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WrestleMania XIII: A New Era Begins

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WrestleMania 13 Bret Hart Steve Austin Ken Shamrock

WrestleMania XIII is widely believed to be the start of the ‘Attitude Era’ thanks to an unexpectedly bloody match between one of the top guys in the company and a man who would help turn the wrestling world upside down in the span of a year.

The main event featured Undertaker in one of only three title matches he’d have at WrestleMania as part of the Streak due to a series of unfortunate events that went as such: Austin won the Royal Rumble despite already being eliminated by Bret Hart. HBK defeats Sycho Sid at Royal Rumble, becomes WWF Champion, but drops the belt due to a knee injury. Austin’s Royal Rumble win was declared null and void (only time that had happened) and there was a Fatal Four Way to decide the new WWF champion, which Bret won, but then promptly lost to Sid on RAW, thanks to Austin and the Undertaker. Everyone still with me?

Amidst that chaos, the WrestleMania XIII card also saw the WrestleMania debut of a young man that would become very loved by ‘the people’, a Chicago Street Fight, and a Fatal Four Way match for the #1 Contendership for the Tag Titles.

So, is WrestleMania XIII a great start to the Attitude Era? Let’s find out!

Opener:

We open with a montage of past WrestleMania that compares WWE with Utopia and the fact that the babyfaces were no longer the stand-up men they were in Hogan’s day and promotes the big matches. This is the first time WrestleMania is referred to as ‘The Showcase of the Immortals’.

Fatal Four Way Elimination #1 Contender’s Match for The WWF Tag Team Championship: The Headbangers vs Doug Furnas and Phil La Fon vs The Godwins (with Hillbilly Jim) vs The New Blackjacks

Godwins are out first, but it’s hard to tell if the crowd is cheering for them or just cheering in general. Another first: Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler being at the same announce table for WrestleMania and the only time Vince is with them. Godwins are gladhanding Vince, though I’m not sure why.

Headbangers are out next to an okay pop. And we’re told the rules to this thing: A tag can be made to any man. When a man is defeated, his team is eliminated. The last team remaining wins. Simple enough, I guess.

Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon are out next and mistakenly ID’d as ‘The Headbangers’. They get a minimal pop.

We get a retrospective on the Blackjacks and we get an interview of the New Blackjacks, one of whom is JBL with a handlebar mustache. The New Blackjacks say they’re going to hold up the Blackjack tradition and become WWF tag team champions. JBL’s end of this promo is extremely cringe-worthy.

New Blackjacks get a small chorus of boos and all hell breaks loose. I want to think that there is an equal number of faces and heels, but everyone seems to be against the Blackjacks.

This match has some odd spots, like both Headbangers being tagged in and having to face off against each other. They don’t, and choose to tag in either Furnas or LaFon, then beat him up. This match wasn’t an absolute crap show but it got close sometimes. A melee broke out and somehow the New Blackjacks and Furnas/LaFon were eliminated and we’re down to the Headbangers vs the Godwins.

This match was rough watching. The team styles clashed a lot and no one seemed to know what the rules were.

Winner: Headbangers by pinfall

Comments: ‘eh’.

We get a promo for In Your House (the original B shows)

Back in the ring, Honky Tonk Man is here for some reason and some WWF Hall of Famers are in the audience. Apparently, Honky is joining us on commentary.

Intercontinental Championship Match: Rocky Maivia vs The Sultan (with Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund)

The Sultan and co are out first to a loud round of boos. It’s still weird to see Backlund and Iron Sheik working together. It’s weird to hear King bash Rock, but Rocky Maivia wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity.

Maivia’s up next and he gets a minimal pop that sounds vaguely positive, like he’d be getting in a few years.

This was a really good match. Even for being his first WrestleMania, you can see the greatness that is in Rocky. The turn to the Rock is starting to show, but he’s not quite there yet.

Winner: Rocky Maivia by pinfall. Rocky goes to leave and JR tries to get an interview, when Rocky is jumped by an irate Sultan. Sultan, Sheik, and Backlund take out their frustrations on poor Rocky, including a splash off the top from Sultan. Iron Sheik puts Rocky in the Camel Clutch when Rocky’s dad, ‘Soul Man’ Rocky Johnson charges the ring and starts swinging. Backlund and the others don’t seem to know what to do, so Rocky Sr, tries to tend to his son, but gets jumped by the heels, including getting beaten with the Iraqi or Sudanese flag. Rocky Jr gets up to defend his dad and punches the Sultan out of the ring. Dad and son take turns slamming the Iron Sheik before giving him stereo punches that get Sheik out of the ring. Then, father and son hug in a heartwarming moment (gag) and have their hands raised in victory.

Highlights: Rocky dancing like a spaz after knocking Sultan down and breaking out some aerial moves. Sultan hitting a splash off the top turnbuckle. Rocky Johnson coming to his son’s aide.

Comments: I really liked this match. Seeing future big stars at the start of their careers is usually fun.

Todd Pettengill is interviewing Ken Shamrock, who will be the special guest ref for the Submission Match later in the evening. We get a look at Billy Gunn having more guts than brains and challenging Shamrock, and getting his butt kicked. Pettengill asks about the comments of Austin and Hart, that they will not hesitate to get physical with Shamrock. Shamrock says he was hired for this match because he knows submissions and he’s not intimidated by Austin or Hart.

Dok Hendrix is interviewing Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Chyna. Dok asks about Helmsley’s relationship with Chyna, including wondering if she’s Helmsley’s boss. Helmsley says that this is WrestleMania and they’re in Chicago, but that no one needs to know what the deal is with Chyna.

Dok asks about Goldust and Marlena. Helmsley says he can take Goldust any way he wants, but Marlena’s going to be the real loser because she had the chance to be with Helmsley, but turned it down. (Commenter: Ew, seriously?)

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (with Chyna) vs Goldust (with Marlena)

Helmsley and Chyna are out first to little reaction, though there are plenty of signs in the audience. This Connecticut Blue Blood/Triple H hybrid that’s going on is weird and doesn’t quite jive. Goldust and Marlena are out next to a pretty good pop. Marlena looks nervous.

The match starts with a good, old-fashioned, fistfight, with Goldust coming out on top. Goldust pretty much dominates the match at the start and the crowd seems into it, until Helmsley manages to turn things around a little, but Goldust battles back. This was a pretty good match, Goldust and Helmsley worked really well together, there was a lot of back and forth and we got to see a different side to the Goldust character.

Winner: Helmsley by pinfall after Goldust is distracted by Chyna intimidating Marlena.

Highlights: Goldust refusing to be beaten and trying to protect Marlena from Chyna.

Comments: I hated this storyline between Helmsley and Goldust. Chyna being used to punish Marlena for wanting to be faithful to her husband was awful.

We go backstage to the area where the Superstars can interact with fans via chatrooms and see HBK trying to figure out how to type, much to the amusement of the commentators.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match: Owen Hart and British Bulldog vs Mankind and Vader (with Paul Bearer)

Mankind and Vader are out first and judging by the crowd reaction, I’m guessing they’re the heels. Owen and Davey Boy are out next to a pretty good pop. It’s weird thinking of Owen Hart as a babyface, but I guess he’s one right now.

JR goes to talk to the champs and stirs the pot a little by relaying some things Owen had said about Davey Boy. Owen tells JR to shut up and that he’s a cowboy wannabe. JR points out that Owen said these things on TV, but the champs aren’t listening. Davey Boy says that they’re going to stay the champions and tells JR to stop stirring things up. When JR asks who the leader of the team is, Owen says it’s him.

This match wasn’t pretty, the styles seemed to mesh okay, but this wasn’t a pretty match to watch. This was a good match though, just not the smoothest.

Winner: Both teams are counted out. Davey Boy’s been knocked out by Mankind’s Mandible Claw. Mankind and Vader celebrate, but Owen and Davey Boy retain the title.s

Highlights: JR stirring the pot with Owen and Davey Boy. Vader’s athleticism

Comments: I liked this match okay. It wasn’t the best match in the world, but it was okay.

We get a recap of just why Bret and Austin are feuding and how Bret went from a beloved babyface to a whiny heel. (Commenter: He was always whiny, in my opinion).

Submission Match: Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin Special Guest Ref: Ken Shamrock

Ken Shamrock is already in the ring to a HUGE pop. Austin is out next to a pretty good pop. Still not what he’d get in another year, but good nonetheless. Despite being the heel in this, Bret still gets a pretty good pop. Unsurprisingly, this match starts with a fistfight and quickly spills out of the ring and into the crowd

This match is highly praised, and I can see why. These guys beat the tar out of each other and worked really well together. Shamrock did a good job of managing this circus.

This is also the match that is cited as the match that made Austin a star. I’m afraid I don’t quite agree with that assessment. The Austin 3:16 signs were everywhere in that arena, but Bret still got a slightly better pop and got quite a pop when he was declared the winner, though that didn’t last long. I do think that Austin already had starpower and people were beginning to see that, but since Austin 3:16-mania did NOT get him the title shot and since he wouldn’t win the title for another year, I can’t say that this one match MADE Austin. It helped, but it wasn’t the determining factor that made him the mega-star he became in 1998.

Winner: Bret Hart, technically, after Austin passes out from blood loss. After Bret celebrated, he attacked Austin again, to the outrage of the crowd. Bret tries to put the Sharpshooter on Austin again and kept from doing so by Shamrock. Bret gets in Shamrock’s face, but Shamrock doesn’t back down. The crowd loves it and wants a throwdown, but Bret walks away and the crowd shows its displeasure.

Shamrock turns his attention to Austin, who is coming around and tries to help him up, but Austin isn’t having it and stuns Shamrock, walking away under his own, slightly sputtering,  steam and the crowd reaction goes from mixed to leaning towards Austin.

Highlights: Austin refusing to submit and walking away under his own power. Bret losing his cool and just beating the tar out of Austin.

Comments: I really enjoyed this match. Seeing Bret losing his temper was really amusing.

We go to Todd Pettengill with the Nation of Domination, who are ready for a war. Farooq says that crooks and thugs come out at night and they are tonight. He also says Ahmed Johnson and the Road Warriors (not the Legion of Doom) will get what’s coming to them.

Chicago Street Fight: Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson vs The Nation of Domination

Nation of Domination is out first to little reaction, and they truly brought everything but the kitchen sink. Legion of Doom, of course, get a HUGE pop, not just because it’s the Legion of Doom, but because they’re billed as being from Chicago. Unlike NoD, Legion of Doom/Johnson DID bring the kitchen sink, so we’re all set.

I’m not going to try and make sense of this gang fight. Needless to say, it was chaos, but a lot of fun. It’s a good palate cleanser between the Submission Match and the WWF Championship match.

Winner: Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson. The rappers attack but get Pearl River Plunged and a double Doomsday Device for their troubles.

Highlights: Legion of Doom remembering the kitchen sink. Farooq calling the Legion of Doom ‘The Road Warriors’.

Lowlight: Savio Vega putting a noose on Ahmed Johnson and trying to hang him. Someone putting the noose on Farooq.

Comments: I liked this match overall.

We get another promo for the next In Your House.

The Streak: No Disqualification WWF Championship Match – Sycho Sid vs The Undertaker

HBK is joining us on commentary and gets a great pop. Lawler isn’t happy about this and calls HBK a ‘troublemaker’. Ross tells him to leave then, and Lawler refuses. HBK keeps them waiting so he can greet all the fans wanting high-fives and hugs. HBK does his traditional pose in the ring, testing his knee and applauds the fans.

Todd Pettengill is trying to interview Sid, and as usual, Sid only makes sense if you are on a mind-altering substance. Sid does say that he’s not scared of the dark or the Undertaker.

The bell tolls and the lights go out, The Deadman Cometh. It’s still weird to see him without Paul Bearer.  Taker, graciously, brings the lights back up and he is ready to go. JR notes that Taker has never lost at WrestleMania but does not elaborate further. HBK admits to having goosebumps and says that he thinks tonight is Taker’s night. Sid’s music hits and he comes out to a round of boos, but doesn’t seem to really notice or care.

Taker and Sid face off, but Bret comes out and gets in the ring. Apparently, Bret didn’t get the memo that this match is between Sid and Undertaker ONLY. The crowd is livid at the interruption. Bret trashes and threatens HBK, who ignores him. Bret turns his attention to Taker who is not happy and says Taker slammed the door on their friendship when he cost him the WWF Title. Sid just laughs as Bret whines and complains, and then he looks annoyed. Seriously, Bret, shut up. Sid’s had enough and powerbombs Bret, much to everyone’s approval. Sid then gets on the mic and tells Bret to take his whiny ass out. Sid then says that when he’s done with Taker, he’s going to bring Bret back out.

What Sid planned on doing to Bret is left unsaid because Taker jumps him from behind.

This match isn’t quite as good as Undertaker vs Diesel, but it wasn’t bad. It was extremely physical, and a little sloppy in spots, but it wasn’t so bad as to ruin everything.

Bret attacks Sid for powerbombing him (I think we all agree that Bret deserved it). Taker starts to go after Bret, but decides to let the officials take care of it.  HBK corrects JR’s assertion that Bret’s snapped by saying “He’s bitter because the spotlight isn’t on him.” Lawler replies that it’s the pot calling the kettle black.

Bret STILL won’t give up and comes back for more. Sid beats him up a little, which gives Taker time to recover and hit the tombstone.

Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Streak is 6-0 and we have a new WWF Champion. Taker celebrates with the crowd and signals that this victory was for them.

Highlights: Taker hitting the Stinger Splash.  Bret not knowing when to give up, or shut up, and getting his butt kicked for it.

Comments: I liked this match, it was very physical, but very good. The inclusion of Bret was a good way to build on his heel turn.

Overall Comments:

So, was WrestleMania XIII a good start for the Attitude Era? Overall, I’d say yes. The Attitude Era was just beginning in 1997 and would grow a great deal by WrestleMania XIV, but this was a good start.

Stinkers: Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Goldust for the simple fact that I hated the storyline and how Chyna and Marlena were used, especially Marlena. Fatal Four Way Tag Match because no one seemed to know what they were doing.

Match of the Night: Submission match.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I liked this WrestleMania. It had some rough spots, but it was fun overall.


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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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