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WrestleMania: Where It All Began…And Could Have Ended

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WrestleMania 1 Mr T Hulk Hogan

I’m going to preface this by admitting that I was two years old when the first WrestleMania happened, so most of my information comes from research and listening to stories about it.

Opening

The opener to WrestleMania was very mid-80s in terms of music and graphics and reminds me of the opener to ‘Night Court’. It’s still a little unnerving to see the Twin Towers, even after all these years. They’re giving photo previews of the card during the opening, which is cool. The photo of Moolah and Kai does not do either of them any favors.  We’re also getting pictures of the celebrities that are supposed to be part of the show.

Preliminaries

We open in a very dark MSG with Gorilla Monsoon welcoming us to ‘The Wrestling Extravaganza of All Time, WrestleMania’.

Howard Finkel gives us the official ‘Welcome to WrestleMania’ as only the Fink can do, and then asks us to rise for the National Anthem. For whatever reason, the person singing is Mean Gene Okerlund. Gene needs all the help he can get from the audience because his singing is not great and he’s having to read the lyrics off a piece of paper. He’s not as bad as Roseanne, but he’s the best they could do in a pinch. Jesse Ventura, with what sounds like a straight face, tries to claim that Okerlund sounds like Robert Goulet, instead of totally off key.

Match 1: Tito Santana vs The Executioner

 

Mean Gene is conducting the promos. Santana cuts a very good promo about not knowing much about the Executioner, but states that he’s got goals and that no one is going to keep him from achieving them, including the Executioner. He also throws a little shade at the Executioner, commenting that the Executioner hasn’t been in the big leagues for very long. (Commenter: Ouch.)

The Executioner (Playboy Buddy Rose in a generic, badly fitting Luchador mask) cuts an awkward promo where he claims everyone’s going to know about him after he takes out Santana and swears he’s going after Santana’s knee that was injured by Greg Valentine during their Intercontinental Title feud.

This was a very good match, but not much of a story being told. It felt like the Executioner’s unblemished record was played up to make him look ridiculous in the end. However, Santana looked like a million bucks and showed why Vince trusted him with opening this card.

Winner: Tito Santana by submission with the Figure Four Leglock.

Comments: As someone who really only remembers Tito Santana as El Matador, it’s easy to not realize that he’d been one of Vince’s top guys for years. From what I drew from the commentators, this match seems to have been simply to continue Santana’s feud with Greg Valentine over the Intercontinental Belt without having them actually have a match over it at WrestleMania, which I find odd. It’s also funny to remember that the Figure-Four was not considered the exclusive move of Ric Flair, as Tito wins this match with that hold.

The obviousness of the Executioner’s identity was pretty funny, especially watching Mean Gene try very hard to play up not knowing who this guy was, considering that they’d worked together in the AWA for years. In Playboy’s defense, the mask was probably to keep Verne Gagne from killing him for appearing on the WrestleMania card.

Match 2: King Kong Bundy (with Jimmy Hart) vs SD Jones

SD Jones is all smiles and says he’s ready to get down with Bundy and Hart. Most of his promo seems to consist of saying he’s going to get down with everyone.

Bundy and Hart come up next and Bundy says that it’s only fitting that the biggest card in professional wrestling has the biggest man on it. Bundy says he wants SD Jones to think about what’s about to happen in this match, including the infamous five count.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this match. It’s infamous for being the shortest match in history (until Diesel vs Bob Backlund a decade later) at 00:09 seconds, though that is disputed a little. Either way, this was the textbook definition of a squash match, literally and figuratively.

Winner: King Kong Bundy with the Big Splash.

Comments: This match was purely to build up King Kong Bundy.  The introductions and prelims took longer than the match. One big problem was that it killed the crowd a little because of how quick fan favorite Jones was beaten.

Match 3: Ricky Steamboat vs Matt Borne

Matt Borne (better known to 90s wrestling fans as Doink the Clown) says he sees this as an opportunity to beat someone as well-known as Ricky Steamboat and says that while Steamboat is talented, he’s too nice while he (Borne) is there to beat Steamboat up.

Steamboat is next, and he looks very…inflated (not fat, but he looks like someone’s been inflating him with a bike pump) compared to how he would look later in his career. He says that WrestleMania is test for everyone who is on the card because the WrestleMania card is the biggest in history. He warns Borne (aka, Mister Maniac) that while he lacks meanness, he’s come to WWF to learn how to be mean, starting with Matt Borne.

This match was very good for only being about four and a half minutes long. Both guys were able to get in their offense and both looked really good. Steamboat had his usual bag of martial arts moves and some impressive aerial moves for as big as he was then. That said, there was really no doubt that Steamboat was going over Borne. Borne just seemed to be missing something.

Winner: Ricky Steamboat with a flying crossbody into a pinfall.

Thoughts: If you only knew Matt Borne as Doink the Clown, you would be astonished to see how talented he was during his career. My biggest complaint about this match is that it could’ve gone a little longer to give both guys more time to show their skills.

Match 4: Brutus Beefcake (with Jimmy Valiant) vs David Sammartino (with Bruno Sammartino)

David Sammartino is up first, and his legendary dad is with him. David says he is ready for this and has been training really hard with his dad to get ready for this match. He says Beefcake has been really cocky since putting ‘Big Jim’, whoever that is, out of commission. Bruno pipes up, warning Johnny Valiant not to stick his nose into the match because if he does, he’s going to run into Bruno’s fist.

Brutus and Valiant are next and Valiant dismisses Bruno’s warning and says he’ll stick his nose in wherever he wants to. He tells Beefcake to tell them what he’s going to do, at which Beefcake blows a raspberry into the microphone. Valiant then tells him not to talk, not that he was to start with, and that everyone knows that ‘JV’ is the mouthpiece. Valiant then warns Bruno not to stick his nose in and then it become incomprehensible due to Okerlund trying to talk over Valiant.

This match was surprisingly good. Lots of amateur moves and solid mat work from both guys. The story seemed to be more about David trying to live up to his father’s reputation than anything else.

Winner: Double DQ due Valiant and Sammartino getting involved.

Thoughts: It’s odd to see Beefcake as a heel. Even odder to see what a solid worker he was. Bruno was easily the most over person in the ring, which overshadowed both competitors, but especially David, who lacks a lot in the charisma department.  At just shy of twelve minutes, this was the second longest match of the night after the main event.

Match 5: Intercontinental Championship Match –  Junkyard Dog vs Greg Valentine (with Jimmy Hart)

Valentine and Hart are first. Valentine says Junkyard Dog is going to learn why Valentine is the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time and master of the Figure Four, as well as living up to the name ‘Hammer’.

Junkyard Dog is next. From what I could understand, JYD said he was ready to get his hands on the Intercontinental Belt and ‘Weasel’. I assume he means Jimmy Hart, not Bobby Heenan.

This was a good match. Both men looked good, and got their offense in. It was a little short for a title match, but overall very solid for both guys. The fact that Valentine wanted to continue the match but was prevented by Hart was interesting to see.

Winner: Junkyard Dog by countout, after the ref reverses his decision due to Santana coming out and saying that Valentine used the ropes for leverage.

Thoughts: JYD was super over with this crowd and is one of the few performers on the card using entrance music. It’s a shame that he never got a title run during his tenure in the WWF and that this match was used to further the Valentine/Santana feud. Seeing the original (I think) IC belt is cool.

Match 6: WWF Tag Team Title Match: Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff(with Freddie Blassie) vs US Express(with Captain Lou Albano)

Sheik and Volkoff are first. Sheik is hard to understand. Blassie predicts that he’s got the next tag team champions. Okerlund ‘tries’ to call Volkoff ‘Comrade’ and says ‘Commie’ instead. Volkoff simply says ‘I come, I see, I conquer’.

US Exress is next. Captain Lou says that they’re ready. Rotunda and Windham are wearing polo shirts tucked into jeans, looking like a New England prep school’s idea of All-American kids. Captain Lou is drinking beer on camera and looking like someone’s drunk uncle that just wandered in off the street. All the champs will say is that they’re going to the ring and talking’s done.

This was a great match from both teams, no aerial moves, just solid mat wrestling. Iron Sheik and Rotunda’s amateur backgrounds got a good showing in this match. Even though Iron Sheik and Volkoff were the heels, the match was fairly clean until the end.

Winner: Iron Sheik and Volkoff win via pinfall after Iron Sheik breaks Blassie’s cane over Wyndham’s back. It nearly backfired because the head of the cane hit Volkoff and almost knocked HIM out.

Thoughts: I have to say, I admire the guts it took for Nikolai to stand in the middle of the ring in MSG and sing the national anthem of the USSR in 1985, while the crowd threw trash at him and yelled God only knows what.

US Express was super over. Seeing Rotunda as a super over babyface, when I remember him as IRS in the 90s is interesting.

We get an unexpected after match interview with Mean Gene taking the new Tag Team Champions and their manager to task over the win. Blassie feigns ignorance that anything shady happened and when asked about the cane, swears that he didn’t have a cane.

Iron Sheik says their victory is proves that Iran and Russia are the best. After that, the interview gets a little tough to understand.

Match 7: $15,000 Bodyslam Match – Big John Studd (with Bobby Heenan) vs Andre The Giant

Studd and Heenan are first, and Okerlund repeats what Lord Alfred Hayes said a second before: If Andre cannot slam Big John Studd, he will have to retire from wrestling. Studd brags about how heavy the WWF duffle bag (available at the MSG souvenir stand, I’m sure) was and that it was bait to lure Andre into the match so Studd could prove why he was the only giant in Professional Wrestling. Heenan is in prime form, he keeps berating Okerlund to keep his hands off the money.

This match wasn’t pretty, and I don’t think anyone expected it to be one. This was just two huge guys colliding. The moveset was mainly power moves, but the crowd was super into it.

Winner: Andre wins after bodyslamming Studd and collects his $15,000. He tries to throw the money to the crowd, but Heenan runs up and steals the bag back.

Thoughts: Andre was so over with this crowd. He wasn’t in prime form, especially compared to Studd. The crowd gave Heenan plenty of ‘Weasel’ chants. It’s sad to see that even in 1985, Andre’s health was declining, he looked very winded a few minutes into the match.

Okerlund congratulates Andre on the win and asks where the money is. Andre says that he doesn’t care where the money is, he just wanted to show Studd and Weasel that he could slam him. Andre also says that he’s not ready to retire.

Match 8: WWF Women’s Championship Match – Wendi Richter (with Cyndi Lauper) vs Leilani Kai (with Fabulous Moolah)

 Lauper and Richter are up first and they’re both looking very angry. Lauper warns ‘Lanie Kai’ and ‘Schmoolah’ to watch out because Richter’s a powerful woman and Lauper herself is a powerful manager because she’s been taught by Captain Lou (Commenter: Okay, I’ll give her that one). Richter reminds us that it took Moolah and Kai to take the Women’s Title from her and she’s dead set on getting her title back.

Moolah and Kai are next, Moolah wearing novelty glasses with the dollar signs backwards (Commenter: I hope she didn’t pay her jeweler too much for those), much to Okerlund’s amazement. Kai says that she’s ready for tonight and she doesn’t care what she has to do, she’s going to come back to the locker room with her hand raised in ‘victor’.

This was a solid match from both women. Lots of solid mat work and skill from both Richter and Kai. The managers got involved, but only once.

Winner: Richter wins via pinfall after rolling through Kai’s flying crossbody.

Thoughts: Lauper was easily the most over person in the ring. That being said, WWF did her involvement right. She only involved herself in the match when Moolah did. They kept the match about the women in the ring, not the managers, one of whom happened to be a huge pop star. Lauper made sure Richter was able to get back at Moolah for costing her the belt and for attacking her earlier in the bout.

Richter tells Okerlund that he’s caught her at the happiest second of her life. She admits that it took her and Cyndi to get the belt back, but that it took Moolah and Kai to get the belt away from her in the first place.  Lauper says she knew all along that Richter could do it and says that Richter had more ability in her pinky than Kai. She keeps butchering Kai’s name and Richter either tries to correct her or tells her to pronounce it ‘cow’. Lauper says she brought her towel to help fend off Moolah since Moolah was bigger than her. Not sure what that was going to do, but if it made Cyndi feel confident, who am I to judge?

Match 9: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (with Jimmy Snuka) vs Rowdy Roddy Piper and ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff (with Cowboy Bob Orton)

Finkel is going to introduce all the celebrities involved with this match:

  • Guest Ring Announcer: Billy Martin, a legendary New York Yankees baseball player and manager, whose relationship with George Steinbrenner was the real-life template for Austin vs McMahon, just less violent.
  • Martin gets a great pop, thanks the crowd and, with some help from Finkel, begins to introduce the guest officials.
  • Guest Timekeeper: Liberace with the Rockettes. Liberace comes out with the Rockettes and begins dancing in the ring, much to the amusement of the crowd.
  • Guest Referee: Muhammad Ali. The Great One comes out to an enormous pop. Rumor is that Ali was supposed to be the actual referee in this match, but Pat Patterson was concerned that his head wasn’t in it and got Vince to change it.

Piper comes out first with Orton and Orndorff to NYPD’s bagpipers (I THINK that’s who they are). Crowd’s booing is pretty good.

Hogan and Mr. T come out to a loud pop, though not as loud as the celeb officials got, strangely enough. We watch Hogan and T walk past a slightly pensive looking Vince McMahon.

This match was solid start to finish. Both sides looked fantastic and there was plenty of back and forth. Mr. T showed himself to be a reasonably okay wrestler. There was a false finish, when Piper and Co, decide to head for the locker room after a free for all in the ring that ended with Ali getting in the ring and taking swings at the heels.

That said, this was a typical Hogan match, just in tag match form. However, he made T and the heels look great, so it was a successful match up.

Winner: Hogan picks up the pinfall after hitting the big Leg Drop on Orndorff after Orton accidentally hits Orndorff with his cast while trying to double team Hogan. In classic heel fashion, Piper and Orton bail out and leave Orndorff in the ring.

Thoughts: This is the only WrestleMania that didn’t have a Heavyweight Championship match, but this match felt like a Heavyweight title bout in any case. There seemed to be legit heat between the teams, or at least between Piper, Hogan, and Mr. T, that translated very clearly in the ring.

Mr. T checks on Orndorff, who comes to, realizing that he’s all by himself with Hogan and Mr. T. Hogan tries to explain what happened and that Piper and Orton bailed out, but Orndorff doesn’t believe them and leaves in a huff.

The show closes with Hogan, T, and the celebs celebrating while Hogan does his posing.


Overall Thoughts

Given how big WrestleMania would become, this show was a good, but not overwhelming, start. Every match that went longer than nine second had good ring work and both sides were able to get their offense in.

Issues I Saw

Lord Alfred Hayes as MC was very awkward and seemed like he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to say and having the competitors walk past him as he spoke looked very amateur.

The matches surrounding the Intercontinental Championship seemed like a poor use of the men involved. It would’ve made more sense to have Santana and Valentine face off for the belt than have two separate matches that only seemed to be there to extend their feud. I understand that they wanted to give Junkyard Dog a big match but using him to extend a title feud of someone else seems like a waste.

Some of the better matches seemed too short, while the okay ones seemed to get more time. Sammartino vs Beefcake could’ve been a little shorter and the time given to either Steamboat/Borne or Santana/Executioner.

Celebrities

The choice of celebrities was interesting. Every celeb was someone who was a big deal to New York City or Madison Square Garden. It was almost a thank you letter to New York and MSG in case WrestleMania failed and WWF went out of business.

That said, WWF used their celebs wisely. With the exception of Ali getting involved in the main event, the celebs generally stayed out of the way, unless they had to get involved. The ending left an opening for the feud to continue and sent everyone home happy.

There almost seemed to be a desperation to make WrestleMania sound like it was a much bigger deal and much more successful than most people thought it would be. Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura made several references to Woodstock and how WrestleMania was the Woodstock of Wrestling before the first match got started.

Something I noticed was that all the talent really went out there and wrestled like it was the last time they’d get the chance, which it may have been. We all know that Vince bet the farm on WrestleMania, but another story I’ve heard is that the other promoters (we in the end of the territory days) were so desperate to see WrestleMania fail that they tried sabotaging it, even threatening to blacklist anyone who performed on the card. Obviously WrestleMania was a huge success and none of the other promoters carried out their threat since people like Piper and Steamboat were able to go to other territories later on and have successful careers outside of WWF, but it was still interesting to see that not only Vince was betting everything on WrestleMania.

Overall, I enjoyed this show. It was a good wrestling card, but, other than the main event, nothing super over the top about it. A good start to what would become THE wrestling event of the year.


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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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