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Top 5: Matches of the Week (Ending 3/11/2018)

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Well this week of matches is a little unfair to everyone else since New Japan has four shows, and their quality is hard to compete with basic television. But before we get into mentions and a Top 5 with a good bit a New Japan, let’s assess the votes from last week.

For the month of February, it came down to the final vote, so, Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA @ NJPW New Beginning Osaka move into the Match of the Year Pool. As for the first match of March, we see,  AJ Styles vs John Cena @ Smackdown, winning a little more easily.

Now let’s move on to the Top 5:

 

5. NJPW New Japan Cup Day 3: Tetsuya Naito vs Zack Sabre Jr

TAKA Michinoku has become Zack Sabre’s hype man lately, and it’s kind of fantastic. “Just Tap Out” must be a line they’re trying to get over.

Sabre did his masterful Billy Robinson/Minoru Suzuki submission style of wrestling. Naito took some quick offense, and then most of the match flipped on it’s head. Sabre dominated and twisted Naito into so many knots, I think I learned the Trucker’s Hitch.

Surprisingly, Naito started to make a comeback, but Sabre countered a Destino by bringing Naito to his back and working over his legs. A combination of a Stretch Muffler and triangle knee bar, while stretching Naito’s legs apart, was too much for Naito to take, and his verbally submitted. A clean submission win, and TAKA’s words rang true ” Just Tap Out”.

Rating: *** 3/4 (Gold I)

 

4. United States Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) vs Randy Orton


Well we all know both guys are good wrestlers, but it when it comes to Orton, there’s always a question of how much he cares.

This match was something pulled from a Jim Cornette dream. The style felt older, it was a slow and methodical wrestling match but done beautifully. Orton and Roode are considered two of the more solid and safer wrestlers in the WWE right now, so putting them together you had an odd dynamic.

At times the match felt too slow and dragged a little, but between near falls, signatures, powdering out when necessary and an emphatic RKO ending; this match was pretty great. The crowd didn’t help them at times, but it’s hard to find fault in a match that was wrestled so masterfully. Now, Randy Orton finally has the one title (not including Universal), that has eluded him in his 16 year career.

Rating: ***3/4 (Gold I)

 

3. WWE Championship 6 Pack Challenge: John Cena vs Dolph Ziggler vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn vs Baron Corbin vs AJ Styles (c)

The match that everyone was most curious about, but all anyone knew, was they wanted Styles to retain.

We kicked off with four straight Attitude Adjustments, then a Cena beat down, which broke off into a litany of little one on one skirmishes. Each man got in most of their stuff, I think the only signature we didn’t see was a Blue Thunder Bomb. But we got more heat with the Shane McMahon storyline between Kevin and Sami, plus, AJ retaining gives the IWC their desired Wrestle Kingdom 10 rematch.

Now for purists, no of course this was the type of match where there are too many players to have a “technical masterpiece” of a match. However, it was fast paced, big spots and entertaining to the average fan. Orton vs Roode gave the purists a solid “wrestling” match, and this put the E in WWE. Entertainment 101 was this match.

Rating: **** (Platinum V)

 

Honorable Mentions:

Impact Crossroads: Knockout’s Championship Match: Allie vs Laurel Van Ness (c)
Rating: ***1/4 (Gold IV)
NJPW Anniversary Show: Taichi vs Tetsuya Naito
Rating: *** (Gold V)
NJPW New Japan Cup Day 3: Kota Ibushi vs Yoshi-Hashi
Rating: *** (Gold V)
NJPW Anniversary Show: IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Match: Roppongi 3k (c) vs El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi
Rating: **3/4 (Silver I)

 

2. NJPW 46th Anniversary Show: SANADA vs Yoshi-Hashi


Yes this isn’t a typo, Yoshi-Hashi actually got on the Top 5 this week (nearly twice), when he wants to try, Goku and his power pole have some talent.

What started as a throw together match since EVIL got injured during the Austrailia tour, turned into a match that rivaled Ospreay vs Okada for the show. Yoshi showed more urgency and aggression than I’ve ever seen, and SANADA had the crowd firmly in his corner the entire match. We saw numerous back and forths, counters and nice technical wrestling.

When SANADA went to the top for his Muta Moonsault, the crowd lit up like it was Christmas. He missed his first one, but after struggling through Yoshi’s Butterfly Lock and failing to finish the match with his Skull End, the Moonsault picks up the pinfall victory.

Aside from establishing another fantastic match in SANADA’s pocket, this helped solidify Yoshi-Hashi’s ability moving into his New Japan Cup match against Kota Ibushi.

Rating: ****1/4 (Platinum IV)

 

1. NJPW 46th Anniversary Show: Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay

This is a tradition that got started at the 41st Anniversary, and Okada wanted to make sure it continued with the Heavyweight and Junior champions facing each other.

If you’ve seen either of these two wrestle once, you knew to expect a damn good match. Ospreay wrestled from underneath most of the time, but when he caught Okada, it was all believable. Okada counter the Os-cutter at least twice, and Ospreay had a fantastic counter for the Rainmaker.

Gedo staying at the commentary booth, opposed to seconding one of his two Chaos stable mates could add an interesting story element down the line, but this match was well done. Ospreay never really having a dominating position and getting near falls off of a few spurts hurt the believability a little, but that’s nit picking. This match holds up against most matches.

Rating: ****1/2 (Platinum II)

 

Fastlane gave us more quality than I think most people were anticipating, but that makes the decisions very difficult this month. The 6 Pack Challenge was very entertaining, so it could easily run away with the week, but that’s not where my vote is going. Due to the fact Yoshi-Hashi is such a usually disappointing wrestler, since his match with SANADA was so damn good, I have to give that the vote this week. SANADA has one match already in the Match of the Year pool, could easily make it two.

Comment, Retweet, hate this Top 5, love this Top 5, just make your opinion known. Want in on the voting? Email andrewbalaz@thechairshot.com.

Regardless of if you agree or disagree, Always Use Your Head.


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Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 5/20/2018

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There were a lot matches to watch this week, and a rainy miserable week in Jersey lends itself to catching up on some shows I let slip past the wayside. Even though we’ve got two tournaments going on in Japan, this was a quality week from most companies. Either way, last week’s winner was, Buddy Murphy vs Mustafa Ali 205 Live. The vote was a little close, but the cream rose to the top this time.

Now let’s see what matches made the Top 5 this week:

5. ROH: Jay Lethal vs Punishment Martinez

Jay Lethal is on his tour of trying “get his wins back”, by challenging people who’ve recently defeated him.

This match started off shaky with Lethal jumping on Martinez immediately and slipping on the streamers (but saving it) while he goes for seven suicide dives. After that Lethal went after Martinez’s knee and didn’t really let up.

As the story of the match unfolded, we got to see Lethal start regaining that edge he lost after turning babyface. He focused the knee, put on numerous Figure Four Leglocks and made sure to attack the leg whenever given the chance. Martinez had a few glimmers of offense, but quickly lost any momentum because the knee would prove to be his downfall.

After a few strikes, a timely Lethal Injection picks up the victory for Jay. So that’s one loss redeemed, now on to the next.

Rating: *** 1/2

 

4. MLW: Pentagon Jr vs Rey Fenix

MLW Fusion Pentagon Jr Fenix

This Double Jeopardy match happened because of Pentagon and Salina de la Renta’s tactics against MLW Champion Shane Strickland.

So we get another match between Fenix and Pentagon, and that’s not really negative, it is however something we’ve seen often the last few months. But as always, they deliver a damn good match. Pentagon loves to go to the outside and steal hats, but Fenix’s offense looked much better.

The interesting wrinkle right before the match was that Salina de la Renta signed Fenix to her stable, so she won regardless. It did seem like she was a little more invested in Pentagon winning, but she played impartial fairly well most of the match.

Fenix pulled off most of his rope jumping, springboard offense bt he still couldn’t finish off Pentagon. After a Fear Factor onto the apron, Pentagon rolled in Fenix, hit his Pentagon Driver, and Fenix kicked out. This just annoyed Pentagon as he hits one more Fear Factor to pick up the pinfall.

Rating: *** 3/4

 

3. NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Taiji Ishimori vs Will Ospreay

This is Ishimori’s second BOSJ. He made it to the semi-finals of his last one before losing to the eventual winner Prince Devitt.

The most refreshing aspect to this match is that Taiji actually focuses a body part. Everything Ishimori did, meant something. Enziguiris that aim for the neck instead of the head, a sliding second rope German suplex, neckbreakers and an assortment of strikes aimed at the problem area. Early on he hits his new finish called Bloody Cross, but Ospreay managed to kick out.

Ospreay continued his Okada style of working from underneath and still finding the resolve to pull off his bigger moves, but he actually falls a little short here. He goes for Storm Breaker, but Ishimori rolls off, hit’s a bicycle knee and then a big Reverse Rana. Ospreay has one more flash with a Standing Spanish Fly and goes for the Oscutter, just for Ishimori to catch him and counter it with another Bloody Cross.

Even if he doesn’t win BOSJ, this helps establish the Reborn Bone Soldier and gives him a legitimate claim at a title shot.

Rating: ****

 

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Raw Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins (c)
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Yoh vs Bushi
Rating: *** 1/4
ROH: Marty Scurll, Hangman Page & Cody vs SoCal Uncensored
Rating: *** 1/4
WWE SmackDown: Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Chris Sabin vs Kushida
Rating: *** 1/4
AJPW: Toyou & Senshin vs Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama
Rating: ***
Lion’s Gate Project: Daisuke Sekimoto vs Shota Umino
Rating: ***

 

2. NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Dragon Lee vs Sho

Dragon Lee has proven himself over and over in Mexico, but is slowly gaining more celebrity since Hiromu returned from excursion. Sho on the other hand, is known primarily as the power guy in Roppongi 3k, so having both halves in the tournament will help to flesh them out as characters.

This match went back and forth between a swiftly paced Lucha match, and a strong style Japanese match. Dragon Lee showed more power than he usually does, while Sho kept turning up the aggression. Big moves, nice ways of using the outside of the ring and the apron, just made this match fun to watch.

Given the fact that there isn’t a ton of storyline, this was just a well paced tournament classic. After trying it once, but Sho countered, Dragon Lee finally hits his Desnucadora finisher and picks up a well earned pinfall.

 

Rating: **** 1/4

 

1. Dragon Gate King of Gate Tournament: Kzy vs Ben-K

Two of the men that challenged for the Open the Dream Gate championship earlier in the year, and both carrying gold of their own in the tag team and trios divisions.

So sufficed to say, these are up and coming stars for Dragon Gate, and this match proved it. The pacing was fairly high energy the entire time, and did wonders for Ben-K, since it protected his Ben-K Bomb.

A big running shoulder tackle sent Kzy flying, and Ben-K showed off a lot of technical and power ability, where Kzy was the quicker more opportunistic one. La magistral pin attempts, frog splashes and DDTs weren’t enough to put down Ben-K. As the match was coming to an end, Kzy did his best Hiroshi Tanahashi impression and hit a Swanton Bomb followed immediately by a Frog Splash, but Ben-K kicks out right as time expires.

Even though the match ends in a draw, it was exciting, well paced and did wonders for both men. In no way does the match feel incomplete with no definitive finish, especially since both men are faces, so it plays nicely.

Rating: **** 1/2

Now I feel like people will sob since nothing made the Top 5 from WWE so god forbid the computer would need to be used for something beyond porn, Twitter and Facebook. But as I usually say, when you have tournaments in other companies, their quality will go up, as compared to a usual television match. It’s not like WWE had nothing good, but that’s the beauty of their being more wrestling available than just what you get from one company.

Either way, I’m gonna go with my rankings for this week and vote for, Kzy vs Ben-K Dragon Gate. The match was fantastic, works well for two rising stars and adds some more suspense to the A Block since 1 point each makes the standings less swingy.

So if you want to cry about WWE not making it, or need to learn how to use a browser for more than porn, shoot me an e-mail at andrewbalaz@thechairshot.com – but regardless, make your opinion heard and Always Use Your Head.


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The Case For Ronda Rousey To Lose

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Ronda Rousey WWE Lose

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey may be one of the hottest commodities in wrestling right now but she should lose her first title match.  I know this is a very hot take but I think the best thing the WWE can do for Rousey’s character development, if she plans on joining the roster full time, is to lose to Nia Jax at Money in the Bank. I’m not saying by Pinfall or Submission, as that could hurt her character, but a well executed DQ finish. More on that later.

If, and most likely, when she beats Nia at Money in the Bank, she would become the third fastest WWE SuperStar to win a premier title at 141 days. The fastest being “The Dirtiest Player in the Game”, Ric Flair. He accomplished this feat at the 1992 Royal Rumble by eliminating Sid Justice and becoming the only one to win the Heavyweight strap by doing so. This was 113 days after he debuted but “The Nature Boy” was a 9 time Heavyweight champion at this point, 8 times in the NWA and 1 WCW reign. She has her accomplishments to this point, former UFC/StrikeForce Women’s Bantamweight champ and two Olympic medals, but this is Professional Wrestling. As much as I like “Rowdy” Ronda, she is not even on the same playing field as Flair was when he earned The Strap so quick. If Rousey beats Nia Jax it would slot her between Sheamus, at 116 days, and Brock Lesnar, who at 126 days beat The Rock at SummerSlam ’02. She and Lesnar have similar pedigrees, but the difference is we actually saw something in the ring from Lesnar first. All we have gotten from Rousey is a gimmick match at WrestleMania, which was great by the way but a gimmick still, and NO singles matches. Don’t get me started on the mic skills.

Ronda Rousey WWE

I think the only way to end this and still leave credibility for Ronda Rousey’s character is to have her loose by DQ. Be it by Alexa Bliss having a “Moment of Bliss” and trying to regain the trust of Jax after the “bully angle’ or whatever the “Road Dogg” throws together over there at Titan Towers.With this angle we would get the hype, like we have had with the Styles/Nakumara feud of late, and they could even finish in a cage match at Extreme Rulez. Imagine “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey winning her first WWE Women’s Title in the cage. That would make for good TV.

But we won’t get this. The same “Marks” who BOO Roman Reigns will cheer to the high heavens when Ronda wins from a premature, undeserved push. Roman deserves it. He has been around for awhile now and even came up through the NXT system. But because he comes from a wrestling family, The Anoa’i Dynasty, and has the proverbial “Machine” behind him the fans don’t give him the time of day. Or, maybe it’s because he falls in the “MAN” category (more on that here)  That’s a discussion for another day. We will most likely see her become a Brock Lesnar type champ, with part time appearances and this guy as her mouthpiece.

Make sure to tell me what you don’t like about my opinion on TWITTER @james_callear


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What Happened To The Heels?

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Ric Flair Heel WOOO

Where have all the good heels in professional wrestling gone? Why aren’t there characters like the ones from my youth that struck fear in me while watching the NWA on Saturday mornings with my father?

Granted, I am a bit older than I used to be and I know what professional wrestling is now as opposed to being seven years old. Still, the heel wrestler has been eliminated like the “Loser Leave Town” matches from the days of territorial promotions.

After finally watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Ric Flair, it has occurred to me there will never be a heel as solid as the “Nature Boy” and a generation will never know what “real” wrestling was about.

I will need a moment of silence to get over this pain I feel.

Back in the day, when Kayfabe was alive and well, Kevin Sullivan terrorized my mind at night with his cryptic messages on Championship Wrestling from Florida. The Wild Samoans scared fans in the stands at Madison Square Garden. Gary Hart and his band of Japanese heels proved to be evil. They were just a few of the “bad guys” fans hated with a passion. There was no blurred line. Heels were hated, babyfaces loved. It’s a phenomenon that is scarce in WWE or TNA or even ROH.

We can thank Vince McMahon for that and the creation of Sports Entertainment. The name on the marquee used to be “wrestling” and that is what superstars did, helping to create my childhood memories of Dusty Rhodes and Sullivan, Dory Funk, Jr. and Jack Brisco.

Blake Oestriecher of Forbes.com wrote a story recently about the deficiency of heels in WWE. He makes a valid point, addressing the issue of fan support for the bad guys while the scales are tipped toward the babyfaces on both Monday and Tuesday nights. This would never have been the case if McMahon had just let wrestlers wrestle and honored the traditions of 1970s grappling.

Those days are gone forever.

“Overall, WWE has a lot of depth on the heel side. There are quality villains on Raw in the form of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal and on SmackDown with guys like Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and The Miz,” Oestriecher writes. “It’s not the number of heels that is the issue. Rather, it’s WWE’s presentation of those heels and the creative team’s inability to establish them as bona fide superstars in that role that have really hurt the quality of WWE’s programming.”

Oestriecher hits it out of the park with that one paragraph.

Mahal is as close to a throwback heel you will find in WWE. His look, his gimmick, the venomous dialogue he spews and takes heat from the fans. It’s a perfect combination. Mahal, who has become a fringe main event star, would be successful in the 1980s NWA with Rhodes championing the cause of fighting good versus evil.

Other than the former WWE champion, who else besides Brock Lesnar, who is back hibernating with the Universal Title under his pillow, is there to fill that role? Even Lesnar, who by all accounts is a heel based on his gimmick, his look, and his mouthpiece Paul Heyman, is cheered simply because of size, power and his ability in the ring.

“Now, with Brock Lesnar, who is widely viewed to be WWE’s No. 1 heel, apparently not set to wrestle again until at least July, WWE finds itself with a gaping hole on the heel side of Raw,” Oestriecher adds. “There is not one particular thing that will make up for the loss of Lesnar, who many still consider to be WWE’s biggest draw, and doing so on Monday nights won’t help the blue brand.”

This might be a case of fans learning to deal with deficiencies in booking, that creative writers don’t see three steps in front of them and the bad guy is really the good guy and the good guy is really bad because he doesn’t have the qualities fans want in today’s business. If that is the case, then why is Roman Reigns so hated by the wrestling community?

That’s another column for another time and place.

No matter what WWE does to try and correct its problem, there will never be a viable solution. The present and future dictate the company sticks to the script of uneven booking. And until the problem is eased – not fixed – we will all wonder whatever ever happened to the “real” heels of professional wrestling?


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