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Chairshot Classics

WrestleMania XI: Best of Rivals

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WrestleMania 11 Lawrence Tyler Bam Bam Bigelow
Credit: WWE/YouTube

I have to admit that I usually skip any wrestling PPV from 1995 because, in my opinion, they were all pretty much terrible in terms of both wrestling and storylines. However, since this recap series has shown me that perceptions can be wrong, I’m willing to give WrestleMania XI a fair chance.

Since I avoid this year like the plague, I really don’t have very many recollections of what was going on in WWF/E. Diesel was Champion, HBK was not, and not happy about that fact, but the rest of it escapes me.

So, how was WrestleMania XI? Will your humble reviewer have to eat her words about the year 1995 when it comes to WWF/E PPVs? Let’s find out!

Opener:
We start with a recap of the first ten WrestleManias and are told about our special guests: Pamela Anderson (Baywatch), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement, Lion King), Jenny McCarthy (Playboy, MTV’s Singled Out), Nicholas Turturro (NYPD Blue), Salt-n- Pepa (one of the greatest women’s music groups ever, IMO), and the football players that will be backing up Lawrence Taylor, one of them being Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichaels.

‘America, The Beautiful’ will be sung by Special Olympian, Kathy Huey. Ms. Huey was a replacement for the band Fishbone, that had been advertised to appear. Ms. Huey sounds magnificent, I actually thought this was an opera singer Vince had booked.

Vince McMahon welcomes us and explains what WrestleMania was for the people who’ve never heard of it. He calls it ‘The Standard for Excellence in Sports Entertainment’. Lawler agrees, calling it ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment’.

The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and The British Bulldog) vs The Blu Brothers

Bulldog and Luger are out first to a really good pop to a poppy version of ‘Rule, Britannia’. Davey Boy had ditched the cornrow braids, Luger still has the frosted mullet.

The Blu Brothers are out next with Uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel) to little reaction.

This match was a melee right from the start. The fact that the Blu Brothers were identical twins, right down to their lovely, curly hair, was really played up well for the match. Even the commentators weren’t sure who was who. The tide begins to turn when one of the Blus misses an elbow drop, giving Davey Boy a chance to tag in Luger.

Luger hits everything in sight, hitting the legal (we think) Blu Brother with his plated forearm. The other Blu interferes, bringing in Davey Boy. In the ensuing chaos, the Blu Brothers do their version of ‘Twin Magic’ causing the not legal brother to kick out of the pin.

Winner: Allied Powers after Luger blocked a powerbomb attempt by one of the Blu Brothers, tagged in Davey Boy, who went to the top turnbuckle, turned a clothesline into a slightly sloppy Sunset Flip for the three count. Afterwards, Luger and Davey pose for the crowd.

Highlights: One of the Blu Brothers breaking up a pin that wasn’t being counted.

Comments: This was an okay match, Davey Boy and Luger looked good together. Luger still comes across as a little phony but putting him with the well-liked Davey Boy softens that a little.

Jim Ross tries to get an interview with Uncle Zebekiah that is hard to understand or make sense of, so JR gives up and sends it back to Vince.

We go to Pamela Anderson’s dressing room that is filled with WWF superstars and Nicholas Turturro, who is our backstage interviewer, apparently. Nick’s mic isn’t working, but Jenny McCarthy is there and apparently, Nick doesn’t know the difference.

Vince and Lawler discuss the audience and the Bigelow/Taylor match and Lawler gives the best summary of football ever: ‘It’s where eleven men spend a lot of time trying to move a small object a hundred yards’.

Intercontinental Championship Match: Jeff Jarrett (with the Roadie) vs Razor Ramon (with 1-2-3 Kid)

Double J and the Roadie come out first, and the crowd isn’t feeling it. We get a recap of how Jarrett won the IC belt from Razor Ramon back at the Royal Rumble

We go to Razor and Kid backstage; the mics are still not working properly. Razor’s mad and Kid predicts that he’ll get the job done tonight. He also warns the Roadie to stay out of the way or he’ll get taken care of.

Razor and Kid come out to a loud pop. Kid looks like an extra from one of the Karate Kid movies. Razor and Kid charge the ring, and both get a shot at Jarrett, but since the bell hasn’t rung, it cannot be a DQ.

This match starts with Razor going for the quick pins and Jarrett trying to counter power with speed. These two actually work really well together. The differences in styles meshes well.

Winner: Razor Ramon by disqualification, after the Roadie blatantly attacks him. Jarrett retains the title. Kid attacks Roadie and Jarrett before being attacked from behind by Jarrett and put in the Figure Four and beaten up by Roadie. Razor comes to his buddy’s aid and it becomes bedlam. Jarrett and Roadie finally bail out, but this feud is far from finished and Jarrett has a bloody nose.

Highlights: Kid threatening the Roadie, just because of how things will change in about three years.

Comments: This was a really good match. The wonky finish hurt it, in my opinion.

JR tries to get an interview with Jarrett and that Jarrett should be ashamed of himself. Jarrett says that he’s a champion and Razor is nothing and that paybacks are a you-know-what.

Audio difficulties have been fixed and we are back with Nick Turturro. He explains that he tried to find Pamela Anderson, but had no luck, so he went to the Green Room, where the Million Dollar Corporation is talking. He says he’s already met Salt ‘n Pepa and gets up close with Jenny McCarthy. Jenny says she’s having a great time and the Million Dollar Corporate members swarm in, but Jenny would rather stay with Nick, I guess. HBK comes in, much to Jenny’s delight and, when asked about Pamela, tells Nick not to worry about it. This conversation quickly gets out of hand when Sid opens his mouth and cuts a promo on Diesel.

Image result for wrestlemania 11 undertaker vs king kong bundyThe Streak: Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) vs King Kong Bundy (with Ted DiBiase)

Bundy is out first with Ted DiBiase, who is carrying the sacred urn, and we get a recap of why Undertaker is feuding with Bundy, who hasn’t been seen at WrestleMania since WrestleMania III where he fought Hillbilly Jim and some little people: IRS attacked Paul Bearer and ‘repossessed’ the urn. We are reminded that Bundy holds the record for the shortest match in WWF.

The lights go out, the thunder starts, and out comes the urnless Paul Bearer and Undertaker. Vince mentions, for the first time EVER, that Taker is undefeated at WrestleMania. Lawler’s response is to joke about Undertaker not having the urn. Undertaker is in the black and purple he came back with in his return to WWF, after knee surgery, at SummerSlam 1994.

Since this show is happening during the big baseball strike, our referee is a moonlighting baseball umpire, Larry Young.

DiBiase accidentally drops the urn, which Vince quickly explains away as DiBiase being so intimidated by the Undertaker and his power.

If you’re looking for a great technical match, you might want to skip this one. Same if you’re looking for a hidden gem where two contrasting styles surprisingly mesh seamlessly into a great match. This match was rough to watch. It wasn’t Giant Gonzalez rough, but it was close.

Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Taker is now 4-0, surpassing Hogan’s previous streak of 3-0. Afterwards, Taker and Paul do their ritual salute, but they still don’t have the urn.

Highlights: Undertaker temporarily retrieving the urn. Undertaker tombstoning Bundy. Vince quickly thinking up a cover for DiBiase’s butterfingers.

Comments: I’m really ‘meh’ on this match. Taker and Bundy were not a good match up and the whole thing about repossessing the urn was silly.

Nick Turturro is still looking for Pamela Anderson. Apparently, she and HBK had a disagreement and she’s left. He runs into Steve McMichaels who cuts an odd promo on Kama for calling him a ‘creampuff’ and vows that Kama will get his at the Taylor/Bigelow fight. The rest of the All-Pro team cut promos on the rest of Bigelow’s team. Ugh moment when one of the all-pro calls Tatanka a ‘cigar store Indian’.

Nick continues his search and finds Jonathan Taylor Thomas playing chess with Bob Backlund. When Nick asks if they’ve heard about Pamela Anderson, Backlund starts ranting about the intrusion and how it’s what’s wrong with America. Backlund doesn’t know who Pamela Anderson is, and is checkmated by JTT. He doesn’t like that either, and starts ranting again. JTT doesn’t know what to think of this, and neither do I. When JTT correctly tells Backlund who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is, the ranting starts all over again. Backlund, thankfully, storms out and Nick promises to keep looking for Pamela Anderson.

Tag Team Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns vs Owen Hart and Yokozuna (with Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette)

After that bizarre interlude, we’re back to wrestling. Owen Hart is coming out for the Tag Team match, to loud boos, but he doesn’t have a partner. Lawler claims to know who it is and that it’s a ‘big’ deal. Owen gets on the mic and says that his partner is the man who did the one thing Owen himself has always wanted to do: Beat his brother, Bret, for the WWF Title. His partner is Yokozuna, who comes out with Mr. Fuji and Cornette to a mixed reaction. As usual, Cornette looks like he got dressed in the dark, with his eyes closed. Owen hugs Yokozuna and we await the Tag Team Champions, the Smoking Gunns.

We go to the Gunns backstage and are asked about the addition of Yokozuna. Billy Gunn (yes, THAT Billy Gunn) says that while they are surprised, they fully intend on walking out of WrestleMania still the Tag Team Champs. When Vince comments on this being an uphill battle, Bart replies that they didn’t expect Yokozuna but that they also weren’t sure who would team with Owen Hart given his mean and nasty reputation, but that they are going to win.

Smoking Gunns are out to a really great pop. Yokozuna waves the Japanese flag to a round of boos and the dismay of the Gunns. After a little discussion, we start off with Owen and Billy.

This was a really good tag match. However, Yokozuna’s increased size really hindered his athleticism, as opposed to his previous WrestleMania matches. That said, the crowd was really into the match and the Owen/Yokozuna team was a surprisingly good match.

We get a wonky moment where Billy Gunn is being given the arm test but I think Billy lost his train of thought for a minute. His arm dropped to the mat for the third time before he remembered that he needed to lift it. Chioda lets the match continue anyway. We also get a moment where it looked like the Gunns were going to win when Owen goes for a missile dropkick and Billy ducks, so Yokozuna get the kick instead.

Winner: Owen Hart and Yokozuna by pinfall. Owen and Yokozuna celebrate in the ring, Owen literally jumping for joy.

Highlights: Bart Gunn knocking down Yokozuna with a hairpull snapmare. Owen teasing a Sharpshooter, but going for the pin instead. Owen’s excitement over winning the tag belts.

Comments: This was a surprisingly good match and a surprisingly great team with Owen/Yokozuna

We go to Todd Pettengill who is interviewing Bam Bam Bigelow. We get a recap of the issues between Bigelow and Taylor. Mostly, Bigelow picking a fight with LT at the Royal Rumble. Bigelow vows to take down LT. Pettengill asks about fan reaction and LT’s lack of skill. Bigelow says he doesn’t care what the fans think and that he’s not going to be beaten by LT. When asked about the All-Pro team, Bigelow says that Million Dollar team has his back, so all he has to worry about is LT. Bigelow says LT doesn’t have a prayer and that LT isn’t going to come in and make a fool out of him.

I Quit Match: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund Special Guest Referee – Roddy Piper

Finkel, minus his rug from last year, and gives us the rules for the ‘I Quit’ Match: No pinfalls, countouts, or DQs. Match only ends when someone says ‘I Quit’. He also introduces Piper, who comes out to a tremendous pop. Backlund is out next to a thunderous round of boos and is still griping about something. He tries to get the crowd on his side, but the crowd isn’t having it. Bret’s out next to a thunderous pop.

Bret dominates from the start, goes for the Sharpshooter, but Backlund blocks it. This basically is a regular match, the only difference is Piper there with the mic, asking either man if they want to quit.

Given the two people involved and the time period, this match isn’t nearly as hardcore as future ‘I Quit’ matches would be, but it was a really good match.

The match finally ends when Backlund gets Bret in the Crossface Chickenwing, only for Bret to not only get out of the hold, but put Backlund in his own hold. Bret gets Backlund to the floor and Piper asks Backlund if he wants to quit, but Backlund’s reply really sounds like more of a shout of pain than any words. Piper calls for the bell anyway.

Winner: Bret Hart, though there is some controversy over what Backlund said.

Highlights: Vince McMahon getting Bret’s WrestleMania VIII opponent (Piper) mixed up with the British Bulldog. Bret using the Figure Four. Piper’s refereeing. Bret beating Backlund with his own move.

Comments: This was an ‘eh’ for me. Backlund and Bret worked really well together, but as far as ‘I Quit’ matches go, this was kind of a dud, in my opinion.

JR is trying to get an interview with Backlund, but Backlund looks to be in a state of shock and says he’s ‘seen the light’. JR’s not sure what the heck is going on.

Nick says he can’t find Pamela Anderson and that there’s been celebrity changes since Ms. Anderson has vanished into thin air.

Todd Pettengill is with WWF Champion, Diesel. Pettengill mentions HBK’s vow that he’s not leaving without the WWF Title. Diesel says that’s funny because he’s made the same vow. He also says that he doesn’t buy HBK’s promise that Sid won’t be involved because he’s been in Sid’s shoes, and knows how HBK thinks. Diesel tells HBK that he’s going to show everyone why Big Daddy Cool is WWF Champion.

We are introduced to our guest ring officials. Jonathan Taylor Thomas as guest timekeeper, Nick Turturro as guest ring announcer. Nick tries to box with Finkel, but Fink just gets out of the way, but is a good sport about it.

Image result for wrestlemania 11 diesel vs shawn michaels

WWF Championship Match: Diesel (with Pamela Anderson) vs Shawn Michaels (with Jenny McCarthy)

HBK comes out with Sid and Jenny McCarthy to a mixed reaction. Jenny takes her seat and doesn’t join HBK and Sid in the ring. We get another view of HBK’s terrible dancing as he takes off his chaps.

Diesel is out to an enormous pop and he has a surprise for us. It turns out that Pamela Anderson didn’t fly the coop, she was just with Big Daddy Cool.

Things get off to a crazy start when Diesel goes to take a swing at Sid, HBK tries to hit him from behind, but Diesel sends HBK to the outside, and invites Pamela Anderson into the ring.

The match starts with a slugfest with HBK wearing his hand out on Diesel’s head, and after some swing and misses by Diesel on the much quicker HBK, Diesel finally levels him.

This match was pretty back and forth, surprisingly. Also surprising was how good it was. HBK and Diesel really went out there to tear the house down. It didn’t quite do that, but it came pretty close. These were two fan favorites and those matches are always tough because there’s not a single person for the fans to get behind.

Winner: Diesel by pinfall. JR tries to get an interview with HBK, but Sid says that this isn’t over and HBK is not finished with Diesel. Afterwards, Diesel invites the celebrities into the ring for a celebration.

Highlights: HBK, the eternal terrier who believes he’s a Rottweiler. HBK getting mad at a member of the press who got in the way. Jenny McCarthy looking after JTT.

Comments: I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this match.

Pettengill with HBK and Sid backstage and HBK is PISSED. HBK says that he had Diesel beat and the whole world saw it. He says tonight proves that he is the best. Sid chimes in and points out that in the MLB or NCAA, there’s always more than one official to make the calls (which is true) and that if WWF had had an extra ref, HBK would be WWF champion and that this feud with Diesel isn’t over. HBK says he’s sick of talking, especially since he proved he was the best. He also throws down a challenge to Diesel: That if Diesel is half the man and champion he claims to be, he’ll give HBK another shot at the title.

Notes: According to Kevin Nash (Diesel), HBK was so frustrated that Vince wouldn’t give him a run with the WWF Title despite being, somewhat arguably, the best in-ring performer on the roster, that he deliberately botched the Jackknife Powerbomb to make Nash look bad. Nash doesn’t seem to bear a grudge against HBK for this and the two are still best friends to this day, but it’s an interesting look at HBK’s mindset back then that he’d make his own friend look bad because the friend got the chance HBK wanted for himself.

Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow

The Million Dollar Corporation comes out to various amounts of booing. The All-Pro team are out next to great pops. Salt-n- Pepa are there, cheering for the footballers. The Million Dollar Corporation circles the ring and the footballers invite them in. Pat Patterson, the special ref is having a hard time keeping order. Reggie White gets a shot in on Kama, who was on the apron talking trash. Another one takes a shot at Tatanka.

Bam Bam Bigelow is out first to a loud round of boos. He goes for Salt-n-Pepa for some reason. LT is out next to a thunderous pop.

This match starts with a staredown and slap.

This was by no means a technical or scientific match. It was okay, but I’m not a fan of this match. See my opinion below.

Winner: LT by pinfall. Afterwards, the footballers come in to celebrate and LT is hoisted up. JR tries to talk to the wrestlers and DiBiase is LIVID and berates Bigelow for losing to a football player. LT’s son comes in to celebrate, but LT is exhausted.

Highlights: Bigelow’s athleticism is always amazing to see. Guys his size didn’t do aerial moves in the 90s. LT finding out that wrestling is a little harder than football.

Comments: I did NOT like this match! The fact that WWF let an outsider not only compete in the company’s biggest PPV but let him go over on one of the superstars in a 1-1 contest is one of the worst decisions they could’ve made. Even with Hogan/Mr. T vs Piper/Orndorff, T never got the pin, Hogan got the pin to protect Orndorff. Same in WrestleMania II, T only beat Piper by DQ, which protected Piper.

In my opinion, LT beating Bam Bam lowered respect for the business because it made it look like anyone with a minimal amount of training could beat a veteran wrestler, and I’d feel that way if they’d replaced LT and Bigelow with Brett Favre and the Undertaker.

That rant aside, this was an okay match. It brought WWF a lot of mainstream attention and brought in casual viewers, but I can’t say I’d watch it again.

Overall Comments:

So, did your humble reviewer have to eat her words about a 1995 wrestling PPV? Overall, yes, I did. WrestleMania XI was a pretty good show. There were some stinkers, but the show didn’t suck.

Celebrities: I’m a little ‘eh’ about the celebrities. Since I was twelve in the spring of 1995, I recognized all of the non-football celebrities, but I can’t say they really enhanced the show that much. The fact that Salt-n-Pepa didn’t perform a song irritates me greatly.

Snoozers: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund. It was a good match but it was pretty boring as far as ‘I Quit’ matches go.

Stinkers: Undertaker vs King Kong Bundy. That was rough watching. LT vs Bigelow for the simple fact that an outsider should NOT have gotten a win over a WWF superstar at WrestleMania in a 1-1 match.

Match of the Night: HBK vs Diesel for the story of two friends turning into rivals.

Final Thoughts: This WrestleMania is usually panned by fans, and I can see why, even if I don’t think it’s as bad as they think. This was also dubbed the WrestleMania that saved WWF during a downturn in the wrestling business.


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Chairshot Classics

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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