Open: Starrcade ’86 is once again multi-venued at the Omni in Atlanta and the Greensboro Colesium in Greensboro, North Carolina. Tom Miller welcomes us to Greensboro, meanhile the scaffold hovers above the ring in Atlanta. Miller then asks everyone to rise for the National Anthem. Tony Schiavone & Rick Stewart are standing by at The Omni, while Bob Caudle & Johnny Weaver open the show in Greensboro, Caudle giving us a rundown of what’s to come before heading to the squared circle.
Match #1: Tim Horner & Nelson Royal vs. Don & Rocky Kernodle
Horner and Rocky start the match. A couple hip tosses and they exchange a variety of wrist and hammer locks. A little chain wrestling including Kernodle missing a dropkick before Rocky gives Horner an arm drag. Don is tagged in. Horner with a bodyslam on Don. He runs the ropes and executes a powerslam. Horner tags in Royal. Don connects with a shoulder tackle before Royal catches him with an abdominal stretch on Don, who reverses to a hip-toss. Don misses a charge to the corner and Royal tags out.
Horner cannot get much going on Don. Royal tags back in and puts a sleeper on Don, but Don is able to walk to the corner for a tag. Rocky enters the ring with a sunset flip from the top rope. 2 count is broken up with a headscissor. Rocky follows with a bodyslam, but misses a cross body. Royal tags Horner. and gives him a powerslam. A small package gets the same. A little brawling in the ring and Don makes the tag, and gives Horner a delayed vertical suplex. 2 count and a kickout. Don gives Horner a backdrop, and tries running into a diving headbutt, but he misses. Horner gives Don a dropkick. 2 count. They run the ropes and Don nails a big clothesline. Rocky tags in again, sends Horner to the ropes and hits a gorilla press slam. Rocky cradles Horner for a pin, but Horner reverses it into a pinfall of his own sitting on his chest and holding his legs. 1-2-3 for the win.
Winners: Tim Horner & Nelson Royal (Pinfall Counter)
- EA’s Take: This was a nothing happening match for me and in retrospect, I’m a little curious as to why it’s on the card. Don Kernodle is the most known of this grouping, but only if you’re familiar with Sgt. Slaughter’s career since they were partners and tag champions. Nelson Royal was a wrestler back in the 1960’s, had retired, then came back in 1983. Meanwhile, Horner is still a bit of an upstart, but neither he or Royal are ever anything more than jobbers. I don’t know why I was supposed to care about this match and unlike in year’s past when the crowd was into seemingly everything, the noise was fairly subdued in this one. Honestly, I had no idea who was even supposed to be the heels until the match was over.
Match #2: Brad Armstrong vs ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin w/Precious
Both men lock up and let go. Garvin is taunting the crowd. They lock up again very aggressively. Lots of fast paced, vicious, traditional wrestling. Garvin slows it down with a headlock but Armstrong fights it. The ref finally breaks it up. Garvin applies another headlock but Armstrong attempts to counter with a wristlock. Armstrong wrestles Garvin down into an armbar submission. He continues to work on the arm with his knee and he gets some near falls. Both men are back to their feet fighting for control, trading armbars. Armstrong with a headlock takedown. They trade submissions on the mat until it’s broken by the rope. Back to their feet. Garvin wrestles Armstrong down and locks up his leg. He and Precious both taunt the crowd and camera.
Armstrong struggling to no avail with Garvin really strong on his legs for an extended period. Armstrong is able to get Garvin in a headlock despite the hold, and it’s what ultimately breaks it. Both men to their feet, back and forth on the ropes until Armstrong takes him down with a drop toe hold. Armstrong goes to work with some arm submissions until Precious is up distracting the wrestlers and ref on the apron. Garvin takes advantage of the distraction and works Armstrong down into a headscissor submission by illegally pulling him down by his hair. Armstrong trying to find strength but he’s caught in the grasp. Garvin continues to taunt the crowd. A huge pop when Armstrong escapes. Both men to their feet, they run the ropes and Armstrong delivers a hip toss, followed by a snapmare.
Garvin is quickly up though, and somehow gets Armstrong back down to the mat in the same headscissor submission. Armstrong once again escapes. They’re on their feet and Armstorng takes control, Garvin is caught in a headlock and fighting. Multiple kidney shots and he picks Armstrong up for a side slam, but Armstrong is able to counter. Garvin is still caught in that headlock. Garvin wills Armstrong’s shoulders to the mat for an apparent 3 count, but the ref saw Garvin holding the trunks and pushes them back over. Both men slowly to their feet, Garvin still caught in the headlock. He fights until finally breaking the hold with a side suplex. Both men down, Garvin is first to his feet. Attempts a pin, gets a 2 count. He bashes Armstrong’s head into the turnbuckle and throws him through the middle rope. The crowd boos. Precious approaches Armstrong taunting him.
Garvin kicks him into the rail on his attempt to re-enter the ring and Precious continues to taunt. The same results happens again. The ref backs Garvin off long enough for a drowsy Armstrong to make it back to the ring. Garvin with a snapmare and a 2 count. The crowd is trying to encourage Armstrong but Garvin is in control. Several 2 counts for Garvin after several attacks including a backbreaker. A shoulder tackle for Garvin but it looks like the men bumped heads so they’re both down on the mat. Both are up after a referee 6 count. Garvin attempts a body slam but Armstrong falls on top of him. 2 count. Garvin is frustrated and they exchange blows. Armstrong whips him to the corner but Garvin counters with a knee to the face. 2 count for Garvin. Shiavone explains there is 1 minute left! Garvin attempts a sleeper, but Armstrong with a takedown. They exchange pin attempts to no avail. Schiavone explains they’re at the 15 second mark as Garvin bodyslams Armstrong and heads to the top rope. As he executes an attempted splash, the bell rings and Armstrong moves.
- After The Bell: Armstrong attacks Garvin and sends him to the outside. He’s fired up now, Precious confronts Armstrong in the ring and the crowd is hot. Garvin attempts to get Armstrong from behind, but he’s wise to it and delivers punches until Garvin stumbles back out of the ring. Garvin is upset, but is consoled by telling himself he’s still undefeatedas the crowd boos him out of the arena.
- EA’s Take: Great selling of the aggression at the beginning of the match here by two real pros. Brad comes from the famed Armstrong family of course, arguably the most talented of the bunch. Even his brother ‘Road Dogg’ Jesse James has stated as much. Coming from a pedigree almost makes it inevitable sometimes that you’ll be skilled in the ring and that’s certainly the case with the son of WWE Hall Of Famer Bullet Bob. The flamboyant Jimmy Garvin is a fantastic heel and the kayfabe brother of Ronnie Garvin and Terry, something that was never really brought up much after The Gorgeous One made a name for himself in WCCW. He strikes you as a David Lee Roth-type and Precious added to his rock star aura. My only issue with this contest is having it finish as a draw, but I can understand why they’d want both guys protected at this point in their careers.
Match #3: Hector Guerrero & Baron Von Raschke vs. Shaska Whatley & The Barbarian
Barbarian is looking pretty intense, wrapped in chains. HUGE pop and HUGE sombraro for Hector! The heels both attack Hector. They work each other to corners before Hector and Baron whip their opponents into each other. Hector with a backbody drop on Whatley. Hector in control with a dropkick and a splash. Whatley is able to reverse and make the tag to Barbarian. Whatley holds him while Barbarian delivers a big fist from the 2nd rope. Barbarian takes control and hangs up Hector on the ropes.
Hector moves an attempted clothesline and Barbarian goes over the top rope. Baron rushes over to hold Barbarian as Hector leaps over the top rope for a splash. Whatley goes after Hector and runs him into the post. Barbarian back on the attack with a snakeeyes on the gate. Whatley comes back for a few more cheap shots and rolls him back into the ring. Barbarian with a gorilla press slam and a leg drop. He makes the tag to Whatley who hits a backbody drop before tagging Barbarian again. They double team Guerrero who is in trouble. Barbarian executes a backbreaker followed by a headbutt. Whatley with some dirty play in the corner before Barbarian makes the tag and they deliver a double backbody drop. Attempted pin, 2 count. Whatley foils Hector’s attempt at a tag and drags him back to his corner. While the ref is lecturing Whatley, Barbarian is holding Hector in the corner.
Another tag is made and Barbarian gets off a big boot. 2 backbreakers in a row from Barbarian and another tag is made to Whatley. Whatley with a headbutt followed by spitting on Hector. He whips Hector to the rope for an apparent backbody drop but Hector stops short to the surprise of Whatley. The crowd goes wild as Hector dives to his corner for a tag to Baron. Baron marches around the ring and goes to work. Barbarian attempts to interfere but Baron knocks their heads together. He delivers the claw to Whatley but it’s broken up by Barbarian. All 4 men in the ring going to work. Whatley whips Baron to the corner but Baron moves and Whatley hits the turnbuckle. Baron drops the elbow and gets the pinfall.
Winners: Hector Guerrero & Baron Von Raschke (Von Raschke/Elbow Drop)
- After The Bell: The heels toss Hector over the top and double team Baron. Barbarian to the top rope as Whatley positions him for a diving headbutt. Hector back to the ring, delivers a dropkick and the heels retreat.
- EA’s Take: The Barbarian really seems to be finding himself a bit more in this one. Like I stated, he really seemed to be more intense. His partner, Shaska, might be better remembered as Pez Whatley, who had arrived in JCP in 1985 and initially feuded alongside Jimmy Valiant against Paul Jones’ Army. Now a turncoat, he really felt like just an interchangeable body next to Barbarian. I think we all know who Hector Guerrero is or are at least aware of who The Guerreros are, so you should be familiar with what he can do in the ring. He essentially did the heavy lifting here. Baron is of course a legend in the Minnesota area and is also a turncoat, but going the opposite direction of Pez. In all, this is really just an odd mix, Baron’s best days are long behind him, but Hector can work and Barbarian is getting his footing under him.
Backstage: Johnny Weaver is outside Dusty Rhodes’ locker room. The American Dream hasn’t granted and interview about his match tonight, Weaver pleads for one and Dusty is heard through the door saying to leave him alone.
Match #4 is No Disqualification for the NWA United States Tag Team Championships: The Kansas Jayhawks (Bobby Jaggers & Dutch Mantel) vs. NWA United States Tag Team Champions The Russians (Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev)
Ivan and Mantel start. Ivan using his power but Mantel manages a quick backbody drop and a tag to Jaggers. Ivan is punched to the ground followed by a whip and an elbow. Jaggers delivers more blows and uses Mantel’s boot in the corner and makes the tag. Lots of quick tags as the Jayhawks are in control. Ivan finally makes the tag to Krusher and the crowd boos. Krusher and Mantel lock up. Krusher works him to the corner and bullies him with rights. Ivan holds Mantel on the ropes and Jaggers breaks it up. Mantel rebounds with some offense forcing Krusher to the Jayhawks corner where they use the no DQ rule to their advantage.
More quick tags and double teams from the Jayhawks. Krusher stops short of a drop toe hold attempt and makes the tag to Ivan. Now it’s the Russians’ turn to doubleteam Mantel. Both Ivan and Mantel exchange failed Irish whips and Jaggers is tagged in. After a headlock, Mantel is tagged back in for a double elbow. Ivan wills himself back to the Russian corner. Mantel is fighting but can’t keep up with the two sided attack. Mantel is pulled out of the ring and is dropped knee first on the gate. Krusher rolls him back to Ivan who is waiting in the ring. Shoulder tackle by Ivan. Tag made to Krusher and more double team action ensues. 2 count by Krusher.
Double team work in the corner by The Russians. Jaggers is trying to break it up, but is being led away by the ref. The Russians whip Mantel to the ropes and he counters with a double clothesline. Mantel tags Jaggers who doesn’t discriminate going after both Russians and bashing their heads together. He whips Ivan for a lariat but the pinfall is broken up by Krusher. Now all 4 men are going at it, Jaggers and Krusher in the ring, Mantel and Ivan out. Commentators remind fans that there is no DQ. Ivan gets his trademark chain and climbs to the top rope while Krusher has Jaggers in his patented Bearhug. Before Ivan can jump he is literally whipped by Mantel from the apron. Krusher lets go of Jaggers and is whipped by Mantel, they both stumble out of the ring and brawl on the floor. Jaggers and Ivan are doing battle in the ring, as Jaggers is whipped to the ropes he’s hit from behind by Kruschev with Koloff’s chain. Jaggers falls to the mat and Mantel cannot get back in the ring thanks to Krusher. Pinfall for the win.
Winners and STILL NWA United States Tag Team Champions: The Russians (Kruschev/Foreign Object)
- EA’s Take: Nikita is no longer around with Ivan and Krusher, but we’ll get to that later in the main event. The future Zeb Colter & Bobby Jaggers don’t have a pretty offense, which can also be said about The Russians, so this was basically a slugfest for the secondary tag titles. Boy, if you thought WWE had a lot of titles, they’re surely following the footsteps of the NWA! Absolutely nothing historical about this one, The Kansas Jayhawks were a fairly short-lived duo, Jaggers is most known for feuding with Dusty in Florida, but that’s really it. Obviously, Dutch’s best days are probably coming up when he steps behind the scenes.
Match #5 is an Indian Strap Match: Rick Rude w/Paul Jones vs. Wahoo McDaniel
To win this match, you must touch all 4 corners in succession. Before the bell, Paul Jones takes the strap and demands Wahoo put it on first. Wahoo has no trouble obliging. Rude disropes and flaunts. Wahoo responds by whipping him and gets a big pop. The two bluff at starting a tug of war with the strap. Wahoo delivers a few whips before both men exchange punches. Rude is taken down with a shoulder tackle and Wahoo chokes him on the mat. Rude rolls out of the ring but Wahoo drags him back in. Rude applies a headlock and eventually rolls him to the mat. Both men get back to their feet and Rude’s on the offense beating Wahoo into the corner.
Rude wraps the strap on his feet and beats on Wahoo who is still sitting down in the corner. Rude flaunts to the crowd again and receives a boo. Back on the offense in the corner again. Bodyslam delivered by Rude who then wraps Wahoo’s wrists to restrict his motion and attempts the corners. He gets two before Wahoo gives a boot to the face. Wahoo lands a couple elbows to the head and works Rude into the corner. Paul Jones is demanding the ref break it up when Wahoo wraps the strap on the head of Rude. Wahoo delivers a flurry of whips to the back of Rude. Wahoo whips Rude to the corner and delivers a backhanded clotheline before dragging Rude to the corners. Rude appears to be deadweight as Wahoo gets 3 corners. Rude finally starts fighting back and pushes Wahoo down to the mat with his feet.
With Wahoo still down, Rude goes to the top rope and lands an elbow to the neck. The two fight for control, Rude gains it and he is back to the top rope again. Wahoo rolls to the ropes and uses the strap to throw Rude off the top and to the mat. Wahoo lands an elbow to the forehead and now he’s going for the corners. Paul Jones is going nuts. Wahoo gets 3 corners but Rude appears to be coming back to life. There is a tug of war as Wahoo goes for number 4. Jones is up on the Apron to attempt a stop to Wahoo’s pursuit. Wahoo elbows him back to the floor and dives for the 4th corner successfully.
Winner: Wahoo McDaniel
- After The Bell: Rude is enraged and attacks Wahoo in the corner. Jones is up into the ring to help. They tie Wahoo to the ropes but Hector and the Baron have a run in to save him before any further damage is done. The babyfaces celebrate in the ring.
- EA’s Take: Boy, The Ravishing One surely stands out among anybody you’ll see tonight just because of his look. Now, I’m not obsessed with jacked dudes like Vinnie Mac supposedly is, but Rude just LOOKS like a star. Rude would make a name for himself in Florida and WCCW, hailing from Minnesota, the land of many legends. The relative newcomer would quickly jump into Paul Jones’ Army and join the feud against Wahoo upon his arrival to JCP. The Chief is still hanging on by a thread career-wise and if you remember what Rude was famous for (at least to me), his ability to sell is really the entertaining point of this match. I’ve never really been a fa of the strap match and just the whole concept of having to touch all four corners, not my cup of tea. Of course like many others who did it before him, Rude would leave for greener pastures in the WWF the following April.
Backstage: The Russians are backstage with some words on tonight’s events. Ivan talks about outsmarting the Jayhawks and calls out Dusty Rhodes. He talks about Nikita’s upcoming match with Ric Flair tonight, Krusher demands Nikita do the honorable thing and give him the first title shot if he wins.
Match #6 for the NWA Central States Championship: ‘Superstar’ Bill Dundee vs. NWA Central States Champion Sam Houston
Dundee looks bothered by the crowd’s support for Houston. Dundee works Houston into the corner but Sam ducks a lariat. They lock up again and exchange armbars until Houston works him to the mat and delivers a legdrop. Both men regroup. Dundee has Houston on the mat in a headlock but Houston turns him for a couple near falls. They are back to their feet and to the ropes. The ref breaks it up. The two regroup. Irish whip to the corner and Houston with a headscissor takedown. Houston applies a headscissor submission. Dundee refuses to submit. Back to their feet once again, and Houston with a couple arm drags followed by a dropkick. Dundee is frazzled. They lock up and Dundee manages a takedown.
The ref is questioning if Dundee used Houston’s hair to bring him down. More submission work on the mat and Dundee lands a knee on the neck. 1 count. Houston stumbles to the corner before turning around and landing a punch on the pursuing Dundee. Houston is on the offense and tries for a running bulldog, but Dundee reverses it with a side suplex. Houston counters this with a full backflip and lands on his feet. Dundee runs him into the turnbuckle and pulls him backward for an attempted pin but Dundee pulls the trunks. The ref lectures Dundee on pulling the trunks.
They lock up again and Dundee sends Houston through the middle rope. It appears Houston hits the side of the table, he’s hurting. Dundee tries an attack on the floor, but Houston reverses it with an atomic drop and rolls back in the ring. Dundee is pulled back into the ring for a 2 count. Houston lands a punch but Dundee gets a big boot to Houston’s face. Dundee goes to the top rope and lands his Bombs Away, but he arrogantly delays the pin and only gets a 2 count. Dundee on the attack and appears to have his fingers in Houstons mouth. Dundee applies a front facelock and tells the cheering crowd to shutup. More punches and elbows. 2 Count.
Dundee lands 4 more punches before Houston goes down, and Dundee struts around the ring. He taunts again before a pinfall attempt and only gets 2 with the delay. Dundee applies a Boston crab and Houston screams “NO” when the ref asks him. Houston powers his way out but they’re in the ropes. Houston is once again thrown through the middle ropes. Dundee looks like he was headed for the top rope but the ref stops him from jumping to the floor. Houston crawls back into the ring and this time Dundee can land a big fist from the top rope. 2 count and Dundee is frustrated. Dundee takes Houston down to the mat with an inverted headlock.
Houston pumps the fans up by kicking the mat and slowly gets back up. He drives Houston to the corner and lands several rights. He whips Dundee for an elbow to the jaw. 2 Count. Houston with a knee to the jaw. Bodyslam by Houston, but Dundee moves an attempts knee drop. Dundee goes to work on the affected knee, using the bottom rope to make it vulnerable. Several knee submissions applied by Dundee. When Houston is able to shove Dundee off, he knocks the ref into the corner. This gives Dundee the opportunity to grab Houston’s the boot that fell off when the hold was broken and he clocks him with it. The ref saw it from the mat and calls for the bell. Dundee celebrates but the ref raises Houston’s hand.
Winner and STILL NWA Central States Champion: Sam Houston (Disqualification)
- After The Bell: An enraged Dundee beats Houston with his own boot until he’s able to roll out of the ring. Dundee is showered with boos.
- EA’s Take: Sam Houston moves up the card for this year’s Starrcade after opening the show the year prior. This was a really quick pace for these smaller stars, good job from Dundee to keep up with the young Houston at his age before slowing the pace. Dundee’s biggest exploits were in Memphis where he had a pretty hot feud against WWE Hall Of Famer Jerry Lawler, but by 1986 he was the same age as JJ Dillon. Again, another unusual title in the Central States Championship, which was the primary title of NWA affiliate Central States Wrestling (Kansas City).
Match #7 is Hair vs. Hair: Jimmy Valiant w/Big Mama vs. Paul Jones w/Manny Fernandez
Before the bell, Fernandez argues with the referee about going into the cage saying he’s going to sit ringside. He reluctantly works his way down. Several wrestlers from the back attack Fernandez to get him in the cage. Valiant is on the attack first. Irish whip and lariat to Jones. Valiant with a hiptoss as the crowd goes wild. Valiant rakes the back of Jones and hits another hiptoss. He continues the attack with a facerake.
The ref backs Valiant off Jones as they move to the turnbuckle. Jones goes to his tights and takes out a foreign object. He hits Valiant with it. “Big Mama” is trying to distract from ringside, but Jones is able to land several stomps and punches on a bleeding Valiant. 2 count. Jones is enraged and goes back to work on Valiant. Another pinfall attempt but the leg is on the rope. When Jones sees this he attempts a knee drop on Valiant’s leg, but Jimmy moves. Valiant starts pumping the crowd up “Hulk Style”.
Valiant is once again struck by the foreign object without the refs seeing it. Pinfall attempt by Jones, 2 count. Jones goes for the Indian Deathlock but Valiant pulls his head to the mat. The two are back to their feet and they exchange rights before Valiant takes control. Whips Jones to the ropes and into a sleeper. A desperate and struggling Jones once again reaches for a foreign object. Valiant shoves Jones to the turnbuckle who then falls to his back and the foreign object flies from his hand to the center of the ring. Valiant picks up the foreign object and hits him with it. 1-2-3.
Winner: Jimmy Valiant (Foreign Object)
- After The Bell: Valiant with the clippers shaves a knocked out Jones. Fernandez is slowly lowered to the floor and is demanding to come out. After the shaving is done, Fernandez attacks Valiant from behind and Rick Rude runs in joining the attack. Rude works on Valiant while Fernandez gets a chair. The two piledrive Valiant into the chair and then cover Jones’ head as they exit the ring.
- EA’s Take: The never-ending feud between Valiant and Paul Jones continues on, but would conclude after this one. In years past, the crowd was hot for anything going on between these two. That was not the case tonight as they would really die down almost into a silence during some points before a big pop for the finish. Maybe they were finally catching on that the matches just weren’t that good. I’d argue that Jones was a better worker even at this stage.
Intermission: Like every other year, we have an intermission like this is some kind of house show. Instead of highlights from previous Starrcade shows and interviews, we get a look at the last Jim Crockett Cup to promote the next upcoming tournament.
Match #8 is a Street Fight: Big Bubba Rogers w/Jim Cornette vs. Ronnie Garvin
Prematch, Cornette is on the mic to introduce Rogers. Schiavone explains the rules of the street fight which is the same as a last man standing. Garvin lands a few punches that seem to not effect a towering Rogers. Rogers looks for a traditional test of strength tie up. Garvin bluffs at it and punches Rogers out of the ring. Cornette helps Rogers regroup and he’s back to the ring. Rogers sends Garvin through the middle rope but he lands on his feet. Garvin is back to the ring and the men tie up. You can hear Cornette barking from ringside. The two brawl before Garvin is once again thrown through the middle rope.
Garvin slow to get back to the ring but he does so with a soda from the announce table. He splashes it on Rogers face and takes advantage with some vicious offense. Bubba finally rolls out of the ring and the crowd pops. Cornette gives Bubba a foreign object but Garvin catches Bubba in a chokehold as he enters the ring. Garvin works Bubba to the corner but Rogers out strengths him and gets in some blows. Bubba knocks him into the turnbuckle and nails him with a foreign object which appears to be a roll of nickels. Garvin gets up at an 8 count from the ref and Bubba goes back to work with punches to the mat. Garvin is once again up and an 8 count but is immeditaley bodyslammed by Bubba. 2 count. Bubba is up and the ref goes for another 10 count. Again, up at 8. The two exchange punches but Garvin pulls a rope out of his boot and starts choking Bubba with it.
The two work on the mat and Garvin lands several punches before once again tying Bubba up with the rope. After some exchanges, Rogers is able to take control and gets Garvin in a bear hug. Garvin gradually works the crowd up and is able to counter the bearhug with a headbutt but not for long. Bubba puts him in another. Garvin again counters with headbutt. Garvin lands multiple rights until finally punching him over the top rope to the floor. Cornette is pleading with Bubba to get up. Bubba’s back in the ring at the 6 count. Garvin still on the offense with rights until Bubba falls through the middle rope.
Garvin gives chase to the floor but Bubba counters with a knee to the midsection and rolls him back to the ring. Bubba to the top rope for a “Bubba Slam” but Garvin is to his feet for a gorilla press slam from the top rope. 2 count. When Bubba kicks out, Garvin lands on the referee. Garvin is first to his feet and lands a piledriver while the ref is unconcious. As Garvin stumbles near the ropes for a pin, Cornette hits Garvin on the back of the head with his racket and the referee starts his 10 count for both men who are down for the 10 count. He reaches 10 but explains on the mic that there must be a winner, so the first man to his feet will win. Cornette continues to plead with Bubba and gets in the ring but the ref pushes him back out. Garvin is the first to his knees. The ref is standing near Bubba and is pulled down. Garvin was to his feet but is hit in the knee by Cornette without the ref seeing. Bubba makes his way to his feet and win the match.
Winner: Big Bubba Rogers
- After The Bell: The crowd chants “Bull$#%!“.
- EA’s Take: In the words of Greg DeMarco referring to Big Bubba, “Thank God someone got him a gimmick!”. We know about the exploits of Ronnie Garvin after last year, but Bubba is obviously Ray Traylor, the future Big Bossman. I previously posted a picture of him working under his real name in JCP on The Chairshot’s Instagram and let me tell you, he was as bare bones (character-wise) as it gets. This upstart came into JCP and got pulled from television by Dusty Rhodes, who saw the potential in him and no longer wanted Traylor jobbing out. He was given the Big Bubba name and places alongside Jim Cornette as his bodyguard, looking like Mr. Hughes with a suit and shades (although not permanent shades like Hughes). He would get a good push and end up working opposite Dusty into 1987, but would make his way to the WWF in July of the same year.
Match #9 is First Blood for the NWA World Television Championship: Dusty Rhodes vs. NWA World Television Champion Tully Blanchard w/James J. Dillon
Before the match, they show Rhodes coming to the ring straight from his dressing room. JJ Dillon is putting a piece of headgear on Tully but Dusty is protesting. The ref and JJ get into an argument until finally JJ gives it up. Now JJ is putting some form of grease or oil on Tully’s face. The ref angerly protests this as well and wipes his face with a towel. Meanwhile, Dillon confronts Rhodes and is pushed to the mat. Dusty gives him some kicks and Dillon is bleeding. Tully misses a charge and offers Rhodes a test of strength.
Dusty instead kicks him to the midsection. The two regroup and lock up. Dusty taunts Blanchard by threatening him with his elbow. The two temporarily lock up but protect themselves from getting hit with punches or elbows. They regroup and lockup. Blanchard catches a kick, takes Rhodes to his back but misses an elbow. They lockup, and Rhodes hits a headbutt. Rhodes delivers a snapmare and a stomp to the knee. They tie up in the corner and Dusty works the midsection. The crowd goes wild as Rhodes hits an elbow. Dusty wants Tully checked but there’s no blood. Rhodes with a chop and Blanchard’s on the mat.
Rhodes with an elbow drop to the inside of the knee x2. When Rhodes threatens for the head, Blanchard rolls outside the ring. The two regroup and this time Blanchard takes control. After a snapmare, he rips at Rhodes’ face but is pulled to the mat instead. Rhodes works Blanchard to the corner, but JJ Dillon trips Rhodes from the outside and the big man falls into the ref. Meanwhile, Blanchard climbs the ropes. Dillon tosses Blanchard a shoe, but he can’t use it as Dusty catches his jumping effort. Rhodes with a suplex to Blanchard, but they hit the ref once again. With the ref out, Dusty delivers a barrage of punches to Blanchard’s head and he is bleeding but the referee is unconcious. As Rhodes celebrates, Dillon cleans the blood from Blanchard, puts oil over the cut and gives him a roll of coins. Blanchard hits Rhodes with the coins and he falls to the mat. When the ref comes to, the first thing he sees is a bleeding Dusty Rhodes.
Winner and STILL NWA World Television Champion: Tully Blanchard
- After The Bell: Dusty is enraged, pleading with the ref that Blanchard was bleeding first to no avail.
- EA’s Take: Another bloody brawl at Starrcade for Tully and another screwed finish going against the babyface. The build to this one was much better than the match itself and although I prefer Blanchard’s match against Magnum TA last year, it’s still a good watch and of course the crowd was white-hot. The formation of The Four Horsemen in early 1986 changed everything for pro wrestling’s future and anybody they were put up against seemed to come out the better of it. I stated previously that Dusty’s got the book and while he had put himself in main events in years past, he was starting to move himself down the card a bit and use his name to solidify other talent. Tully didn’t necessarily need it, but it gave him another high-profile match on Starrcade and continued The Horsemen/Rhodes rivalry without going to Dusty vs. Flair for the third year in a row.
Match #10 is a Skywalkers Match: The Road Warriors (Animal & Hawk) w/Paul Ellering vs. The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey) w/ Jim Cornette
To win this contest, you must push your opponents off the scaffold. Condrey starts to climb the ladder to the top of the scaffold but is very hesitant. Cornette encourages him up. As Eaton begins his climb, Cornette is grabbing his leg. Cornette comes to the announce table and proclaims that this match is insane. The Express look very nervous and start by sitting and crawling. Condrey crawls under Hawks legs and begins with Animal while Hawk and Eaton start as well. The Express are down face first early. Pretty slow moving basic stuff until the Express throws powder in the face of both Road Warriors.
Animal dangles off the right side of the scaffold and the Express are in control. Hawk’s legs are dangling. Eaton works Animal over and has one leg over. Bobby is underneith the scaffold trying to pull Animal over. He’s now hanging onto to Animals leg with one arm, the scaffold with another before catching himself on the scaffold. Eaton climbs back up as does Animal. Animal faceplants Eaton on the scaffold. Condrey is bloody from the work of Hawk. Both are bleeding. Condrey to the ladder. It looks like he may be trying to crawl down.
Hawk’s got him by the hair and delivers a right. Another right as Condrey moves down the ladder. A kick to the head as Condreys in a bad spot. Hawk comes down to kick him some more but Eaton stumbles over to save him. Animal is trailing Eaton though and catches him. Hawk delivering a series of punches to Condrey from just below the scaffold. The two continue to exchange blows while Eaton and Animal exchange up top. Animal beats beats Eaton the the lower scaffold but Eaton uses the monkey bars. All 4 men on the monkey bars swinging back and forth. The Roadwarriors kick them down. First Condrey, then Eaton.
Winners: The Road Warriors
- After The Bell: Outside the ring, Paul Ellering steals Jim Cornettes tennis racket and chases him down. Cornette tries to escape up the scaffold. Ellering gives chase. Cornette does realize Animal is still up there. Surrounded, a scared Cornette drops to him belly as Animal pulls on him. Cornette is hanging from the monkey bars and quickly falls to the ring in obvious pain.
- EA’s Take: This is of course the famous spot where Cornette blows out both of his knees and despite his acrophobia (fear of heights), would be willing to do the spot since it was on such a big stage. Big Bubba was supposed to catch him, but obviously that didn’t happen and Corny was seriously hurt. Now, if this isn’t the most dangerous gimmick you’ve seen that didn’t involve barb-wire or explosives, I’m not sure what is. Being so high up in the air leaves you on the edge of your seat, but with such an element of danger, you can imagine how difficult it is to have any sort of match under these circumstances. With two of the greatest tag teams ever, I understand the idea of the gimmick keeping Cornette at bay, but it just wasn’t for me. Waiting to watch somebody DIE is not really something I’m interested in.
Match #11 is a Steel Cage Match for the NWA World Tag Team Championships: The Andersons (Arn & Ole) vs. NWA World Tag Team Champions The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)
Gibson and Ole start. Ole’s aggressive but Gibson dodges a punch and Ole punches the cage. They lock up, Gibson on the offense but they roll to the Anderson’s corner and Ole makes the tag. Morton rushes the ring but is kicked out by the ref. Arn and Gibson working. Arn is driven into the cage multiple times before stumbling to Morton’s corner for some cheap shots. He’s able to stumble to his own corner and make the tag to Ole. Ole and Gibson exchange blows until Gibson is able to make the tag to Morton. Morton on the offense knocking Ole to the mat. They exchange a couple of reversals until Ole is able to tag Arn. Arn and Morton lock up.
Arn attempts to bash Morton to the cage but he puts his boot up. Multiple arm lock reversals before Arn backs off. Regroup. Morton with an armbar and tags Gibson. Gibson with an Irish whip into corner. Arn moves and Gibson is put up to the top rope. Arn works Gibson’s leg into the cage before dragging him off the top rope for a tag to Ole. Ole continues to work the left leg with stombs and leg drops. Another tag to Arn who picks up where Ole left off, working the left leg. Gibson is able to kick him off but before he can tag Morton, another tag is made to Ole. Ole stomps the leg but Gibson tries to fight back. The referee breaks the hold at the ropes.
Ole drags him back toward the Anderson corner but Gibson retalitates with shots to the head. He’s able to keep hold of Gibson’s foot though and makes the tag to Arn who continues submissions and knees shots to the damaged leg. Arn drags him up, Gibson attempts one kick but Arn catches it. From one foot Gibson lands a kick to Arn’s head. Arn is in position to make the tag to Ole but meanwhile, Gibson barrel rolls to his own corner and tags Morton. A huge ovation from the crowd. After brief offense, the Andersons double team Morton and Ole, the legal man, runs Morton into the steel cage twice. Ole punches him into the corner and puts his boot to Morton’s head until the ref calls him off. Snapmare by Ole. 2 count. Ole with a kick to the shoulder followed by an armbar. Morton fights him off and punches him to the ground, but Ole makes the tag along the way.
Arn works Morton into the corner and drags his face along the cage on both sides. Morton is bloody but fighting back. Arn stops the momentum wrapping Morton’s arm around the rope and tagging Ole. Ole goes to work with some stomps. He continues to target the left arm with a submission but it’s broken by the ropes. Ole hurls Morton over the turnbuckle and into the cage. More submission maneuvers and stomps on the left arm. He drives Morton into his own corner and tags Arn. Arn with an Anderson slam and goes to the 2nd rope. Morton reverses the double axe hammer with a shot to the gut and the crowd goes wild. Morton lands a DDT but Ole rushes the ring with stomps to Morton. When Gibson tries to stop this, the ref singles him out and forces him back to the corner while Ole continues to beat on Morton. Despite any official tag, it appears Ole is the legal man and he hits a shoulder drop. 2 count. Morton is fighting back but they’re in the Anderson’s corner again and the tag is made to Arn. A brief double team before Arn takes control and continues working the arm and pounding on his head.
Arn whips Morton to the ropes, he ducks a clothesline and gets Arn on the back of the head on the rebound. Both men are lying on the mat. As both men struggle to get up, Arn holds Morton’s trunks and makes the tag to Ole. Ole with a stomp followed by an arm submission. The ref checks but Morton says no. The two are down on their knees and Morton tries to fight back and respond to Ole’s punches. Ole works him to the ropes near the Anderson corner where Arn holds him and delivers cheap shots. When they lock up again, Morton tries to attack Ole’s leg but despite this, Ole makes the tag to Arn. Morton ducks a clothesline, but Arn lands a spinebuster. 2 count before Gibson saves. As the ref is redirecting Gibson, a tag is made to Ole who goes to the top rope while Arn holds him. Ole delivers a kick to the back of Morton’s head and is immediately to the mat in another armbar submission.
Both men to their feet before Morton drops and kicks Ole in the face. Ole rebounds into another headlock, but a whip to the corner results in both men hitting each other’s head. Both men slow to get up but Ole is first and tags Arn who thwarts Morton’s attempt with a stomp. He applies a front facelock to Morton who refuses to give up. Both men slow to their feet, front facelock in tack. Morton fights back with rights while Arn misses his punches. Both men to the mat. Arn makes the tag. Morton desperately fights Ole off and works him into a small package but Arn makes the save. Gibson rushes Arn and the referees try to get them out of the ring. Meanwhile Ole lifts Morton for a body slam but Gibson dropkicks Morton on top of him and they get the 3 count.
Winners and STILL NWA World Tag Team Champions: The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Morton/Assisted Body Slam Counter)
- After The Bell: The Andersons go after the Express as they crawl their way out of the cage.
- EA’s Take: What a loaded tag division JCP has, at least it feels that way with your top four! This was a masterful work of art by two more of the best duos ever, The Andersons dominating the action much like they did last year. I don’t need to delve too much into this one because you should already know what to expect from them and that’s exactly what they gave us. This was everything tag team wrestling should be.
Match #12 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship: NWA United States Champion Nikita Koloff vs. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair
Before the match there’s a tribute to Magnum TA. Mixed reaction for Nikita. The two lock up and Koloff powers him down. They lock up again and get the same result. Flair walks out of the ring to regroup. Test of strength and Koloff immediately twists his arm. Flair screams and the crowd cheers. Flair responds with chops that do not effect Koloff. Frustrated, Flair goes for another walk. They finally lock up again, and Flair is once again powered to the mat. You can hear Flair say “OK, Now you get your butt kicked you son of a gun!”. Flair works Koloff to the corner, but Koloff is able to turn and ultimately hiptosses Flair back to the center of the ring. Regroup and lock up.
Nikita powers him to the turnbuckle and hiptosses him once again followed by a couple impressive 1 handed body slams. Flair cowers away on his backside and demands the ref to back Koloff off. They lock up again, run the ropes and Flair tries an unsuccessful shoulder tackle. On attempt number two he is caught in a bear hug. Flair is screaming “No”. Koloff works Flairs shoulders to the mat but he kicks out at 2 several times. He’s pulled up to a full bear hug. Flair walks himself to the ropes to break the hold but Koloff immedaitely with shoulders to the midsection. Flair pulls a reversal on an Irish whip and gets Koloff up for a vertical suplex. But Nikita is right back to his feet and the frustrated Flair leaves the ring and paces outside in pain. He crawls back into the ring begging Koloff to back off for a minute. They lock up and Koloff administers a headlock.
Flair fights back with punches and works him to the corner for shoulders to the midsection and chops. Flair with a punch to the face and a whip to the ropes. After a failed shoulder tackle, Koloff reverses the next run with The Russian Hammer. The ref breaks the hold. Flair pulls himself up by the rope. Koloff attempts a clothesline but Flair moves and Koloff flies over the top rope. Flair starts to work on the knee, running it into the post outside and clipping him inside. Flair taunts Koloff who is struggling to get to his feet. Flair with multiple chops before getting into the Figure Four Leglock. As the ref isn’t looking, Flair takes extra leverage from the rope. Koloff struggles but refuses to give up. Koloff manages to turn the figure four, but Flair is on the ropes and the hold is broken. An angry Flair gets up and runs Koloff’s eyes across the top rope.
Flair with chops in the corner, but it seems to invoke Koloff. Koloff powers him down to the other corner. A begging Flair receives kicks and shoulder shots before a shoulder tackle. On the 2nd attempt, Flair is able to reverse and throw Koloff through the middle rope. Flair follows and leads Koloff around the ring and smashes his head on the scaffold. Koloff is bleeding. Back to the ring, Flair hits a snapmare followed by a knee to the head. 2 count. Side suplex by Flair and another 2 count. Flair is frustrated and delivers a series of punches to the head before the ref backs him off. This seems to have woken Nikita up. Nikita is up and stalking Flair. Koloff on the offense with shoulder blocks and a body slam. Koloff hip tosses Flair who is screaming “NO!”. Koloff whips Flair to the turnbuckle and he tumbles outside the ring. Koloff giving chase, but when he gets there Flair delivers a headbutt to the midsection. He tries to run Koloff into the scaffold again but its blocked and instead Koloff drives Flair’s head into the structure. Koloff back to the ring first as the ref counts. Koloff hits him again from inside the ring. Flair works his way into the ring and Koloff drives him into the turnbuckle.
When Koloff slowly approaches an offensive maneuver, Flair reverses with a kick to the gut and a chop in the corner. Koloff matches chops and punches and Flair falls face first to the mat. Whip to the rope. Koloff hits an awkward shoulder tackle which also hits the referee who is knocked to the floor. Flair with the Irish whip to the corner, but Koloff comes back with a huge lariat. He makes a prolonged cover but there is no referee in the ring. Koloff tries to pull the referee back in (who is being helped by other official) In the meantime, Flair is up and delivers a knee to Koloff’s back. A new official rolls into the ring for a pinfall attempt. 2 count. Koloff blocks a punch and attempts to whip Flair into the ropes. Flair reverses the whip but when Koloff comes back, Flair ducks a clothesline and hits the new referee. Koloff bullies Flair in the corner as the original referee returns to the ring. As he tries to break the hold in the corner x2, Koloff pushes him down. Ref calls for the bell.
Winner: Double Disqualification
- After The Bell: A complete melee as various wrestlers rush the ring to pull them apart.
- EA’s Take: This is very unusual in terms of crowd reaction, Nikita getting a mix of cheers and boos, but Flair’s a Horsemen and they’re heels. After the accident to Magnum TA, booker Dusty Rhodes had to make a change as Magnum was set to be pushed into a main event title match against Flair. The era of the evil Russians was starting to come to a close, so in order to capitalize on the changing political tides, Nikita would side with Rhodes and make the switch. Clearly, not all of the crowd was buying it yet. Nikita is much improved at this point and it allows Flair to do what he does best and that’s sell, sell, sell. This clash put Dusty in an unusual spot however, as Nikita isn’t ready for the World Title, but still needed to be protected to a degree if he was ever to get there. That leaves us with a finish I don’t care for, but again, I understand why it had to be done.
EA’s Finisher: A solid show. I think the gimmick matches were a lot cleaner than last year and made them more enjoyable, but that Skywalkers Match I definitely could have lived without. I applaud JCP for trying something new, but to me it just doesn’t work, it’s far too dangerous and was a wasted opportunity to have a quality match between two all-time great teams. The Andersons and Rock ‘N’ Roll Express put on a tag team clinic, the main event was a better in-ring product than the year before and we continue to see Crockett replenish his roster with young talent (which was really a necessity, but if not for that ability they may have had to sell much sooner). The production value is certainly getting better as well, plus there weren’t really any tech issues that I can recall. If I’m being honest, JCP’s product is really every bit as good as the WWF’s and in cetain aspects, is even better. The difference is WWF is mainstream, JCP was not.
Top Three To Watch
1 – The Andersons vs. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express
2 – Ric Flair vs. Nikita Koloff
3 – Sam Houston vs. Bill Dundee
Chairshot Classics: PROGRESS Chapter 5 – ‘For Those About to Fight’
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Greetings and salutations, everyone. Welcome back to the return of ’What I Watched’ now under the Chairshot Classics banner. The first four chapters of PROGRESS as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for What I Watched, obviously we’ll be continuing to cover PROGRESS. Eventually, I’ll get to a somewhat modern show. For other companies, once I hit 2005 on my watching of CHIKARA, I hope to start cover those here as well (the pre 2005 shows don’t have commentary and are (for me anyway) much harder to get through).
That brings us to why we’re here today. PROGRESS has just crowned a new champion at Chapter 4 in El Ligero, who tapped Nathan Cruz in the main event. Rather then do the immediate rematch, PROGRESS’ brass decided that instead they would do a bit of a ‘pick your poison’ situation as Ligero picks Cruz’s opponent and Cruz picks Ligero’s. There was another match revealed before the show as well, but I’ll save the mention of that for a bit later. In addition, the ‘Natural PROGRESS’ tournament continues, but we don’t know the participants for this Chapter. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what to expect for this show, so it’s looks like we’ll find out together. With that said, it’s into the way back machine once again, as we head to January 27th, 2013 as “What I Watched” presents ‘For Those About to Fight’ or PROGRESS Chapter 5.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show. Going forward, I’ll have an archive to all of my previous reviews here on the Chairshot if you click on my user name.
MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating.
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 5
‘For Those About to Fight…We Salute You’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: January 27th, 2013
Run Time: 1:55:53 (Demand PROGRESS)
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton for some of the research that I did while working on this review. (http://www.backbodydrop.com)
*OPENING VIDEO: The first match that the opening video reveals is the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) taking on the Leaders of the New School (Zach Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll). That should be a lot of fun…RJ Singh has an open challenge as well…finally, we get highlights of the title match from Chapter 4 to show how El Ligero won the title and then it’s revealed that Nathan Cruz has picked Dave Mastiff to face El Ligero, while El Ligero has selected the debuting Rampage Brown as the opponent for Nathan Cruz.
*GENERAL NOTES: We return to the scene of the first three shows but with what appears to be a different setup. You can’t see any monitors in the frame, but the lighting is absolutely awful. Will not make a fun review if I can’t see stuff that happens…EDIT AT MATCH 3: the lighting gets a bit better as the show goes on, but still not what I’d call great.
*Once again, either Smallman doesn’t have an opening welcome promo or we skip it on the show. Shame, really. As I said time and time again, I really enjoy those in the future Chapters.
*Match #1: Stixx (1-2 as a singles competitor) vs. Danny Garnell (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: Stixx is coming off a loss in the triple threat at Chapter 4, where he was pinned by Dave Mastiff. He had split a pair of matches against Lion Kid before that. Danny Garnell was not at Chapter 4. His most recent match was a loss in a tag match at Chapter 3 where he and Darrell Allen were defeated by the London Riots. In his only previous singles match, Garnell defeated Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 2.
The Why: I haven’t a damn clue here. Makes zero sense to me. If Jimmy *cough cough* Barnett mentions something on commentary, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The Match: Before the match gets underway, Stixx lets everyone know that he, like Garnell, is originally from London but he moved away because London ‘is full of a bunch of pillocks’. Somewhere, William Regal smiles…opening bell goes here and gets a rousing ovation…Stixx impressed me in his last match against Lion Kid, but the first one was less then appealing. Garnell had a surprisingly good match with Havoc at Chapter 2…first topical reference from 2013 gets explained by Barnett and given the PROGRESS fan base, it’s no surprise that it makes light of a death. Highs and lows of these crowds…the ‘crowd counts the next number’ has run it’s course now but was still pretty fresh when this show happened…not the opening match you’d come to expect but technically proficient thus far…heavier shots finally start getting fired around the five minute mark. This is more what you’d expect from these two…first crowd expletive based chant at six and half minutes into match one. I would have had the under there…cravat with knee strikes and that’s more what I expect from this match then the opening five minutes where they basically stayed on the mat. Not saying they can’t do it, but not what you expect or want to see with two guys this size. You expect more ‘Hoss Fight’ here…Garnell busts out a nice looking Northern Lights for two…slingshot neck snap by Stixx. That was new and very nice looking. Also not what you’d expected from a guy who’s probably closer to two fifty then two hundred…I’ve never seen a crowd response so favorably towards exploder suplexes. It doesn’t happen but the crowd was ready to, pardon the pun, explode for it…Stixx gets two with a Black Hole Slam. Which I think was the move that did pin Lion Kid at Chapter 3…I don’t mean this is a terribly negative way, but this match has been pretty long for an opener…Garnell goes for a tornado DDT off the second buckle, but Stixx is able to counter. A series of reversals leads to Garnell attempting that same tornado DDT a second time and this time hitting it, which gives him the pinfall at 14:52…technically proficient, sure. But not especially enthralling. The match had it’s moments where I went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, but to me, it seems like it may have been a mistake having these two go this long in the opener. Closer to the first Lion Kid match then the second for Stixx and Garnell looks like just another guy here. Call it AVERAGE and mildly disappointing at that. (AVERAGE)
*Match #2: ‘Natural Progression’ Quarterfinal: Lord Jonathan Windsor (debut) vs. ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman (0-1 as a singles)
The Who: Lord Jonathan Windsor debuts here, looking like a very British Chuck Taylor. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Anyway, he appears to have a Blue Bloods gimmick a la 1995 WCW Bobby Eaton or William Regal. Mike Hitchman we saw before when he challenged Mark Andrews for the BWC Starlo Scholarship. He was unsuccessful in that match but he and Andrews had a barnburner. Happy to see Hitchman back for another opportunity.
The Why: Speaking of Mark Andrews, he advanced to the semifinals at Chapter 4. This is the second of the four quarterfinal matches. The winner of which will join Andrews in the semifinals and maybe face him. No release on the brackets to my knowledge.
The Match: Hitchman is now on WWE TV as part of NXT UK, but if you didn’t know it was the same guy, you’d never be able to tell. He looks so different here…opening bell goes and Windsor takes time to fold his robe…Barnett points out there’s nothing wrong with a Blue Blood gimmick as in twenty years time, you could be married to Jim Smallman’s daughter and own part of PROGRESS. Okay, that drew a legit chuckle from me…not sure if Windsor is big or Hitchman is just really small even by Indy standards…Hitchman gets tired of Windsor’s stalling and it leads to a DDT on the apron. Not sure that’s a spot I’d use in match two, but okay then…we go to the crowd brawling in the second match as well. It’s like an ECW show broke out…Windsor seems more concerned about posing then wrestling. I get that you are new, but this is a company that prides itself on ring work…fans seems to remember the Package Piledriver that Hitchman used against Andrews because they respond every time he goes for. So far, Windsor has had the counter, but one feels that won’t be the case forever…Hitchman once again goes the for the Package PD, but Windsor counters with a backdrop over. Hitchman hooks the legs on the landing and goes for the sunset flip, but Windsor sits out with a deep cradle and that’ll be a three count at 11:24…can definitely say I don’t agree with the who won here. Hitchman had a cracker against Andrews in his first appearance and if the winner of this match was to get Andrews in the semis, I’ve had loved to see them run it back. Windsor did absolutely nothing for me as the gimmick is just basically cheap heat and there’s not a lot of steak to go with the sizzle. Call this BELOW AVERAGE and it’s two matches, two misses thus far for PROGRESS Chapter 5. (BELOW AVERAGE)
*Match #3: Nathan Cruz (3-1 as a singles) vs. Rampage Brown (debut)
The Who: Nathan Cruz is the former champion, looking for a bit of redemption against the handpicked opponent of the new champion. One could argue that Cruz has been the guy who has meant the most to the company thus far, so seeing him in match three on the night is kind of odd. Rampage Brown makes his debut here. I don’t know much about him other then he had a brief run with NXT in the US before going back over to the UK and a run with WCPW in the UK as well.
The Why: Discussed it earlier but to reiterate, it’s part of the ‘pick your poison’ series with Cruz and Ligero picking each other’s opponents for the evening.
The Match: Before the match, Cruz announces that he has hired a bodyguard to deal with his Marty Scurll problem named Fug. We don’t see him yet, but Cruz claims he’s seven feet tall and two hundred and eighty pounds. That would be a very skinny bodyguard…the chyron for Cruz has him listed at 3-2. I’m guessing there are including the tag loss from Chapter 3, which I do not in singles competition. If you guys would like, I can keep a running archive of records at the bottom of the reviews going forward. Let me know what you think and I’ll add it in the future if so requested…second expletive based chant of the night encourages Rampage to ‘fuck him up’…opening bell goes here…Rampage is well put together. It’s easy to see why he got a developmental deal with the WWE…for a bigger guy, Rampage is pretty adept on the mat. Cruz tries a sunset flip off the second turnbuckle, but Rampage is able to roll through and escape into a Crossface. Thankfully, no Chris Benoit chants follow this time…think the sound may be a little off on this Chapter from a technical aspect. Spinal Tap kick sound happens shortly after the kick occurs…Rampage dumps Cruz to the floor with a back suplex and the around ringside brawling commences where Cruz surprisingly gets the advantage…for as much crap as the PROGRESS fans give him, Cruz is one of the smoother guys on the roster. He wrestles like a wrestler, not just a guy trying to string things together in the attempt to tell a story…Cruz has gotten a good portion of this match. A bit of a surprise given that it is Rampage’s debut but with Cruz being the former champion, it’s also understandable…sliding dropkick gets a series of two counts. Standard basement dropkick, not the sliding kick he pinned both Ligero and Colossus Kennedy with back at Chapter 1…ugh, headbutts. So not a fan of those…huge back body drop by Rampage. Looked really good despite the slight delay going to it…Rampage looked for a powerbomb but Cruz got out into a chestblower. Cruz looks to follow up and gets countered into a good looking series of powerbombs, first standard and then sit out for a very close two…Cruz hits Show-Stolen and much like Ligero did at Chapter 4, Rampage kicks out. It also gives our first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant of the night…Rampage catches a Falcon Arrow and looks to have the cover but doesn’t want it. That drives me nuts! 2 Cold Scorpio used to do that shit all the time and it’s stupid to me. The point is to win the match…Rampage then catches the Crossface a third time but Cruz finds his way to the ropes and then to the apron. Rampage tries to suplex Cruz back in, but Cruz lands on his feet and a O’Connor Roll with a hook of both the ropes and the tights gives Cruz the win at 15:27…that was more like it, PROGRESS. Very well contested match from the standard bearer of the company and a new guy who got a definite opportunity to shine. Cruz may pick up the win here, but the way he picks up the win is the story as it keeps Rampage looking good going forward for when he comes back. Rampage definitely impressed in what was I believe my first time seeing him and I look forward to seeing more, assuming he can curb the 2 Cold Scorpio aspect of not wanting the pinfall. Cruz bounces back nicely from the Staff loss and one assumes sets himself back up into title contention. GOOD match between these two here and finally something worth the time on the show. (GOOD)
*Post-match: We see Fug help Cruz to the back. He’s not nearly what Cruz claimed him to be. 6’8-6’9 maybe. The two hundred eighty pounds may be accurate though.
*Match #4: ‘PROGRESS Championship Staff’ – El Ligero © (3-1 as a singles competitor) vs. Dave Mastiff (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: El Ligero has just won the Staff at Chapter 4 as we established above. In doing so, he also got revenge on the only man to have pinned him thus far, as it was Cruz who eliminated Ligero from the four way at Chapter 1. Dave Mastiff has had two matches and two victories thus far in PROGRESS. A tag match at Chapter 3, where teaming with the now departed Greg Burridge, he pinned the then champion Nathan Cruz. Mastiff won a three way at Chapter 4, pinning Stixx after Cruz got involved in taking Marty Scurll out of the match
The Why: Two parts here. One, obviously, is that it’s for the PROGRESS Championship (Nazi) Staff. Second, it’s the second bout in the ‘pick your poison’ series for Cruz and Ligero, as Mastiff is Cruz’s handpicked challenge for the title.
The Match: It occurs to me that this is the fourth match and we’ve yet to see an inset promo on this show. They just vanished into a void of non-existence…hot start as once Ligero is introduced, he shotgun dropkicks Mastiff to the floor and follows out with a tope con hilo…Ligero goes for the guillotine early but Mastiff quickly escapes…once again, the PROGRESS fans encourage a good “Fing” up, this time in support of Mastiff…Mastiff counters a frankensteiner attempt into a powerbomb try but Ligero escapes into a second attempt at the guillotine. It’s about as successful as the first attempt…Barnett says that he described Ligero to an American friend as a mix of the ‘best of El Generico and the best of LowKi’. Not sure I agree that he’s at Generico’s level, but the point is understandable…wrecking ball dropkick by Ligero and he buries Mastiff under a pile a chairs, going for the count-out. Mastiff up at six and Ligero tries another dropkick, only to get flung wheelbarrow style into the ring post…stalling delayed vertical suplex by Mastiff goes for a full minute goes Mastiff brings down Ligero. Impressive in length but to be fair, El Ligero weighs like a third of what Mastiff does…Mastiff goes for a second but Ligero escapes into a rollup for two. Looked good…sound is definitely slightly off on this stream…sleeper (I think?) variation…out to the floor again, but only long enough for Mastiff to pitch Ligero back in. Smart. Can’t win the Staff by count-out. Wish more people would do that instead of letting opponents take the count…Mastiff goes for a Buckle Bomb but once again gets caught in the guillotine. Mastiff counters by putting Ligero on the top rope. The guillotine isn’t working, but bless his heart, he keeps trying…absolutely hate that corner hanging double stomp. Almost always looks so contrived no matter who is doing it…shotgun dropkick by Ligero is no sold and Mastiff hits one of his own, followed by a dead lift German to put Ligero on the floor again…Ligero finally gets the guillotine in with both guys on the floor and rolls back into the ring to try to take a count-out win. Mastiff breaks the count just before the ten…Ligero goes for the C4L but Mastiff stops him and gets a running Liger Bomb for a close two count and the second ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…Into The Void (corner cannonball) misses and Ligero goes up, leaping into a sixth attempt at the guillotine. This time, Mastiff flings Ligero overhead with a belly2belly variation. Mastiff tries to follow up with another Liger Bomb, but Ligero counters back into the guillotine. Mastiff tries to power out once but collapses and it’s a KO victory for the champion at 18:18…solid big match vs. little man contest but to be frank, nothing special here. A couple cool moves and a very impressive bit of dogged determination from El Ligero but if I’m being honest, I never bought that Mastiff was going to take the title from Ligero. Ligero’s deal with Cruz isn’t over and Mastiff hasn’t been around long enough to really establish much of a name for himself in PROGRESS. The fans kinda responded the same way I did as they got involved in the match here and there, but never for any significant portion of time. The match itself was GOOD due to the efforts of both men, but not must see by any stretch of the imagination. (GOOD)
*Match #5: RJ Singh (2-0-1) vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen (0-1-1)
The Who: RJ Singh comes in off consecutive victories, beating Paul Robinson and Rob Cage at Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The draw is a no decision in a three way where El Ligero pinned Greg Burridge to become number one contender at Chapter 2. Darrell Allen is looking for his first victory here in PROGRESS as not only does he have the 0-1-1 singles record (tapped by Noam Dar (Chp2), no decision in three way where Xander Cooper pinned Zack Gibson (Chp1)), he was on the losing side of a tag match at Chapter 3 as well and completely left off Chapter 4.
The Why: This one I have an answer for as well. It is an RJ Singh ‘Bollywood’ Open Challenge here. Adding to the intrigue of this open challenge is info that Jim Smallman gives us before the match during introductions that these guys are usually a tag team known as the Bhangra Knights.
The Match: Pre-match, Singh reads Allen the riot act, stating that they promised to stay out of each other’s way in PROGRESS and that while Singh has thrived, Allen has been something of a loser. Allen says in his (Allen’s) hometown of London, why don’t we find out if Singh really is King (which has been RJ’s catchphrase during this PROGRESS run)…bell goes and we’re underway…Singh has the edge early but it is pretty evenly matched…this is going to come down to a classic story of aerial vs. technical. Allen is more of a flyer whereas RJ likes to stay on the match…Director and Boudica again get on the apron, but Singh tells them to get down once again. I thought that pairing dissolved at Chapter 4…Boudica and Director do find themselves ejected and in a moment that’ll make Vince smile, the ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ song accompanies them doing so…springboard kick to the midsection. Called an enzugiri. It wasn’t, but I don’t know what the technical name is…Singh catches Allen with a version of the Tyebreaker that gets two (fireman’s carry into spinning facebuster over the knee). It looked good…this may not be the most PC thing to say but every time Allen takes a big bump, it looks like he’s trying to fellate himself…crowd very wittily chants ‘This is Bhangra’ instead of ‘This is PROGRESS’. Dug that…Singh loads up for a superkick, preceding it with a ‘I’m sorry. I love you’. The crowd and Barnett pop. The move is countered but the thought that counts…Allen up top and distracted by Boudica and Director on stage. Singh pulls Allen up the top and hits Widow’s Peak. Singh looks to apply the ‘Ethnic Submission’ (Camel Clutch, obviously) but Allen is able to pull Singh forward and trap him in a cradle for the three count at 9:56…alright, so I had some doubts. Singh has been pretty basic up to this point. Allen had a good performance in the triple threat at Chapter 1 but both he and Garnell were kind of just there for the match with the London Riots. With all that being said, it actually turned into a pretty nice little match here. There was a good amount of action thrown in with the story that they told and most importantly to me, I like that the story actually played into the finish with Allen knowing the ‘Ethnic Submission’ and having a counter planned. Call this one a GOOD showing for both guys and the best match on the card thus far, in my opinion. (GOOD)
*Post-match: Singh offers the handshake and instead, he and Allen hug it out. Shah Boudica takes not kindly to this and attacks Allen from behind. Singh pulls Boudica off of Allen twice, before Boudica slaps Singh in the face. Allen then superkicks Boudica in the back of the head. Allen and Singh then team up as a Samoan Drop-Blockbuster combination (called the Bhangra Buster, but for point of reference look for Cryme Tyme’s G-9) and looks like the Bhangra Knights will be a thing going forward in the tag division….as the Bhangra Knights are making their way to the back, the London Riots make their entrance, so me thinks that may play a factor in a future Chapter.
*Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) (3-0 as a team) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.) (Debut as a team)
The Who: London Riots are clearly the class of the PROGRESS tag division thus far. Wins over the Bastard Squad (probably done now that Allen is back with Singh), the Hunter Brothers and the Velocity Vipers (shame about Esmail’s leg) have led them to here, a main event level match. Leaders of the New School make their debut as a team here for PROGRESS, but it will not be my first time seeing them as a team. I remember getting into the European wrestling scene by watching wXw out of Germany and Scurll and Sabre Jr. were the wXw Tag Team champions for a while there. Scurll has been one of the biggest stars of PROGRESS thus far and in my opinion, Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. from Chapter 1 remains the best match in PROGRESS history to this point.
The Why: London Riots wanted competition, Jim Smallman decided to give them competition in the form of what many at the time considered to be the best tag team in Europe. Pretty straight forward here.
The Match: As per the usual, if I screw up Davis and Lynch, I apologize. They have stuck with the singlet and bikers gear, so once again, I should be okay…aw, Chris Roberts just got his first kiss. It was from Marty Scurll, but it still counts!…Davis is the one in the singlet. Now I know. Thanks Smallman, er, Barnett…Barnett lets us know that the Chapter 1 match between the Leaders was voted best match in Britain in 2012. That’s fair…Scurll spits his gum at Lynch. Well, with no Noam Dar on this show, someone had to be unhygienic…has that sit out butt drop worked for another then Rikishi in the last decade?…a little Poetry in Motion by the Leaders and then Scurll uses Sabre Jr. as a weapon to take out both Riots…off to an insane pace. Shit ton of action and we’re not even four minutes in yet…Scurll with a running bitch slap to Davis. Davis responds with a STIFF running body block. Don’t think he appreciated the slap…everything Sabre Jr. does is so fluid. With as many huge Indy names that ended up in NXT, I am stunned that Zach never got a shot there. I know he had a set of Japanese commitments, between NOAH and NJPW, but what could have been…believe the word to describe Sabre would be lanky. But he makes the most of it…apparently, I owe Rob Lynch and James Davis an apology. My Chapter 3 review got posted as I’m typing this and I apparently called them the Riot Squad during the course of that. They were facing the Bastard Squad and I just joined the names for a common WWE name. My bad…Lynch just knocks Sabre weak kneed with a forearm. Good lord…we’ve settled into a bit of tag formula here but as I’ve said before, it’s a formula because it works. Riots are hated and Leaders are loved. What better way to do this then to keep a member of the Leaders isolated and get the crowd to rally behind him…despite a pretty good experience gap, Riots are looking good in this match. Part of it is a master class from Sabre and Scurll as babyfaces, but Riots are more then holding their weight…I really hope Sabre Jr. is around more in PROGRESS in 2013. That war he had with Scurll at Chapter 1 was his only match for 2012. It would definitely make these reviews more fun to get to see more of the wizardry that Sabre possesses…tag finally made and Scurll comes in a house of fire…Scurll gets the Cesaro apron superplex that gets broken up by a bloody nosed Rob Lynch. A kick from Sabre caught him flush before the hot tag…gamengiri by Sabre Jr. into a DVD by Scurll gets two with another save by Lynch. It looked good…pop-up spear by the Riots and it looked really good. Last second save by Scurll…Riots look for the ‘District Line’ powerbomb but Sabre is able to get out and he chuffing loves putting people in cross-armbreakers. It’s broken up by getting Scurll powerbomb’d onto him…everyone down after a series of strikes and the crowd hits our fourth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…saves are coming hot and heavy here. I like it to a point, but let’s not get to the line of overkill…Sabre nails Scurll with a kick by mistake and the Riots take advantage with a really good looking Doomsday Device which Sabre kicks out of at two. That would have made for a good finish…shortly thereafter, the ‘District Line’ powerbomb does land (looking a bit rough but the point was there) and James Davis pins Zach Sabre Jr. at 20:07…VERY GOOD but not to the level are the previous Scurll main event matches in PROGRESS. The biggest issue I have here in that while the Riots had a good heat segment on Sabre, it didn’t break down nearly as much as I expected it to in the finish. Speaking of the finish, it looked slightly blown as I think Lynch may have tried a neckbreaker for the ‘District Line’ or he just didn’t get far enough out of the way. The big thing here is that it definitely establishes the Riots as the team to beat in PROGRESS as they take down the Leaders relatively cleanly. (VERY GOOD)
Post-match: London Riots don’t attack after the match as has been their tradition, instead heading to the back. Probably to fix Rob Lynch’s nose. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and lets us know that the first match they’ll announce for Chapter 6 will be a rematch of Chapter 4 as the Riots will once again face the Hunter Brothers, this time in a weapons match. Seems like an odd time to announce this with Sabre Jr. still down in the ring, but the show must go on, I suppose. Scurll goes to get a bit of mic time as well, but the show fades before he speaks and that’s a wrap for Chapter 5.
Match #1: Danny Garnell pins Stixx, tornado DDT off second buckle @ 14:52 (AVERAGE)
Match #2: Lord Jonathan Windsor pins Mike Hitchman, sit-down on sunset flip @ 11:24 (BELOW AVERAGE)
Match #3: Nathan Cruz pins Rampage Brown, O’Connor Roll with hook of tights and ropes @ 15:27 (GOOD)
Match #4: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff- El Ligero © defeats Dave Mastiff by KO, guillotine choke @ 18:18 (GOOD)
Match #5: Darrell Allen pins RJ Singh, leverage pin out of ‘Ethnic Submission’ attempt @ 9:57 (GOOD)
Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) defeat Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.), Davis pins Sabre Jr. after the ‘District Line’ powerbomb @ 20:07 (VERY GOOD)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
It picks up quite a bit at the end, so I can’t call it the worst of the five shows thus far. That being said, it’s definitely not mandatory viewing either. The issue that I find myself with is that I know what PROGRESS is capable of as it goes forward. When you go back and watch these formative shows, you can see moments of potential. But that’s all they are usually at this time frame. Just moments. Top to bottom, none of these shows have delivered a knock out show. Try to find the semi main and main event if you have a chance, but the rest is watch at your convenience. Except for the Windsor and Hitchman match. Do yourself a favor and skip that.
Where does this leave us? It leaves me a little disappointed, but that’s what happens when expectations are set so high. It leaves you hopefully wanting to come back as we take the next step in this journey with Chapter 6. In addition, it leaves me still hungry. I wonder if I could work out a ‘burgers per review’ deal around here.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: Despite the fact that I gave the main event a higher rating, I going to give this honor to the RJ Singh and Darrell Allen match. The match itself is a good mix of comedy and ring work. The post match is where the money is as the fans go crazy for the Bhangra Knights reunion.
Worst match/moment: Feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but Mike Hitchman and Lord Jonathan Windsor can be classified as nothing less then a disappointment. The blueblood gimmick has potential, but in a company like this, you need to be able to back it up in the ring. Windsor simply did not.
MVP: Going to give this as co-MVPs again and I’m going to give it to James Davis and Rob Lynch for a star making performance in the main event as the London Riots prove they are the class of the PROGRESS tag team division.
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10.0
Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Up next is Chapter 6: “We <3 Violence” And make sure you guys check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.
Doctor’s Orders: Ranking The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History
Objectively subjectifying all-time greatness on NXT’s premiere stage, Takeover. See what matches are on the list!
The Doctor is in as Chad Matthews updates his list of greatest WWE NXT Takeover matches and rivalries with a look at two of the very best, from different NXT eras.
Attempting to contextualize greatness in pro wrestling is a fascinating exercise, a much more multi-faceted conversation than it is often given credit for. To some in the business, for instance, Rock vs. Cena is the greatest match of all-time because it set the pay-per-view buy mark, while others would say the greatest match is Austin vs. Bret because of the exemplary storytelling. Why should greatness be limited to a plethora “one or the other” positions (best vs. most popular or anything of the sort)? Such has been my stance during this entire decade (see The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era), tackling the process of adding measures of objectivity to a topic deemed completely and utterly subjective and attempting to broaden the way that we have these discussions. I can also apply that to NXT.
Greatness has become regularly associated with NXT. I am personally enamored with what the yellow brand has accomplished over the past few years, with the Takeover franchise especially. The reputation that Takeover has built should astound any diehard WWE fan who, at times during the WrestleMania Era, may have felt like Vince and Co. unnecessarily (and oddly) put a critical ceiling on its in-ring product. Bold statement: Takeover has, based purely on what happens from bell-to-bell, produced nearly as many bonafide classic wrestling matches as WrestleMania in just five years of existence. Think about that for a moment, because it was with that idea in mind that I started asking, “What’s the greatest in NXT history?”
My second book (referenced above) was published last summer and in it I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.” Turning my attention to NXT, I took that formula and tweaked it to fit Takeover. On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.). The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.
Today’s entries grow the list from fourteen to sixteen matches, which have been selected at random throughout this project’s history dating back to last fall. Here are the rankings ahead of today’s additions (the links will take you to the objectively subjective breakdown of each match):
#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship at Takeover: Philadelphia
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +4
Total Score: 48.0
There have been very few matches in WWE history that have found me clapping while watching them in replay, and Cien vs. Johnny Wrestling from Philly is one of them. Hand to heart, I am unsure that there has ever been a better performance in WWE, which is partly what makes the added dynamic of including NXT lore when historically ranking matches throughout the WrestleMania Era so challenging and simultaneously so fascinating. The depth of storytelling and the instances when believably this match could have been over but somehow was not is virtually unmatched in mainstream North American wrestling over the past thirty plus years. Gargano and Almas judged everything picture-perfectly, selling their butts off, adding layers of psychology as they reached an utterly captivating climax, and drawing every ounce of intrigue out of the in-ring chemistry that they first prominently put on display against each other at Takever: Brooklyn III.
Gargano vs. Andrade is truly one of the greats as “epic” matches go, and the Philadelphia match certainly fits the profile of the genre (an “epic match”) that I have been quietly working on popularizing in the IWC, offered up to properly label a lengthy main-event style performance that builds to crescendo after crescendo and features finisher kick-outs as one of its primary hope spot wells to tap. I have been critical of the over-use of it, as many of its staples have trickled down to ten minute mid-card matches, and I do believe that epics, like Cena vs. Styles for example, are suffering from a distinct lack of rewatchability because of how ardently they cling to bout-ending signature offense, but Cien vs. Johnny is not to be lumped in with such over-done peers because it is smarter, more intricate, better executed, and expertly paced, its gaps in action replaced with the outstanding managerial act of Zelina Vega (and the eventual cameo by Candice Wrestling).
I believe it was a truly remarkable achievement. Maybe Banks vs. Bayley, Gargano vs. Ciampa, or Gargano vs. Adam Cole beats it in the scoring system, but even if one of them or another Takeover match in the pipeline down the road unseats it, I think it is going to be a long time before something removes it from the pedestal of what yours truly would call the finest match in Takeover history. Aesthetically, athletically, psychologically, I just struggle to see how anyone could really argue that another match was better. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle one of their prequels in Brooklyn, and that was one of the four or five best mid-card type bouts in Takeover lore too, so when you combine that match with what happened in Philly – of the nine scoring categories here, their NXT Title match scored a 5 in seven of them – you have an all-time great.
You know, it is funny that Dave Meltzer awarded the Takeover: Philadelphia match the first “5-star” rating for a WWE match since Punk vs. Cena in Chicago, and if you watch any of New Japan Pro Wrestling and know of Meltzer’s fascination with it, you can appreciate why. Almas vs. Gargano was an NJPW match in an NXT ring with WWE production value. If in the coming years, a main-event of that style and caliber is featured on Summerslam or eventually works it way to the WrestleMania headlining position, I think we may have Gargano vs. Almas to thank for it.
Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship at Takeover: R-Evolution
Psychology: 4.5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 3 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 4.75 / Build: 5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 44.25
While in the beginning of this process, it seemed probable that Cien Almas vs. Johnny Wrestling had a shot at topping this match to advance ever closer to the #1 spot, what seemed assured from the out-set was that Zayn vs. Neville would rate among the premiere title matches in NXT lore because, in terms of storytelling, there may still have never been a championship bout that possesses the same sense of urgency or the same sense of occasion.
Here you had Neville, a bit shy of a year-long reigning as NXT Champion (who held the title during the promotion’s rise to WWE Network prominence) and possessing one of the most amazing offensive arsenals in pro wrestling’s entire history, coming up against Zayn, arguably the quintessential example of how legends are capable of being made in NXT. No matter what happens elsewhere within the Titan ranks, Zayn will be someone revered by any who watched what he did in NXT from 2014 to 2016.
One of the greatest things that NXT brings to the table is how wrestlers, as personalities, are characters first, their labels (or face-heel dichotomies) rather arbitrary by comparison. Neville strayed a bit more toward a black and white personic construct during the match, but he was clearly pushed toward the line that Zayn managed to straddle a bit better and showed glimpses of the viciousness and single-mindedness (toward winning) that made his run on 205 Live so engaging to purple brand followers in 2017; it was Zayn who was truly marvelous, though, displaying a depth of character so rarely seen from protagonists in WWE proper, and far more relatable for it, as evidenced by the incredibly raucous crowd support that he garnered in what was still ostensibly a babyface match. Zayn’s ability to connect on that deeper emotional level lifted this effort to pantheon status.
The end result – the total package from the storyline build-up to the hype video package to the atmosphere it generated to the bell-to-bell fight (and it felt like the fight that pro wrestling should be in the modern era main-event scene with the athletic potential of the combatants) – closed the first chapter in the history of NXT in the Network Era with a timeless classic destined for massive hindsight accolades in the near and distant future.
#1- Andrade vs. Gargano (48.0)
#2- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#3- Neville vs. Zayn (44.25)
#4- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#5- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#6- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#7- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#8- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#9- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#10- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#11- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#12- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#13- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#14- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#15- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#16- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
If you want to discuss NXT or other wrestling matters with Doc, follow and tweet @TheDocLOP !
Check out the latest episode of The Doc Says podcast, featuring a review of NXT Takeover 25!
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