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WrestleMania 32: Texas Takedown Or How To Put On an Amazing Show on a Shoestring.

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WrestleMania 32 Arena

WrestleMania 32 comes to us from Dallas, Texas and it comes to us in strange circumstances. WWE was hit with a streak of injuries that took out about 1/3 of the roster in the fall of 2015/winter of 2016, including top stars like John Cena, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, and others. Because of that, WWE was putting on WrestleMania 32 on something of a shoestring roster. The upside to this is that we got shocking returns, and see superstars step up to the plate, for better or worse.

Shane McMahon, the prodigal son of Vince McMahon, would return to try and save his family’s company from his family, and risk everything in the most demonic structure ever thought of in professional wrestling.

Roman Reigns would do battle to regain the title he was screwed out of time and again by the McMahons in his second WrestleMania main event.

Dean Ambrose would try to prove that he was a main event player and not the forgotten member of the Shield or Roman’s sidekick, and he would do it by going up against The Beast, Brock Lesnar.

Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch would try to cement their own places in history by becoming the first women to co-main event a WrestleMania in an epic battle for the re-instated Women’s Championship.

So, will WrestleMania live up to all this potential, even with the shoestring roster? Let’s find out!

Pre-Show

We start with the Moutain Dew Kickstart Entrance, which is a little too poppy for WWE, in my opinion.

WWE United States Championship Match: Kalisto vs Ryback

Kalisto is out first in a really cool outfit, and he gets a decent pop for a half full building. Ryback gets a round of boos. Kalisto keeps trying to fake Ryback out and I don’t think it worked.

This match was…not good. I like Kalisto and he did alright, but the rest of this match stunk in terms of story and ringwork.

For whatever reason, we get a promo for the Shane/Undertaker match in the middle of this match. Even the guys in the back don’t want to watch this match, apparently.

Back to business, Ryback’s pinned Kalisto, but only gets a two count. This is a big contrast in size and styles and it just isn’t working for me.

Winner: Kalisto retains by pinfall.

Highlights: Kalisto shifting just enough to get a pin attempt on Ryback after a superplex. Salida del Sol from the middle rope.

Comments: This would be Ryback’s last WrestleMania. He would leave later in the spring and has not return.

Team Total Divas (Alicia Fox, Brie Bella, Paige, Eva Marie, and Natalya) vs Team B.A.D and Blonde (Lana, Emma, Naomi, Summer Rae, and Tamina)

Team Total Divas get a pretty good pop. Team B.A.D and Blonde don’t get much of a pop.

Summer and Alicia start off and Alicia quickly takes control, but Summer Rae isn’t going to be a pushover and quickly tags in Tamina. Things get out of control pretty quickly.

We get a promo for Total Divas, which I find annoying.

This was actually a really good match. Even the not-great member(s) of both teams got in good spots. Lana is making her in-ring debut at WrestleMania, and I can’t say I’m terribly impressed. She’s not in the ring that long and what she did didn’t wow me.

Brie finally gets tagged and starts cleaning house. Things get crazy quicky and everyone’s getting their spots in. Brie and Naomi are still the legal Superstars and Naomi goes for the moonsault , but Brie gets a knee up. Brie is knocked off the top turnbuckle, but counters Naomi into a rolling Yes! Lock for the win.

Winner: Brie Bella makes Naomi tap with the Yes! Lock for her team. As the Divas celebrate, Nikki comes out, to a great pop, in a neck brace, to join them. There are hugs all around and Brie is lifted up on her teammate’s shoulder.

Highlights: Natalya and Paige doing a Hart Attack on Naomi.

Comments: This would be Brie Bella’s last WrestleMania for awhile. She would retire to start a family, though she has started making returns to WWE.

The Usos vs the Dudley Boys

Usos are out first to a good reaction. I miss the war dance entrance. Dudleys get a great pop, even though they’re the heels.

Dudleys take control quickly, and the crowd wants tables. For some reason, this match feels like they’re both very tentative about it. It’s a really good match, but it just feels like they’re not either not clicking or aren’t sure how to make the most of a quick match.

Winner: Usos by pinfall. Dudleys attack from behind and get the tables, but the Usos counter and stereo Samoan Splash the Dudleys through the tables.

Comments: I enjoyed this match, but it feels like it never quite got started.

Opener

5th Harmony sings ‘America, the Beautiful’. And they sound lovely, too bad they’ve split up. Oddly, there’s not a video montage like there usually is, but the singing was still great.

The opener evokes the history of WrestleMania, Vince’s dream, and how it’s grown into the spectacle it is now. I’d love to know who they got to impersonate the superstars in this video. I also love the song they’re using.

Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens vs Stardust vs Zach Ryder vs Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz vs Sami Zayn vs Sin Cara

Ziggler gets a great pop, Miz gets a round of BOOs, Zayn gets a huge pop, Stardust gets a minimal reaction, even though he’s wearing his dad’s yellow polka dots, Sin Cara also gets a minimal reaction, though his outfit is cool, Ryder gets a mixed reaction, Owens gets a huge reaction.

This match gets off to a crazy start, as you would expect from a ladder match. Miz tries to climb the ladder without opening it and is saved by Zayn and Ziggler. Stardust’s tribute ladder to his dad got a great pop, but like his previous ladder, this one didn’t get much use.

Winner: Zach Ryder retrieves the belt and we have a new Intercontinental Champion! Ryder is a Heavyweight title away from being a Grand Slam Champion.

Highlights: Stardust’s Dream Ladder. Owens and Zayn. Ryder celebrating with his dad after winning his first WrestleMania match.

Comments: This was a great opener to the main card, lot of great spots and a surprise win for Zach Ryder.

Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles

Jericho gets a great pop, and so does Styles in his first WrestleMania.

This match was fantastic. When you have styles as similar as Styles and Jericho, there’s a good chance that the similarities will make the match boring, that didn’t happen here. These guys are showstealers and that’s what they did. I would compare this match ALMOST to Steamboat/Savage from WrestleMania III in terms of ring work.

One thing I didn’t like was the commentators dismissing Styles’ career before coming to WWE. Yes, TNA isn’t WWE or WCW, but when Styles was there, he competed with the likes of Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle, and was a star in Japan, it’s not something they should be sniffing at.

Winner: Chris Jericho by pinfall

Highlights: There are too many to name, just watch the match.

Comments: This was a great match. A lot of people gripe about Styles losing his first WrestleMania, but he looked really great and he and Jericho put on a barn burner match.

The League of Nations (with King Barrett) vs New Day

New Day gets a good pop and comes out of a box of Booty-Os. League of Nations come out to a round of boos.

This was a physical match. All of the LoN guys are more known for having very physical matches than for their technical skills.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t like either of these teams, so it was hard for me to get into it, I didn’t care who won or lost. That said, it was a very good match and both teams did a great job, I just wasn’t into it.

Winner: League of Nations by pinfall

Highlights: Sheamus pounding on Xavier’s chest to the tune of ‘New Day Rocks/Sucks’.

Comments: I would’ve enjoyed this more if I’d cared about one of these teams.

No Holds Barred Street Fight: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs Dean Ambrose

Lesnar comes out first to a good pop, but the crowd is also giving him a lot of flack. There hasn’t been a Street Fight at WrestleMania since Hogan vs McMahon. Heyman is a jerk to Eden and won’t let her announce the match.

Dean gets a great pop. He’s wearing a leather jacket with ‘Fighting Spirit’ embroidered in Kanji, which I love.

This match gets physical quickly, Dean’s giving up about 50lbs in weight to Lesnar, but Dean’s been in nastier matches with scarier people than Brock Lesnar. Dean goes to the equalizers quickly, whaling Lesnar with a kendo stick.

Lesnar doesn’t seem to want to do anything but suplexes, which gets boring quickly. I feel bad for Dean have to get an actual match out someone who clearly isn’t interested.

This was a good match…on Ambrose’s end. Lesnar was clearly not interested in actually working with Ambrose and just wanted to do HIS match.

Winner: Brock Lesnar by pinfall.

Highlights: Ambrose having no fear of Lesnar and taking it to him, though Lesnar did very little. Heyman’s reaction to Ambrose beating on Lesnar with the kendo stick. Dean kissing Barbie (baseball bat wrapped in barb wire), Heyman and Lesnar’s reactions to said kiss.

Comments: I hated this match because it felt like Ambrose had a match and Lesnar was just not cooperating.

Triple Threat Match for the WWE Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (with Ric Flair) vs Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks

Becky comes out to a great pop. Sasha is sung to the ring by Snoop Dogg and she gets a great pop. She’s wearing tights inspired by her hero, Eddie Guerrero. Charlotte gets a mixed reaction. Her robes were made from the robes her father wore to his last WWE match, and it looks better on her than it did on him, at least cut wise.

Sasha and Becky team up on Charlotte and then take it to each other. Each woman is going for a quick victory. Becky is knocked out of the ring and we get a battel between Sasha and Charlotte.

This was such a great match, not just because of its significance in the Women’s Revolution, but just in terms of story and ring work. I couldn’t take notes because I didn’t want to miss anything.

Winner: Charlotte by submission, new Women’s Champion.

Highlights: The German suplex/Sunset flip spot. Sasha’s Frog splash. Becky and Sasha taking out Naitch.

Comments: I loved this match, all three women did a great job and made a real case for the women getting more time and matches on big cards.

The Streak: Undertaker vs Shane McMahon – Hell in a Cell. If Shane wins, he gets control of RAW. If Taker loses, he will no longer be allowed to compete at WrestleMania

Shane comes out first, with his three boys, to a great pop. Linda McMahon and Shane’s wife, Marissa, are at ringside and take the boys. The Deadman Cometh, and gets a great pop, to battle for his career in the structure almost synonymous with him, Hell in a Cell.

This match was insane. All Hell in a Cell matches are insane, but add in Shane O’Mac, who not only has no fear, but spits in fear’s eye with a smile on his face, is a recipe for an insane, and insanely good match.

One thing I did notice, and it didn’t really register with me in 2016, was how limited Taker was starting to become. I think the reason why no one really noticed in 2016 was because of the Cell and Shane. With those two factors, no one was expecting more than a fight out of Taker and Shane and it was an excellent cover.

I loved this match because: 1. I love a good gimmick match. and 2. It was a great match on its own merits. Taker and Shane were great together. It was a fight from start to finish, but it was a great match.

 Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Taker salutes the fans, but this has been a brutal match for both men.

Highlights: Shane McMahon being a crazy SOB and jumping off the top of the cell. The commentators trying to talk Shane out of jumping off the cell, not sure why they bothered. The FREAKOUT when Shane crossed himself, everyone knows what that means.

Comments: This is the first time Taker’s decline was noticeable, but they got away with it because of the cell and because of Shane being able to cover for him.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Most of the guys don’t get an individual entrance. Since the roster was so depleted, there are only twenty guys in this match. Mark Henry, being from Texas, gets his own entrance and gets a nice pop. Kane gets a mixed pop. DDP enters and gets a good pop. Big Show also gets a mixed pop.

With four giants in the ring, the other competitors realize that they need to team up. Fandango and Damian Sandow try their luck alone, but get eliminated by Show and/or Shaq.

This was a fun match, and it was a good palate cleanser for the rest of the show.

Winner: Baron Corbin by eliminating Kane.

Highlights: Big Show/Shaq face off. Shaq and Big Show chokeslamming Kane.

Comments: I don’t like Corbin, but this was a great match and got fans in a great mood.

Rock comes out and announces a new attendance record: 101, 763. There’s a confrontation with the Wyatts and Rock fights Rowan, but I’m not going to call a beatdown that only lasted six seconds a match.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon) vs Roman Reigns

Stephanie gets a part as the Skull Queen after a really creepy video and gets a hell of a pop. Triple H also gets a great pop, but he’s not in the Skull King stuff.

Roman gets a mixed reaction, but I don’t think he cares. The Big Dog is ready for a fight. Triple H looks more nervous than I expected him to, probably because of the build this match had.

Though Triple H is a master ring technician, this was not a technical match, this was a fight, and really, I didn’t expect anything else. The feud these two were having in the run up was insane and there was no way it could live up to the hype.

That said, this was a great match. Triple H and Roman really worked well together and told a great story of overcoming the odds.

Winner: Roman Reigns by pinfall, we have a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion! The people who booed Reigns are cheering LOUDLY for him.

Highlights: Roman spearing Stephanie right out of her shoes. Kudos to Stephanie for being game for that spot. Roman walking out with his daughter in his arms (I’m not sure that was on camera, but it was a sweet moment).

Comments: There was a lot of criticism about this match, and it didn’t quite live up to the build, but given how thin the roster was, it’s not surprising that Vince didn’t want this match to be as brutal as the build promised.

Overall Comments

So, how did WrestleMania do with a shoestring roster? It actually did really well. Yes, there were some odd matchups, but the show was really great and gave us some great moment. Also, we get to seeing Roman Reigns’ evolution to a main event player. It wasn’t quite there at WrestleMania 31, but you can see the pieces falling into place for him.

Stinkers: Kalisto vs Ryback. That was just not a good match.

Snoozers: League of Nations vs New Day. I didn’t care about either team, so it was just a drag.

Match of the Night: Undertaker vs Shane McMahon, Women’s Match.

Hall of Fame: Sting, The Godfather, Big Boss Man, Jacqueline, Stan Hanson, The Fabulous Freebirds, Snoop Dogg

Warrior Award: Joan Lunden

Final Thoughts: While I can’t say I’d watch this WrestleMania just because, I enjoyed it greatly and highly recommend it.


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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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