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Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 7/8/2018

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Now this week was interesting. It starts off with a pretty lame RAW and no one had a lot of expectations for the G1 Special in San Francisco. So you’d expect a down week, right?

Before we get into this week, let’s handle the results of last week’s vote and reveal the June Pool for Chairshot MOTY. Last week’s winner, by a very slim margin, ROH BITW Tag Team Championship Match: Young Bucks vs The Briscoes (c). Which rounds out June, so not let’s look at that.

June Pool

205 Live Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy vs Cedric Alexander
NJPW Dominion IWGP Heavyweight Championship 2 out of 3 Falls: Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega
WWE Money in the Bank WWE Championship Last Man Standing: AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura 
205 Live: Buddy Murphy vs Hideo Itami vs Mustafa Ali
ROH BITW Tag Team Title Match: The Briscoes vs The Young Bucks

 

To be perfectly honest, this is a difficult pool. Many people might default to Omega vs Okada IV because of the Meltzer rating or what have you, but none of the matches on this list are hands down inferior. Since I didn’t think Meltzer’s 7 star orgasm was that fantastic (it was still damn good, just not scale breaking), I’m giving my vote to, AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura.

So let’s get to this week’s matches, and yes, still doing the overview since life and chores get in the way. Being an adult kinda sucks…but anyway…TO THE LIST!

 

5. Dragon Gate Rainbow Gate Open the Triangle Gate Championship: Natural Vibes (Genki Horiguchi, Kzy & Susumu Yokosuka) (c) vs Don Fujii, K-ness & Ryo Saito

Now admittedly my interest in Dragon Gate waned a bit after a fairly awful King of Gate tournament. But my general confusion on how this match happened and the main event of the show, intrigued me enough to turn it on.  So the usual goofy Ryo Saito, is apparently going under a new transformation where he is a “rookie” again. Due to his change, he and Don Fuji managed to get a tag team win over Genki and Susumu, so it set the stage nicely for them to have a claim to the Triangle Belts.

This match started off the way most 6 man tags do, where each person got a few minutes, tagged out, rotated for a while and then finally the match started to pick up. I was curious why Ryo was going for so many Backslides, and apparently it’s because that was his new “finishing maneuver”. That at least explained the crowd reaction and why the pinfall break ups seemed so intense.

However, Ryo, Don and K-Ness aren’t really a legitimate stable, and Natural Vibes are still rather new and building steam. So it’s not really surprising that Kzy finds a way to win the match, but it was a fun match. Numerous near falls, multiple finishers and seeing Ryo Saito playing a more serious character again is, well…different. After being rejected as a main event player, he’s become a beloved comedy guy.

All in all, this match was really solid and seemed to be more a conduit for Ryo Saito’s new character and evolution.

Winner: Kzy via Skayde Schoolboy

Rating: *** 3/4

 

4. 205 Live NoDQ Match: Mustafa Ali vs Buddy Murphy

This is like the 5th matchup between these guys in 7 or 8 weeks. They have yet to put on a bad match, but running it back too often is starting to wear on my desire to watch.

When we get down to the match, it works the same way most of them have. Murphy establishes his dominance since he’s bigger and stronger, but Ali finds a small opening and the match gets a little closer. I’m not sure how I feel about the crowd chanting “we want tables” and then when they didn’t get what they wanted we got a “no more steps” chant, so it was just a small annoyance about the crowds trying to get themselves over.

Funnily enough, there was one attempted announce table spot with the Spanish Fly onto it, and then the finish utilized the steps nicely. Ali had a superplex spot where he used the steps for extra height and then hit his Popping Tornado DDT off of the steps for a rather surprising victory. Now I may be wrong, but I feel like this evens up their overall record at 2-2-1, so we might get another match, hopefully much later.

Really good match, but aside from the use of the steps towards the end, it wasn’t super different from what we’ve already seen from them.

Winner: Ali via Popup Tornado DDT

Rating: ****

 

3. NJPW G1 Special IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Cody vs Kenny Omega (c)

This match had a lot to follow up during the show, but it was the most well known storyline, probably in all of wrestling. Will Cody pull off the massive upset and ruin Omega’s victory parade over Okada, or does Omega get his win back over Cody while solidifying his leadership of Bullet Club?

Honestly, this match was just a lot of spots. It could be interpreted that both men were willing to “go to their limits” to take leadership for Bullet Club, but it just felt like too much. The first table spot was set up poorly, where Cody looked like he was gently tossed and ready to take a nap. Then we had a bunch of Brandi interjecting herself, the Bucks pleading with both guys to just squash things, but more stuff came out.

Chairs, Ladders, another table, all came out to try and end the match. Cody with a Superplex off the ladder back into the ring, Kenny Powerbombed Cody towards the outside table, but came up a little short. Cody hits a Crossroads after a ref bump for a near fall, but then Kenny hits multiple V-Triggers and finally finishes it with a One Winged Angel.

A few slow spots in the match, overkill on spots and general hiccups stopped this from being the best match of the show, but it definitely told a great story and showed Cody’s workrate ability a little more than previous matches.

Also the entire match got overshadowed more by the Tongan Firing Squad angle, as well as what looks like Cody and Kenny burying the hatchet. So lots of fun moving pieces, the match set things in motion…but just fell short.

Winner: Omega via One Winged Angel

Rating: **** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

NJPW G1 Special IWGP Heavyweight Tag Title Match: Young Bucks (c) vs EVIL & SANADA
Winner: Bucks via Meltzer Driver
Rating: *** 3/4
NJPW G1 Special: Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs Tetsuya Naito & Bushi
Winner:  Ospreay via Stormbreaker
Rating: *** 1/2
Impact: Rich Swann vs Fenix
Winner: Fenix via Fenix Driver
Rating: *** 1/2

 

2. NJPW G1 Special IWGP US Championship Match: Jay White (c) vs Juice Robinson

This was honestly surprising. Jay White has a tendency to be put in a bad spot before a Bullet Club main event and after a big match right before his, so he tends to get overlooked.

What started out as a mostly basic match, that was gimmicked because Juice was unable to use his left hand in fear of getting disqualified because of the cast on it, really blew up after one big spot. Jay White, throws Juice into the guardrail in front of the announce table and knocks over Jim Ross, which prompts Josh Barnett to get up and stalk down Jay White as the heel back peddles for a decent chunk of time.

You may be wondering how random extra people helps, but holy hell it added another layer of intensity to the match. Jay was getting booed more furiously (and the crowd already liked Juice’s Flamboyant Colonial Pirate outfit), which just dialed everything up to 11. Then on top of that, Jay tries to beat Juice in a cheap way with a low blow while Red Shoes is cowering in the corner.

However, thanks to Red Shoes apprehension to turn around, it gave Juice the ‘turn around is fair play’ moment and he clocked Jay White with his illegal left hand. Surprisingly that only got a 2 count, and it came down to Juice with a cute Rollup, and the pinfall victory. So he wins with the called shot, that he’s made a joke about all month.

The first United States born wrestler to hold the US Championship, but the match really helped to define Jay White’s character and maybe set up something cool between Josh Barnett and Jay White.

Winner; Juice Robinson via Rollup

Rating: **** 1/2

 

1. NJPW G1 Special IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs Dragon Lee

The insanity in this match, just, wow. Dragon Lee and Hiromu go all the way back to Mexico, but Dragon Lee started the match before Hiromu even got into the ring.

We saw a match that was expected from both of them. Fast paced, hard strikes and general disregard for their health. Nothing I say can really do this match justice since they started at 100 mph and never slowed down.

Plus now we’re all aware of the infamous Phoenix Plex/Steenilizer spot, which caused Hiromu to possibly suffer a broken neck.

This spot was part of what took away from the match for me, since some of the moves were just risky for the sake of being risky and not overly necessary. Hopefully the injury isn’t too serious and we see Hiromu back shortly, even though comparisons will be drawn to the infamous Shibata Headbutt and how he walked away but then collapsed.

A wonderful match, might’ve even been better without the cringe worthy moments. Thoughts and Prayers with Hiromu.

Winner: Takahashi via Time Bomb

Rating: **** 3/4

 

Now even with the news that broke Sunday about Hiromu, that doesn’t take away from how beautiful the match was and I already wasn’t a fan of some of the riskier moves or obvious botch, of course. So with all that said, Hiromu vs Dragon Lee, stole the show, let’s just make sure we get more matches from these guys instead of crazy spots for the present.

Everyone likes to pick on WWE’s “safe” style, but there’s a big difference between people tearing an ACL (it happens in non contact situations, ask Teddy Bridgewater) and getting dropped on your neck cause the move looks cool. Use Your Goddamn Head.


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Cook’s Top 5: Royal Rumble Diesel Pushes

The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and someone’s Diesel Push might be on the way! Steve Cook looks back at the Top 5, including Diesel himself!

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Shayna Baszler WWE Royal Rumble 2020

The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and someone’s Diesel Push might be on the way! Steve Cook looks back at the Top 5 such pushes, including the man himself, Diesel!

You guys might have heard about this. The Royal Rumble is coming up on January 31! Thirty men & thirty women will compete in battle royals to determine who will get a title shot at WrestleMania. The winners will certainly receive a boost in attention and esteem, but there are other ways to stand out in a Rumble match.

One way: Eliminate a bunch of people!

It’s known by us geeks as the Diesel push. One individual, typically a large one, runs over the competition in a short amount of time and helps get rid of some of the deadwood in the ring. An important part of any Royal Rumble.

Here are the top 5 recipients of the Diesel Push! (There are six listed)

5. Great Khali (2007)

Khali always got things done in short order. This is why it doesn’t surprise me that 7 eliminations in 3:45 is the craziest stat in Royal Rumble history. The man knew what his job was, and he didn’t waste any time. He was also self-aware enough to know that his stamina wasn’t the best, he had a good number at 28, so if he threw everybody out as quickly as possible, he had a pretty good chance.

The downfall in Khali’s strategy? Undertaker was number 30. Tough break, kid. It probably looked really good to Khali when Miz pre-teaming with John Morrison came out at 29, and hopefully 30 would be somebody in that same category, but nah, it was Undertaker.

4. CM Punk (2011)

We all know that CM Punk’s push in WWE became bigger during 2011. We don’t know if that was originally intended or not, but things seemed to be picking up for him at the Rumble. At the time, Punk had taken control of The Nexus from Wade Barrett, so he had plenty of backup to support him during matches like thus one. Which he needed, since he drew #1. Fortunately, many of his Nexus minions also drew low numbers, so he was able to last thirty-five minutes and eliminate seven people.

The difference between this & most Diesel pushes: Punk was already a bit of a star at this point. He became a bigger one later in the year. The Rumble probably didn’t have much to do with it, but it didn’t hurt either.

3. Shayna Baszler & Bianca Belair (2020)

The 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble saw a pair of dominant women. Shayna Baszler was rewarded a little earlier. She got a Raw Women’s Championship match against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania. The less said other than that sentence, the better.

Bianca Belair eliminated the same number of women that Baszler did, which was eight if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone. It took some time, but as I write this here & now, Belair is finally getting to show her skills on main roster TV. Completely outclassed Bayley on an obstacle course, proving to be a superior athlete. Doesn’t always translate to pro wrestling, but I won’t deny Bianca’s athletic ability.

Two Diesel pushes in one match is a bit much, but I see what they were going for here.

2. Roman Reigns (2014)

The Shield had been picking up momentum throughout 2013, and it seemed like they were on the verge of big things. Maybe a face turn, maybe the group splitting up, probably both because that’s usually what happens when members of a group start getting over. The 2014 Royal Rumble provided a good opportunity to make the Shield members into stars on their own. Seth Rollins entered second & lasted over forty-eight minutes. Dean Ambrose had a solid showing at over thirty-three minutes.

However, it was the Big Dog that stood out from the pack. Roman Reigns entered fifteenth and was the last person eliminated by the winner, Batista. Prior to that, he set a Royal Rumble record, eliminating twelve people. Including Rollins & Ambrose! The record lasted until the Greatest Royal Rumble match, where Braun Strowman eliminated thirteen people. There were fifty people in that match though, so it wasn’t quite as dominant.

Reigns’ performance was somewhat overshadowed by the lack of Daniel Bryan and the match ending up being CM Punk’s last, but it was still an important part of his push to the main event.

1. Diesel (1994)

It’s a tough call between the original recipient of the Diesel Push and the Big Dog. Why do we go with Diesel? For me, it’s where both men started from. Reigns was already seen as a viable future star in the eyes of many fans. We tend to forget it now since the fans turned on Reigns once he got the push, but the man got over pretty well with the smart fans as a Shield member, even with the other two members having more indy cred. You could tell Roman was going places.

Diesel? Well, he was tall and had good hair. He was barely even a wrestler though! Diesel came into the WWF as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard, and spent most of his time prior to the 1994 Rumble backing up the Boy Toy. To be honest, most of us that had seen Diesel’s run in WCW as Vinnie Vegas were happier to see him in the bodyguard role than as a wrestler. He wasn’t seen as a future main eventer or world champion or anything like that, until the Rumble match.

After the Diesel push, Kevin Nash was ready to shine.


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Rob: Has Pro Wrestling Become Too Soft?

The Undertaker took the online wrestling community by storm with his comments on the current product, and Rob offers some perspective!

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The Undertaker WWE WrestleMania Boneyard Match

The Undertaker took the online wrestling community by storm with his comments on the current product, and Rob offers some perspective!

So……the Undertaker had some things to say about how the kids today just aren’t doing it the way they did back in his day, and that it’s hurting the product.  In short he said it was harder to watch now because it was soft, and the guys weren’t real enough men – they spend too much time trying to look good and do things like play video games instead of packing heat.  Uhh………yeah………ok, Mr Callaway.

Now look, we can talk about the ring work – I for one think that there are way too many matches that look more like a gymnastics floor routine than what’s supposed to be a fight, from the indies all the way up to the WWE.  If he wants to stick to that than I think he’s worth listening to.  But that’s not what he focused on.  No, he spoke about how guys used to carry guns and knives in their bags, and that guys ‘handled stuff’ back in the day, and weren’t so occupied with grooming or playing video games with each other.  And that the changed behavior over the last few years has made the overall wrestling product harder to enjoy.  Help me out here but I don’t see how playing video games with each other and paying more attention to how you look, smell, etc makes for a worse wrestling product.  The ring action, sure.  The promos, which I didn’t see mentioned in the quotes I saw, sure.  Whether or not you do your hair…..really?  Does he not remember the many male wrestlers of days gone by who were sold to women fans as good looking men they’d want to go home with?  The Von Erich boys, the Rock on Roll Express, Ravishing Rick Rude, the Fantastics, Magnum TA?  Does he not remember commentary damn near yelling out loud ‘HEY LADIES, AREN”T THESE DUDES HOT?’ when those guys and many others were in the ring?  Does he not remember guys like ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin, who was a proverbial man’s man but also had his valet (his real life wife Precious) spraying his hair while he was cutting promos?

But I got another question:

What kind of locker room does he think should exist? 

One where guys are dropping dead before the age of 50 or are concussed into oblivion?  Or one where they can work longer and not look pathetic if they so chose, or move on early if they want?

One where guys like Darren Young and Jake Atlas have to stay in the closet or where they can be out and accepted, where a guy like Randy Orton with his own checkered history will come up to them and say ‘if anyone gives you any crap, let me know?’

One where guys mostly keep each other out of trouble by doing things like……playing video games together or one where they’re out closing down the bar every night, getting into it with the police, etc.?

One where the men engage in all kinds of trifling behavior towards the women on the roster or one where they get along well enough for there to be genuine friendships where people look out for each other and even form some lasting romantic relationships?

And lastly in regards to guys carrying knives and guns instead of video games, do you want a locker room where guys work things out in a more civilized manner or one like where Bruiser Brody was stabbed to death?

Now he’s not the only one who says this kind of stuff.  A lot of guys from his generation have offered similar sentiments and there are a lot of podcasters who pine for the days when things felt more real and what not.  Well if we’re gonna keep it 100 a lot of those gave off more gravitas and sounded more real because they were legit living hard, messed up lives.  Drug problems.  Alcoholism.  Multiple marriages and divorces.  Bad relationships with their children.  Broken homes and childhoods that they were still traumatized over.  Failed careers in other professions.  I don’t know about you but I think it’s a plus that more of the guys seem to be living and working in such a way that they’re able to avoid those things.  I’ll take hearing Kofi and Xavier talk about their kids on the New Day Pod than a bunch of stories about how they were out boozing and cheating on their spouses in between shows.  The latter can be romanticized by guys who tell good stories and all, but the reality is a lot more grim (for good reference take a look at the ESPN documentary on Ric Flair).

And this goes beyond pro wrestling.  A lot of those old guys in our lives who say the same kind of things have suffered the same fates as their counterparts in the wrestling business.  It’s not healthy, full stop.  Just because you can’t relate with the guys who aren’t living and playing like you did 10, 20 years ago doesn’t mean that they’re doing it wrong.  As for the guys being ‘too pretty’ now…..it’s a lot easier to get opportunities to do things outside of wrestling if you look good, are well groomed, etc.  Acting gigs, TV gigs, magazine covers….you think Xavier Woods would have gotten a hosting job on the relaunched G4 network if he looked and groomed himself like Abdullah the Butcher?  Do you honestly think New Day would be more popular if they looked and acted more like what you consider to be real men?  I don’t see it.  And in an entertainment industry where women have to look damn near perfect just to get an interview I don’t think that men choosing to look as good as they possibly can is a negative.  And let’s not pretend that any of New Day can’t put their ring work alongside any guys from any era.  The video games, the gear colors and everything else don’t mean a damn thing as far as their abilities go.

Look man, time stops for no one.  Things change, and in this case I think they’ve changed for the better.  That he can’t see a trail several miles long of broken families, broken bodies, and premature death behind the ‘right way’ that he speaks of is kinda sad.


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