WCW continues adding to its pay-per-view lineup with the inaugural Halloween Havoc! This October event would become a mainstay for the company, this first event venturing into the WWF’s territory in Philadelphia. It also sported one of the most memorable (at least to me) cover arts for a video tape, as The Road Warriors and their face paint really fit the Halloween theme. Let’s see what WCW has to offer after their last effort was arguably their top-to-bottom best!
Match #1: ‘Captain’ Mike Rotunda vs. ‘Z-Man’ Tom Zenk
Rotunda starts the action with a waist lock take down. Collar and elbow tie up and Zenk catches him in a side headlock. Rotunda runs the ropes but he’s taken down by Zenk’s shoulder block. Another collar and elbow into a side headlock. They run the ropes and Zenk again gets the better of him with a football tackle. The crowd gets behind Zenk and Rotunda paces on the outside. Back into the ring and Zenk gets another side headlock. They run ropes, Rotunda leaps Zenk and uses a hip toss.
He cannot follow up as Zenk moves on the attempted elbow drop. Zenk is quickly back up and hits Rotunda with a drop kick. Rotunda rolls to the outside and the referee counts. The Captain gets back up on the apron and slowly enters the ring. Collar and elbow tie up and the two men move to the corner. Rotunda takes a cheap knee to Zenk’s mid section. Rotunda catches Zenk in a headlock and sticks a thumb into his eyes before sending him out to the floor. Zenk climbs back to the apron and meets Rotunda with a shoulder to the midsection and executes a sunset flip.
He can only get a 2 count and Rotunda rolls out of the ring once again. Rotunda rolls into the ring, and Zenk locks in an arm bar. Rotunda is up and down from his knees. Rotunda gets a knee to the mid section and sends Zenk running. Zenk comes back with a modified arm drag take down and locks Rotunda in a hammerlock. Rotunda strengths his way up and breaks the hold on the ropes. Another collar and elbow and Zenk delivers a side headlock take down and gets a 2 count. Rotunda uses his positioning and captures Zenk in a head scissor submission.
He uses the ropes for leverage when he can. He is caught using the ropes and the hold is broken. Rotunda paces the outside and re-enters the ring. Collar and elbow tie up and Zenk works Rotunda down to his knees with another side head lock. A run of the ropes and Rotunda dumps Zenk out of the ring and to the floor. Rotunda stalks him on the floor and slams his head on the ring apron. Rotunda pulls Zenk back to the apron and chokes his neck over the top rope before kicking him back out. Rotunda viciously kicks Zenk down in his effort to re-enter the ring. Back to the apron for Zenk and Rotunda hits a vertical suplex.
Rotunda hesitates before the lateral press and he only gets a 2 count. Frustrated, Rotunda applies an abdominal stretch and uses the ropes once again. Referee Nick Patrick catches Rotunda using the ropes and breaks the hold. Rotunda and Patrick get in each other’s face. Rotunda applies a reverse chin lock and Zenk falls to his knees. He fights back and delivers elbows to the mid section. The hold is broken and he runs for the ropes. Rotunda foils his plan and delivers a massive clothesline.
Rotunda whips Zenk to the ropes, but the Z-Man holds on to them causing Rotunda to miss his drop kick. Irish whip from Zenk and he follows it with a big elbow. Rotunda stops the momentum with an eye rake. Zenk reverses an Irish whip but Rotunda spring boards from the 2nd turnbuckle for a cross body. He rolls up Zenk, but the Z-Man reverses it and gets the pin.
Winner: ‘Z-Man’ Tom Zenk (Roll-Up Counter)
- EA’s Take: Pretty standard affair kicks this one off, nothing really good or bad about it. Rotunda was a good opponent for the freshly debuted Z-Man who arrived from the AWA the month prior. He always struck me as a guy with a great look and potential, but just never realized it and severely lacked in the charisma department. He also looked really soft here, just watch how he applies his side headlocks. Theree’s no real aggressiveness there and for me, something like that is always glaring.
Backstage: Bruno Sammartino discusses his role as special guest referee in the main event. He see’s nothing about this match that will cause him to stop it beyond a manager throwing in the towel.
Match #2: The Samoan Swat Team (Samu, Fatu & The Samoan Savage) w/Big Kahuna vs. The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane) & ‘Dr Death’ Steve Williams w/Jim Cornette
The Samoans are out of control and causing problems outside of the ring. The referee is doing his best to maintain order. The Savage and Stan Lane start the action. Brief collar and elbow tie up before the Savage rakes the eyes, hits an elbow and delivers a kick to the midsection. Stan Lane reverses a whip to the ropes and lands a back body drop on th Savage before clothes lining him to the floor. Eaton takes advantage on the outside with a straight right and now all 6 men have a stand off on the floor. Things slow down and they enter the ring.
Armbar by Lane and a tag is made to Eaton. The Express deliver a double elbow and Eaton takes control. Straight right from Eaton but the Savage reverses an arm bar. Eaton returns the favor with a reversal of his own but the Savage rakes his eyes. Body slam from the Savage and a tag is made to Samu. He misses an elbow on his entrance and Bobby goes to work with rights and fends off distractions. Another 6 man stand off before Eaton and Samu slow it down for some one on one action. Big chops from Samu. Irish whip by Samu but Bobby moves away from the big splash and a tag is made to Williams.
Dr. Death fights all the Samoans off and delivers a football tackle to Fatu. The crowd goes wild and the Samoans are reeling on the outside. The Samoans regroup and a tag is made to Fatu. The two exchange rights, but Fatu rakes the eyes. Williams reverses the Irish whip and hits a clothesline. Williams fights off the Samoans who are trying to interfere with the match. He hits more football tackles on Fatu and clears the ring once again. Cornette taunts the Big Kahuna from the outside. A tag is made to Eaton who catches Fatu in a standing arm bar. Quick tag made back to Lane who delivers a series of kicks before holding a side headlock.
There is a whip to the ropes and Fatu stiffens up before Lane can deliver a hip toss. Instead there is a big right from Fatu and a tag is made to Samu. Samu delivers a karate kick and a standing drop kick to Lane. From his knees, Lane tries to fight back with lefts and rights to the abdomen. He’s able to buy enough time to get a tag to Dr. Death. Williams and Samu with a collar and elbow tie up. Samu rakes the eyes and works Williams to the corner. Irish whip is reversed by Williams who delivers a big clothesline. Williams sends Samu to his corner to meet Bobby Eaton’s big right hand. Williams keeps on him with a snapmare and a legdrop.
Williams picks him up and makes a tag to Eaton. A big right from Eaton followed by a running clothesline. He executes a lateral press but only gets a 2 count. Cornette gets the crowd clapping by banging on the apron. Collar and elbow tie up between Eaton and Samu. They run the ropes, Samu leaps Eaton but when he ducks down to the mat, Eaton delivers an elbow drop. A tag is made to Stan Lane and Fatu. A collar and elbow tie up before Lane delivers a drop toe hold. Lane holds Fatu in an arm bar but he works his way to his feet. Lane is thrown to the ropes. He attempts a crossbody but Fatu catches him and slams him to the mat.
Fatu attempts an elbow drop but misses and Lane is quick to his feet and ties up the Savage’s arm on the rope before making a tag to Eaton. Fatu rakes the eyes and gets a double team after a tag is made to the Samoan Savage. Eaton lands a couple rights. He goes for a bulldog, but The Savage uses the momentum and drives him groin first into the post. Eaton is dumped to the outside and he is double teamed by the Samoans while the referee is distracted. On the outside, Eaton is hiptossed on the concrete as his teammates try to regain control. Eaton is back in the ring, he’s whipped to the ropes and reverses into a sunset flip but can only get a 2 count.
The Savage is still in control and chops Eaton when he’s on his feet. A tag is made to Fatu. Eaton is whipped to the ropes for a double clothesline and Fatu gets a 2 count on a lateral press. Fatu holds Eaton on the mat in a pressure point lock. Eaton works back to his feet slowly. He delivers a few rights before running the ropes and reversing a back body drop by slamming Fatu’s face into the mat. Fatu is unfased and comes back with a clothesline. The Savage attacks Eaton on the apron and rolls him back into the ring. A tag is made to Samu who keeps the offense going with a leg drop and a head butt. Eaton is pulled to his feet and receives an elbow to the head before the Samoan partners deliver cheap shots on the outside.
There is a 3 on 1 against Eaton as the referee is distracted by Stan Lane attempting to help his partner. The Savage is tagged in and he delivers a head butt to Eaton before biting his arm. The Savage delivers a side slam and gets a 2 count before Dr Death breaks up the pin. A tag is made back to Fatu who re-applies a nerve submission maneuver. A tag is made back to The Samoan Savage. The Savage goes for a splash from the first turnbuckle but Eaton gets his knees up. Eaton is looking for his corner and a hot tag is made to Williams who enters with a double axe handle on The Savage and follows it with kicks to the ribs and big clothesline.
He takes care of the Samoans rushing the ring and military presses the Savage into Samu and Fatu. Powerslam by Williams on the Savage but he only gets two before the pin is broken up. A tag is made to Lane who delivers a botched neck breakers and he fights off Samu and Fatu. A karate kick to the head on The Savage from Lane, but all the participants are entering the ring and picking a dance partner. The ref is struggling to maintain order. The Big Kahuna is distracting the referee on the apron and Cornette comes over and hits him with his tennis racket to a big pop. Lane walks toward Cornette, but he’s hit from behind by The Samoan Savage. Lane clocks heads with Cornette and The Savage picks up the pin.
Winners: The Samoan Swat Team (Savage/Outside Interference)
- EA’s Take: Another really good bout from these two teams who work beautifully together. The Express continues to use heel tactics as babyfaces with the crowd loving it, which is really something that WCW/NWA was ahead of their time on. We wouldn’t see anything like that in the WWF for a much longer time, so credit to WCW on that. Regardless, next time we see them, they’ll be back to their old ways of being heels. Little bit of a strange finish here. Who knew Cornette’s head was so hard that it could cost his team a match?!
Match #3: The Cuban Assassin vs. ‘Wildfire’ Tommy Rich
The Assassin goes to work with many hard rights and bashes Rich’s head into turnbuckles. Rich ducks a clothesline and comes back with a big right hand of his own. Two power slams given by Rich before knocking the Assassin outside of the ring with a right elbow. The Assassin is back in and there is a collar and elbow tie up. They exchange right hands before another tie up. Rich is worked to the ropes and hits a shoulder to the abdomen before a delivering a head butt.
An Irish whip is reversed by Rich but the Assassin comes back with a cross body and he gets a 1 count. Quickly back to their feet and Rich executes an arm drag takedown and holds the arm bar. The Assassin fights out of it and tries to dump Rich to the outside. Rich stops on the apron, he delivers a shoulder to the mid section and jumps back in with a sunset flip and he gets a 1 count. A collar and elbow turns into an arm drag by Rich who holds on for an arm bar. The Assassin is back to his feet. He breaks the hold and works Rich to the corner. The Assassin delivers chops and sends Rich for an Irish Whip to the corner. Rich moves and the Assassin runs into the turnbuckle.
Rich takes him down with an arm drag and goes right back to the arm bar. Back to their feet and Rich works the arm more with an elbow. The Assassin rakes Rich’s eyes and delivers some rights. He chops Rich to the mat and delivers another right. The Assassin executes a body slam but he misses the follow up elbow. Rich comes back with an arm drag and continues to go to work on that arm. The Assassin reverses it back into an arm bar of his own. He uses Rich’s hair to pull him down to the mat and he maintains the hold. Rich is slowly back to his feet.
He uses a head butt to break the hold. The Assassin goes for a pile driver but Rich reverses it into a back body drop. The Assassin lands a head onto Rich’s solarplex and gets a 2 count on a lateral press. Reverse chin lock from The Assassin, and he works up to a vertical suplex. The Assassin heads for the top rope but he’s caught by Rich. Down to the mat and Rich sends him for a big elbow. Rich comes off the ropes with a fast press and gets the win.
Winner: ‘Wildfire’ Tommy Rich (Lou Thesz Press)
- EA’s Take: This is just a “get over” match as its the shortest of the night at just over 8 minutes. Some consider Tommy Rich a legend, but personally I think he’s more of a legendary underachiever. There was a handful of veterans that were brought in when Turner purchased the company from Crockett, including Bill Irwin, The Iron Sheik and Rich. Unfortunately, the young talents the promotion also brought in wouldn’t leave a whole lot of room for these kinds of guys.
Match #4 for the NWA World Tag Team Championships: NWA World Tag Team Champions The Fabulous Freebirds (‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin & Michael ‘P.S.’ Hayes) vs. The Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas & Johnny Ace) w/Jim Cornette
Hayes and Douglas get things started. A quick arm drag from Hayes and the two regroup. Side headlock from Hayes, they run the ropes and Hayes delivers a sunset flip to no avail. The crowd is firmly behind the birds. Kick to the midsection and a chop by Hayes. They run to the ropes, and Douglas grabs a side headlock. They run and Douglas delivers a neckbreaker. Garvin and Ace are tagged in. Collar and elbow and Garvin immediately goes on the offense. Ace fights back.
Garvin misses a clothesline and Ace delivers an arm drag and works into an arm bar. A tag is made to Douglas who maintains the arm bar. Garvin shoots Douglas to the corner and delivers some rights. Douglas reverses an Irish whip and lands a back body drop. Garvin is quick to his feet, grabs a side headlock and a tag is made to Hayes. Shane uses a nifty flip to reverse a wristlock and makes the tag to Ace. Johnny comes off the top with an elbow and maintains a wrist lock. Hayes fights back with a right and a chop, but a tag is made to Douglas on the run and the double team ends with a scoop slam from Douglas. Garvin runs into the ring, but the Dudes deliver a double drop kick.
The Birds take a walk around the ring and Hayes is slow to re-enter the ring. Plenty of enthusiasm from the crowd for the Birds. Collar and elbow and Shane holds an arm bar. Hayes misses a drop kick, and he’s the victim of another double team off a tag. Face buster by Ace and he gets a 2 count. A tag is made to Garvin. Ace consults with Douglas. Collar and elbow and Ace grabs the side headlock. Shots to the midsection by Garvin. Ace kicks Hayes’ hand away from a tag attempt twice. Hayes is angry and he enters the ring but gets a back body drop.
Ace manages to take Hayes down with a head scissor while holding the side headlock. The Birds regroup outside of the ring. Garvin and Ace lock up, and it’s back to the side headlock for Ace. They run and Ace delivers a football tackle followed by a roll up. Garvin kicks out and sends Ace to the Birds’ corner where Hayes delivers a right. Douglas protests but the crowd loves it. Kick to the mid section followed by a running knee by Garvin. Ace is down on the floor and Douglas and Cornette check on him.
Michael Hayes takes a cheap shot on the floor and struts on the apron. Garvin keeps Ace out every time he tries crawling back up. Once back in the ring, Garvin sends him to the turnbuckle and tags in Hayes. They exchange a series of rights before Hayes delivers an elbow to the head and tags Garvin back in. Big back body drop by Garvin followed by an Irish whip. He tags Hayes back in and sends him flying into Ace for a clothesline in the corner. He sets up for the DDT and the crowd pops. Ace fights it off and shoves him away.
Tags are made to Garvin and Douglas. Douglas executes a back body drop followed by a series of drop kicks. Hayes enters the ring, but he receives a double clothesline from the entering Ace. Hayes is sent to the ropes for a double knee. They attempt to double team Garvin who is the legal man with a double side suplex, but Hayes pulls their feet and Garvin lands on Douglas with a cross body. They get a 3 count and retain the titles.
Winners and STILL NWA World Tag Team Champions: The Fabulous Freebirds (Garvin/Crossbody)
- EA’s Take: This isn’t our first time seeing them obviously, but man, The Dynamic Dudes have to have one of the most dated, ridiculous gimmicks of all time! As “tubular” as their schtick was, they could give a quick pace and that’s what we saw here. Hayes continues to impress me as well and if you want to see some of his great stuff that’s got better production value, these years are for you.
Backstage: Scott Steiner cuts what feels like a nervous, weak promo and Rick is playing up the “crazy” card big time. Rick assures everyone he won’t be distracted by Woman.
Match #5: The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) vs. Doom (Ron Simmons & Butch Reed) w/Woman
Doom enters the ring and the Steiners waste no time brawl. They send Doom into one another for an Irish whip collision and each take one for a belly to back suplex. Doom is back in the ring but the Steiners clothesline them over the top rope. Doom regroups on the outside with Woman. The structured action will start with Scott and Reed. Scott shoves him to the corner and the ref can’t break the action. A reversal of an Irish whip followed by a clothesline by Scott. Snapmare takedown and a knee to the chest by Steiner and he gets 2 off of a lateral press. A tag is made to the Dog Faced Gremlin who enters the ring with fury.
He delivers Steinerlines to both members of Doom who need another regroup outside. Back in the ring, it’s Rick and Simmons. Simmons gets the upper hand with straight rights but Rick comes back with a big right hand. He can only get a 2 count but he locks in a reverse chin lock. Simmons reverses this with an atomic drop and sends him into his partners boot. A tag is made to Reed who keeps the momentum going until Rick blocks a front face lock. A vertical suplex by Rick and a tag is made to Scott. The younger Steiner comes off the rope with a clothsline and locks in a reverse chin lock of his own. A quick tag is made back to Rick, but he’s quickly met with a jaw breaker and a tag is made back to Simmons.
A punch to the head by Simmons who then whips him for a clothesline. Simmons hot shots Rick and only gets a 1 count. They run the ropes and Rick kicks the doom member who was attempting a back body drop and makes a tag to brother Scott. A kick to the mid section and a face first suplex comes from Scott. He gets a near fall and Reed is tagged back in. Scott is sent to the ropes but grabs a waist lock and a belly to back suplex. Two elbow drops from Steiner and a two count. Scott holds Reed in a reverse chin lock but Reed strengths his way up.
They run the ropes and Simmons takes a cheap shot on Steiner from the apron. Reed takes advantage and goes to work. A snapmare from Reed followed by a tag to Simmons who enters with a double axe handle blow. Scott is booted outside of the ring and Reed takes cheap shots while the referee is distracted by Rick. Scott takes several hot shots on the security railing before being rolled back in the ring. A tag is made the Scott receives a double elbow. Two lateral presses but Doom cannot get a 3 count. Scott fights out of a headlock but not for long. He is kneed to the midsection and Reed is tagged back in.
Scott is hung up on the 2nd and is the victim of some extracurriclars. Rick protests but Scott is dumped over the top to the outside. Scott is kicked off the apron on his first attempt. On his 2nd attempt he gets a knee to the midsection and rolls Reed over on a sunset flip. Reed still has the energy and momentum and lands a neckbreaker getting a 2 count. A tag is made to Simmons as Scott tries to fight both members of Doom out of the corner. He’s sent to the ropes though and receives a power slam. The referee is distracted and Scott gets a double vertical suplex. A tag is made to Reed who holds Scott down in a front face lock.
Scott powers his way back up and makes the tag, but the referee didn’t see it and won’t allow it. Scott is instead pile driven into the mat but he kicks out at 2. Simmons holds him in a reverse chin lock and the crowd is getting behind Scott. Simmons is kicked in the face while attempting a back body drop. A tag is made to Reed but the hot tag is made to Rick. A back body drop from Rick followed by a couple of Steiner lines.Scott takes Simmons over with a head scissor while Rick Power Slams Reed. Woman comes up on the apron and Rick is having none of it. Rick turns around to fend off Simmons and Woman puts a foreign object in Reed’s mask. Rick picks up his opponent but receives a headbutt with the foreign object.
Winners: Doom (Reed/Foreign Object)
- EA’s Take: Where, oh where is Mean Gene? I know he was in the WWF at the time, but I couldn’t help thinking of him because during this match, I heard the first reference to the hotline. 1-900-909-9900, folks. Are 900 numbers still a thing? I hope not. What a money making scheme those were, eh? Anyways, this is your typical Steiners match, but the debut of Woman on PPV after using her…charms, to toy with the dimwitted Rick. I guess technically I broke kayfabe here since Doom is not using their names yet, but I mean, come on. It’s so obviously Ron Simmons and Butch Reed!
Backstage: NWA United States Champion Lex Luger tells Brian Pillman that this match is the real deal. He will prove to Pillman why he is the premier wrestler and the champion of the 90s.
Match #6 for the NWA United States Championship: NWA United States Champion Lex Luger vs. ‘Flyin’ Brian Pillman
Collar and elbow tie up and Luger powers Pillman to the corner. Pillman squirms out. Another tie up and another corner break up. A third tie up and Luger hits a knee to the mid section and sends him face first into the turn buckle. Straight rights followed by a body slam by Luger. The Package sends Pillman through the middle rope, but Flyin Brian comes back with a fire in his belly. A chop, Irish whip, backbody drop and drop kick sequence by Pillman. Luger rolls out and Pillman stalks him with chops. Luger is rolled back in the ring, but he moves from Brian’s attempted leap off the ropes.
Pillman chases Luger around the ring who baits him back into the ring and greets him with stomps. Luger pulls him up and delivers an elbow to the back of the head. Straight rights by Luger before a series of kicks to the gut. Pillman leaps off the turnbuckle on an Irish whip attempts. He runs to the opposite turnbuckle and gets a two count off of a cross body press. Arm drag from Pillman who hangs on for an arm bar. Pillman keeps the pressure on Luger’s left arm and turns it into a wrist lock. Luger breaks the hold with a knee to the mid section. Straight right from Luger and he sends Pillman to the ropes.
Pillman reverses a hip toss, lands a drop kick and an arm drag and he goes back to the arm bar. Back to their feet and Luger delivers a big right hand and a kick. He delivers a football tackle to Pillman twice. After another run and Pillman is able to regain momentum with a similar series as before. Luger is trapped in the arm bar once again. Pillman delivers a right shot to the shoulder as well as a kick to the mid section. Luger works his way up from a wrist lock and fights Pillman off with rights. Pillman leap frogs over Luger and on the come back, wraps around his back and rolls him to the mat. He can only get a 2 count.
Arm drag and arm bar sequence once again from Pillman. Luger tells the fans to shut up while he’s held in the submission. Luger strengths Pillman into the corner and sends him for an Irish whip but Brian gets his feet up. Flyin Brian heads for the top rope but Luger moves out of the way. Lex shows his strength by lifting Pillman from a front slam and hot shots him on the top rope. Luger taunts the crowd. Off the ropes, Luger hits a massive clothesline and he continues taunting the fans. A stumbling Pillman fights Luger off with chops and kicks.
He sends Luger to the ropes but Lex is too fresh and he delivers clotheslines in front and from behind. Luger viciously stomps Pillman and drops big forearms. Standing vertical suplex from Luger and he is slow to make a cover. He only gets two. Luger drops an elbow to the chest twice on Pillman. Brian takes shots to Luger’s midsection but he’s dumped through the middle rope to the floor. Luger pulls Pillman back to the apron and clubs him on the chest. Luger goes to pull his opponent back into the ring, but Pillman delivers a shoulder to the midsection and a sunset flip for a two count.
Luger attempts a clothesline but Pillman ducks and Luger falls out to the floor. Pillman pulls Luger back in, delivers a big chops and stands up for straight rights. Luger strengths him away with an inverted atomic drop. Luger sets Pillman up in a seated position on the top turnbuckle. Luger goes for the superplex but Pillman pushes him off. Pillman attempts a sunset flip from the top rope but Luger scissors his legs and gets out of it. Pillman is quickly back to his feet delivering chops to Luger. He comes off the ropes with a flying elbow and Luger begs for him to slow down. Irish whip and a back body drop by Pillman.
‘Flyin’ Brian comes off the ropes with a clothesline but Luger gets his foot on the ropes. Pillman hits a neck breaker and heads to the top rope for a high risk move. Luger moves away from Pillman’s drop kick. Lex pulls him to his feet. They run the ropes and Luger lifts Pillman for a hot shot across the top rope. The champ gets the pin.
Winner and STILL NWA United States Champion: Lex Luger (Hot Shot)
- Off The Top: The commentary team is really propping Luger up verbally. They went on and on about his football career, his physique, and pushing the narrative that he will be one of the top stars of the 90s. While he did go on to win a share of gold that decade, in retrospect it reminded me of ESPN heralding the top overall pick in the NFL draft as a generational talent, but then his career production was more in line with a 2nd or 3rd rounder. Good match though, Pillman certainly knew how to get the most out of everyone.
Backstage: The Road Warriors discuss their chances against the undefeated Skyscrapers. They explain that people build skyscrapers, but they also tear them down.
Match #7: The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal) w/Paul Ellering vs. The Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious & Dan Spivey) w/Theodore R. Long
A nose to nose stare down when the two teams meet in the ring. The action starts with Spivey and Animal. Collar and elbow tie up and Spivey gets the early advantage. Animal comes back with two clotheslines but it doesn’t take Spivey all the way down to the mat. Arm bar from Animal who tags Hawk and he maintains the hold. A run to the ropes and the two collide, neither giving an inch. Finally on the third attempt, Hawk knocks Spivey outside of the ring with a flying shoulder block. A tag is made to Sid. Tie up and Sid delivers some rights. Sid misses a clothesline and Hawk hits one. It only knocks Sid down to his knees. Sid works Hawk to the corner.
He tries a flying shoulder off an Irish whip but Hawk moves. Animal is tagged in and they double team Sid for a double elbow. Sid is right back up, though. Animal and Sid tie up, Animal ducks a clothesline but can’t move Sid on his first couple shoulder tackle attempts. He finally lands a flying clothesline and Vicious rolls outside of the ring and regroups with Long. A tag is made to Hawk as Sid is slow to re-enter the ring. Hawk asks for a test of strength. The two are at a stalemate until Sid finally works Hawk down.
The crowd gets behind the Warriors and Hawk strengths back up. He throws Vicious to the corner and hits him with a monkey flip. Hawk hits Vicious with a clothesline and holds him with an arm bar before tagging Animal back in. Animal keeps the hold but Sid strengths him to the Skyscrapers’ corner. A tag is made to Spivey, but Animal maintains the offense. Hawk is back in, but he’s thrown to the opponents corner and Sid is back in. Snapmare takedown by Sid and he follows it with a clothesline. Sid lifts Hawk and executes a helicopter carry.
A tag is made to Spivey who gets a side slam on Hawk before a 2 count. They run the ropes and Hawk comes back with a clothesline. Spivey is the first one up and he baseball slides Hawk outside of the ring where Sid takes advantage. Hawk receives a hot shot on the guard rail and is slow to return to the ring. Spivey greets him with a vertical suplex and can only get a two count. A tag is made to Sid. Hawk is whipped to the corner and receives a clothesline from Spivey followed by a knee from Sid.
Vicious pulls Hawk up and delivers a straight right before choking him on the middle rope. Hawk tries to fight back but Sid takes him down and gives a blatant choke until the ref breaks it up. A tag is made to Spivey. Hawk kicks Spivey in the head but it has no effect. Spivey delivers a clothesline. Hawk counters a vertical suplex with one of his own but he’s not able to make the tag. Sid is tagged back in and he’s holding Hawk in a front face lock. Hawk lifts Sid up in his arms and makes the tag to Animal but the ref is blind to it. Hawk and Sid march back to the Skyscrapers’ corner where a tag is made to Spivey.
The referee calls off Animal’s tag that he didn’t see but allows Spivey’s. Irish whip from Spivey with a run to the corner, He attempts a second but Hawk gets his boot up. Finally, the hot tag is made to Animal who ambushes Spivey with a drop kick followed by a flying shoulder block. Sid enters the ring and takes up Animal while Hawk and Spivey brawl. There is a powerslam from Animal on Sid, but Sid is not the legal man and the referee isn’t looking. Long enters the ring with a foreign object and Ellering gives chase. Long tosses the object to Spivey who uses it on Hawk. Nick Patrick sees the object and calls for the bell.
Winners: The Road Warriors (Disqualification)
- After The Bell: The Skyscrapers mug Animal until Hawk makes the save with a clothesline off the top rope.
- EA’s Take: Much more action from Sid in this one than his last PPV appearance. You know they’re building up The Skyscrapers as a power team when on multiple occasions, The Road Warriors are bouncing off of them like immovable objects. If they’re being told to frequently no sell Hawk and Animal, I’m not sure how you could sell teams like The Midnight Express and The Dynamic Dudes as even standing a prayer against these guys. I’m not sure what the Starrcade card looks like yet, but I’d like to see how they’re booked at this time against a team like The Steiners.
Backstage: Ric Flair, Sting and Ole Anderson are standing by. Ole is asked when he’ll throw in the towel. Anderson explains that the towel is wrapped around his arm for a reason: he won’t throw it in under any circumstance.
Match #8 is a Thunderdome Cage Match – Special Referee Bruno Sammartino: NWA World Heavyweight Champion ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair & Sting w/Ole Anderson vs. NWA World Television Champion The Great Muta &Terry Funk w/Gary Hart
Your opponents’ corner man must throw in the towel to end this contest. Flair and Funk start the action and Funk takes him down with a shoulder block. Flair works some chops in the corner and whips him into partner Sting who takes a free shot. Muta enters the ring but Sammartino kicks him out. Collar and elbow tie up with Funk and Flair. Terry gets a body slam in, but Flair comes back with a chop and two slams of his own. Funk is thrown out of the ring onto his head. He’s slow to return and Flair hits him with an elbow from the apron.
A tag is made to Sting who delivers a right and dumps Funk outside. Sting hangs Funk up on the cage and rakes his back. Back in the ring and Sting makes a tag to the Nature Boy. The teammates deliver a double elbow. Flair sends Funk for two consecutive Irish whips and knocks Funk down with a huge chop. He delivers his patented knee to Funk’s head and goes after Muta who is standing on the apron. Funk is dazed as Flair delivers straight rights before tagging in Sting who lands a drop kick. Funk is frustrated and he tags in Muta.
Sting delivers a flurry of punches before throwing Muta on Funk with a military press. Sting delivers a vertical suplex and he tags in Flair. Snap mare takedown by Flair who follows it with an atomic drop. Flair chops Muta in the corner and takes him down again and delivers a knee drop. Stinger is tagged back in and he dumps Muta to the outside. Sting uses the cage as a weapon and pushes Muta’s head through the cage. Flair and Funk brawl on the outside while Muta changes the momentum inside of the ring. Snapmare followed by an elbow by Muta. Standing leg drop as Muta keeps the momentum rolling.
He dumps Sting to the outside for Funk to deal with while Flair rushes Muta. Funk chokes Sting with his boot as Muta takes Flair to the floor. As they round the corner, Funk cuts them off and goes to work on Flair. The legal men are in the ring and Sting is on the receiving end of a standing suplex before his opponents deliver a series of knees. Flair makes the save and hits a vertical suplex on Funk. Sting comes back with a running bulldog on Muta and gives one to Funk for good measure. He measures Muta’s neck over the top rope and makes a tag to Flair.
The champ backs Muta up for an atomic drop and Sting hits a clothesline. Stinger goes for the Scorpian Deathlock but Funk interupts it. Funk goes to work on Sting in the corner and Muta comes back with a kick to the mid section. There seems to be no control over the match and Flair chases Funk out of the ring. Sting is dumped to the outside and pursued by Funk. Sting rolls back into the ring and he’s choked with a boot from Muta. Flair chops Funk on the apron and bashes Funk into the steel cage. Inside the ring, Sting hits a vertical suplex on Muta. Muta and Sting climb the cage and Muta gets shocked by the cage.
Sting bashes Muta face first into the metal while Flair and Funk continue to brawl themselves. Muta and Sting are back in the ring and Sting received a low blow. Flair and Funk climb around the cage and Flair delivers chops from that height. Funk is trapped on the cage, while Sting holds Muta up over his head for a prolonged military press. Sting dumps Muta outside of the ring while Funk is still trapped on the cage. Muta appears to have snuck under the ring while Sting pursues Funk. Muta comes out of the ring and brawls with Flair on the floor. They exchange chops and roll back into the ring. Belly to back suplex by Flair on Muta.
Sting uses a rope hanging from the cage for leverage to slam himself into Funk. Back in the ring, Ric Flair locks in the Figure Four on Muta. Flair breaks the hold unprompted and simply dumps Muta outside. Flair inspects what is going on with Sting and Funk on the cage, but Muta comes back and kicks him in the back of the head. Sting has a misstep on the cage and Funk attempts to tie him up. Back in the ring, Muta locks Flair in a reverse toe hold. Muta keeps the toe hold and grabs a front face lock. Sting appears to be tied to the cage and Ole comes over to save him.
In the meantime, Funk and Muta double team Flair. Funk hits his pile driver on Flair as Ole struggles to get the rope off of Sting. Flair is stuck in their mercy until Sting is finally freed. He climbs up the wall of the cage and leaps off of it hitting Funk with a cross body. Sting is fired up and delivers rights to Muta. Once outside, Muta climbs the cage and Sting pursues him while Flair and Funk fight in the ring. Flair works over Funk’s knee with a variety of maneuvers. Sting and Muta are back in the ring and Muta hits a back breaker.
Muta is going up for a moonsault but he’s knocked to the floor by Sting. Flair locks in the Figure Four on Funk and Sting leaps off the top rope with a splash. Hart refuses to the throw in the towel, so Sting does it again. Muta crawls back into the ring and takes a chop at referee Sammartino. Bruno delivers a strong right and knocks Muta out of the ring. Gary Hart climbs the apron and Ole Anderson rushes to stop him from interfering. Ole delivers a right to Hart who drops the towel upon impact.
Winners: ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair & Sting
- EA’s Take: If you’re looking for some big stars participating in a car crash match, you’ll enjoy this one. Just don’t try to make ANY sense of it. You’ve got the special cage and a special stipulation which is fine, but the first quarter of the match had the vibe of a traditional tag team match with partners waiting in the corners and the referee backing off outside interference. The second quarter of the match was a bit more disorganized with dance partners swapping, despite not being tagged. With no distinction or reasoning laid out, the last half of the match was a complete free-for-all which was apparently fine now. Also, there were a half dozen times when guys would just start climbing the cage and their opponents would give chase. Why were they doing this? You can’t win by escaping the cage,where were they going? Some good legends in this bout, but I found myself confused through most of the match.
EA’s Finisher: Wow, 5 tag team matches on an 8 match card. I’ll say it made for plenty of movement and very few rest holds, which was good. The company would frequently and understandably try to distinct themselves from the WWF. I’m really glad they laid off saying “This is NWA… We wrestle here!” 6 times in the show, but the most interesting, subtle comment made tonight was JR citing Sting’s days as a member of The Blade Runners. He “uipped, “I think he’s developed better than his partner has”, of course referring to The Ultimate Warrior. If this card was on a prime time cable show for the company, I’d say it was good, but the main draw (Thunderdome) turned out to be a total cluster. Let’s look at it positively though because I think too many focus on the negatives of WCW. At least they were always trying new things!
Top Three To Watch
1 – The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Dynamic Dudes
2 – Lex Luger vs. Brian Pillman
3 – The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom
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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