Monday, August 31, 2020

NJPW: Summer Struggle Review - August 29th, 2020

NJPW: Summer Struggle

August 29th, 2020

Tokyo, Japan @ Meiji Jingu Stadium

Commentary: Kevin Kelly & Chris Charlton 

NJPW has a baseball stadium packed with fans following social distancing rules and masks etc as the Summer Struggle tour 2020 comes to an end with a double title match and much, much more.

1) Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Master Wato (w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan) 

Didn’t know much about the backstory on this but it’s super fun. The veteran Kanemaru cuts off Wato early on and dominates. Wato fires back with some flashy stuff but gets shut down before he can get any consistent offense. That’s actually what leads to the pin with Kanemaru catching Wato in a pinning combination/cradle for the three count. 

Match rating - **1/2

2) Kazuchika Okada vs. El Desperado vs. Toru Yano vs. SANADA - KOPW FINALS MATCH 

This KOPW shit is so weird and the most non NJPW thing that NJPW has done since I’ve been watching. It’s too much to explain so just read up on it if you aren’t familiar. This four way is enjoyable for what it is though, it’s just weird seeing Okada in this lower card setting. And getting pinned via a roll up by motherfuckin Yano. None the less, it happened and here we are. Toru Yano is KOPW 2020. 

Match rating - **1/4 

3) Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki - NEVER Openweight Title Match 

DREAM MATCH. Shingo has held the title since February and had three successful defenses, all of which were awesome matches as the dragon seems to be on one of the best tears of his career since jumping ship to New Japan and continually blurring the line between junior and heavyweight. The difference between his last few defenses shows just that as his last NEVER defense was against star junior Sho in a great contest at Dominion, followed by fellow junior El Desperado and now here he is against a hard hitting, straight shooter like Suzuki. Shingo delivers no matter the opponent and this match rocked ass because Suzuki rarely disappoints as well. This was exactly what you’d expect from the two. They didn’t go all out into epic territory but they gave you what you’d want to see. A stiff, hard fought slugfest. In the end, Suzuki’s old faithful rear naked choke / gotch style piledriver combo puts Shingo away after around 15 minutes. Awesome match and we have a new NEVER openweight champ. 

Match rating - ****

4) Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match 

Its Bullet Club vs. LIJ not only in the main event but also here in the undercard. Hiromu unsuccessfully took a bid at former partner EVIL’s IWGP Heavyweight title in a champion vs champion match a few weeks ago but came up short in his attempt to get back at EVIL for turning on their leader Naito. None the less, Hiromu did not come out of that looking weak by any means. Here, these two go back and it’s not the first time they’ve faced off so there’s a lot of sick counters and call backs. My favorite off hand was Ishimori’s counter to Hiromu’s release overhead suplex into the corner as he landed on the ropes, they struggle with counters for a second only for Hiromu to lure him right back in and nail it. The entire second half of this match was a struggle between the two for advantage as three everything at one another. Hiromu has his usual baby face fire, but Ishimori had an answer for everything and in the end, Hiromu was unable to roll his way out of a cross face and tapped out. Ishimori brings the Junior title back to Bullet Club. Good match, not a barnburner and not their best, but a good match. 

Match rating - ***1/2

5) Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi - IWGP Tag Team Title Match 

Their last match didn’t really do much for me, but I enjoyed this a lot more. Maybe it’s because the Golden Aces fighting from underneath to regain their titles and it’s so easy to love both Ibushi and Tana in that role? I’m not sure, but Taichi & Sabre isolated and abused Tana for a good 7 minutes or so. They played the cheap dickheads so well as always. Ibushi got the hot tag and it ruled, of course. Sabre fires back and Tana gets back in and gets stuck in one of Zack’s gruesome armbars. Ibushi tries to break it up with the kamigoye but Taichi runs in with the glove, IBUSHI KICKS HIS ARM HARD AS FUCK. But this distraction is chaotic enough to lead to Sabre & Tana being isolated again. Tana misses a high fly flow and next thing you know, Sabre & Taichi retain despite Ibushi coming super close to breaking up the pin. 

Match rating - ***1/2

6) EVIL (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito - IWGP Heavyweight and IC Title Match 

I’m not even gonna cap, this was mostly a snooze for me and I hate that because I love so much about both guys/parties involved. This started strong and I came in positive about it, but it soon divulged into standard shit that was almost as boring as these two’s first match. The interference led to a cool moment with LIJ finally firing back at Bullet Club. SANADA got a nice pop out of it and it seemed to bring the crowd back into it as they were hella dead for the first portion of the interference (ref bump, Bushi run in etc) anyways, Naito and EVIL now go into finishing run mode. Another ref spot, Evil uses it to nail Naito with a lariat for a good near fall. Naito fights back and we get some stiff ass strikes and slaps. This leads to Destinoooo. Kevin Kelly croaks trying time hold it out for the duration of the three count and good lord why did he do that. Yeah so Naito is double champ again but god these double title matches have felt so lackluster esp considering all the epic matches both titles have had in recent years. Glad Naito is champ again, but god I hope things turn around soon. 

Match rating - **1/4

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Ruthless Aggression Era Project: WWE Monday Night Raw Review - September 9th, 2002

Iowa State University
September 9th, 2002

If they don’t get rid of that god damn Eric Bischoff photo at the start of the show I’m gonna flip.

1) Kane & Bradshaw vs. Christian & Lance Storm (c) - WWE Tag Team Title Match

Show kicks in with big Kane walking to the ring. Raw starting with a match ?? This is nuts. And this match itself was also nuts. Such a random pairing with Kane and Bradshaw which came about last week. But this crowd is on fire for it. I think they just wanna see Christian & Storm lose the titles. Every near fall near the end is hot. Test runs down when it looks like Bradshaw & Kane are about to win and smokes Kane with a boot to the face (following a ref bump). He goes for Bradshaw, he ducks, CLOTHESLINE FROM HELL. But WILLIAM REGAL WITH BRASS NUCKS TO BRADSHAW. Is he joining the fold?? This allows Christian to wake the ref and get the pin to retain the belts.

Match rating - ***

Eric Bischoff is out now. He announces Jericho/RVD/Show/Hardy later with the winner becoming the #1 contender for the World Heavyweight Title. Bischoff then announces “HLA” for later in response to Steph/Smackdown having the Billy/Chuck wedding this week. HLA stands for “hot lesbian action”. Well well well.

Jericho is interviewed while eating an apple about the four way later. Next, they go to Triple H who says it doesn’t matter who wins. Bubba Ray Dudley interrupts. Apparently H faces Spike later. Bubba says H doesn’t have the balls to face him and that when he’s done with Steven Richards, he’ll get his hands on him. Steven Richards ambushes Bubba. He and H share a laugh as Bubba lays in the floor.

2) Bubba Ray Dudley vs. Steven Richards

The pre-match build and hot crowd helped this. Bubba attacks Richards during his entrance and proceeds to beat the shit out of him. This went maybe a minute too long but was still fun and better than it had any right to be on a 2002 Raw. Bubba wins with the bubba bomb.

Match rating - **1/4

3) Trish Stratus & Terri vs. Victoria & Stacy Keibler

Lawler won’t shut the fuck up about HLA and has a pair of binoculars to watch this match because he’s a pervert. This match only solidified one thing for me, Vic But this was 2002 and Terri & Stacy are in this so it’s a little rough. 

Match rating - *3/4 

William Regal is backstage explaining his actions earlier to Chris Nowinski. He is now wearing an UnAmericans shirt. He then tells Chris to start acting like a Harvard graduate and quit being excited over HLA.

Nowinski comes out and shits on Iowa State University. This brings out the resident cheap pop king Tommy Dreamer. They brawl and yeah. 

Spike Dudley is walking backstage and he runs into “The Lesbians” who wish him luck for his match. 

4) Triple H vs. Spike Dudley 

H actually seems very motivated in this. Spike is the perfect underdog so this was fun for what it was. H wins with the sleeper hold.

Match rating - **1/2

Bubba Ray Dudley comes out to make the save during a post match assault. He stares down H from the ramp. It seems like they’re building to something and I wish they were. 

Jericho tries to get Show to team up with him in the four way later. Stamboli is in the locker room and gets chocked out for giving his two cents to Show. 

Booker T interview that ends with Goldust showing up with a Kane mask on his gold mask. Kane arrives and takes it off. Bradshaw shows up and invites them to watch HLA with him.

5) Booker T & Goldust vs. William Regal & Test

Goldust gets isolated. Booker gets the hot tag and it rules. Then it breaks down into hell. Kane, Bradshaw, Christian and Storm are down. Ref calls for DQ. GIVE ME THAT EIGHT MAN TAG NOW. 

Now that Lawler has been yelling about it all night. We "finally" get some "HLA" and it's terrible. Bischoff gets these two women to strip down and they make it out. Then Jamal and Rosey attack them. 

6) Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy vs. The Big Show - #1 Contender's Elimination Match

So apparently this is an elimination match and I didn't realize it until things got underway. Big Show gets disqualified for attempting to use a chair. Jericho eliminates Hardy with the lionsault, leaving himself and RVD to go at it. They kill it for a solid 8-9 minutes of back and forth action and near falls. Triple H comes down to watch and seemingly distract Rob Van Dam. It doesn't work, though as RVD nails the five star and as JR said "HE HIT THAT SON OF A BITCH" and 1..2..3.. ROB VAN DAM CHALLENGES TRIPLE H AT UNFORGIVEN FOR THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE. LEGGO.

Match rating - ***1/4

This may have been the best overall episode of Raw since I started this project. Take away Lawler yelling about HLA all night and I'd say it 100% was. 

Ruthless Aggression Era Project: WWE Smackdown Review - September 5th, 2002

WWE Smackdown
September 5th, 2002

TONIGHT: Undertaker and Brock Lesnar FACE TO FACE

1) Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Gunn (w/ Rico & Chuck)

Okay Rico/Rey last week wasn’t bad, but why continue this? I typed that last sentence before the match started and I admit I was negative going into this but it wasn’t bad at all. Rey is perfect for underdog scenarios and this was borderline on a three on one and Billy was a good base for Rey. Rey sneaks a victory despite the odds and interference.

Match rating - **1/2

After the match, Chuck proposes to Billy to be his “partner for life” and Billy accepts. They hug and celebrate.

2) Jamie Noble (w/ Nidia) (c) vs. Shannon Moore - Cruiserweight Championship Match

Noble tried to wear Moore down, but the OMEGA star got the upper hand by flurrying the champion with high flying moves. This creates a couple of good near falls that the crowd bit on. This forces Noble to bust out the big guns and plants Moore with a tiger bomb for the win to retain.

Match rating - **1/2

Backstage, Heyman tells Brock not to take Randy Orton lightly tonight. Orton walks up and says he respects Brock but doesn’t sweat him. Young Brock & Orton I am excited as fuck for this.

TONIGHT: Benoit/Angle/Guerrero vs. Taker/Edge/Rikishi

Edge asks Rikishi if he’s gonna back that ass up later tonight. Rikishi explains the serious meaning behind the stinkface.

3) Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

AWESOME squash. Orton ambushes Brock before the bell and sets the tone. Brock throws him around, Orton bumps hard. Heyman is yelling and taunting Orton. Great stuff.

Match rating - **3/4

Crash is backstage signing his Smackdown contract. Steph thanks Crash for leaving Raw. Then Rev D-Von comes up to bitch about the marriage between Billy & Chuck coming up next week.

4) Mark Henry vs. Tajiri

Guess they’re about to try to do something with Mark Henry bc he squashes Tajiri here. Nothing else really to write home about.

Match rating - *3/4

Matt Hardy is backstage showing Shannon Moore clips of his match with Brock Lesnar last week. It’s ironically only the parts he had offense and not the finish. Hardcore Holly walks up, they wrestle next. Matt says Holly needs to have his Mattitude checked.

Hilarious segment backstage with Angle, Benoit, & Eddie Guerrero. Angle is making fun of Benoit and Eddie laughs only bc Benoit is behind Angle. Benoit blows up in Angles face after fake laughing. Eddie calms him down for the sake of the big trios match later on in which they all team up.

Monday, August 24, 2020

WWE: SummerSlam 2020 Review

WWE: SummerSlam 2020 Review

August 23rd, 2020

1) Bayley (c) vs. Asuka - Smackdown Women’s Title Match 

Tuned in around half way into this so my analysis may not be too accurate. It seemed to be going pretty solid and then they do the whole distraction thing and Bayley gets the win with a roll up to retain. This sets up for even more fire for Asuka later in her match with Sasha. 

Match rating - **1/2

2) Street Profits (c) vs. Andrade & Angel Garza - Raw Tag Team Title Match 

This is actually a match I fantasy booked to happen at SummerSlam bc of how bad I wanted to see Andrade & Garza team up. So I was pretty excited to see it go down and it honestly rocked. Street Profits continue to impress and Andrade & Garza were great heels for them to work against. Good back and forth tag with several cool moves/moments. Streets Profits retain. 

Match rating - **3/4 

3) Sonya Deville vs. Mandy Rose - No Disqualification Loser Leaves WWE Match 

This was a very good blowoff for this feud. They had tables and chairs involved and delivered a pretty competitive match that I enjoyed way more than I expected. Deville loses and apparently is “leaving WWE” per the stipulation. 

Match rating - ***

4) Seth Rollins (w/ Buddy Murphy) vs. Dominick (w/ Rey Mysterio) - Street Fight 

Okay fuck yeah. The eye for an eye stuff was a mixed bag with great action and a story but a terrible stip. This however has had an awesome build and the street fight stipulation is perfect. It’s taken a lot for me to want to care about this in recent weeks, but as soon as the bell rang, they pulled me in. The action, the tidbits with Rey & Angie, the emotion - it all ruled. Dominick looked fantastic in his debut match and not out of place at all. Rollins nails Dom with a curb stomp while Rey is handcuffed to the ropes and forced to watch. 

Match rating - ***3/4 

5) Sasha Banks (c) vs. Asuka - Raw Women’s Title Match 

Wow this was fucking awesome. Asuka eats shit on a power bomb off the apron early that made me wince. The premise of Asuka losing earlier due to Sasha and this being her second match of the night made you want to see her win that much more on top of the normal face/heel dynamic. They really went all out here with some sick back and forth action that had me on the edge of my seat up to the finish with Asuka knocking Bayley off the apron, getting caught in a submission by Sasha only to overcome again and hit a badass reversal forcing Sasha to tap. Asuka is the new Raw Women’s Champion. 

Match rating - ****

6) Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Randy Orton - WWE Championship Match 

I never expected to enjoy this or for it to turn out how it did but holy shit these two were stiff as heck and had me invested for the entire stretch. Drew has really settled into this main event role and feels like a perfect top of the card talent, not at all out of place in there with Orton, and honestly pulling the best Orton match (aside from the second Edge match) out of him in a good year or so. Orton and McIntyre seemingly both get cut the hard way from some stiff exchanges and it adds a lot to the match. Orton goes for the punt, McIntyre catches him in an insane power bomb. And they do a few finisher reversals before Drew catches Orton in a backslide for the pin. Great match. Drew is killing it as champion and with how this ended, I sense a rematch and I’m alllll for it. 

Match rating - ****1/4

7) Braun Strowman (c) vs. Bray Wyatt - WWE Universal Championship Match 

The trend of the night continues with this being shockingly solid. No dumb frills or gimmicks. Just a brawl between two bosses with personal issues. They brawl around ringside and backstage. Braun’s head gets skinned open and bleeds a little. They get back towards the ring and Braun rips the mat up with a box cutter exposing the wood. They trade moves on the wood before Wyatt puns Strowman after two sister abigails to win the title. 

Match rating - ***1/2 

Post match, ROMAN REIGNS attacks Bray Wyatt and Strowman both. Reigns wants his title back. Absolute shocker of a return considering the pandemic is still going on, but it was well done and with how solid of a show tonight was, I am a little stoked on the prospect of Bray’s title run and the return of Reigns - two things I never thought I would say in 2020. 

Kudos, WWE. You let your talents work a wrestling show with little to no excessive/over produced garbage and it was a super enjoyable watch. Let’s hope Raw continues the trend tomorrow with the debut of Keith Lee and the aftermath of SummerSlam! 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

NJPW USA: Strong Review - August 14th, 2020

NJPW: Strong
August 14th, 2020 

This is the second ever edition of New Japan’s “Strong” which is a weekly episodic show that continues the expansion of their American brand. They kick off this new series by hosting the New Japan Cup: USA edition, where the winner get a shot at IWGP US Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley.Last week saw KENTA, Tama Tonga, Jeff Cobb, and David Finlay advance over Brody King, Karl Fredricks, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens and that leads us here. Where we get two semi-final matches plus some tag team action. 

1) Clark Connors & Jordan Clearwater vs. Logan Riegel & Barrett Brown

These are some of the current crop of NJPW Young Lions. This is pretty short and sweet. My first time seeing all of these guys and Connors immediately stands out as he has such a presence and had some insane power displays here. Good way to open the show and nice showing for all four participants.

Match rating - **1/2

2) TJP, ACH, & Alex Zayne vs. PJ Black, Blake Christian, & Misterioso 

Aside from Cobb/KENTA - this is why I tuned into tonight and it did not disappoint. TJP, ACH, and Black are wel known names. Zayne & Christian have been making waves on the indies so getting to see them for the first time was a treat with Zayne undoubtedly being the star of this match and showing why he has so much buzz. The dude is a maniac and did a number of insane things here. This is the first time I’ve seen ACH and TJP since their respective WWE departures and honestly they look just as good if not better than ever. A load of fun all around here. PJ Black gets the win here for his team with a... 450, I think? 

Match rating - ***1/4

3) Tama Tonga vs. David Finlay - Semi Final Match in the NJPW Cup USA

I’m automatically conditioned to almost disregard Tonga matches but this wasn’t bad. Finlay picks up a surprise win over the Bullet Club stalwart. Cool moments include Tonga going for a Gun stun as a tribute to fellow good brother Karl Anderson. Finlay reverses and ends up finding his way to victory with a roll up. 

Match rating - **1/2

4) KENTA vs. Jeff Cobb - Semi Final Match in the NJPW Cup USA

This is an interesting one because it's not the dream match epic that you may hope for as it goes more the route of keeping the character KENTA is building in tow. They do give us the stiff strikes and exchnges one would hope, but there's no insane finishing stretch or fighting spirit spots etc. Instead, KENTA hits a low blow on Cobb from behind the referee's back, fights out of a tour of the island and hits a punt kick to pick up the victory. After the match, KENTA cuts a promo saying he isn't here to deliver great matches, he's here to win.

Match rating - ***

Final thoughts: Fun little hour block of TV with the trios match being more than worth the time to tune in plus KENTA/Cobb is good for what it is and the other two matches are harmless. Next week it's KENTA/Finlay in the finals which I feel like could be a sneakily great match PLUS the return of Jay White. I really hope KENTA wins and we get KENTA/Moxley because ohhhhh boy.