This is the much-anticipated sequel to WrestleMania and like many sequels to huge successes, it tried to not only live up to its predecessor but surpass it. Living up to the 80s motto that excess was good, WrestleMania II emanated from not one, but three different cities: Long Island, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Each city with its own slate of matches and its own main event, culminating in an epic cage match for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship between the Champion, Hulk Hogan and the enormous King Kong Bundy.
Part 1: Long Island
We start with Vince McMahon in the ring, welcoming us to WrestleMania. We are introduced to Vince’s co-host, Susan St. James (a soap opera actress). Next up, singing America the Beautiful, the incomparable Ray Charles. We’re having a little trouble with the mic and Ray starts the song on the second or third verse along with a picture montage of America and Americans, culminating in two pictures of Hulk Hogan.
Comments: This was a great opener, even the tribute to America was great, until they shoehorned Hogan into it, making the statement that he’s the ultimate symbol of America, instead of the flag or the bald eagle.
We cut to Mean Gene in Chicago who hypes the big Battle Royale that will be in the Chicago portion of the show. He then sends us to Roddy Piper, psyching up for his big boxing match in Long Island.
Piper is with his trainer Lou Duva and Bob Orton. Orton is massaging Piper’s shoulders. Duva’s got the mic and says Piper is the best prospect he’s seen, and that Piper’s in great shape and will end the fight with one Knockout punch.
Piper says he’s cute and he’s grown his hair long so we can tell the difference between himself and Mr. T. Piper then says people might be confused because he(Piper) has the best trainer in the world whereas Mr. T ‘only’ has Smokin’ Joe Frazier
Piper then brags about the training Duva’s given him. He blabbers on a bit more and then throws this interesting stipulation: If Mr. T can knock him out, he (Piper) will not only retire from Boxing (didn’t know he was a pro-boxer) but he will also retire from Professional Wrestling and stop dating girls. Piper then goes on to say that he’s willing to put his cute face out there because Coach (Duva) has taught him how to dodge punches.
He then calls out T for being a smart aleck and coming out in a kilt and then says that T can say what he wants but he, Piper, would never shave his head like an Indian and paint himself black. Thankfully, that’s the end of the promo.
Comments: This promo was so problematic, even by 80s standards, I’m not sure where to start. Piper’s not too subtle racism was hard to stomach, even knowing it was a work (I hope). The cracks about Smokin’ Joe had me rolling my eyes. I do like Piper’s comment about retiring if Mr. T could knock him out, but otherwise, this was not a great promo.
We cut to the ring where Finkel introduces the ‘distinguished’ manager, Mr. Fuji to a loud round of boos, which get louder for Muraco. Orndorff is introduced to a loud pop that gets louder when he takes his robe off.
Match 1: The Magnificent Muraco (with Mr. Fuji) vs Paul Orndorff
For whatever reason, they decide to air the recorded comments of Muraco and Orndorff as the match starts. Muraco says that Orndorff was the embarrassment of WrestleMania and he’s going to be the embarrassment of WrestleMania 2 because Muraco has Mr. Fuji in his corner.
Orndorff says he’s been in the gym more than ever and that Muraco is going to be his.
The match starts out slowly with both guys feeling each other out. There’s a good trade of moves, Orndorff shoots Muraco into the ropes, Muraco bodyslams him, Orndorff kicks Muraco, gets up and slams Muraco. Muraco then gets Orndorff into the corner. There’s a flurry of moves and Orndorff getting Muraco on the mat into an armbar. Muraco gets up and tries to break the hold and Orndorff manages to get him back into the armbar. Orndorff maintains control of the momentum, not letting go of Muraco’s arm.
Muraco turns the tide by getting Orndorff on his shoulders into what looks like a slow Samoan Drop. Things quickly turn into a fist fight with both men going over the ropes to the floor. Ref calls for the bell without a visible ten count.
Orndorff gets back into the ring with chair and the crowd is chanting ‘Bullshit’ at the ref.
The Winner: Both men are disqualified
Comments: This was a very good opener. Both men looked great and showed off impressive moves for such large guys. The ref’s double DQ didn’t make a lot of sense since neither man was outside for more than five seconds, but that might be due to different rules back then.
We go to Mr. T, who is with Smokin’ Joe and Haiti Kid, who are getting him ready for the fight. T says he doesn’t like to do a lot of talking before a match, he’s going to let his fists do the talking. He warns Piper that if Piper wants to fight dirty, he’ll fight dirty too. Then the promo gets hard to understand due to Finkel giving the ref’s decision.
Comments: I don’t have a whole lot to say about this promo, but I do wish Mr. T had been given a mouthpiece that could do the talking for him, but I guess since Captain Lou was going to be in Chicago, that wasn’t possible.
Match 2: Intercontinental Championship Match – ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (with Miss Elizabeth) vs George ‘The Animal’ Steel
We start with George Steel already in the ring. Elizabeth gets a nice pop without being out there. Elizabeth and Savage have a full security detail, but especially Elizabeth.
We cut to a pre-recorded promo by Savage. Savage says that after tonight, Steel is going to know that he’s in the ring with the best in the world, the Macho Man.
The match starts out with Steel chasing Savage out of the ring and Savage playing up the cowardly heel. After a few more rounds of this, Steel finally gets a hold of Savage and bites him on the calf. We finally get a lock up with Steel lifting Savage up and throwing him down. Steel punches Savage before being distracted by Elizabeth, giving Savage a chance to regroup, tangling Steel into the ropes and kicking him several times before letting him go and going to the top turnbuckle. We get a sloppy crossbody that Savage tries to turn into a pin but Steel powers out and sends Savage to the floor.
Elizabeth goes to help Savage and Savage climbs back in to the fists of Steel before being sent back outside. Steel looks for Savage, but Savage sneaks up behind him and hits him with a knee. Steel responds by biting Savage’s arm. Steel and Savage trade blows before Savage goes back outside, returning with the flowers Steel meant for Elizabeth and smacking Steel with them, Steel responds in kind before sending Savage to the turnbuckle.
Steel then starts chewing through the turnbuckle cover, Savage comes up behind him but Steel blinds him with turnbuckle fluff. After a few goes of this, Savage goes back outside, followed by Steel.
Steel chases Savage around the ring before being distracted by Elizabeth, giving Savage time to get inside the ring and doing a double ax handle from the top turnbuckle before throwing Steel back into the ring.
Savage goes to the top rope and hits his signature flying elbow drop for the pin, but to the shock of everyone, Steel kicks out. Steel then gets a hold of Savage’s nose and throws him into the corner. Steel gets distracted by the ref long enough for Savage to hit a double leg takedown and the pin, using the ropes for leverage.
Savage leaves to a quieter round of ‘Bullshit’ chants from the crowd. Steel is very upset and take it out on another turnbuckle and then tries to beat up the ref, who beats a hasty retreat.
The Winner: Randy Savage retains via pinfall, though how the ref missed his feet on the ropes is beyond me.
Comments: This was a weird but very good match. Steel was able to put on a good match with Savage while not totally breaking character. Savage was the classic cowardly heel who cheated to win, but still looked great doing it.
We are thrown to Chicago where Mean Gene is interviewing Bill Fralic and Big John Studd for the Battle Royale.
Fralic says that the talk’s over and begins to bad mouth Studd, calling him ‘The Dud’ (not a smart move, Bill). Studd gets mad and shoves are exchanged. Mean Gene tries to maintain order. Studd says Fralic has no class because he’s a football player. Studd says that he’s going to get his hands on Perry and calls Fralic a punk. He then warns Fralic that he’s not playing with a ball, and then proceeds to try and smash a football while Fralic doesn’t look impressed.
Fralic says they’ll find out in the match and continues to call Studd ‘Dud’.
We go back to Vince and Susan in Long island, who comment on the mayhem promised by the promo. Vince then asks Susan if she likes snakes. Susan says no, but that she hopes they won’t see the snake tonight. Vince won’t promise her that.
Match 3: Jake Roberts vs George Wells
George Wells is introduced to a mild pop, as does Roberts. Of course, Roberts has his slithery friend with him.
Wells gets the jump on Roberts and has the momentum at the start. Roberts whiffs a punch before sending Wells outside. Wells responds in kind and maintains momentum with punches and headbutts. We see a surprising head scissor takedown by Wells.
Roberts seems to be playing possum before raking the eyes of Wells to play for time before sliding outside, making Wells go after him before getting back into the ring and hitting a knee lift on Wells. Jake hits the DDT and it is all over.
Jake then goes for the bag and lets his buddy out, wrapping the snake around Wells. The snake constricts Wells and Wells is either vomiting or foaming because of the constrictions.
The Winner: Jake Roberts via pinfall with the DDT.
Comments: I’m not sure what was going on with this match. This seems so random now. It’s hard to tell who was supposed to get over in this. The whole snake thing really freaked me out, I can’t imagine how they sold that to Wells because it was god awful.
Vince and Susan send us a video package of the feud between Piper and Mr. T, which basically just a clip of their confrontation in Phoenix.
After that we thrown to LA with Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura interviewing Hulk Hogan.
Ventura looks like he went through some burlesque dancer’s trunk. He talks to Hogan about his injured ribs and says he can’t believe Hogan agreed to a Cage match with Bundy with injured ribs.
Hogan seems to be in a bad mood and tells Ventura that he doesn’t care what Ventura believes because he’s getting paid to ask questions. Hogan then says that he’s going to defend his title, hurt ribs or not because that’s what he believes in and that’s what his little Hulksters believe in and that Bundy’s going down. He then gives the boxing match a plug, saying that he thinks T will come out on top because he’s fighting for what he believes in, while Piper, like a lot of people (said while pointing to Ventura) take a lot of shortcuts.
Ventura’s mad now and only says that good guys don’t always finish first.
Comments: Hogan came across very poorly in this interview. He seemed to be in a bad mood and picked an argument with Ventura when Ventura was being tolerable for once.
Match 4: Boxing Match – Mr. T (with Haiti Kid and Joe Fraiser) vs Rowdy Roddy Piper (with Bob Orton and Lou Duva)
Finkel introduces the guest ring announcer: Joan Rivers. Joan actually looks normal. Joan introduces the judges: ‘Chocolate Thunder’ Darrel Dawkins of the NBA, Cab Calloway, and G. Gordon Liddy. Our guest timekeeper is Herb, whoever that is.
We’re told that this match is 10 rounds of boxing. Guest ref: Jack Lutz. Piper comes out with his crew to loud boos. Mr. T comes out next with Smokin’ Joe, and Haiti kid, along with others.
I don’t know enough about boxing to give a decent recap. There was plenty of trash talk by Piper during the instructions.
The Winner: Mr. T by Disqualification due to Piper bodyslamming him in the fourth round.
Comments: This was not a great match on either side. T missed the punch that was supposed to send Piper out to the floor. To the best of my understanding, Piper only had a few months of training for this fight, and it showed. The celeb judges were baffling to me. I have no idea why any of these people were asked to judge a boxing match.
Part 2: Chicago
We’re thrown to Chicago and Gorilla Monsoon and Mean Gene. The Battle Royale is heavily hyped. Our guest commentator, Cathy Lee Crosby.
Match 5: Women’s Championship Match – The Fabulous Moolah vs Velvet McIntyre
There isn’t a lot to say about this match, it lasted less than two minutes. Moolah dominated from the start, but this was not a great effort from either woman.
The Winner: The Fabulous Moolah via pinfall after rolling out of the way from McIntyre’s splash from the top turnbuckle.
Comments: As a huge fan of women’s wrestling, this match was a horrible disappointment. The match just seemed to be a space filler.
We’re told that there’s going to be two referees for the tag title match. Okerlund asks Crosby who she’s got picked for the Battle Royale, NFL or WWF and Crosby admits that she did have the NFL picked but after meeting the wrestlers, she’s changing her pick.
Match 6: Flag Match – Corporal Kirchner vs Nikolai Volkoff (with Freddie Blassie)
This is the ‘USA vs USSR’ portion of the show. Volkoff starts the Soviet National Anthem but is interrupted by Kirchner coming out to what sounds like ‘The Caisson Song’. Kirchner is clad in Army fatigues and gets a good pop and a chorus of ‘USA’ chants.
Volkoff dominates from the start, but Kirchner gets the upper hand before stealing Blassie’s cane and KOing Volkoff with it after the ref had been pushed down.
The Winner: Kirchner via pinfall
Comments: As always, I admire Volkoff’s guts in singing the Soviet National Anthem in incredibly hostile crowds. Kind of strange that WWF would book the American to win in a shady way.
Match 7: Battle Royale – NFL Players vs WWF Superstars
Okerlund gives us the rules for the Battle Royale: Over the top rope and onto the floor for elimination and introduces us to the guest officials for this match.
- Guest Timekeeper: Clare Peller (If you remember Wendy’s ‘Where’s the Beef’ campaign, she was the lady who asked where the beef was).
- Guest Referees: Dick Butkus, Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones.
- Guest Commentator: ‘The Big Cat’ Ernie Ladd
Due to the chaos of the Battle Royale, I won’t try to keep up.
The Winner: Andre the Giant by eliminating Bret Hart.
Comments: There was a good mix of 80s wrestling and 80s football. The NFL guys did pretty good, but I think there should’ve been a more even matchup of NFL to WWF.
We’re thrown back to Vince and Susan, and they’ve been joined by a very sweaty Piper (or he’s just taken a shower). Vince confronts Piper about his conduct. Piper says that if he’d wanted a picnic, he would’ve packed a lunch. He then claims that he came to fight, but Mr. T cheated by rubbing his hair in Piper’s eye. Piper repeats his vow of retiring if T knocked him out and berates T for having Frazier come out in a kilt. Vince asks Susan for a comment and Susan says what Piper is claiming is a load of ‘blarney’. We cut to the end of the match. Piper says that dropping T on his head didn’t do much damage, that was why Duva had him go for the body. This promo becomes increasingly borderline racist, even for 1986, so we’re sent back to Chicago.
Comments: This promo was even worse than the first one, if that was possible. Piper is making the usual heel excuses for his behavior, but it comes across very badly and makes Piper look terrible.
Okerlund is interviewing a very sour looking Jimbo Covert. Covert says he got cheated because he came to Refrigerator Perry’s aid and threw out King Tonga (Haku/Meng), and it sounds like he’s accusing Refrigerator of eliminating him and that he got cheated. Guess Mean Gene should’ve emphasized ‘Every Man for himself’.
Okerlund calls Iron Sheik over and asks him about wrestling the football players. Iron Sheik cuts an incomprehensible promo and then poses.
Monsoon and Crosby discuss the Battle Royale and Monsoon hopes the NFL guys got a real education about Professional Wrestling.
Match 8: Tag Team Title Match – The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine with Johhny Valiant) vs The British Bulldogs (with Lou Albano and Ozzy Osborne)
The Tag Team Champions are already in the ring with Johnny Valiant. Bulldogs are out next and they are accompanied by Captain Lou and Ozzie Osborne (Yeah, THAT Ozzie Osborne, pre-The Osbornes). Monsoon is a little perplexed about why Osborne is there. We are reminded again that there will be two referees to keep everything kosher and make sure BOTH managers stay out of it.
We start with Davey Boy and Valentine. This match quickly turns into a slug fest and then we get back to wrestling. Davey Boy and Valentine match move for move before Dynamite Kid is tagged in and takes it to Valentine. It doesn’t look like Dynamite kid is pulling those kicks, and Davey Boy is tagged in. After blocking and counter-blocking bodyslam attempts, Davey Boy hits a vertical suplex on Valentine and Valentine rolls outside. For whatever reason, Valentine doesn’t tag in Beefcake but gets the jump on Davey Boy before finally tagging in Beefcake.
Beefcake looks to have the advantage before being overpowered by Davey Boy and press-slammed before tagging in Dynamite. Dynamite and Davey Boy are trying to end this quickly and seem to view Beefcake as the weak link of the Dream Team, but Beefcake tags in Valentine, who hits a single ax handle on Davey Boy. Davey gets Dynamite in and he takes it to Valentine. Beefcakes comes in but the ref throws him out. Dynamite tries to hit the Sunset Flip and then a backbreaker, but the pin is broken up by Beefcake.
Valentine hits the piledriver for a two-count on Dynamite. Dynamite accidentally got a low blow on Valentine, who tries to rally by going to the top turnbuckle but gets caught and slammed. The match quickly breaks down and both teams go outside. The Bulldogs grab Valentine and toss him back into the ring, but Valentine gets the advantage but makes the mistake of doing it in the Bulldogs’ corner and Davey Boy tags in and powerslams Valentine.
Valentine starts stomping the mudhole and tags in Beefcake, who hits the double ax handle and then does a kind of powerbomb on Davey Boy. Dream Team start really working over Davey Boy. Valentine hits the shoulder breaker and goes for the pin but pulls Davey up. That turns out to be a mistake, because Davey sends him into the Bulldogs’ corner where he knocks heads with Dynamite Kid and gets Davey the three-count before Beefcake can make the save.
Captain Lou and Ozzie are holding up the belts and smiling. Crosby gets in the ring too to celebrate, along with Okerlund. Dynamite Kid is still seeing stars, so while we wait for them, Okerlund interview Captain Lou who has now managed his sixteenth Tag Title win. Captain Lou said he knew this would happen and then things get hard to understand.
The Winner: The British Bulldogs via pinfall
Okerlund interviews Ozzie who simply says ‘British Bulldogs Forever!’.
Bulldogs are still outside the ring, Dynamite doesn’t look like he knows what day it is, so we’re hearing from Cathy Lee Crosby. She asks Ozzie if he’ll come back to be in the Bulldogs’ corner, which Ozzie says he will.
Okerlund sees to the Bulldogs, Davey Boy gets in the ring, Okerlund asks Crosby if she’s ever seen anything like this before, and she says she hasn’t. Davey Boy says that they told the US fans that if they won the Tag Titles, they would stay in the US and that’s what they’re going to do. They’ve given up on getting anything out of Dynamite, so we’re going back to Monsoon.
Comments: Monsoon and Okerlund got shut down by Crosby briefly. They assumed that Crosby never watched wrestling before and wouldn’t know who Johnny Valentine was, only to be told by Crosby that while she’s never been to a live wrestling show, she grew up watching wrestling because her grandfather loved it. (Commenter: Tell ‘em, Cathy!)
This was the best match of the night so far. Both teams looked tremendous. Valentine and Beefcake were a great team and the match easily could’ve gone either way.
We’re thrown back to Vince and Susan. Susan is excited by the Tag Team match and says Hogan is definitely winning. They discuss the match with Vince saying that Bundy could go through the cage, but Hogan could prevail by going over the top of the cage and onto the floor.
Part 3: Los Angeles
We are greeted by Ventura, who is being joined on commentary by Lord Alfred Hayes and Elvira. We get a preview of the card. Not sure if the pop is for Steamboat’s unseen arrival or Elvira’s boobs.
Match 9: Ricky Steamboat vs Hercules Hernandez
Hernandez and Steamboat are already in the ring. Steamboat looks more like his normal size. Hernandez looks amazing.
Hernandez hits Steamboat with a high knee during introductions and we’re off. Hernandez is extremely dominant at the start, but Steamboat quickly recovers and turns the tables. It is now all Steamboat, though Hernandez tried to reassert himself.
Hernandez tries again to reassert himself, with a little more success with some punches to the face, but Steamboat again manages to regain control.
Hernandez tries for the third time to regain control and succeeds by ramming Steamboat’s head into the turnbuckle and then kicks him while he’s on the mat. We then get an Irish whip and Hernandez catches Steamboat in a brief, elevated bear hug before slamming him back to the mat and kicking him.
Hernandez makes a mistake by backing off of Steamboat, who tries, with a little success to regain his momentum, but Hernandez nips that and gets into a pinfall situation, which Steamboat quickly kicks out of.
Hernandez flat out punches Steamboat and Steamboat looks like he’s on Rubber Leg Street. Hernandez rams Steamboat’s head into the turnbuckle then whips him into the ropes before hitting him with a back elbow, then a couple of elbow drops and a pose before going for the pin, which Steamboat again kicks out of.
Steamboat’s had enough and start laying out the backhand chops, but Hernandez quickly regains control and goes for successive pin attempts. Hernandez lifts Steamboat into a gorilla press and slams him, then does it again because it’s fun, I guess. Then he goes to the top turnbuckle for a splash but Steamboat gets his knees up and then it’s Steamboat’s turn to go to the top rope and shows Hernandez how it’s done. Steamboat hits the flying crossbody into a successful pinfall
The Winner: Ricky Steamboat by pinfall after hitting a flying crossbody.
Hernandez is furious and protests to the ref, who just shrugs at him.
Comments: This was an excellent start for the LA portion of the show. Steamboat and Hernandez looked great and put on a great match. Also, if you’re keeping score, Steamboat is 2-0 at WrestleMania.
Match 10: Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) vs Uncle Elmer
We go directly into the next match with bad Gorgeous George knock off, Adrian Adonis, who looks like a Monty Python ‘squawking housewife’ reject, along with Jimmy Hart. Both are greeted with loud boos.
Uncle Elmer (aka Plowboy Frazier) comes out with generic ‘Backwoods Music’ to a nice pop.
Uncle Elmer dominates from the start, sending Adonis outside twice. Adonis gets back on the apron and Elmer tries to rip the ugly dress off of him, but Adonis uses that to gain the advantage and, thankfully, gets out of the dress.
ow it seems we’re getting down to business, sort of. Elmer misses a leg drop, Adonis goes to the top rope for a flying fist drop and it’s all over.
The Winner: Adrian Adonis via pinfall after a flying fist drop.
As Adonis and Hart celebrate, Elmer gets up, only to be attacked by Adonis before Adonis and Hart leave.
Comments: This seems to be a palate cleanser match, or I hope it was because it is a mystery to me why this is on a WrestleMania card. I have to say, though, I admire Adonis for being man enough go out there to wrestle in an ugly dress and bad makeup. I’m guessing he did the makeup himself.
We’re thrown to Lord Alfred, who is with Hogan, who seems to be in a slightly better mood than earlier. Lord Alfred again mentions the injured ribs and hints that Bundy might have a psychological edge on the Hulkster. Hogan tells ‘Awful Alfred’ that there’s a lot of rumors going around the Hulkster being busted up and laid up, but so what. The World Heavyweight Title is on the line and living in Hulkamania is one day at a time, and because of all the new followers, Hulkamania will live forever. Hogan says that even if he only had one good arm, he’d still get in the cage and defend the World Title like a man.
Hogan admits to thinking about his trip in the ambulance after Bundy hurt his ribs and how angry he was about it. And all the anger and aggressiveness he’s feeling and with so many people watching, he feels sorry for King Kong Bundy. He’s going to take away Bundy’s pride and put it back in the World Title. He also asks Heenan to stick his nose in. I don’t think he’ll have to ask twice.
Alfred ends the interview by wishing Hogan luck.
Comments: Hogan came across a lot better in this promo, but there’s still something off about his demeanor. I guess they were trying to play up that he’s angry about what Bundy did to him, but it’s not coming across very well.
Match 11: Hoss Funk(Dory Funk, Jr) and Terry Funk (with Jimmy Hart) vs Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana
We’re thrown back to the ring and the Funks are already starting trouble and shoving the hapless ring announcer. The crowd doesn’t really seem to be feeling the Funks, they’re greeted with a round of boos.
Junkyard Dog and Santana come out to a nice pop and chase the Funks out of the ring, which makes Terry so mad, he starts throwing chairs into the ring.
After that, this match gets crazy very quickly, as you would expect when Terry Funk is involved.
The Winner: The Funks via pinfall after Terry knocks out Junkyard Dog with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone.
Comments: If this match was meant to showcase the Funks’ talent as set them up as a heel tag team, it didn’t really work. Terry’s ring work was incredibly sloppy and silly looking with a few good spots that reminded you that he’s a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Dory distinguished himself by being better technically than Terry, but not enough to save this match. Neither team looked good in this mess, which is a shame because it sounded like a good match on paper.
Now it is cage match time and they’re bringing the cage in by hand instead of lowering it down.
We go to Mean Gene, with Hogan lifting weights, bad ribs and all and we’re getting a recap clip of Bundy attacking Hogan.
Going back to Mean Gene, he asks Hogan’s ‘doctor’ about Hogan’s ribs and the doctor says he’s advised Hogan to not do WrestleMania and that he could have a possible herniated disc in his back, and that it could result in permanent injury and surgery for the Hulkster.
Mean Gene gives Hogan his third interview of the night and asks Hogan about this news. Hogan replies that he doesn’t get to call in tired from being WWF World Heavyweight Champion just because he’s sick. Hogan seems to be in a lot pain, to the horror of Mean Gene. Hogan again states that he’s going to defend his title so he won’t disappoint his Hulkamaniacs. He starts doing ‘heavy chins’, chin ups with a 100lb dumbbell hanging around his neck. Mean Gene gets Hogan to stop the heavy chins. Hogan again says that in the steel cage, Bundy is his.
Comments: I have no idea why they felt the need to do three interviews with Hogan that basically repeated the same thing. They could’ve just done Mean Gene interview and maybe put in a couple of more matches.
We cut to Ventura, who is with Heenan and Bundy. Ventura says to Heenan that this has to be the biggest day of his life. Heenan agrees because in a very short time, he’s going to be packing the gold because King Kong Bundy will beat Hulk Hogan.
Ventura turns to Bundy and says he’s worried because Bundy’s beautiful face will be on the line in a cage match. Bundy says that Ventura’s worries are unfounded because historical fact proves that anytime King Kong Bundy and Hulk Hogan are in the same ring, Hogan comes out on the losing end. He also says to get the ambulances fired up because Hogan is going back to the hospital and King Kong Bundy is going to be WWF World Heavyweight Champion, like it or not.
We go back to Heenan who says the doctors in LA will have quite a job putting Hogan back together after Bundy’s through with him and instead of Hulkamania, we’re going to have Bundymania.
Ventura says he thinks Bundy is ready and Hogan’s going to have the fight of his life and Bundy vows to turn LA on its ear when he wins the title.
Comments: This promo was very good. Bundy played the arrogant, over-confident heel to perfection. Heenan was in his element, as was Ventura. They came across much better in this one interview than Hogan did in two of the three he did.
Elvira comes on to send us to New York so we can hear Vince and Susan discuss the main event. Susan doesn’t like the sound of ‘Bundymania’.
Match 12: Steel Cage Match For the WWF World Heavyweight Championship – Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy (with Bobby Heenan)
King Kong Bundy comes out to a HUGE round of boos. All three of our guest officials seem intimidated by Bundy. The pop for Hogan starts the minute Lasorda says ‘And his opponent’.
The pop for Hogan is so loud, you can barely hear ‘Real American’. Hogan gives the cage a good shake before he climbs to the top to rip off his shirt. Hogan’s got that wild look in his eyes and tosses the belt into the center of the ring. Non-combatants clear the ring, and take the belt, and we are off!
This match starts as a slugfest with Hogan taking control early on, knocking Bundy into the cage and landing a big boot. Bundy tries, half-heartedly to escape, but Hogan stops him and keep whaling on him; problem is that Bundy isn’t going down.
Hogan tries to ram Bundy’s head into the cage one time too many and Bundy counters and tries to ram Hogan’s head into the cage, Hogan counters, so Bundy takes a shot at the injured ribs and gains control of the match.
Bundy is focusing on Hogan’s ribs and back. Bundy makes a more determined effort to escape through the door, but Hogan stops him and gets rammed into the cage and body slammed for his trouble. Bundy goes for the cage door again, and Heenan is trying to help him get out.
Bundy decides to stop Hogan by unwrapping the injured ribs and using the bandage to choke Hogan, much to Heenan’s approval. Again, Bundy tries to escape but Hogan stops him…again.
Hogan RAMS Bundy’s head into the cage and finally knocks the Walking Condominium off his feet. Heenan gets on Bundy immediately, trying to get him back his feet.
Hogan tries to decide whether he wants to try and escape or keep beating up Bundy. He decides to beat up Bundy and draws some blood. Bundy manages to get to his feet, gets punched some more, his back raked, and rammed into the cage some more for his trouble.
Hogan gets on the ropes and chokes Bundy with the ropes before punching Bundy some more. In fact, he punches him so much, he hurts his hand.
Unfortunately, Hogan gets ahead of himself. He tries to slam Bundy but, in an eerie precursor to next year’s WrestleMania, can’t lift the big man and gets squashed instead.
Bundy’s more vertical than Hogan, but it’s hard to tell who’s really in control here since both men are gasping for air.
Both men are trying to get to their feet. Bundy tries one more for the door, but Hogan grabs the bandage and begins to choke Bundy. Bundy gets loose, shoots Hogan to the corner, hits the Avalanche and the Big Splash, but it means nothing here.
Heenan’s getting desperate and tries to pull Bundy out of the cage by the straps on his singlet, but again, Hogan stops him. Bundy shoots into the corner, hits another Avalanche, but now Hogan’s getting his second wind and starts Hulking up.
He no-sells everything Bundy gives him and manages to body slam and Leg Drop the big man. Now Hogan starts getting out of the cage, but Bundy’s up and after him. They’re fighting in on the ropes and Hogan’s half out. Bundy heads for the door, but Hogan drops to the floor, retaining his WWF Championship, and the crowd goes wild.
Now that Hogan’s dealt with Bundy, he wants to…talk to Mr. Heenan. We watch Hogan chase Heenan around the ring before Heenan bolts into the cage and shuts the door. Hogan grabs the door and, because Heenan is clutching the door for dear life, gets pulled into the turnbuckle. Hogan gets into the cage while Heenan tries to escape. Hogan beats up on Heenan a little before giving him an atomic drop that sends him outside to King Kong Bundy. Lasorda makes the official announcement and everyone not named Ventura, Bundy, and Heenan are happy.
The Winner: Hulk Hogan retains by escaping the cage.
Comments: This match was surprisingly good considering that neither man is known for their technical skill. The story about Hogan’s injured ribs was played to the hilt, and made Bundy look like a monster. Hogan’s win protected Bundy by making it more about luck than skill.
This wasn’t a great sequel to WrestleMania. It was way too full and seemed to be trying to do too much. The Piper vs Mr. T boxing match was awful. The one major highlight was the Tag Team Match, which was easily Match of the Night, though the Savage/Steel match is a close second. The Battle Royale was pretty decent and had the right ending of a WWF guy winning.
Hogan/Bundy was a pretty good effort from both men, great work playing up Hogan’s ribs and back. We got lots of back and forth and we also got to see Hogan gets some retribution on Heenan.
The celebrities were very hit and miss. Other than Ernie Ladd, who’d actually worked in Professional Wrestling, the celebrity commentators weren’t very good. Susan St. James and Cathy Lee Crosby both made great efforts, but neither of them really had much knowledge outside of what they’d seen on TV; Elvira just seemed to be there for her cleavage.
I’m still perplexed by the reason behind having Ozzie Osborne with the British Bulldogs. I get that they’re all from Manchester, but Ozzie did nothing but stand there. He could’ve supported the Bulldogs from the audience.
Overall, this was an okay sequel to WrestleMania. It didn’t surpass the first one, but it did a good job building on the legacy of the first one. I think Vince learned something from this because he’s never done the three-city show again.
Chairshot Classics: PROGRESS Chapter 5 – ‘For Those About to Fight’
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Greetings and salutations, everyone. Welcome back to the return of ’What I Watched’ now under the Chairshot Classics banner. The first four chapters of PROGRESS as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for What I Watched, obviously we’ll be continuing to cover PROGRESS. Eventually, I’ll get to a somewhat modern show. For other companies, once I hit 2005 on my watching of CHIKARA, I hope to start cover those here as well (the pre 2005 shows don’t have commentary and are (for me anyway) much harder to get through).
That brings us to why we’re here today. PROGRESS has just crowned a new champion at Chapter 4 in El Ligero, who tapped Nathan Cruz in the main event. Rather then do the immediate rematch, PROGRESS’ brass decided that instead they would do a bit of a ‘pick your poison’ situation as Ligero picks Cruz’s opponent and Cruz picks Ligero’s. There was another match revealed before the show as well, but I’ll save the mention of that for a bit later. In addition, the ‘Natural PROGRESS’ tournament continues, but we don’t know the participants for this Chapter. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what to expect for this show, so it’s looks like we’ll find out together. With that said, it’s into the way back machine once again, as we head to January 27th, 2013 as “What I Watched” presents ‘For Those About to Fight’ or PROGRESS Chapter 5.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show. Going forward, I’ll have an archive to all of my previous reviews here on the Chairshot if you click on my user name.
MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating.
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 5
‘For Those About to Fight…We Salute You’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: January 27th, 2013
Run Time: 1:55:53 (Demand PROGRESS)
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton for some of the research that I did while working on this review. (http://www.backbodydrop.com)
*OPENING VIDEO: The first match that the opening video reveals is the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) taking on the Leaders of the New School (Zach Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll). That should be a lot of fun…RJ Singh has an open challenge as well…finally, we get highlights of the title match from Chapter 4 to show how El Ligero won the title and then it’s revealed that Nathan Cruz has picked Dave Mastiff to face El Ligero, while El Ligero has selected the debuting Rampage Brown as the opponent for Nathan Cruz.
*GENERAL NOTES: We return to the scene of the first three shows but with what appears to be a different setup. You can’t see any monitors in the frame, but the lighting is absolutely awful. Will not make a fun review if I can’t see stuff that happens…EDIT AT MATCH 3: the lighting gets a bit better as the show goes on, but still not what I’d call great.
*Once again, either Smallman doesn’t have an opening welcome promo or we skip it on the show. Shame, really. As I said time and time again, I really enjoy those in the future Chapters.
*Match #1: Stixx (1-2 as a singles competitor) vs. Danny Garnell (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: Stixx is coming off a loss in the triple threat at Chapter 4, where he was pinned by Dave Mastiff. He had split a pair of matches against Lion Kid before that. Danny Garnell was not at Chapter 4. His most recent match was a loss in a tag match at Chapter 3 where he and Darrell Allen were defeated by the London Riots. In his only previous singles match, Garnell defeated Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 2.
The Why: I haven’t a damn clue here. Makes zero sense to me. If Jimmy *cough cough* Barnett mentions something on commentary, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The Match: Before the match gets underway, Stixx lets everyone know that he, like Garnell, is originally from London but he moved away because London ‘is full of a bunch of pillocks’. Somewhere, William Regal smiles…opening bell goes here and gets a rousing ovation…Stixx impressed me in his last match against Lion Kid, but the first one was less then appealing. Garnell had a surprisingly good match with Havoc at Chapter 2…first topical reference from 2013 gets explained by Barnett and given the PROGRESS fan base, it’s no surprise that it makes light of a death. Highs and lows of these crowds…the ‘crowd counts the next number’ has run it’s course now but was still pretty fresh when this show happened…not the opening match you’d come to expect but technically proficient thus far…heavier shots finally start getting fired around the five minute mark. This is more what you’d expect from these two…first crowd expletive based chant at six and half minutes into match one. I would have had the under there…cravat with knee strikes and that’s more what I expect from this match then the opening five minutes where they basically stayed on the mat. Not saying they can’t do it, but not what you expect or want to see with two guys this size. You expect more ‘Hoss Fight’ here…Garnell busts out a nice looking Northern Lights for two…slingshot neck snap by Stixx. That was new and very nice looking. Also not what you’d expected from a guy who’s probably closer to two fifty then two hundred…I’ve never seen a crowd response so favorably towards exploder suplexes. It doesn’t happen but the crowd was ready to, pardon the pun, explode for it…Stixx gets two with a Black Hole Slam. Which I think was the move that did pin Lion Kid at Chapter 3…I don’t mean this is a terribly negative way, but this match has been pretty long for an opener…Garnell goes for a tornado DDT off the second buckle, but Stixx is able to counter. A series of reversals leads to Garnell attempting that same tornado DDT a second time and this time hitting it, which gives him the pinfall at 14:52…technically proficient, sure. But not especially enthralling. The match had it’s moments where I went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, but to me, it seems like it may have been a mistake having these two go this long in the opener. Closer to the first Lion Kid match then the second for Stixx and Garnell looks like just another guy here. Call it AVERAGE and mildly disappointing at that. (AVERAGE)
*Match #2: ‘Natural Progression’ Quarterfinal: Lord Jonathan Windsor (debut) vs. ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman (0-1 as a singles)
The Who: Lord Jonathan Windsor debuts here, looking like a very British Chuck Taylor. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Anyway, he appears to have a Blue Bloods gimmick a la 1995 WCW Bobby Eaton or William Regal. Mike Hitchman we saw before when he challenged Mark Andrews for the BWC Starlo Scholarship. He was unsuccessful in that match but he and Andrews had a barnburner. Happy to see Hitchman back for another opportunity.
The Why: Speaking of Mark Andrews, he advanced to the semifinals at Chapter 4. This is the second of the four quarterfinal matches. The winner of which will join Andrews in the semifinals and maybe face him. No release on the brackets to my knowledge.
The Match: Hitchman is now on WWE TV as part of NXT UK, but if you didn’t know it was the same guy, you’d never be able to tell. He looks so different here…opening bell goes and Windsor takes time to fold his robe…Barnett points out there’s nothing wrong with a Blue Blood gimmick as in twenty years time, you could be married to Jim Smallman’s daughter and own part of PROGRESS. Okay, that drew a legit chuckle from me…not sure if Windsor is big or Hitchman is just really small even by Indy standards…Hitchman gets tired of Windsor’s stalling and it leads to a DDT on the apron. Not sure that’s a spot I’d use in match two, but okay then…we go to the crowd brawling in the second match as well. It’s like an ECW show broke out…Windsor seems more concerned about posing then wrestling. I get that you are new, but this is a company that prides itself on ring work…fans seems to remember the Package Piledriver that Hitchman used against Andrews because they respond every time he goes for. So far, Windsor has had the counter, but one feels that won’t be the case forever…Hitchman once again goes the for the Package PD, but Windsor counters with a backdrop over. Hitchman hooks the legs on the landing and goes for the sunset flip, but Windsor sits out with a deep cradle and that’ll be a three count at 11:24…can definitely say I don’t agree with the who won here. Hitchman had a cracker against Andrews in his first appearance and if the winner of this match was to get Andrews in the semis, I’ve had loved to see them run it back. Windsor did absolutely nothing for me as the gimmick is just basically cheap heat and there’s not a lot of steak to go with the sizzle. Call this BELOW AVERAGE and it’s two matches, two misses thus far for PROGRESS Chapter 5. (BELOW AVERAGE)
*Match #3: Nathan Cruz (3-1 as a singles) vs. Rampage Brown (debut)
The Who: Nathan Cruz is the former champion, looking for a bit of redemption against the handpicked opponent of the new champion. One could argue that Cruz has been the guy who has meant the most to the company thus far, so seeing him in match three on the night is kind of odd. Rampage Brown makes his debut here. I don’t know much about him other then he had a brief run with NXT in the US before going back over to the UK and a run with WCPW in the UK as well.
The Why: Discussed it earlier but to reiterate, it’s part of the ‘pick your poison’ series with Cruz and Ligero picking each other’s opponents for the evening.
The Match: Before the match, Cruz announces that he has hired a bodyguard to deal with his Marty Scurll problem named Fug. We don’t see him yet, but Cruz claims he’s seven feet tall and two hundred and eighty pounds. That would be a very skinny bodyguard…the chyron for Cruz has him listed at 3-2. I’m guessing there are including the tag loss from Chapter 3, which I do not in singles competition. If you guys would like, I can keep a running archive of records at the bottom of the reviews going forward. Let me know what you think and I’ll add it in the future if so requested…second expletive based chant of the night encourages Rampage to ‘fuck him up’…opening bell goes here…Rampage is well put together. It’s easy to see why he got a developmental deal with the WWE…for a bigger guy, Rampage is pretty adept on the mat. Cruz tries a sunset flip off the second turnbuckle, but Rampage is able to roll through and escape into a Crossface. Thankfully, no Chris Benoit chants follow this time…think the sound may be a little off on this Chapter from a technical aspect. Spinal Tap kick sound happens shortly after the kick occurs…Rampage dumps Cruz to the floor with a back suplex and the around ringside brawling commences where Cruz surprisingly gets the advantage…for as much crap as the PROGRESS fans give him, Cruz is one of the smoother guys on the roster. He wrestles like a wrestler, not just a guy trying to string things together in the attempt to tell a story…Cruz has gotten a good portion of this match. A bit of a surprise given that it is Rampage’s debut but with Cruz being the former champion, it’s also understandable…sliding dropkick gets a series of two counts. Standard basement dropkick, not the sliding kick he pinned both Ligero and Colossus Kennedy with back at Chapter 1…ugh, headbutts. So not a fan of those…huge back body drop by Rampage. Looked really good despite the slight delay going to it…Rampage looked for a powerbomb but Cruz got out into a chestblower. Cruz looks to follow up and gets countered into a good looking series of powerbombs, first standard and then sit out for a very close two…Cruz hits Show-Stolen and much like Ligero did at Chapter 4, Rampage kicks out. It also gives our first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant of the night…Rampage catches a Falcon Arrow and looks to have the cover but doesn’t want it. That drives me nuts! 2 Cold Scorpio used to do that shit all the time and it’s stupid to me. The point is to win the match…Rampage then catches the Crossface a third time but Cruz finds his way to the ropes and then to the apron. Rampage tries to suplex Cruz back in, but Cruz lands on his feet and a O’Connor Roll with a hook of both the ropes and the tights gives Cruz the win at 15:27…that was more like it, PROGRESS. Very well contested match from the standard bearer of the company and a new guy who got a definite opportunity to shine. Cruz may pick up the win here, but the way he picks up the win is the story as it keeps Rampage looking good going forward for when he comes back. Rampage definitely impressed in what was I believe my first time seeing him and I look forward to seeing more, assuming he can curb the 2 Cold Scorpio aspect of not wanting the pinfall. Cruz bounces back nicely from the Staff loss and one assumes sets himself back up into title contention. GOOD match between these two here and finally something worth the time on the show. (GOOD)
*Post-match: We see Fug help Cruz to the back. He’s not nearly what Cruz claimed him to be. 6’8-6’9 maybe. The two hundred eighty pounds may be accurate though.
*Match #4: ‘PROGRESS Championship Staff’ – El Ligero © (3-1 as a singles competitor) vs. Dave Mastiff (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: El Ligero has just won the Staff at Chapter 4 as we established above. In doing so, he also got revenge on the only man to have pinned him thus far, as it was Cruz who eliminated Ligero from the four way at Chapter 1. Dave Mastiff has had two matches and two victories thus far in PROGRESS. A tag match at Chapter 3, where teaming with the now departed Greg Burridge, he pinned the then champion Nathan Cruz. Mastiff won a three way at Chapter 4, pinning Stixx after Cruz got involved in taking Marty Scurll out of the match
The Why: Two parts here. One, obviously, is that it’s for the PROGRESS Championship (Nazi) Staff. Second, it’s the second bout in the ‘pick your poison’ series for Cruz and Ligero, as Mastiff is Cruz’s handpicked challenge for the title.
The Match: It occurs to me that this is the fourth match and we’ve yet to see an inset promo on this show. They just vanished into a void of non-existence…hot start as once Ligero is introduced, he shotgun dropkicks Mastiff to the floor and follows out with a tope con hilo…Ligero goes for the guillotine early but Mastiff quickly escapes…once again, the PROGRESS fans encourage a good “Fing” up, this time in support of Mastiff…Mastiff counters a frankensteiner attempt into a powerbomb try but Ligero escapes into a second attempt at the guillotine. It’s about as successful as the first attempt…Barnett says that he described Ligero to an American friend as a mix of the ‘best of El Generico and the best of LowKi’. Not sure I agree that he’s at Generico’s level, but the point is understandable…wrecking ball dropkick by Ligero and he buries Mastiff under a pile a chairs, going for the count-out. Mastiff up at six and Ligero tries another dropkick, only to get flung wheelbarrow style into the ring post…stalling delayed vertical suplex by Mastiff goes for a full minute goes Mastiff brings down Ligero. Impressive in length but to be fair, El Ligero weighs like a third of what Mastiff does…Mastiff goes for a second but Ligero escapes into a rollup for two. Looked good…sound is definitely slightly off on this stream…sleeper (I think?) variation…out to the floor again, but only long enough for Mastiff to pitch Ligero back in. Smart. Can’t win the Staff by count-out. Wish more people would do that instead of letting opponents take the count…Mastiff goes for a Buckle Bomb but once again gets caught in the guillotine. Mastiff counters by putting Ligero on the top rope. The guillotine isn’t working, but bless his heart, he keeps trying…absolutely hate that corner hanging double stomp. Almost always looks so contrived no matter who is doing it…shotgun dropkick by Ligero is no sold and Mastiff hits one of his own, followed by a dead lift German to put Ligero on the floor again…Ligero finally gets the guillotine in with both guys on the floor and rolls back into the ring to try to take a count-out win. Mastiff breaks the count just before the ten…Ligero goes for the C4L but Mastiff stops him and gets a running Liger Bomb for a close two count and the second ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…Into The Void (corner cannonball) misses and Ligero goes up, leaping into a sixth attempt at the guillotine. This time, Mastiff flings Ligero overhead with a belly2belly variation. Mastiff tries to follow up with another Liger Bomb, but Ligero counters back into the guillotine. Mastiff tries to power out once but collapses and it’s a KO victory for the champion at 18:18…solid big match vs. little man contest but to be frank, nothing special here. A couple cool moves and a very impressive bit of dogged determination from El Ligero but if I’m being honest, I never bought that Mastiff was going to take the title from Ligero. Ligero’s deal with Cruz isn’t over and Mastiff hasn’t been around long enough to really establish much of a name for himself in PROGRESS. The fans kinda responded the same way I did as they got involved in the match here and there, but never for any significant portion of time. The match itself was GOOD due to the efforts of both men, but not must see by any stretch of the imagination. (GOOD)
*Match #5: RJ Singh (2-0-1) vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen (0-1-1)
The Who: RJ Singh comes in off consecutive victories, beating Paul Robinson and Rob Cage at Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The draw is a no decision in a three way where El Ligero pinned Greg Burridge to become number one contender at Chapter 2. Darrell Allen is looking for his first victory here in PROGRESS as not only does he have the 0-1-1 singles record (tapped by Noam Dar (Chp2), no decision in three way where Xander Cooper pinned Zack Gibson (Chp1)), he was on the losing side of a tag match at Chapter 3 as well and completely left off Chapter 4.
The Why: This one I have an answer for as well. It is an RJ Singh ‘Bollywood’ Open Challenge here. Adding to the intrigue of this open challenge is info that Jim Smallman gives us before the match during introductions that these guys are usually a tag team known as the Bhangra Knights.
The Match: Pre-match, Singh reads Allen the riot act, stating that they promised to stay out of each other’s way in PROGRESS and that while Singh has thrived, Allen has been something of a loser. Allen says in his (Allen’s) hometown of London, why don’t we find out if Singh really is King (which has been RJ’s catchphrase during this PROGRESS run)…bell goes and we’re underway…Singh has the edge early but it is pretty evenly matched…this is going to come down to a classic story of aerial vs. technical. Allen is more of a flyer whereas RJ likes to stay on the match…Director and Boudica again get on the apron, but Singh tells them to get down once again. I thought that pairing dissolved at Chapter 4…Boudica and Director do find themselves ejected and in a moment that’ll make Vince smile, the ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ song accompanies them doing so…springboard kick to the midsection. Called an enzugiri. It wasn’t, but I don’t know what the technical name is…Singh catches Allen with a version of the Tyebreaker that gets two (fireman’s carry into spinning facebuster over the knee). It looked good…this may not be the most PC thing to say but every time Allen takes a big bump, it looks like he’s trying to fellate himself…crowd very wittily chants ‘This is Bhangra’ instead of ‘This is PROGRESS’. Dug that…Singh loads up for a superkick, preceding it with a ‘I’m sorry. I love you’. The crowd and Barnett pop. The move is countered but the thought that counts…Allen up top and distracted by Boudica and Director on stage. Singh pulls Allen up the top and hits Widow’s Peak. Singh looks to apply the ‘Ethnic Submission’ (Camel Clutch, obviously) but Allen is able to pull Singh forward and trap him in a cradle for the three count at 9:56…alright, so I had some doubts. Singh has been pretty basic up to this point. Allen had a good performance in the triple threat at Chapter 1 but both he and Garnell were kind of just there for the match with the London Riots. With all that being said, it actually turned into a pretty nice little match here. There was a good amount of action thrown in with the story that they told and most importantly to me, I like that the story actually played into the finish with Allen knowing the ‘Ethnic Submission’ and having a counter planned. Call this one a GOOD showing for both guys and the best match on the card thus far, in my opinion. (GOOD)
*Post-match: Singh offers the handshake and instead, he and Allen hug it out. Shah Boudica takes not kindly to this and attacks Allen from behind. Singh pulls Boudica off of Allen twice, before Boudica slaps Singh in the face. Allen then superkicks Boudica in the back of the head. Allen and Singh then team up as a Samoan Drop-Blockbuster combination (called the Bhangra Buster, but for point of reference look for Cryme Tyme’s G-9) and looks like the Bhangra Knights will be a thing going forward in the tag division….as the Bhangra Knights are making their way to the back, the London Riots make their entrance, so me thinks that may play a factor in a future Chapter.
*Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) (3-0 as a team) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.) (Debut as a team)
The Who: London Riots are clearly the class of the PROGRESS tag division thus far. Wins over the Bastard Squad (probably done now that Allen is back with Singh), the Hunter Brothers and the Velocity Vipers (shame about Esmail’s leg) have led them to here, a main event level match. Leaders of the New School make their debut as a team here for PROGRESS, but it will not be my first time seeing them as a team. I remember getting into the European wrestling scene by watching wXw out of Germany and Scurll and Sabre Jr. were the wXw Tag Team champions for a while there. Scurll has been one of the biggest stars of PROGRESS thus far and in my opinion, Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. from Chapter 1 remains the best match in PROGRESS history to this point.
The Why: London Riots wanted competition, Jim Smallman decided to give them competition in the form of what many at the time considered to be the best tag team in Europe. Pretty straight forward here.
The Match: As per the usual, if I screw up Davis and Lynch, I apologize. They have stuck with the singlet and bikers gear, so once again, I should be okay…aw, Chris Roberts just got his first kiss. It was from Marty Scurll, but it still counts!…Davis is the one in the singlet. Now I know. Thanks Smallman, er, Barnett…Barnett lets us know that the Chapter 1 match between the Leaders was voted best match in Britain in 2012. That’s fair…Scurll spits his gum at Lynch. Well, with no Noam Dar on this show, someone had to be unhygienic…has that sit out butt drop worked for another then Rikishi in the last decade?…a little Poetry in Motion by the Leaders and then Scurll uses Sabre Jr. as a weapon to take out both Riots…off to an insane pace. Shit ton of action and we’re not even four minutes in yet…Scurll with a running bitch slap to Davis. Davis responds with a STIFF running body block. Don’t think he appreciated the slap…everything Sabre Jr. does is so fluid. With as many huge Indy names that ended up in NXT, I am stunned that Zach never got a shot there. I know he had a set of Japanese commitments, between NOAH and NJPW, but what could have been…believe the word to describe Sabre would be lanky. But he makes the most of it…apparently, I owe Rob Lynch and James Davis an apology. My Chapter 3 review got posted as I’m typing this and I apparently called them the Riot Squad during the course of that. They were facing the Bastard Squad and I just joined the names for a common WWE name. My bad…Lynch just knocks Sabre weak kneed with a forearm. Good lord…we’ve settled into a bit of tag formula here but as I’ve said before, it’s a formula because it works. Riots are hated and Leaders are loved. What better way to do this then to keep a member of the Leaders isolated and get the crowd to rally behind him…despite a pretty good experience gap, Riots are looking good in this match. Part of it is a master class from Sabre and Scurll as babyfaces, but Riots are more then holding their weight…I really hope Sabre Jr. is around more in PROGRESS in 2013. That war he had with Scurll at Chapter 1 was his only match for 2012. It would definitely make these reviews more fun to get to see more of the wizardry that Sabre possesses…tag finally made and Scurll comes in a house of fire…Scurll gets the Cesaro apron superplex that gets broken up by a bloody nosed Rob Lynch. A kick from Sabre caught him flush before the hot tag…gamengiri by Sabre Jr. into a DVD by Scurll gets two with another save by Lynch. It looked good…pop-up spear by the Riots and it looked really good. Last second save by Scurll…Riots look for the ‘District Line’ powerbomb but Sabre is able to get out and he chuffing loves putting people in cross-armbreakers. It’s broken up by getting Scurll powerbomb’d onto him…everyone down after a series of strikes and the crowd hits our fourth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…saves are coming hot and heavy here. I like it to a point, but let’s not get to the line of overkill…Sabre nails Scurll with a kick by mistake and the Riots take advantage with a really good looking Doomsday Device which Sabre kicks out of at two. That would have made for a good finish…shortly thereafter, the ‘District Line’ powerbomb does land (looking a bit rough but the point was there) and James Davis pins Zach Sabre Jr. at 20:07…VERY GOOD but not to the level are the previous Scurll main event matches in PROGRESS. The biggest issue I have here in that while the Riots had a good heat segment on Sabre, it didn’t break down nearly as much as I expected it to in the finish. Speaking of the finish, it looked slightly blown as I think Lynch may have tried a neckbreaker for the ‘District Line’ or he just didn’t get far enough out of the way. The big thing here is that it definitely establishes the Riots as the team to beat in PROGRESS as they take down the Leaders relatively cleanly. (VERY GOOD)
Post-match: London Riots don’t attack after the match as has been their tradition, instead heading to the back. Probably to fix Rob Lynch’s nose. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and lets us know that the first match they’ll announce for Chapter 6 will be a rematch of Chapter 4 as the Riots will once again face the Hunter Brothers, this time in a weapons match. Seems like an odd time to announce this with Sabre Jr. still down in the ring, but the show must go on, I suppose. Scurll goes to get a bit of mic time as well, but the show fades before he speaks and that’s a wrap for Chapter 5.
Match #1: Danny Garnell pins Stixx, tornado DDT off second buckle @ 14:52 (AVERAGE)
Match #2: Lord Jonathan Windsor pins Mike Hitchman, sit-down on sunset flip @ 11:24 (BELOW AVERAGE)
Match #3: Nathan Cruz pins Rampage Brown, O’Connor Roll with hook of tights and ropes @ 15:27 (GOOD)
Match #4: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff- El Ligero © defeats Dave Mastiff by KO, guillotine choke @ 18:18 (GOOD)
Match #5: Darrell Allen pins RJ Singh, leverage pin out of ‘Ethnic Submission’ attempt @ 9:57 (GOOD)
Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) defeat Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.), Davis pins Sabre Jr. after the ‘District Line’ powerbomb @ 20:07 (VERY GOOD)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
It picks up quite a bit at the end, so I can’t call it the worst of the five shows thus far. That being said, it’s definitely not mandatory viewing either. The issue that I find myself with is that I know what PROGRESS is capable of as it goes forward. When you go back and watch these formative shows, you can see moments of potential. But that’s all they are usually at this time frame. Just moments. Top to bottom, none of these shows have delivered a knock out show. Try to find the semi main and main event if you have a chance, but the rest is watch at your convenience. Except for the Windsor and Hitchman match. Do yourself a favor and skip that.
Where does this leave us? It leaves me a little disappointed, but that’s what happens when expectations are set so high. It leaves you hopefully wanting to come back as we take the next step in this journey with Chapter 6. In addition, it leaves me still hungry. I wonder if I could work out a ‘burgers per review’ deal around here.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: Despite the fact that I gave the main event a higher rating, I going to give this honor to the RJ Singh and Darrell Allen match. The match itself is a good mix of comedy and ring work. The post match is where the money is as the fans go crazy for the Bhangra Knights reunion.
Worst match/moment: Feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but Mike Hitchman and Lord Jonathan Windsor can be classified as nothing less then a disappointment. The blueblood gimmick has potential, but in a company like this, you need to be able to back it up in the ring. Windsor simply did not.
MVP: Going to give this as co-MVPs again and I’m going to give it to James Davis and Rob Lynch for a star making performance in the main event as the London Riots prove they are the class of the PROGRESS tag team division.
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10.0
Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Up next is Chapter 6: “We <3 Violence” And make sure you guys check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.
Doctor’s Orders: Ranking The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History
Objectively subjectifying all-time greatness on NXT’s premiere stage, Takeover. See what matches are on the list!
The Doctor is in as Chad Matthews updates his list of greatest WWE NXT Takeover matches and rivalries with a look at two of the very best, from different NXT eras.
Attempting to contextualize greatness in pro wrestling is a fascinating exercise, a much more multi-faceted conversation than it is often given credit for. To some in the business, for instance, Rock vs. Cena is the greatest match of all-time because it set the pay-per-view buy mark, while others would say the greatest match is Austin vs. Bret because of the exemplary storytelling. Why should greatness be limited to a plethora “one or the other” positions (best vs. most popular or anything of the sort)? Such has been my stance during this entire decade (see The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era), tackling the process of adding measures of objectivity to a topic deemed completely and utterly subjective and attempting to broaden the way that we have these discussions. I can also apply that to NXT.
Greatness has become regularly associated with NXT. I am personally enamored with what the yellow brand has accomplished over the past few years, with the Takeover franchise especially. The reputation that Takeover has built should astound any diehard WWE fan who, at times during the WrestleMania Era, may have felt like Vince and Co. unnecessarily (and oddly) put a critical ceiling on its in-ring product. Bold statement: Takeover has, based purely on what happens from bell-to-bell, produced nearly as many bonafide classic wrestling matches as WrestleMania in just five years of existence. Think about that for a moment, because it was with that idea in mind that I started asking, “What’s the greatest in NXT history?”
My second book (referenced above) was published last summer and in it I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.” Turning my attention to NXT, I took that formula and tweaked it to fit Takeover. On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.). The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.
Today’s entries grow the list from fourteen to sixteen matches, which have been selected at random throughout this project’s history dating back to last fall. Here are the rankings ahead of today’s additions (the links will take you to the objectively subjective breakdown of each match):
#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship at Takeover: Philadelphia
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +4
Total Score: 48.0
There have been very few matches in WWE history that have found me clapping while watching them in replay, and Cien vs. Johnny Wrestling from Philly is one of them. Hand to heart, I am unsure that there has ever been a better performance in WWE, which is partly what makes the added dynamic of including NXT lore when historically ranking matches throughout the WrestleMania Era so challenging and simultaneously so fascinating. The depth of storytelling and the instances when believably this match could have been over but somehow was not is virtually unmatched in mainstream North American wrestling over the past thirty plus years. Gargano and Almas judged everything picture-perfectly, selling their butts off, adding layers of psychology as they reached an utterly captivating climax, and drawing every ounce of intrigue out of the in-ring chemistry that they first prominently put on display against each other at Takever: Brooklyn III.
Gargano vs. Andrade is truly one of the greats as “epic” matches go, and the Philadelphia match certainly fits the profile of the genre (an “epic match”) that I have been quietly working on popularizing in the IWC, offered up to properly label a lengthy main-event style performance that builds to crescendo after crescendo and features finisher kick-outs as one of its primary hope spot wells to tap. I have been critical of the over-use of it, as many of its staples have trickled down to ten minute mid-card matches, and I do believe that epics, like Cena vs. Styles for example, are suffering from a distinct lack of rewatchability because of how ardently they cling to bout-ending signature offense, but Cien vs. Johnny is not to be lumped in with such over-done peers because it is smarter, more intricate, better executed, and expertly paced, its gaps in action replaced with the outstanding managerial act of Zelina Vega (and the eventual cameo by Candice Wrestling).
I believe it was a truly remarkable achievement. Maybe Banks vs. Bayley, Gargano vs. Ciampa, or Gargano vs. Adam Cole beats it in the scoring system, but even if one of them or another Takeover match in the pipeline down the road unseats it, I think it is going to be a long time before something removes it from the pedestal of what yours truly would call the finest match in Takeover history. Aesthetically, athletically, psychologically, I just struggle to see how anyone could really argue that another match was better. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle one of their prequels in Brooklyn, and that was one of the four or five best mid-card type bouts in Takeover lore too, so when you combine that match with what happened in Philly – of the nine scoring categories here, their NXT Title match scored a 5 in seven of them – you have an all-time great.
You know, it is funny that Dave Meltzer awarded the Takeover: Philadelphia match the first “5-star” rating for a WWE match since Punk vs. Cena in Chicago, and if you watch any of New Japan Pro Wrestling and know of Meltzer’s fascination with it, you can appreciate why. Almas vs. Gargano was an NJPW match in an NXT ring with WWE production value. If in the coming years, a main-event of that style and caliber is featured on Summerslam or eventually works it way to the WrestleMania headlining position, I think we may have Gargano vs. Almas to thank for it.
Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship at Takeover: R-Evolution
Psychology: 4.5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 3 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 4.75 / Build: 5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 44.25
While in the beginning of this process, it seemed probable that Cien Almas vs. Johnny Wrestling had a shot at topping this match to advance ever closer to the #1 spot, what seemed assured from the out-set was that Zayn vs. Neville would rate among the premiere title matches in NXT lore because, in terms of storytelling, there may still have never been a championship bout that possesses the same sense of urgency or the same sense of occasion.
Here you had Neville, a bit shy of a year-long reigning as NXT Champion (who held the title during the promotion’s rise to WWE Network prominence) and possessing one of the most amazing offensive arsenals in pro wrestling’s entire history, coming up against Zayn, arguably the quintessential example of how legends are capable of being made in NXT. No matter what happens elsewhere within the Titan ranks, Zayn will be someone revered by any who watched what he did in NXT from 2014 to 2016.
One of the greatest things that NXT brings to the table is how wrestlers, as personalities, are characters first, their labels (or face-heel dichotomies) rather arbitrary by comparison. Neville strayed a bit more toward a black and white personic construct during the match, but he was clearly pushed toward the line that Zayn managed to straddle a bit better and showed glimpses of the viciousness and single-mindedness (toward winning) that made his run on 205 Live so engaging to purple brand followers in 2017; it was Zayn who was truly marvelous, though, displaying a depth of character so rarely seen from protagonists in WWE proper, and far more relatable for it, as evidenced by the incredibly raucous crowd support that he garnered in what was still ostensibly a babyface match. Zayn’s ability to connect on that deeper emotional level lifted this effort to pantheon status.
The end result – the total package from the storyline build-up to the hype video package to the atmosphere it generated to the bell-to-bell fight (and it felt like the fight that pro wrestling should be in the modern era main-event scene with the athletic potential of the combatants) – closed the first chapter in the history of NXT in the Network Era with a timeless classic destined for massive hindsight accolades in the near and distant future.
#1- Andrade vs. Gargano (48.0)
#2- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#3- Neville vs. Zayn (44.25)
#4- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#5- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#6- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#7- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#8- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#9- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#10- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#11- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#12- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#13- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#14- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#15- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#16- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
If you want to discuss NXT or other wrestling matters with Doc, follow and tweet @TheDocLOP !
Check out the latest episode of The Doc Says podcast, featuring a review of NXT Takeover 25!
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