first fall.  Virus wrenches back on a high half crab at one point that looks really good.  Fuego attempts a couple of pin attempts and that only serves to agitate Virus who responds with chops and shoulder tackles.  That shifts the first fall into a second gear.  Virus lands a nice head butt after being monkey flipped onto the apron.  Shortly thereafter – following a fireman’s carry takeover – Virus latches on a painful looking full body stretch while cranking at the leg and Fuego gives, putting the champion up one fall to none.

Virus opens the second fall by continuing the assault on the leg with a half crab.  When Fuego reaches the ropes Virus goes high impact with a low shoulder tackle to the knee followed by a seated drop kick to the face.  It would be inaccurate to describe Virus’ work in these title matches as strictly quality mat work.  As demonstrated in the previously segment as well as others, he is extremely adept at peppering in high spots at just the right time to compliment the mat work.  Whether targeting the leg with more high impact offense or cranking on holds, Virus is relentless in the leg attack for the first several minutes of the second fall.  At times, Fuego limps around the ring and at others he barely stand.  The game plan and execution from Virus on Fuego is not all that different to how he went about wrestling Titan back in January.

Just as Titan did in that match, Fuego too makes his second fall comeback by relying on his leg that just moments early was causing him noticeable problems.  This is not as big of of a deal for me personally as it is to some.  The idea that once a wrestler conveys significant pain to a body part that he cannot use that body part without selling any pain (or without a period to recover) strikes me as too rigid of a standard.  The notion that Fuego is in pain while the leg is being attacked but can block that out go go on offense when given the window is perfectly fine.  The litmus test as always is whether the change from selling to offense flowed well.  That is, did it take me out of the rhythm of the match?  Personally, it did not in this case nor did it in the Titan match.  I honestly wouldn’t have noticed it either case if I hadn’t been looking for it.

Fuego continues to rally before locking Virus in a similar hold to the one Virus used to take the first fall.  Instead of attempting to submit Virus, however, Fuego simply uses the hold to pin Virus’ shoulders to the mat for a three count.

The deciding fall is faster paced and near fall heavy as expected.  Fuego lands a pair of solid topes, the second of which allows him to retain control when the match gets back to the ring.  Fuego’s best work of the match is in the third fall.  He uses a relatively basic set of moves – cross body blocks, vertical suplexes, tope rope splashes – to good effect and gets the crowd behind his title chase.  The crowd progressively becomes more into the match as it goes on – particularly in the third fall – which is often a sign of strong work.  There are some strong near falls – a Virus roll through of a Fuego hurricanrana got a particularly strong reaction – as the match hits a third gear.

Virus blocks an attempted lariat from Fuego which he reserves into a Vertebreaker (!) that he actually lands.  Without letting go of the hold, Virus rolls Fuego into a seated surf board position before standing up with that rocking pendulum submission of his for the win.  It was an appropriately hot ending to a match that was designed to showcase Fuego even with Virus getting the win.

After the match, Virus goes a step further in showcasing Fuego by verbally putting him over as a good young wrestler.  He then issues a challenge to Titan for a title re-match.  Yes, please.

Very good match, if a bit below the Titan match in terms of 2014 Virus matches.  Virus continues to deliver in singles title matches.

Lucha Title Match | Watch It | Quality