The wrestling community as of late has been interesting hasn’t it?
Not only is the world of wrestling hotter than it’s ever been before, but at the same time we’ve been divided at some of the occurrences taking place lately, particularly from the one man known as Dave Meltzer.
With the recent top-notch quality wrestling being put on my New Japan Pro Wrestling in the form of the epic Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega match at NJPW Dominion, we’ve seen traditions broken even further from what occurred last year. Wrestling’s traditional star ratings, generally ranging from 1 to 5 (1 being the worst, 5 being the best) have been somewhat expanded if that phrase is appropriate.
The use of 6 & 7 stars has been used to credit some of the NJPW product lately, but what does this truly mean?
Star ratings themselves are simply numeric, not really presenting any meaning beyond a value that is either small, medium or large to represent quality and much like most criticism, we should focus on critique for its content not the simple use of a numeric value or symbol. This sadly has caused a divide in the fan base, many feeling outraged at Meltzer’s ‘bias’ to products such as WWE or NXT, others thinking it’s incredibly unnecessary since a 6 or 7-star rating means no more than the highest, traditional 5-star.
Both sides of this argument make valid points and when actually heard out, are on to something. However, for the sake of exploiting a situation, let’s use this to shed light on the product we all love and cherish, wrestling!
In light of recent events, I’m going to use this divide to shed light on matches that can be deemed severely underrated but since the 5-stars mean that much, let’s take a look at matches that deserve the formal recognition of receiving the ‘iconic’ 5-star match rating from the likes of Dave Meltzer.
#5: The Rock vs ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania X-8
Arguably one of the biggest crowd reactions in Wrestlemania history did not belong to a fateful 3-count, a title change or the return of a superstar but instead belonged to a 60-second stare down between two opponents nobody ever thought they would see collide in a WWE ring. The stare down between Hulk Hogan & The Rock in Toronto will forever be one that is remembered through time & will live on for as long as this business flourishes.
That moment epitomizes what this business is all about, the passion, the emotion & just the pure electricity of over 60,000 rabid fans losing their minds over a moment they knew would never come again. To think this reaction occurred before the bell had even rung is surreal and it’s crazy to think the consistency of this reaction spanned for the entire 16-minute period the match went on for.
All fanboying aside, the match itself was not the most technically masterful, in fact for the most part is being your run-of-the-mill Hogan match, just tacked on with the biggest name in the business at the time and a dream opponent we had waited for years to see collide with ‘The Hulkster’ head on. These additions however caused the matches lack of in-ring substance to become almost irrelevant to the passion the crowd had within it.
We tend to forget that while in-ring ability and story are in 50/50 split when it comes to judging a professional wrestling match, there are times when the tides can shift so greatly to one side it can entirely sway opinions in favour of the latter. Just how some films are remembered for their brain dead entertainment values over lack of substance in their scripts, this match will forever be remembered for being one of the most passionate amongst the fanbase & in my opinion, deserves that 5-star rating as much as any match on the coveted list thus far.
#4: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn – NXT TakeOver: Dallas
We can sum up this match with two words; ‘‘Fight Forever!’’.
The sea of cheers & chants that took place on this fateful evening in Dallas, Texas remain one of my favourite wrestling moments since the birth of the NXT brand in 2014.
You had the heart & soul of NXT in Sami Zayn, the no-quit babyface who was responsible for countless memories on the brand since his debut including phenomenal performances against Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Neville & Tyson Kidd which had granted him the reputation he had going into this dream match in what was his last appearance on NXT before his main roster arrival.
The matches story was poetic as well, having the longstanding warrior in Sami Zayn put his pride & reputation in the NXT brand on the line against a new threat, NJPW’s own Shinsuke Nakamura who’s signing was announced roughly 8 weeks prior to this landmark event. From the get-go the crowd was ready for what they were about to witness, the goodbye of their hero & the arrival of NXT’s future.
It was the match we all dreamt it would be and even more than we could have anticipated. This certainly wasn’t a standard WWE affair sharing the similar formula we see on RAW or SmackDown, this was a fight to the death and neither man gave up. Combining the aero-dynamic ability of Sami Zayn with the raw, brutish style of Shinsuke Nakamura resulted in a grueling contest that left both men physically and mentally exhausted, as was the audience.
Nakamura ended up pinning the heart & soul of NXT after a near 30-minute contest that rocked the Dallas crowd and cemented himself as a warrior from his very first match under the WWE brand, perhaps even being the best single WWE debut of all time?
That is a question we can leave to the community to discuss.
Giving this match 5 stars seemed like a given once the bell rang at the matches conclusion, but it seemed like many fans saw this match as lesser than many of us did, potentially a clash in tastes or some WWE fans not traditionally used to a style like Nakamura’s could have played into this. Either way, this was tremendous and I stand by it being the single best debut in company history.
#3: Sasha Banks vs Bayley – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn I & NXT TakeOver: Respect
For myself personally and my interest in women’s wrestling, this was the resurgence of that. Admittedly I’m not that big of a fan when it comes to both the current state of Bayley’s or Sasha Banks’ characters, but I will forever defend the mastery these women put on display every time they went out to an NXT ring.
Both Banks & Bayley have the ability to say they possess perfect in-ring chemistry amongst one another and that comes primarily due to their real-life friendship outside the ring, as many fans who own the WWE Network would know. Every move they performed in the ring, every action & every glance of simple eye contact oozes passion & intensity which not only makes the match special on every level but brought every fan to their feet.
The reason both their NXT classics are here is because it’s impossible to distinguish which one of the two is better in terms of overall quality. Their first contest in Brooklyn was far more straightforward in terms of its structure, since the match was contested under standard one-fall rules, however their second & final bout was contested under Ironman rules and featured far more out-of-the-ring chaos than their initial clash. Neither match however drifted from the story at hand and stuck to the core of what made it so good, the proceeding storyline which was fairly simple; both women striving to be the best.
On top of the simple yet spectacular storyline, both Banks & Bayley managed to utilize fairly simple in-ring work to craft 2 masterpieces in women’s wrestling. There was nothing too flashy or in-your-face for the most part, just beautiful in-ring psychology & some awesome character moments that any wrestling fan could appreciate.
Not only were these the two matches that put women’s wrestling back in the spotlight but are 2 of the finest examples of just how phenomenal women can be in a wrestling ring when handled correctly. Banks & Bayley deserve all 10 collective stars these matches should have received and more, since that seems to be the trend these days and to anyone who hasn’t seen these two classics, do yourself a favour and switch them on right now. You won’t be disappointed.
#2: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – Wrestlemania XXV
I don’t think there is a living wrestling fan out there who doesn’t love this match with every ounce of heart in their body.
The Undertaker & Shawn Michaels, two names so soaked in wrestling greatness & history it’s almost impossible to imagine another duo matching up to the standard they’ve set for any WWE star in today’s business. Prior to this match, the two had a storied history, being fierce rivals in the late 90’s before HBK left professional wrestling due to spinal issues and making history by competing in the first-ever Hell in A Cell match in WWE history, still standing as one of my favourite matches of all time.
Upon his return to the ring in 2002 both HBK & his former rival had been kept apart for the most part, with a few run-ins during the 2007 & 2008 Royal Rumble matches which only heated up fans anticipation for an eventual rematch between the two. In 2009 though, fans would be treated to something very, very special at the 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania in Houston, Texas.
On this evening, The Undertaker & Shawn Michaels crafted a masterpiece in professional wrestling, a match with arguably the loudest crowd in recent wrestling memory and the closest thing I can envision in this business to a literal work of art. This instant classic didn’t just tell the story of two of wrestling’s best pushing themselves above and beyond in the fight to both keep the streak alive and subsequently end it on the side of HBK, it was also a match with stakes that have never felt bigger. Everything was on the line, legacies, honour & the right to ultimately be called ‘The Best’.
The two exchanged blows, signature moves, suicide dives, horrifying crash landings both in and out of the ring & submission manoeuvres for nearly 30-minutes and by the end of it were barely left standing on their own two feet. Understandably the crowd in Houston were on their own feet for the majority of this masterpiece and by the matches faithful end, cheered like never respect paying respect to two warriors who had left everything they had in the ring on this night.
Personally, I don’t understand what qualities this match was missing to not push it to that ‘5-star’ level, this match had everything a wrestling fan could dream of, from incredible storytelling to stomach churning kickouts it’s just a miracle this isn’t on that ‘historic’ list.
#1: The Shield vs The Wyatt Family – WWE Elimination Chamber 2014
You know what’s more special than two legends in their prime getting a reaction that nearly shakes the roof of the arena they’re in?
Two groups of young up & comers from a small developmental brand getting unanimous chants of ‘‘This is awesome’’ from every single audience member in attendance.
The Shield & The Wyatt Family at this point in 2014 were the most interesting collective of characters in the wrestling business, boasting multiple personalities all of whom worked together to make each respective group standout in their own unique way, which made this impending clash all the more anticipated by the WWE and wrestling fanbase in general. Their initial stare down, much like Hogan & Rock, was the coming together of weeks of storytelling with each unit at one another’s throat out for nothing but blood & vengeance and the audience in attendance felt that resonate regardless of where you were.
As for the match itself, its as close to perfect as one can get with a multi-man match in this business. It featured everything from the insane spots to self-contained character moments in the ring, which is something I think this match doesn’t get enough credit for. While all 6 men aimed to function as a unit, each of their individual personalities stood out just as much as their collective teams did, Rollins was your high-flying showman, Ambrose was the unhinged maniac & Reigns was the powerhouse constantly knocking down his larger opponents.
Everything done here worked, the match easily stole the show and left the crowd not just satisfied but wanting even more than what had just been put on display & we finally got the NXT clash fans had been clamouring for years on end to see with their own eyes.
Obviously tastes in styles of wrestling vary as does everyone’s opinion on this affair, but it’s baffling as to how and why people don’t see this match as anything but ‘5-Star’, it contains everything a professional wrestling match should be and more, also being one of the rare occurrences WWE manage to absolutely nail the booking of a feud without one single misstep. Phenomenal stuff all around and worth your time to go out of your way to see.
Andrew’s G1 Climax 29 Ratings & Analysis: Night 7 A Block
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
Aside from the big names being stuck in the middle of the pack, we’ve got poor little Zack Sabre at zero points. Can he twist Fale into a pretzel and figure it out?
Then we have Okada facing a banged up Ospreay, while KENTA takes on a rising EVIL.
Do we still have any undefeated participants in A Block after today?
- Yota Tsuji & Juice Robinson vs Jon Moxley & Shota Umino: Shooter wins via Boston Crab @3:55 – ** 1/4
- Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & Yuya Uemura: Kanemaru wins via Deep Impact @8:50 – ***
- Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Jay White vs Jeff Cobb, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare: Chase wins via Package Piledriver @9:50 – ** 1/2
- Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI, Ren Narita & Tomohiro Ishii: BUSHI wins via MX @7:35 – **
- A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Bad Luck Fale: Sabre wins via Countout @6:30 – ** 1/4
- A Block: Lance Archer vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Victory Roll @12:00 – ** 1/2
- A Block: KENTA vs EVIL: KENTA wins via Go 2 Sleep @15:05 – *** 1/2
- A Block: Kota Ibushi vs SANADA: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye @19:15 – *** 3/4
- A Block: Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Rainmaker @21:55 – **** 1/2
Still a lot of heat from their NXT past and Moxley’s debut match in NJPW. Juice and Mox don’t face each other until the end of their block schedule, but if this needed more heat…well this was gasoline. Juice and Mox stay on each other, brawl to the back while the Young Lions fight, but Mox apparently gets the best of the brawl. He returns to the ring to help Shooter, hit their Hart Attack tandem move and Shooter sinks in the Boston Crab.
There’s history between Taichi and Goto centering around the NEVER Openweight Title, Yano and Suzuki have fun history and it looks like Uemura is stepping up to Suzuki. So there’s a lot of fun moments, Uemura has a death wish trying to fight Suzuki, but it’s still fun. A lot of moving pieces in this one that kept it very entertaining.
Honma got put through the paces, Jay White got tossed around a little bit by Jeff Cobb, but the Bullet Club tag partners proved to be more useful than Cobb’s. Chase has picked up a few wins in the tag matches, so he might get some kind of push coming soon.
BUSHI continues to pick up pinfalls in these tag matches, and this sort of builds for Ishii and Naito, but not a ton happens. YOSHI-HASHI is there, Shingo looks like a million bucks and BUSHI wins the match, LOL. This was very paint by numbers.
Sabre jumps all over Fale at the start and tries a plethora of submissions to no avail. A kendo stick shot from Jado pushes the action to the outside. Fale and Bullet Club look to have an advantage, but Sabre dodges some double team tactics, grounds Fale with a Triangle Arm Bar, and then races to the ring to beat the 20 count. Fale couldn’t make it back fast enough, so Sabre gets the first Countout win of this year’s tournament.
Tanahashi is really showing the age and injuries this year, so all of these flukey wins just come off as forced. The match was slow, had moments of being interesting, but Tanahashi not even being 50% of what he used to be makes these hard to watch at times. Archer is getting over well, but Tanahashi winning at this point does hurt the credibility a little. I get the story they’re telling, but unlike last year where Tanahashi could push through injuries, this year, they are much more obvious, and he’s much more hampered.
EVIL took the fight to KENTA and then they went to the outside. Through the back and then into the crowd area next to the ramp. EVIL went for Darkness Falls on a bunch of a chairs, but KENTA stopped him and suplexed him onto said chairs. When it got back in the ring, EVIL tried to weaken the legs and KENTA went after EVIL’s upper body to mitigate the power advantage. Heavily booed, KENTA played up heel nicely (I guess WWE did help for something), and eventually he gets the best of EVIL and lets him take a nap. KENTA moves to 4-0.
We get a solid match between two guys who are right on the precipice of the Main Event scene. Kota outsmarts SANADA early by not going for the stupid dueling Dropkick spot, and from then on it was an interesting struggle. Between fan support and the general “anything you can do, I can do better” pacing, this was entertaining, yet slow and felt too long in some spots. Both looked pretty good, but this could’ve been told faster and SANADA’s perpetual struggles are a little frustrating for anyone who is a fan of his.
Okada and Ospreay were expected to blow the roof off, and well I’d say this was a damn good shot. Ospreay is obviously dinged up, but he fought through the pain and pulled off numerous flipping counters and found a few different ways to hit the Os-Cutter. They both let their personalities fly and this was a lot of fun to watch. Okada always has this older brother aura since he’s the one that brought Ospreay to New Japan and Chaos, so whenever they get together, it’s very much like two siblings trying to outdo the other. Ospreay had a great flurry at the end, flipping through a Rainmaker attempt, to try his Stormbreaker, but Okada flipped through that and hit a short arm lariat. Rolling Rainmaker and a normal Rainmaker later, Okada edges out the little brother. Great match.
Overall Score: 7/10
Well this night struggled cause the first two Block matches were really weak. The next two amped-up the intensity a little, but fell short of a memorable match. The main event was fantastic, but generally speaking this felt like it was slow, plateau’d for a while and only picked up at the end. Nothing out right awful, but a lot of matches that could’ve been a little better.
Still a solid enough night if you’re following it all, but only the main event is worthy of seeking out individually. It is nice to see that everyone is on the board with some points. So if Okada and KENTA stumble a little, the rest of the block could plausibly catch up.
Block A Standings:
- Kazuchika Okada: 4-0 (8 Points)
- KENTA: 4-0 (8 Points)
- Lance Archer: 2-2 (4 Points)
- EVIL: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Kota Ibushi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- SANADA: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Will Ospreay: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Bad Luck Fale: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Zack Sabre Jr: 1-3 (2 Points)
Rob: Brock Is Back! But What About Seth?
Rob evaluates the fans’ role in the run of Seth Rollins and the excitement around Brock Lesnar’s third reign as WWE Universal Champion.
Rob evaluates the fans’ role in the run of Seth Rollins and the excitement around Brock Lesnar’s third reign as WWE Universal Champion.
So we are now back in the era of Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion, after he cashed in on Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules. The WWE did a decent job of putting some suspense into it by throwing out the possibility of Brock choosing to cash in on Kofi Kingston instead but by the time it happened most of the people I interact with on Twitter were strongly in favor Rollins being the victim and weren’t the least bit discouraged when Brock brought his reign to an end. There are a lot of reasons for that, and I’ll have to get into them another time, but it really seems that there weren’t too many people happy with Rollins time as champion from his biggest supporters to his biggest detractors. So with that in mind I’m gonna do what usually do when it comes to stuff like this – that’s right I’m going to throw some blame at the fans.
Now I am not one that was underwhelmed by Rollins run with the title. The match with AJ Styles at Money in the Bank was really good and I did not hate the Baron Corbin feud like a lot of you did. I think Corbin is a good heel and a pretty good worker. By Wrestling Twitter standards he’s no good because he doesn’t check any of the boxes that one needs to in order to pass their test – never worked indies, doesn’t have 5 star matches, doesn’t do 100 moves or work work 30 minute matches, and he isn’t charming or funny in his role. But a lot of you guys were so appalled at the mere idea the Baron Corbin would get a program for the Universal Title that you either complained nonstop or checked out entirely. But I gotta ask you guys a serious question here – do you really support him like that, or is it more the idea of Seth Rollins as Universal Champion? Is Rollins the guy who should be champion in your eyes or is he the best representative of the type of wrestler you think should be Universal Champion?
Its been my mission since Rumble to bring that title back to Raw and to the live events every week..and to defend it with passion. Lesnar is my Everest, and with your support….at Summerslam I reach the summit. https://t.co/XSfv7kZmfK
— Seth Rollins (@WWERollins) July 16, 2019
What I mean is that Rollins checks all the Wrestling Twitter boxes – indie cred, workrate guy, is popular enough – and he’s also a big enough guy to not look like a joke standing next to guys like Roman Reigns or Samoa Joe or Corbin. And because of that he gets favored in those circles over guys like Reigns or Brock Lesnar or Braun Strowman. But none of that has stopped the crowds from checking out of some of his biggest matches – Summerslam 2016, Extreme Rules and TLC last year. Meanwhile Strowman can get 11 million views for an arm wrestling match with Bobby Lashley even after a lot of people on Twitter think the ship has sailed on him, and Reigns got maximum crowd participation last year even in filler matches with Jinder Mahal and Bobby Lashley. There’s a real gap between how he’s viewed on Wrestling Twitter and how the general public takes him for sure.
And what I mean by that is that the Corbin feud shouldn’t have been a deal breaker for someone who you guys really are invested in as the top guy. Reigns didn’t check out during those programs with Lashley and Mahal last year and they didn’t check out during the whole Shane McMahon feud despite being pretty vocal in wanting Roman to move on ASAP from Shane and Drew McIntyre. Rollins singles champ counterpart on Smackdown Kofi Kingston hasn’t had any issue maintaining his support even through a multi Pay Per View program with the often groan inducing Dolph Ziggler (I’m not a Dolph hater but a lot of you are). You’re supposed to just want to see your favorite as the champ; being in a program with a top level guy or gal isn’t supposed to be a requirement, especially in what is supposed to be a post WrestleMania honeymoon period for a new champion.
So it’s pretty simple to me if you’re a big fan of Seth Rollins or anyone else. Yes you want them to face the best people and have the best matches all the time, but if they’re going to hold one of the top two titles then sometimes they’re going to have to get through a month or two against somebody who isn’t one of those people and you’re gonna have to ride it out and support them. The card has to be balanced out and the champion is supposed to be at least somewhat of an attraction by themselves. But if you’re crapping on what turned out to be some perfectly fine matches (his last two main events with Corbin were not bad, they just weren’t five star movefests like some of you guys think big title matches should be) because of, who the opponent is then you’re not helping your favorite out here at all. He’s not above doing a couple of gimmicked up sports entertainment matches with Baron Corbin, ok?
But if you say he should be the top guy and then you demand that he only get to work with certain people under certain circumstances then well……that runs contrary to pretty much all of wrestling history. So you’re gonna have to either change your demands, or maybe change your assessment of the guy.