Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rassle Tribune #1


RASSLE TRIBUNE #1: Clash was Trash? The Road to No Mercy starts and stops already, TNA is on life support and Vince is sharpening up his scalpel, ROH and New Japan joins in on the mudhole stomping of WWE’s doorstep.

Rumors are running rampant as of late that TNA Wrestling, also known as Impact Wrestling, is apparently under negotiations with potentially several suitors for the sale of the company. Unlike in previous years, the talks seem very real. As of late, Billy Corgan has been reported as being one of the potential buyers of the TNA Wrestling company. Corgan on the latest Busted Open Radio stated; “(TNA Wrestling) has had a ‘For Sale’ sign on it for some time....I’ve been told not to discuss certain things regarding the issues at hand. At this point in time, there are a lot of people on the table.” Very interesting thing for a man that is already President of TNA to say. The majority of reports are stating that TNA doesn’t even have money to hold their biggest annual event of the year Bound for Glory just this Sunday. Corgan also went further to admit he is working hard to try and buy the majority interest of the company and “aid it in going forward”. Now it’s intriguing to see Billy Corgan in the role of the Eric Bischoff to TNA’s dying WCW. It’s well known to many that Corgan is very wealthy thanks to his band The Smashing Pumpkins amongst other various musical entities. Corgan’s been a huge fan of the business forever and even did appearances for ECW in the late 90‘s during his biggest height in music. Corgan also ran an independent company of his own out of his hometown Chicago, Illinois just years ago called Revolution Pro, not to be confused with the UK version. Corgan’s been part of the TNA management for over a year now and it’s been very clear that things have changed just looking at the product that they’ve been producing. Many things production-wise have changed and the booking feels more focused than before, not to say that things are perfect at all but the usual TNA ailments have been receiving attention more than before. The other highly-interesting report is that Vince McMahon is interested in the sale as well. Of course many in the know are stating that is merely because of the tape library, something that would definitely add to the luster of a slow-building Network. Most importantly out of any of this is the fate of the performers. Just 15 years ago we saw the endings of both WCW and ECW in a very short period of time and the result was a massive depression that hit the whole of the wrestling business. Many great performers suddenly had no where to work that would provide well for them or all-out blackballed like many who jumped from WWF to WCW on bad terms found themselves. TNA wasn’t created until over a year after this and even to this day the business hasn’t truly recovered from that move. In no way would TNA dying be anything like the massive corporation WCW’s demise was to the whole infrastructure of pro wrestling but it would be a massive blow. They’re still a national television outlet for performers to ply their craft and within just moments that could be completely erased. The next-biggest product behind TNA in that television wrestling hierarchy would probably be Lucha Underground, which is a very unique company to really any other in the world in terms of how things are booked and signings are made because of their taping schedules. It wouldn’t be like these top TNA names could simply go from their Impact show straight over to the LU show later in the week because the seasons are shot much like any other television show many months in advance in many cases. Ring of Honor, another company that is reported to be interested in the sale as well would be that next national television product in line yet an already crowded roster thanks to both the ROH home talent as well as their New Japan agreement also makes it very hard for many of the TNA talents to seem feasibly able to work there. It’s going to be something to follow in the days to come for all involved.

September 29th Impact Notes:
A quick disclaimer on this. TNA is one of those companies that you really can’t stomach in whole. I’m not going to bother with the knockouts matches because they were generally bad. Rosemary against Reby Hardy was just an angle with a referee in all honesty so that also is hard to quantify. The Galloway and Aron Rex confrontation regarding the finals of the Grand Championship is pointless since it has been reported that Galloway is out with a neck injury for Sunday. Indeed TNA is in a state of shambles and it seems not much could help.

DJ Z(c) vs Eddie Edwards for the TNA X-Division Championship
This is all about spots. DJ Z has improved from where he was a few years ago but that’s not exactly a massive statement. Edwards is always really fantastic in the ring so he held his own in this one. Dives start to add up in a hurry. This is really fun in parts though. The finish was kind of useless anyways because of this being the go-home for the pay-per-view on Sunday. Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee hit the ring and whip ass on both guys. I like. **1/2

EC3, Moose, Gail Kim, and Aron Rex vs Lashley, Mike Bennett, Maria, and Drew Galloway in a Lethal Lockdown match to choose the stipulation of the TNA World title match at Bound for Glory.
This is another instance in a long line of quite useless set-up matches. For such a reward to be at stake so late into the build of a major event, and in such a huge match risking injury for major parts of that said major show is idiotic at best in my view. Bennett and EC3 start off and EC3 is a man possessed early just stomping Bennett to hell. Bennett starts to get the upper hand though to set up the heat. That doesn’t happen though and EC3 continues to beat up Bennett. This thing is really a clusterfuck from the start because I really felt like the early EC3 vs Bennett segment was quite boring. It felt like they were going through the motions and waiting for the rest of the field to come in. The third person to enter is Galloway and the heels shall dominate! Galloway is at least super charismatic and great in the ring so the quality improved a lot with this. EC3 plays the beaten hero for a while until Aron Rex evens the odds. He comes in hot and heavy on both heels. It isn’t long until Rex and Galloway pair up to throw some weak punches. They roll around in almost a faux catfight from ECW days and I’m dying here. I’m not sure if it was execution by the roster or the shit booking but I just felt bored. Lashley is the next in the cage and he’s making people pay. Lashley calls in all his teammates and they start stomping down the heroes in the corner. The next entrant comes to the cage and I’ve never seen so happy to see Moose. He throws out some wild shit on everyone, complete with an awesome no-look cross body. Lashley vs Moose could mean something if TNA even lives past Sunday. Maria is next to join the cage and I’m convulsing in hatred. Just..why. At least she’s smart and refuses to enter the cage because well WHY THE FUCK IS SHE EVEN IN THIS MATCH?! The ref is a total psychopath that apparently wants Maria in the ring but Bennett waves that shit off. The heel has morality over a referee in TNA. I’m not shocking. Gail hits the ring and Maria runs like hell and for once things get fun. Gail tosses her in the cage and it is all legal now! Maria and Gail run away to the back THANK CHRIST! The refs apparently say it is fine and lock the door of the cage. I think I saw this match in 2000 on TNT maybe? EC3 plays the martyr here by taking a beating from all three of the heels while his buddies are apparently paralyzed. Moose regains his composure and kicks the everloving shit out of Bennett and again, we get Lashley vs Moose teasing. Rex is up again and we get a tag team whipping on the champion Lashley. EC3 is handed a “lead pipe” by Rex but Bennett saves the heels and unleashes Young Bucks tribute kicks. While this match picked up late, it was an over booked and honestly an oversight itself. The finish really felt menial and the match itself was a disorganized mess as a whole. Also, Lashley has a fucking wretched arm triangle that he threw on EC3. Like Cena’s STF level soft. Worse? It was the finish. I’m just happy it is all over. 1/2* Lashley shockingly says that the main event Sunday is now No Holds Barred. Oh wow.

We’ve witnessed the first-ever 2016 Brand Exclusive “Network Special” for RAW last Sunday in Indianapolis with Clash of Champions. Most of the results and the complaints have been heard already as I write this on the 28th. So what else is there even to say then? Well we’ve got another month to build yet another show, this time we are told it will be Hell in a Cell making it’s highly sigh-inducing return to the monthly show calendar for RAW. Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins was solid as a match but highly disappointing in the execution of where this whole feud is going. Rollins was apparently legitimately injured during the match and the show faltered for it. Owens was in his usual rare form though and his charisma really held this one together but we find ourselves wondering where it will all be come late October. RAW already countered from a highly disappointing show overall to immediately announce that the October 3rd show from Los Angeles will have the one-on-one rematch of Sasha Banks against the “RAW” Women’s Champion Charlotte, as well as a Cruiserweight Title rematch between champion T.J. Perkins against Brian Kendrick. I love this move because it makes RAW feel important, something that the melting ratings really need help with.

RAW feels very stale and it’s not good that this is the feeling so early into this Brand Extension. The totality of major television ratings for both brands is down though, so it isn’t an isolated incident for Team Red. The reality is that the brand is playing catch up after the horrible setback that Finn Balor’s injury at SummerSlam caused. This wasn’t supposed to happen like this, it was supposed to be Balor as the definitive top face for the brand going through his list of top heels for the group. Now they’re steering the course much differently behind Kevin Owens as the antagonist champion while Rollins is slow-burning a rugged babyface change. The matches between those two will be good for the brand for sure, and if the writing were to get better the story could even be compelling but that change has to happen. This tip-toeing around the big Triple H return that caused Rollins to lose his Universal title opportunity and also handing it over to Owens hasn’t been good. Stephanie at first was appalled by this and now within weeks, she seems to be quite obviously stacking the deck on Rollins which makes it all too obvious where they’re going. Of course, as is the case with all wrestling these days that doesn’t mean things won’t change yet again. They have several options, some good and some bad, and the real question is what will Vince and Company feel is the best way to bide time until Balor’s return early next year?

SmackDown on the other hand is riding quite high as of late. After the very slow start for the brand, things are becoming solidified and it is looking as though SmackDown will be a vehicle for those that have been left in the dust all too often in the past. The Miz as Intercontinental Champion has been absolutely fantastic as a heel along with his wife Maryse and while his feud with Dolph Ziggler has been highly drawn out, their match going into No Mercy is all intrigue with the announcement last night of Ziggler’s career being put up against the Intercontinental Championship. This might be exactly what these two need to create a memorable moment. The WWE World Title picture is also highly interesting with Dean Ambrose suddenly playing the jipped former champion that was stolen from by AJ Styles the new champion, a guy that just mere years ago was an afterthought to the WWE brass. Added now to the equation is The Institution John Cena. Cena’s latest angle where he’s very vocal about wanting to tie and ultimately break Ric Flair’s World Championships record and is not apologetic about it, something so many fans have been gossiping over as he began to inch closer to the record. The downside is how AJ has been portrayed, his promos are highly scripted and highly stupid with no real point to them other than seemingly taking him down a peg. This IS Vince McMahon’s company after all and these things have happened in the past. Of course he’s still riding high, he’s the World Champion but time will tell if he’s here to stay or just another member amongst a long list of guys that were given the keys to the castle just to have them yanked out of their hands in an instant.

The SmackDown Women’s division also looks vibrant in the feud between champion Becky Lynch and her new challenger Alexa Bliss. Bliss has been absolutely great so far on the brand, showing great character work and being very expressive, something too many in the industry forget. Becky is finally positioned as THE woman in the group and I’m anxious to see how this pans out. Of course there are also the peripheral angles between Carmella and Nikki Bella; the least said about this the better. As for the tag teams on SmackDown, I’ve highly enjoyed where things have gone involving the Cinderella story of Heath Slater and Rhyno who took the whole title tournament and look really strong. I’ll admit that the vignettes and such with the two have been highly absurd but the fans are reacting for them more than they have in some time. The Usos’ latest heel turn has added so much life to them and they’ve become so much better in the ring I feel. Their focus on injuring people makes them feel important and their title match going into No Mercy will be a very good midcard affair.

Then there’s Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt. To me Wyatt’s career can be best summed up with this; a rug being swept from under a massive Leviathan. Wyatt was a massively intriguing character from the onset of his debut vignettes in the summer of 2013. We were seeing a truly different character than what was being thrown to us on television weekly and Wyatt would manifest by destroying Kane in a comical “Ring of Fire” match( nothing more than a highly watered down version of the Attitude Era’s Inferno Match). However it wasn’t long until he along with his Family- Erick Rowan and former Northeastern indies staple Luke Harper) would collide with the top faction of the day The Shield. The matches those six put on were absolutely great and made both sides look very strong. However a rumored WrestleMania blowoff never happened and instead, Bray was chosen to go head-to-head with John Cena at the 30th WrestleMania. The match itself was a very good one if my memory is correct, but as would be the case all too often with Wyatt the finish was highly one-sided and against him. Wyatt would go on to win the ultimate feud between them after ridiculous distractions made Cena fall, making it all too clear he really wasn’t the better man. Important considering this should be the building of a star. Instead it was the foreshadowing of a melancholy career full of hope but little actual achievement. Bray would go onward, facing even Undertaker himself at WrestleMania merely to fall in a nothing match that led to nowhere for either man. In short, Bray’s yet to be a champion of any kind, yet to win any legendary feud that makes us believe in him as this Face of Fear that WWE stamps him as. He’s just another part of the circus and that’s why this whole mystic build towards his match with Orton is all the more silly. Orton looks like a goof, humoring some moron that thinks he’s God but is shown again and again he’s not even a dangerous man. Orton’s running off of Wyatt from his “lair” and simply sitting in his rocking chair with Rowan’s sheep mask laughing like an idiot says all that you need to know about how Vince and many within the company see Wyatt and his act. Expect disappointment at best I sadly feel.

I mentioned earlier the Intercontinental Title situation but I definitely don’t want to gloss over how this has been portrayed. The Miz has been a huge highlight to the new SmackDown brand and has had consistently good segments every week. His initial brand feud with newcomer Apollo Crews seemed quite lame but Miz made it somewhat important by playing the fool. Then came Dolph Ziggler, the guy that always seemed to be in Miz’s career in some way. When both men were cast into obscurity on the shows weekly as job guys, they ended up working a “Battle of Cleveland” on a RAW that was a good match. They did things here and there but usually it was one-sided. In 2016 both men find themselves at their career’s biggest crossroads. Dolph has found himself a perennial loser for many years now and this angle with Miz has only added to this lore. Miz has taken what many considered a transitional run as champion and made himself over yet again, something Miz has done many times. He’s made himself feel like a big deal and in turn, he’s gotten that push. Miz plays that rich, douchebag heel so perfectly and perhaps there’s a reason due to how thin Mike Mizanin plays the line between fact and fiction yet the result has been mostly amazing to see. After the now notorious to many Talking Smack segment with Daniel Bryan where Miz blew a gasket and “shot” on Bryan for being a coward for retiring after severe concussions, Miz has added to his legitimacy. Ziggler and Miz in the ring is always very good both men have worked each other so often. Now, with Ziggler constantly being fucked out of the title by nefarious means, he’s now made it clear he either beats Miz and wins the title or he’s out of WWE forever. This is a very unique kind of thing for a WWE midcard angle, most of these kinds of heavy angles are usual reserved for the top of the cards in the usual, modern WWE story arc. So for these two guys who have seemed to have been ignored by the higher brass for so long to be given the opportunity to create a good feud with a great ending is bizarre and in a great way. Perhaps this could signal a change in how WWE looks at their storytelling, and then again perhaps this will end with a fart in church effect that’s the roulette wheel pro wrestling has become.

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla recently released their Thirteenth Anniversary show and the contents are fantastic as always from this group. The card was incredible, including the final PWG match of Roderick Strong who is rumored to be heading to the WWE Performance Center. Huge congrats to Roddy on that accomplishment and a solid end to his PWG run against Timothy Thatcher. The opener between Adam Cole and Brian Cage was a mix of phenomenal indie work as well as comedy spots. Cole has gotten even better than he was before and he was a great worker young. It’s beautiful to see this evolution of him and interesting to see him finally in Japan for New Japan as ROH Champion. Jeff Cobb also wrestled Trevor Lee in a visually stunning match, complete with the massive Cobb doing lucha spots like he’s Flamita or some shit. Trevor Lee is great but anyone who’s seen him knows that (Google is your friend). In the definite highlight of the show for me, THE BEST FRIENDS COLLIIIIDE as Trent went up against Chuck Taylor in one of the most bizarrely incredible matches I’ve seen. In what started as a friendly bout ended with table spots, thumbtacks, sick floor bumps, spots upon spots, and hugs. It is something to watch them put it all on the line and see that Reseda crowd eat it up. Marty Scurll went up against “Space Cat” Sami Callihan in yet another comical/awesome indie match. The Tag titles were on the line with The Young Bucks defending against Death by Elbow( Chris Hero and JT Dunn). This match was a great one that showcased how good tag wrestling can be in this day and age with great falsies and a solid ending to boot. It has become the constant to say “The Bucks were in an awesome match, wow!” Next up was the main event for the PWG World title. Zack Sabre Jr. defended against Kyle O’ Reilly in a phenomenal technical outing. This was just another in the long line of fantastic PWG title matches and is a must see. In the end, Sabre found himself the winner but Roderick Strong spoiled the moment and said he had a rematch still for the title. This ended in a No DQ war and Strong was sent home violently by Sabre once and for all. This is a great show and highly recommended, I give it *****************.

Ring of Honor has been building towards an interesting Final Battle show at the end of December. The Six Man Tag Team Championship tournament that has begun to crown the first ever ROH Trios Champions ends on that date and most would expect a combination of The Bullet Club, which most likely will include The Elite of Omega and The Young Bucks since Cole is now the ROH World Champion. Speaking of Cole, it is unsure where his path leads him come December in the fallout of All Star Extravaganza. One development that will be intriguing is Cody Rhodes announcing some time ago that he’ll be at Final Battle. All in all things are looking up for ROH as of now.

Speaking of ROH going forward, Marty Scurll has apparently signed a deal with the company for this year. He is set to make his American ROH debut soon but his British ROH dates are set for late November, one including a match against longtime rival Will Ospreay. Scurll is a fantastic, technical British wrestler that has yet to break through fully in America. With a signing like this, he could make quite the indie name for himself in ROH.

ROH TV Notes:
August 27th Edition saw:
 The opener of Shane Butler and Keith Lee against War Machine(Hanson and Rowe). This was just four huge guys flying around like no one’s business mixed with some rudimentary brawling. It was a very big change of pace for ROH who usually showcases the smaller guys so I’m interested to see where Butler and Lee go especially. I’ve had my ups and downs watching War Machine because of some psychology lapses and doing things guys their size shouldn’t even mess with. They were solid here though and did well to make Lee and Butler look strong. Lee and Butler are deceptively agile and show that in droves here. There were too many points where big moves were wasted and not even used for near falls so that hurt it a lot for me. This felt like a bizarre FMW tag from the 90's with the massive heel team against the smaller-yet-still-huge faces going all out with the power and the movez! **

Cheeseburger vs Tim Hughes vs David Starr vs Joey Daddiego
Cheeseburger is fucking awesome. Perhaps the spindliest, most non-assuming wrestler in history that is OVAH. The other three in this four way of course team up and whip on Burger like hell while BJ Whitmer comes out to commentary looking like a bullshit Kevin Sullivan with eyeliner and a X on his forehead. Beautiful, does this lead to Steve Corino coming in as Dusty? Daddiego is pretty meh but David Starr is awesome from his CZW work at the least. I know nothing about Hughes and this match didn’t help in showing me much from him. A lot of the body of this match included everyone getting a spot with Starr. Burger comes in though and shows a little flash before being cut off by Hughes just...holding him in his arms for a stupid amount of time before side slamming him. Bad stuff. Starr feeds Hughes a knee and elbow combo before the lights go out SABU! No it’s some goof aligned with Whitmer and yes, Old Kevin Sullivan is apparently his master. Of course why wouldn’t we rehash a famous gimmick badly? Whoever this Whitmer’s charge is lays waste to all four men in the ring and hits a Curb Stomp just to satiate my sick need for that move. Other than that this felt very pointless.
The Cabinet vs Dalton Castle and “The Boys”
The Cabinet is a fucking rotten gimmick that is merely parodying the political culture of today in the worst way ever, and that being that they’ve thrown really decent workers into a dead gimmick. The All Night Express is a solid tag team so why waste them in some useless stable with Caprice Coleman? Probably just to be a job team in this Trios Title tournament I would guess. Dalton Castle continues to be one of the best performers on the indies these days with a very genius gimmick. Either way these six did well in this match to make it entertaining. There’s the usual spotty moments for ROH as well as some good comedy in places. Dalton and Caprice preening off was a great moment. Dalton shows off the usual insane throws along with agile spots that make him so special to watch. The Boys were also pretty impressive being the smallest, quicker parts of this match. The Boys take a majority of the heat and Dalton is given the hot tag and proceeds to take out all three opponents with awesome throws. The crowd absolutely dies for Dalton, it is really a wonder to see. The shit that Castle’s team does here was phenomenal too in terms of teamwork. The Cabinet also threw out a tremendous superplex into a guillotine legdrop/frogsplash combo to take the win. Surprising finish but a good overall match. **1/2

The Young Bucks vs The Addiction for the ROH World Tag Team Championship
This is yet another in the list of solid Young Bucks matches. Addiction tries to take out The Bucks right at the entrance like real dicks but they’re fooled when The Bucks sneak up on them to give them the Gift of Superkicks! These guys are ridiculous in about every possible way but it works. Nick does a Swanton Bomb on Kazarian from the apron to the floor with Matt’s help and the double teams just keep coming from there. Watching The Bucks is more like watching a gymnastics exhibition at times than it even is a contest. Plunder is part of the fold early when a table spot is teased but Kazarian catches both men sleeping. Kazarian tries to set up a ladder for some reason but fails. A commerical break happens and the action continues with The Bucks making Kazarian pay in the ring before Daniels returns to save the day for his team. Nick takes a table bump during the fray and things look sour for The Bucks. The Addiction proceed to do spot after spot on a downed Matt. It isn’t long though and The Bucks quick fury begins again when Nick recovers and things change fast. This match is really good and everything you’d want out of a TV match between the four of them. The utilization of countering signature spots people usually see made this one really unpredictable in spots with false finishes or teasing of moves without even giving the fans the move at all. Kamitachi comes out, who’s been The Addiction’s young boy of sorts which leads Alex Shelley out as well to equal the field. Things still break down and Kaz tries using a chair yet Chris Sabin comes into to stop it, yet hits Matt Jackson with the chair on accident leading to the finish. A good match with a little bit of a wacky finish but this may lead to a rematch down the road. ***

The Young Bucks vs The Briscoes(c) for the IWGP Tag Team Championship, Destruction in Hiroshima 2016
I read online about this match happening and I had to check it out. The big story here is this is a meeting of both IWGP tag champions, both the juniors and heavyweight. These four are often having fantastic matches, especially The Bucks as of late. Nick Jackson and Mark Briscoe start off with some fun counter wrestling back and forth until all four men enter the fold and The Bucks dominate with their signature. lightning fast offense. The Briscoes are immediately established as the understandably slower team. Nick Jackson does a beautiful tope con hilo on both men and Matt is in now. The Bucks utilize the quick tag for some time. The Briscoes wash Nick’s face with a double dropkick into the corner. The Briscoes go on to bully The Bucks for the body of the match as the larger and more experienced team in the ring. Matt Jackson especially does well taking the heat here while I’d probably say he could have sold much more. New Japan makes that difficult though at times when you’re asked to have a fast paced, exciting match with a certain time. Either way this is some good work. They milk the hot tag to Nick really well also. Nick comes in and WHIPS THAT ASS with kicks. He is just all over the place with multiple strikes and combos. The ending sequence looks like something out of Fire Pro Wrestling on extra fast mode. Tag wrestling can be fun! ***1/2

Adam Cole(c) vs Will Ospreay for the ROH World Championship, Destruction in Hiroshima 2016
This is part of Adam Cole’s first Japanese tour and hot DAMN IS IT GREAT. Cole’s just fantastic in every way as a worker I feel, his expressions are always great. His promos are always fantastic and his in ring work is never wavering. Ospreay is a force of nature this year after taking notice with the Ricochet match during the Best of the Super Junior’s this June. I feel like this is their first meeting and it is really fun to see. Both men do some wrestling counters early to feel out and Ospreay is obviously the quickest of the two. Cole is pissed and not wanting to deal with this shit. Ospreay and Cole work extremely well here and seem to have chemistry that can be built upon in the future. Cole plays the more grounded, dick heel that does all he can to hurt and keep Ospreay from being upright. Simple wrestling logic but it never fails. Ospreay sells better than I even realized and shows that here with little facials in between moves that makes you feel like he’s truly powering through something. I was pleased with the slow build in this match, you don’t see big and elaborate spots in the early going those come when things finally settle in. Ospreay builds towards his amazing offense, first showing adversity and then starting his upward mobility with simple clotheslines and forearms before going into the handspring enzugiris and other various moves. Cole answers Ospreay’s wild offense with simple defense; nefarious heel tactics along with more basic wrestling. Ospreay doesn’t let that stop him from flying like an eagle at every possible turn. Cole simply uses Ospreay’s rolling momentum against him when he hits a backstabber from Ospreay trying an ace crusher from the second rope. Ospreay almost tastes Cole’s Vertical Suplex Neckbreaker but counters with an awesome Osaka Street Cutter looking move! This is a must watch for those that really appreciate the modern indie style and something that in years to come will be a fun match to look back on perhaps. ****

ROH All Star Extravaganza 2016 Thoughts:

I sadly missed nearly the first how of the show and I came in to Dalton Castle and Colt Cabana looking like they were tickled pink. They had a contender’s tag match but I still saw some pretty awesome shit!

Kamaitachi vs Dragon Lee

These two have really taken a percentage of the interest wrestling crowd by storm with their insanely awesome matches down in CMLL. When I first saw that ROH was booking this, I definitely got excited because if these two get the chance they could steal the show on almost any card. Kamaitachi just oozes charisma to me and he plays the total douche bag so well here. We get swank as all hell lucha grappling to the adulation of the fans. Kamaitachi whips ass on poor Dragon and we get a mental shotgun dropkick over the railing on the floor to Dragon also. Dragon is just absolutely phenomenal and he really showcases how special he can be here. There are some really seamless moments in this match that you only get from guys that know each other perfectly.

Tetsuya Naito vs Jay Lethal
These guys are just awesome workers for this day and age so to seem them work this major show is just plain cool. Naito has a really underrated aura about him that makes you believe he just truly gives no fucks at all and he is continuing his hatred for titles now with the IWGP Intercontinental title. Things start hot when Lethal rushes the ring but Naito is quick to make him regret it with LUCHA until Lethal kicks his face. These two really flowed well together through their spots and added a lot with their extra flash between things. They do some brawling on the outside to set up a suicide dive by Lethal. Naito is beautiful when he throws in his shitty heel tactics in between doing fucking incredible stuff. There is a really nasty suplex bump that looked rough but ended up being a combo move. This is simply a really fun match. I liked Naito using roll ups to build suspense going into the final stretch. I approve! ***1/2

Adam Cole(c) vs Michael Elgin for the ROH World Championship
I am going to attempt to contain my adulation for Adam Cole but goddamn is this man good. He’s been a staple on the American indies scene for quite a few years now and he’s better than ever. The same exact thing can be said for Michael Elgin who has molded himself into one of the premier foreigner talents in Japanese wrestling. These two generally have really solid matches and this one is within that ilk. Cole, after a wild flurry of spots and counters, finds himself in the driver’s seat thanks to concentrated leg work on Big Mike. Elgin pretty much ignores pain apparently and throws a triple german suplex on Cole. These two go, go, go and it is as simple as that. A lot of my major critique would be much of the same complaints I have with almost any American indie match these days and that’s lack of selling. Too many major moves are just afterthoughts after a while and this match is another offender but that’s part of the change in style these days so I can’t hate on that too much. For the standards they put forth to achieve, this is really good. Elgin looks great when he just hosses guys around and makes power moves look routine yet he can also do the most athletic things that make no sense which really meshes well with Cole’s style. Elgin does a bizarre jumping sunset flip from the second that seems like a botched Canadian Destroyer. Then came the buckle bombage until Cole unleashes a satanic reverse hurricanrana into the leaping Canadian Destroyer from the second but Elgin won’t die! This was a very inspired match yet a lot of things were rushed and sloppy yet that’s the name of the game with wrestling at times. Nonetheless I enjoyed this match quite a bit and it makes me want to see more of the product going forward so it wasn’t a failure in any way. ***1/2

The Addiction(c) vs The Motor City Machine Guns vs The Young Bucks in a Ladder War for the ROH World Tag Team Championship
I was happy to see this positioned as the main event of the show. Whether you like it or not, The Young Bucks are the hottest tag team in wrestling in several years and about any match their in is a marquee affair. Add in four ring veterans that can get it done and this one will deliver. I like how they put over the “Ladder War” match with clips of previous matches that were absolutely awesome. The early part of this match is everyone teasing shit but countering until chairs come into play by The Addiction. This is absolutely fantastic if you’re in the market for a dangerous spot fest. I happen to be in that market so this was real fun to watch. It isn’t long and The Bucks are unleashing some superkicks. This crowd is absolutely loving The Bucks which is no surprise. There aren’t too many wild spots early which is smart and makes the ones that comes late in the match even more important so that is a plus. Daniels takes some really nasty ladder bumps from MCMG and The Bucks and at his age that is really admirable, or absurd. The Bucks start building a barricade fort (yes you read correctly) on the floor and Kazarian decides he’ll just go win the match. He is stopped though by The Bucks ultimately until Kazarian does a crazy TKO from the ladder on Nick Jackson! Things break down until the table spots come. First it is Shelley giving an uranage suplex from the apron through one on Kazarian, followed by Matt Jackson soaring over the top into one and then Daniels and Sabin destroy another. Finally, Nick Jackson takes to the air and gives Kazarian a 450 through a table as well! Daniels emerges bust wide open and it is nasty. Then we start the race towards the titles where all six men are on ladders brawling for all they can which is a really cool visual. Naturally, men and ladders begin to fall to the wasteside and it’s Kazarian and Nick Jackson alone again. Nick is inches away but all four of his opponents team up and lift the ladder and toss him all the way to the floor, exploding a table. It then becomes a four man TNA wake of sorts but with blood and vile ladder spots. Kazarian eats the ladder off a flatliner and it looks GREAT. Suddenly the bloodied Daniels is wedged between the rungs of a ladder and positioned into the corner. Kazarian rushes at MCMG with a chair but blasts the captive Daniels instead. Kazarian is tossed into his partner and the ladder as well. I really loved this match for the car crash it was meant to be. Kudos to all involved for putting it all on the line and executing to a really great level in most regards. Everyone feels strong afterwards and maybe even stronger in time. The Barricade Fort comes to fruition when The Bucks superkick Daniels backwards off the apron and he takes a potentially tragic bumps, cascading over the slipping barricade on top which would have really been bad had it followed Daniels through. Luckily this didn’t occur and the match went onward. We get an IndyTaker spike tombstone on the floor by The Bucks and they just start chugging along like crazy. Things seem wrapped up for them until that hater Kamaitachi shows up and slings them to the canvas. Daniels resurrects from the dead and hits Angel’s Wings on Sabin. Jay White comes to save the day and sends Kamaitachi crashing to the floor from the top into a table. Daniels is a dick and low blows White to get him neutralized and set up his penance which is a wicked slingshot into a RKO of sorts by Daniels and Kazarian to the floor through a table. This is really something to behold if you love plunder and daring risks because that’s all you’re getting in this thing. Daniels takes yet another absolutely insane bump all the way off the ladder to the canvas through another ladder which is really cringe worthy. The finish was both spectacular and overkill but that’s The Young Bucks for ya. I loved the work put in by all involved and highly recommend this. ****

On another huge side note, I watched a recent show from Mexico City from the CMLL company and caught the Rush vs Matt Taven match. I was very pleased with how Taven modified his American style well to the lucha style and Rush did the same to try and ease the work differences. Both guys did some wild spots and some good drama. Rush is someone that every wrestling fan should see because he’s so damn hot in Mexico as well as one of the few solid in-ring performers in Mexico.

NXT saw the debut of Cruiserweight Classic star Lince Dorado against Hideo Itami. I only checked out a few moments of that match but I saw some really fun sequences between the two. Hideo looked really good against the smaller man and it is an interesting move considering that Lince was just on RAW. Perhaps many of the Cruiserweight guys will rotate between RAW and NXT? We shall see. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Reaper's Calling for Dixie

This whole wrestling business is a very funny and all-too-often depressing and unpredictable all in one breath. Those words are never clearer than they are for those involved with TNA Wrestling, or nowadays better known as Impact Wrestling. It’s been a 14 year suicide mission mixed with incredibly memorable moments in the ring and abysmal blunders in the office. Sometimes those trajectories switched in disposition but mostly it was in that order. Even when things seemed better, all of us that were there from the beginning knew that hope was something this company never was equipped to handle.

Things have been buzzing about a ownership change pretty well from the beginning when Jerry Jarrett and his notorious wrestler son Jeff began the company in June of 2002 with a shot in the dark business plan involving weekly pay-per-views to keep them alive. That idea of course failed, after the huge wrestling boom of 1998-2001 the wrestling pay-per-view numbers just simply weren’t what they used to be even for monthly measuring not to mention weekly. People just weren’t interested and this also was at a time when MMA was insignificant at best in the American media culture. So when Panda Energy’s Bob and Dixie Carter became partners and pumped heavy funding into the group, things felt better. Still the show was horribly minor league emanating from “The Asylum” which was nothing more than a makeshift arena at the Nashville County Fairgrounds. Even early on, great talent went through the company such as Chris Hero, CM Punk, Paul London, and various others that would go on to become major stars in WWE or elsewhere.

Those stars never really WERE stars in TNA though. That seemed to be the theme always with that company; sign youngsters with incredible upsides and simply fumble at the 1-yard line when it matters in the pushing of said youngsters. This constant booking snafu plagued almost any TNA top star, especially those who had been part of the foundations of the company in the early days. Because of a lack of homegrown talent, TNA seemed to constantly lose what the importance of a company should be; a vision. There seemed to be a vision during 2004-2005 with a committee that was made up of ex-wrestling personalities and current ones in the case of Scott D’Amore who was a huge part of the way things were done at the time. The problem? Most of this period was during a time with no television to speak of. So much of the best era of TNA wasn’t seen by many outside of our little wrestling bubble. It was just another example of the tide always washing TNA away when things seemed bright.

Rumors are finally rushing in about a true, definitive selling of the company. These reports don’t feel like the usual Internet gossip, this seems to have much of the same roots that the rumblings of WCW’s demise had in 2000 and onward. The story is well known to some and not to many but the facts are that Billy Corgan is trying to put together an acquisition group before the Bound for Glory show this Sunday. The feeling is that if he can’t make the move by then, it’s all over and the potential WWE aquisition would be a very real possibility. Another drop in the bucket for WWE to bolster what would surely be a section on their Network and take the TNA name to the grave it’s been destined for since 2002. It’s a shame, really because the product TNA has been putting together over the last 6 weeks or so has been much better than usual. Aside from the very polarizing, bizarre Broken Matt and Jeff Hardy segments with Decay and others, the wrestling itself has been good. The latest Grand Championship title tournament has been intriguing itself, utilizing the Unified Rules of MMA as a foundation for a new Television title of sorts. Utilizing rounds allows for added intrigue in matches when one can follow the momentum based on the round-by-round scores. So far there have been some really good examples of how this  match could be successful, mostly the Drew Galloway vs Eddie Edwards bout just from the top of my head. Seeing TNA in jeopardy even before this Bound for Glory card happens is sad for the reason that the roster has been really performing at a higher level as of late than they had in previous years. TNA’s motiff has always been having quality matches even at the spite of shitty booking all around. Now the booking is average at best, sure, yet there is still enough left from it to allow for some really solid wrestling matches from the talent.

As was the case on March of 2001, no one truly knows what will come of TNA. We could be in for even more years of the company as we have been in the past, or we could be seeing the slow death of yet another national television wrestling product. What SHOULD happen is that all the rest in the race learn from their mistakes. Strike while the iron is hot, don’t leave things to be desired on the table with negotiating, and always be aware of having a back up plan. So much of their fate has rested on those issues and all too often, the company suffered from lack of preparation or simple logic.

TNA’s constantly attempted to evolve. Whether it was their logos or their ring, they always seemed to be in a state of transition from a vile past that they tried their best to erase all the while being addicted to the easy booking fix of yesteryear. TNA is the bipolar bastard child of WCW and ECW in so many ways, toggling between a Nitro reunion tour and a blood fest for no real reason. Perhaps TNA will be remembered as “that place those good guys worked for” in the very near future, one filled with countless TNA alumni continually succeeding in the WWE, something TNA could never afford them the opportunity to do so in the same way.