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WrestleMania 21: Two Thumbs Up or Two Thumbs Down?

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WrestleMania 21 Logo

WrestleMania 21 comes to us from Los Angeles, California and was billed as ‘WrestleMania Goes Hollywood’ and is generally viewed as a changing of the guard, since three future Main Event stars would make their marks at this show: John Cena, Dave Batista, and Randy Orton.

Something that surprised me as I did some research on Wikipedia was that while the show overall was received very well, the two Heavyweight Championship matches were both perceived as ‘boring’ and ‘anti-climactic’. How could that be when three of the biggest stars in the following five years were on the card and two of them were in top title matches, not to mention the first Money in the Bank match? Does WrestleMania 21 deserve that kind of review? Let’s find out!

Opener:

Lilian Garcia starts us off with ‘America, the Beautiful’. As usual, she sounds gorgeous. We get a great video tribute of our Armed Forces.

They really went all out for this, and we get to see the awesomely bad movie…tributes the WWE superstars did. I seriously wish there was a blooper reel to these videos. Undertaker as Dirty Harry is seriously inspired.

Now we’ve got Austin as Gladiator, and his speech is better than Russell Crowe’s.

Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio

Eddie comes out in a low rider to a nice pop. Eddie and Rey were tag champs at this time, but instead of having a tag team championship, they’re going one-on-one. Rey comes out to a nice pop. Instead of his usual superhero outfit, he’s wearing an outfit inspired by the Mexican flag on one side and the American flag on the back.

Unsurprisingly, this is a fantastic match. Eddie and Rey’s styles are very similar, but it really works here. It more than makes up for not having a tag team championship match instead.

Winner: Rey Mysterio by pinfall. Eddie can’t believe that he lost.  He and Mysterio shake hands, but you can sense something is brewing.

Highlights: Rey and Eddie knowing each other so well.

Comment: Sadly, this would be Eddie Guerrero’s last WrestleMania. He would pass away, suddenly, in November 2005, at the age of 38. Descansa en paz, Eddie.

JBL and his Cabinet are walking through the Staples Center, predicting victory over John Cena, when they run into Triple H and Ric Flair. Flair and Trips make fun of JBL’s assertion that he’s a ‘Wrestling God’, which JBL doesn’t appreciate. Triple H then says that if JBL wants to see a wrestling god, all he has to look at is right here, implying Triple H, but could include Flair. JBL says all he has to do is look in the mirror and that he’s the only champion to have never lost. He then tells Trips to watch out for Dave Batista or he’ll lose for the 10th time tonight.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match – Winner gets a contract for a title shot good for the next 12 months: Chris Jericho vs Chris Benoit vs Christian (with Tomko) vs Kane vs Edge vs Shelton Benjamin

Jericho gets a good pop. Benoit gets a pretty good pop. Christian gets little reaction. Benjamin gets a good pop. Edge gets an okay pop. Kane gets a good reaction. This was a chaotic, but very fun match. The Money in the Bank Match is one of my favorite matches of the year.

Winner: Edge after knocking Benoit off the ladder with a chairshot to the shoulder. He gets a mixed reaction and takes off like a bat out of hell.

Highlights

  1. Benoit suplexing Jericho and the ladder
  2. Dueling high risk maneuvers.
  3. The crowd reaction to Christian having Tomko’s help to get to the briefcase.

Comment: This would be Jericho’s last WrestleMania for a few years. He would leave WWE in late 2005 and not return until 2008. It would also be the same for Christian, who would leave in fall 2005 and not return until 2009.

WrestleMania Moment

Eugene comes out to a great pop. Eugene is very excited to be there, and the crowd is happy to see him. Eugene tries to remember his favorite WrestleMania moments when he’s interrupted by Muhammad Hassan, and his manager, Daivari. Hassan isn’t happy about being left off the WrestleMania card and says he wants to create a moment of his own and begins to attack poor Eugene. Thankfully, Eugene is saved by the Real American Hero, Hulk Hogan. Hogan fights off Hassan and Daivari and celebrates with the crowd.

We get a video recap of the Orton/Undertaker feud. This feud marks the first time the Streak was mentioned outside of WrestleMania.

The Streak: Undertaker vs Randy Orton

For some reason, Taker’s entrance is first, which has never happened before. The Druids come out with lit torches and surround the ring. Taker comes out to a great pop and he seems to be floating. Tony Chimel calmly bails out of the ring. I have to say, I don’t like Taker coming out first at WrestleMania, it ruins the mind games. Orton comes out to boos, hardly surprising, but he doesn’t look scared.

Unsurprisingly, this was a really good match. It was a fight on Taker’s end, but these two worked really well together and told a great story.

Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. The Streak is 13-0

Highlights: Orton twisting out of Snake Eyes.

Comment: I enjoyed this match. Watching Randy Orton get beat up is always fun.

We get a video recap of the Trish/Christy feud.

WWE Women’s Championship Match: Trish Stratus vs Christy Hemme (with Lita)

Hemme and Lita are out first to a great pop. Trish, even as a heel, gets a good pop. Unsurprisingly, Trish dominates most of this match. Hemme really seemed to be in way over her head in terms of experience and skill, but Trish took care of her and really played up being the arrogant heel champion. I don’t think the audience really thought Trish would be defeated by Hemme, but it was fun to watch.

Winner: Trish Stratus by pinfall. Trish celebrates while Lita looks on in frustration.

Highlights: JR trying to keep King’s mind on the wrestling. Hemme showing a surprising amount of skill.

Comment: I enjoyed this match. I didn’t think Hemme had a prayer of winning, but this was a good match.

We get a video recap of the Shawn Michaels/Kurt Angle feud that started at the Royal Rumble when HBK eliminated Angle, who wasn’t happy about that face and attacked HBK.

Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels

HBK is out first to a great pop. Angle gets a round of boos. The crowd is firmly on HBK’s side.

This match was amazing, totally lived up to the hype. Angle and Michaels were extremely well-matched and worked well together. This match easily could’ve gone either way and, in my opinion, should’ve ended in a draw, instead of HBK tapping out, but that wasn’t to be.

Winner: Kurt Angle by submission

Highlights: Way too many to pick the top ones. Watch. This. Match.

Comment: I loved this match and would watch it again just for the heck of it. It’s also Greg DeMarco’s favorite match ever.

WrestleMania Moment

Next up is a special edition of Piper’s Pit. Piper comes out to a great pop. He’s here to interview Stone Cold Steve Austin (oh, dear). Austin comes out to a great pop. This is either going to be fantastic or a disaster.

Piper, for reasons best known to him, throws the stools out of the ring, and after welcoming Austin to Piper’s Pit, slaps him in the face. Austin is either laughing or trying to not blow a gasket. He thanks Piper for having him, calls him a ‘little sonofabitch’ and returns the slap. I guess this is how rebels and badasses greet each other in social settings.

Once the ice is broken, Piper and Austin get down to business. Piper says that he has a lot of respect for Austin because of how he dealt with Vince McMahon, except for one thing: Austin isn’t nearly the rebel Piper was. Piper says that he was pissing Vince off when the red on Austin’s neck was diaper rash. Austin insults Piper, his jacket and the kilt.

This looks ready to blow up into a brawl, when Carlito comes out. Carlito says the only thing Piper and Austin have in common is that they aren’t cool and that no one wants to see them anymore (I think the audience would disagree) and that everyone wants to see Carlito. Austin challenges him to get in the ring and Carlito obliges. Piper has no clue who Carlito is and says he looks like Alfalfa. Carlito seems to have no understanding who he’s pissing off.

Piper takes Carlito’s apple and eats it (ew) and spits it back in Carlito’s face. Carlito attacks Piper. Austin finds it amusing for about a minute before attacking Carlito and mudhole-stomping him. The two vets quickly dispatch Carlito before deciding to celebrate with a beer. However, Austin stuns Piper just for the hell of it.

Note: The audience kept chanting ‘What?’ and Piper actually fired back at them, pretending to think that they weren’t understanding him or Austin. Piper also seemed to be having trouble speaking, either because he had new dentures, or he’d been at the bar before coming out. Austin comments on this by calling him a ‘mealy mouthed sonofabitch’.

Sumo Match: Akebono vs Big Show

Chimel gives us the rules for this: To win, you must either push your opponent out of the circle or knock him off his feet. Sounds simple enough.

Akebono is out first to little reaction, though there are Japanese fans and signs in the audience. His stats are impressive: First foreign-born Grand Champion in Japanese Sumo history, 6’8” and 504lbs (Commenter: Holy crap). Akebono bows to the audience before coming to the ring.

Big Show is out next to a better reaction. Show seems to be a good sport and playfully lifts the hem of his robe to show his leg.

The robes come off and both men are in the traditional sumo gear, both enter the circle and the match starts. I don’t know enough about sumo to even begin to call this with any credibility.

Winner: Akebono pushes Big Show out of the ring and wins the match. The men hug, and Show raises Akebono’s hand in victory.

Comments: I have no idea why a sumo match was done at WrestleMania, but it was interesting to watch. Cole and Tazz both explained the rituals to the non-Japanese audience, which was nice, and everything seemed to be done in the traditional way and was very respectful, as far as I can see.

We get a recap of the JBL/Cena feud.

WWE Championship Match: John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield vs John Cena

JBL comes out in his limo, and a police escort, to a round of boos, along with his Cabinet. Cena comes out to a lukewarm pop, or it seems that way compared to the reaction at WrestleMania XX, though there seems to be a lot of pro-Cena signs in the audience. This match had good psychology, but the in-ring wasn’t the best, the styles were too similar and didn’t mesh as well as they could have for this.

This match hasn’t been well-received over the years and I sort of see why. It was a boring match that was mostly dominated by JBL. I think WWE was trying to really sell Cena as the underdog, but it just seemed to flop here. I do think part of the problem was that the audience was getting a little tired and bored after the nearly thirty-minute Michaels/Angle match, Piper’s Pit, and the sumo match. Still, this wasn’t a godawful match, just not an exciting one.

Winner: John Cena by pinfall after a FU. Cena celebrates with the crowd, beginning his first of 16 Heavyweight Championship title reigns.

Highlight: JBL going for a high-risk move and Cena catching him in a scoop slam.

Comment: This was an ‘eh’ for me. There seemed to be no real drama here and it was very formulaic.

We get a recap of the 2005 Hall of Fame. Our inductees are: ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton, Nikolai Volkoff, the Iron Sheik, Paul Orndorff, Jimmy Hart, Roddy Piper, and Hulk Hogan.

We get a video recap about the implosion of Evolution and the Batista/Triple H feud.

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H (with Ric Flair) vs Batista

Motorhead sings Triple H to the ring. Trips gets a pretty good reaction. Batista gets a great reaction. This was a pretty good match. I think Trips bladed a little too deep because the amount of blood for hitting his head against the post was a little ridiculous. Batista is still rather rough around the edges, but it works with his character and meshes well with Triple H’s more polished style.

 Winner: Batista by pinfall.

Highlights: Flair being the Dirtiest Player in the Game.

Comment: I really liked this match. It told a really great story and we got a great moment.

Overall Comments:

So, does WrestleMania 21 deserve the reputation as a great show with lackluster main events? Not totally and the one that was lackluster was not totally the part of the participants. The WWE Championship match was lackluster due partly to coming after a barn burner of a match, and several segments that really seemed to wear the crowd out, so by the time JBL and Cena got ready for their match, the audience was tired and/or bored. That said, the match was lacking in excitement and the in-ring was ‘eh’. Cena’s comeback from certain defeat seems too formulaic.

The World Heavyweight Championship match was amazing. The styles, story, and psychology all worked together wonderfully and gave us a great moment.

Snoozers: WWE Championship match.

Match of the Night: Tough call, but I’m going to give it to Angle/Michaels. That match was amazing.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I liked this show. I can’t say I’d just sit down and watch it again just for fun, but it wasn’t awful.


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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999

Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!

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Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?

ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!

What I Watched #16

ECW Guilty as Charged 1999

1/10/1999

Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL

Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)

Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
  • Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
  • Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
  • Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
  • Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
  • Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
  • Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think  that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)

Super Crazy vs. Tajiri

Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)

John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent

So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)

Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley

Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…

The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)

TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm

Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.

The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)

Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer

The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of. 

As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)

Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz

So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent. 

The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)

 

THE FINAL REACTION

  • Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
  • Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
  • Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
  • MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.

 

THE SIGNOFF

It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.

So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.


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What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018

Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!

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ALL IN

Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.

I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.

What I Watched #10-B

ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018

9/1/2018

Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL

Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)

Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)

THE RESULTS

  • Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
  • Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
  • Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
  • Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
  • Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
  • Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
  • Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
  • Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
  • Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
  • Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
  • Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)

*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)

Over the Budget Battle Royal

*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)

Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross

*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)

Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)

*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)

Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard

*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)

NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)

*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)

‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela

*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)

ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon

*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)

Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.

*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)

Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll

*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)

Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio

*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)

THE FINAL REACTION

There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.

Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.

Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.

Overall Show Score: 8.5/10

MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.

THE SIGNOFF

And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.


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