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WrestleMania 31: Bay Area Beatdown

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WWE Brock Lesnar Roman Reigns WrestleMania 31

WrestleMania 31 is a very special one for your humble commentator, this is the very first WrestleMania I got to watch live, thanks to the Network. My parents aren’t into wrestling and we couldn’t afford the PPVs anyway, so getting to watch a WrestleMania live made it very special to me.

WrestleMania 31 comes to us from the San Francisco area and it marks the first time Roman Reigns main evented WrestleMania. It would also feature a dream match of the Monday Night Wars, the return of the Undertaker after his shocking defeat at the hands of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, and Daniel Bryan’s return from a career threatening neck injury. So how does WrestleMania 31 hold up to all this potential? Let’s find out!

Pre-Show

We start with LL Cool J talking about what ‘Mania’ means and a montage of Mania moment. Not much to talk about, it was really quick.

Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (with Natalya) vs Los Matadores (with El Torito) vs New Day (with Xavier Woods) vs The Usos (with Naomi)

Usos are coming out first to a really good pop, especially being announced from San Francisco. Los Matadores get no reaction. New Day get no reaction, which is weird to hear, considering how over they became. Kidd and Cesaro get the best pop.

I’m not sure why every team in this has a manager, but we start off with Cesaro and Kofi. Cesaro gets tagged out and attacks Jey Uso (I think).

This is a really good match, but all the teams made it a little hard to keep track of what was going on. All the teams looked great, and Jimmy Uso trying to win it all by himself was really over with the crowd.  All the managers at ringside just seemed to add to the chaos of this match and not in a good way. It was almost a 12 person mixed tag.

Winner: Cesaro retains the titles for his team by pinning Big E.

Highlights: Jimmy Uso trying to win the titles by himself. Los Matadores hitting a Powerbomb/Backstabber combo. El Torito taking out Kofi and Natalya taking out El Torito.

Comments: This was a good match, but there was too much going on that was unnecessary.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

No one is getting an individual entrance for this, which is sad. I forgot that the tag teams from the previous match are also in this thing. Axel is running his mouth over the Royal Rumble (Dude, you were never IN the Royal Rumble, shut up) and is thrown out by the majority of the participants.

The final three comes down to Big Show, Miz, and Mizdow. Miz tells Mizdow that they’ll take out Show together, but Mizdow refuses. Miz gets up in Mizdow’s face and basically TELLS him that they’re going to take on Big Show together. When Mizdow STILL refuses, Miz throws a fit and starts poking him in the chest, HARD. Mizdow’s finally had enough and eliminates Miz, to Miz’s fury. Meanwhile, Show just stands in the corner and waits for them to work their issues out.

Now that Miz is gone, Show and Mizdow can get down to business. Show doesn’t think Mizdow has a prayer of getting him over, but Mizdow is going to try. Show throws Mizdow over the top rope, but Mizdow hangs on and takes it to Show. Mizdow gets Show into the ropes, but Show is just too big and strong. Mizdow gets Show over the top rope to the apron, but Show catches him in a chokeslam. Mizdown tries to pull a Benoit from 2004, but Benoit was a lot stronger than Mizdow and Show eliminates him.

Winner: Big Show by eliminating Damian Mizdow. Show finally won a battle royal.

Highlights: Axel being eliminated, Gabriel and Fandango eliminating each other. Mizdow FINALLY turning on Miz. Itami eliminating Bo Dallas.

Comments: That was a really good match. Good for Big Show.

Opener

We start with Aloe Blacc singing ‘America, the Beautiful’. He sounds fantastic.

We start with LL Cool J talking about how people have been brought together since radio and TV and how WrestleMania is the same way. We get a montage of WrestleMania moments.

Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship: Bad New Barrett vs Dean Ambrose vs Daniel Bryan vs Luke Harper vs Dolph Ziggler vs R-Truth vs Stardust

Bryan is out first to a huge pop. Barrett is out next a chorus of boos. Ziggler gets a great pop. Stardust gets little reaction, though his outfit looks…cool. Harper gets little reaction. R-Truth gets an okay reaction. Ambrose gets a huge reaction.

This was a really great match. Everyone got their spots in and it really could’ve been anyone’s game. I darn near had a heart attack when Dean was put through the ladder.

Winner: Daniel Bryan retrieves the IC belt. The crowd LOSES it.

Highlights: Ambrose’s elbow drop off the ladder. The ‘Cody’ chants. Stardust’s special ladder. The fate of said special ladder.

Comments: That was a great opening to WrestleMania. This would be Bryan’s last WrestleMania appearance for a few years due to his seeming retirement due to concussion-related brain injuries.

We get a promo for Tapout and a video package for Orton/Rollins

Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins (with J&J Security)

Seth and company get a great pop. Seth seems pretty chipper. I remember how much I hated him back then. Orton gets a great pop. He’s achieved that status where he’s cheered whether he’s a face or heel.

This match gets off to a slow start, but these two are equally matched. Something I’m hearing that is irking me greatly is that somehow Rollins is a relative newbie in the business, when he’s actually been working in professional wrestling about as long as Orton has, and most of the guys in the first few generations of NXT.

Randy is one of the few people who can take the turnbuckle bomb correctly and with Rollins out, he turns his attention to J&J, but that costs him because Seth hits the suicide dive.

The commentators make a good point, Randy’s getting too caught up in the emotion, or he’s too arrogant to take Rollins seriously.

This was a really great match in terms of story and ring work. Orton and Rollins have very similar styles and are equal in terms of experience, so it made the match very nice to watch.

Winner: Randy Orton by pinfall

Highlights: Orton countering the Curbstomp into an RKO.

Comments: I really enjoyed this match, they were a good pairing

We have a promo for the WWE Double Attack Figures.

We see Ronda Rousey in the audience and she’s having a blast. Lawler jokes that Ronda looks like she wants to get in the ring herself.

We get a video package for Triple H vs Sting.

No Disqualification Match: Triple H vs Sting

There’s a drum group with makeup like Sting’s performing his entrance. Sting gets a really great pop. He looks like he really wasn’t expecting that reaction. Something is smoking in the background, I hope that’s supposed to happen.

Triple H’s entrance starts with a video of the Bay Area and then it turns apocalyptic. Oh, that’s right, they put Arnold in the Hall of Fame and he let them borrow the Terminator for Triple H’s entrance. Even the robots know Trips is going to be booed.

ave to admit, Triple H’s Terminator/Skull King gear is pretty cool, and he gets a great pop on top of it.

JBL tries to say Sting is intimidated, Sting doesn’t look impressed, in my opinion. The man’s faced off with a lot of legends, he’s not worried about Triple H.

We start with a face off, both men trying to play mind games. This match really isn’t going anywhere. Even if I didn’t know what was going to happen, it looks like they’re waiting for something to happen.

This commentary about Sting is getting on my nerves in a BIG way. I realize that Cole, Lawler, and JBL are more familiar with Triple H, but their shock over Sting being good and being dominate is really annoying me. Also, JBL saying that Sting tried to put WWE out of business is certainly not true and was uncalled for.

The whole DX/NWO thing would’ve been cool right after WCW went under, but almost fifteen years later, it’s feeling a little flat.

All in all, this was a really good match, but I wish they hadn’t waited until AFTER the run ins to pick up the pace.

Winner: Triple H by pinfall, but honestly, I really think Sting should have, so the fans see Triple H get his. Afterwards, both factions get into the ring to check on their guys and we have a standoff. Triple H extends his hand to Sting and they shake hands

Highlights: NWO/DX face off, even though the three original members of the NWO were top WWE guys first.

Comments: I liked this match, but I would’ve preferred Sting/Undertaker instead. The run ins of the NWO and DX made things a mess. Also, this would be Sting’s only WrestleMania appearance. He would retire due to injuries in 2016.

Maria Menounos has an interview with Daniel Bryan and we get this really irritating (at least to me) segment where he gets congratulated by former IC champions.

Halftime show time: Travis Barker, Skylar Gray and Kid Ing (I think). This is okay, but I’m still against taking time out just for a musical act.

The Bella Twins vs Paige and AJ Lee

Paige and AJ both get good pops. Surprisingly, so do the Bellas, despite being the heels.

Paige draws first blood, but Nikki fights back, takes out AJ and hits Paige with an Alabama Slam. The Bellas take control pretty quickly and without AJ, this is pretty much a handicap match.

I really liked this match because the women of Total Divas, the Bellas especially, get a bad rap for only being on the roster for their looks. Nikki, Brie, and Paige really showed that they were every bit as athletic and talented as the guys or the women in NXT.

Winner: AJ gets the submission. The Bellas aren’t happy, but Nikki’s still the champion.

Highlights: The Bellas showing why they aren’t people to dismiss or take lightly, despite what the naysayers want to believe.

Comments: The thing that annoys me most about this match is the fact that AJ did basically nothing but got the victory for her team. However, this would also be AJ’s final WrestleMania. She would retire shortly after this match.

United States Championship Match: Rusev (with Lana) vs John Cena

Rusev’s entrance starts ‘Russian’ soldiers, Russian flags, tanks, cannon, the Russian National Anthem. Lana comes down to the ring bearing the US Title, escorted by soldiers. The cannon and tanks fire blanks and Rusev comes out ON a tank. The crowd is not happy about this, but it looks cool. For whatever reason, Rusev’s ACTUAL theme doesn’t start until he gets to the ring. We also get the start of the falling out between Rusev and Lana that would be a big storyline (for better or worse) during the summer.

Cena’s response is a tribute to American greatness and ingenuity. Even with all that, Cena’s pop is mixed. And he doesn’t come out in a tank.

Rusev is a jerk to Eden Styles and insists on being introduced first, much to Eden’s annoyance.

Cena draws first blood and goes for the quick pin, not sure why, Rusev responds and this match gets physical very quickly.

This was a rough and physical match, but the story was really great and Rusev and Cena worked really well together. Rusev plays the arrogant heel very well, but he’s not a coward, thankfully. This match was very back and forth and Rusev really looked great.

People griped at the time about Cena beating Rusev, but the way he beat him actually protected Rusev. Rusev was beaten because of a distraction after accidentally hitting Lana, so the win was a luck break for Cena, not a burial.

Winner: John Cena by pinfall, we have a NEW US Champion. Rusev is furious and berates an injured Lana and storms off, leaving Lana behind.

Highlights: Rusev’s entrance. That was seriously awesome.

Comments: I really liked that match.

Triple H and Stephanie announce that WWE has set a new attendance record for Levi Stadium: 76,976!!!

The Streak: Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt

Wyatt comes out first and as he makes his way to the ring, seems to bring zombie scarecrows to life, which is really creepy. It’s not dark enough for the fireflies to come out and the lantern looks a bit ridiculous, but it’s an eerie entrance.

It’s not dark enough for the lights to go out for Taker, but that’s okay, the entrance is still creepy. The Deadman Cometh to a great pop. Wyatt looks like he’s about to pee his pants. As JBL puts it ‘Bray Wyatt wants to dance with the devil? Welcome to hell!’.

Taker looks much better than he did at WrestleMania 30 and Wyatt looks like it’s just occurred to him what he’s gotten himself into: He just called out the devil, and the devil isn’t happy.

Wyatt tries some mind games, but it’s like an amateur trying to outdo the master. Wyatt finally charges at Taker and gets a boot to the face for his trouble.

Oh, this is much better than last year. Taker looks in much better shape and he’s taking this fool to the woodshed. Wyatt gets in his first offensive move, but Taker gets up. Wyatt clotheslines Taker to the outside, but Taker lands on his feet and pulls Wyatt outside.

This match was 100% better than the match with Lesnar. Taker looked terrible in the Lesnar match. He looked like a sick old man and the concussion he received during the match just made it worse. In this match, he looks much healthier and seems to be firing on all the cylinders.

Winner: The Undertaker by pinfall. The Streak is 22-1

Highlights: Taker sitting up during Wyatt’s spider move and Wyatt folding like a cheap chair. Wyatt’s face when Taker gets him in a chokeslam.

Comments: There was some controversy over Taker coming back. A lot of people didn’t see the point because the Streak was over, and Taker had only been coming back for WrestleMania, but I love that he came back. It was as if he wanted to prove that the Streak was not the only thing about his career that mattered and to dispel the image of the old man who lost to Brock Lesnar.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs Roman Reigns

Roman comes out to a mixed reaction. He got a lot of flack for all the security, but given the reaction and the amount of people, it’s totally understandable.

Lesnar gets a good pop, Heyman insists on introducing Lesnar himself.

Roman makes the first move but Lesnar dominates this match, but Roman keeps getting up.

This isn’t a technical match, this is a fight, and it was a stiff one. Lesnar dominated most of the match, but Roman gave as good as he got, especially when it came to slugfests when he found an opening. Neither man pulled punches and Lesnar’s face was starting to look lumpy from all the bruises. I was a little disappointed that Roman didn’t get more offense in, but I think it was to play up Lesnar being an arrogant heel.

Rollins got a huge pop when his music hit and everyone knew what this meant: He was going to cash in and not only be the first to cash in at WrestleMania, but the first to cash-in mid-match and we have a Triple Threat match. Seth makes a mistake though, but targeting Lesnar instead of Roman. Lesnar was bleeding, but he wasn’t so far gone that someone Seth’s size could take him out. Lesnar gets Seth up in a F-5, but Roman’s spear saves Seth, who thanks him by giving HIM the curb stomp for three and we have a new champion!

Winner: Seth Rollins by pinfall on Roman Reigns. Seth stays just long enough to get his hand raised then takes off like a bat out of hell.

Highlights: Seth’s cash in. Roman making Lesnar bleed his own blood. Seth celebrating with the title.

Comments: The ending of this match enraged me in 2015, but looking back, I can see that Roman wasn’t ready to be the top guy just yet. He still needed to grow and develop his ring and promo skills, whereas Rollins was ready for that spot.

Overall Comments

So, how did WrestleMania 31 do? Overall, it did really well. I’ll admit that I noticed issues that I didn’t notice when I first watched it because I was so excited about getting to see my first WrestleMania LIVE, and enjoyed some matches more than I had the first time around. This was a really good show overall and it’s one I recommend watching for its own merits.

Snoozers: Triple H vs Sting. It started too slow and they were clearly waiting for the run ins.

Stinkers: Tag Team match. The match was good, but every team having a manager and the managers getting involved made it too chaotic.

Match of the Night: Cena vs Rusev. That was really an awesome match.

Hall of Fame: Randy Savage, Rikishi, Alundra Blayze, Larry Zybszko, Tatsumi Fujinami, Kevin Nash, The Bushwhackers, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Warrior Award: Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michalek.

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed this show, and had a lot of fun watching it when my Network would cooperate.


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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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