Our road to the 2019 Royal Rumble continues with a look back at one from the past!
1989 kicks off the with the 2nd annual Royal Rumble, the first to be broadcast on pay-per-view! For the first time ever, 30 WWF Superstars (as opposed to 20 at the inaugural event on USA Network) compete in the main event Royal Rumble match. Tensions between The Mega Powers have been building and in a match where it’s every man for himself, can Hulk Hogan & ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage co-exist and stop The Twin Towers? King Haku looks to solidify his ownership of the crown against the former King, Harley Race. ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude wants to cement his spot as the most shredded WWF Superstar, facing Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior in a posedown. The Hart Foundation teams with ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan against the French-Canadian trio of The Rougeaus & Dino Bravo and ‘Rockin’ Robin defends the Women’s Championship….
Open: A video package highlighting the participants in the Royal Rumble match is shown.
Match #1 is 2/3 Falls: Dino Bravo & The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Jacques & Raymond) w/Frenchy Martin & ‘Mouth Of The South’ Jimmy Hart vs. The Hart Foundation (Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart & Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart) & ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan
Bravo & The Anvil to get things started, multiple collar & elbow tie-ups with neither man getting control. They lock-up again, Bravo gets a side headlock and Neidhart pushes him off into the ropes, they collide shoulders and neither man budges. The Anvil hits the ropes, they collide again to another stalemate, Dino runs in this time and Neidhart ducks a shot, delivering a clothesline, then missing an elbow drop. Dino misses one of his own, The Anvil with a tag to Duggan and Bravo backs off, making a tag to Raymond.
They lock-up, jockey for position and Raymond with a wristlock, into the ropes he ducks a back elbow and a clothesline, but Hacksaw catches him with a slam and drops a knee. Hitman tags in, going to an armbar and Raymond sends him into the ropes, Bret leapfrogging a back body drop attempt and getting a small package for a 2 count. Into the ropes again, Hitman with a sunset flip for another 2, then a crossbody for yet another near fall. Jacques tags with Raymond too close to the ropes, consoling his brother and then clubbing Bret. Hitman reverses a whip, ducks down and Jacques flips over, catching a Hitman clothesline on the other side.
Bret with rights in the corner, Raymond enters the ring and gets stacked against his brother, here comes The Anvil with a spear to both of them. Dino comes in to help and is met by Hacksaw, he gets stacked and they ram Neidhart into all 3 of their opponents. Jacques raises to his feet once order is restored, he reverses a whip into the ropes and Raymond pulls down the top rope behind the ref’s back, sending Bret flying to the outside. Dino with a tag, Raymond rolling Bret back inside and Bravo connects with his patented Side Slam, then tags Raymond. It’s La Bombe De Rougeau for Hitman, Raymond covers and gets the 3 count.
First Fall: The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers & Dino Bravo
Raymond doesn’t allow Bret to get to his feet before pummeling him, hitting a gutwrench suplex for a near fall. Jacques with a tag, Raymond whips Bret into the ropes and Jacques with a jumping back elbow for another count of 2. Jacques sends Bret hard into the turnbuckles sternum-first, tag to Dino and he covers for 2. Bravo with an inverted atomic drop and another 2 count, keeping pressure on Hitman and tagging Raymond. He delivers a couple shots to Bret, tags Jacques and then presses Hitman into a gutbuster on his brothers knee. Jacques hooks the leg for another near fall, tag to Dino, and he locks in a bearhug. Hitman with right hands to break it, Dino hooks the leg and tags Jacques, sending Bret into the ropes and ducking down, Hitman with a sunset flip and a 2 count.
Jacques with boots, stopping Bret’s momentum and then grabbing a camel clutch. Raymond switches out behind the ref’s back, maintaining the hold and then making a tag to Dino for some more punishment. He whips Bret in for a clothesline, Hitman ducks and catches a shot on the other side for a 2 count. Tag to Jacques and he gets a Boston crab, looking for the submission. Bret crawls toward his corner, Raymond hits the ring to distract the ref, Hitman with a tag to The Anvil, but the ref didn’t see it. Raymond switches behind the ref’s back, leveling Bret with a shot to the lower back and locking in an abdominal stretch, then using Jacques for leverage as Bravo keeps the ref’s attention. Jacques with a tag, slapping Hitman and maintaining the abdominal stretch. Raymond back in, strutting around the ring and hitting a superkick to the midsection while Jacques holds Hitman wide-open.
Raymond gets a 2 count out of it, goes for a slam and Bret falls on top for a near fall. Raymond prevents the tag, bringing Jacques back in and setting Bret up in the corner. Jacques attempts a monkey flip, Hitman blocks it and walks Jacques out for an inverted atomic drop. Hitman finally gets the tag to Duggan as Raymond enters the match, Hacksaw unloading on Raymond in the corner, Bravo & Jacques into the ring and they eat a barrage of fists as well. Duggan disposes of Dino & Jacques, slams Raymond and slingshots The Anvil in from the apron into a splash. Hitman follows with one of his own, Hacksaw drops an elbow and covers to even things up.
Second Fall: The Hart Foundation & ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan
The bell rings and Duggan backs Raymond in the corner with heavy shots, climbs to the 2nd rope and reigns down a flurry of fists. He whips Raymond across, reversal and Duggan rebounds out with a clothesline. Hacksaw goes after Raymond’s partners and gets caught, taking a beating as Dino tags in. Bravo with an irish whip and a shot to the breadbasket, Dino choking him on the 2nd rope and Jacques with more of the same behind the ref’s back. Bravo with more choking using the bottom of his boot, rams Duggan head-first into the turnbuckle, which has little affect on Hacksaw. Duggan marches around, Jacques grabs him by the hair from the apron and Dino with big rights. Jacques off the tag, hits a dropkick and The Hart Foundation tries to stop more double team efforts in the wrong corner.
Bravo into the ring, slamming Hacksaw and dropping an elbow for a count of 2. He hits an inverted atomic drop, Hacksaw falling into his corner and Hitman tags. Right hands for Dino, Jacqes comes in and takes an inverted atomic drop for his troubles, Bret unloading on Bravo in the corner. He splits Dino with a backbreaker, heads to the 2nd rope and Raymond pushes Bret to the canvas. Neidhart rushes the ring, hammering away at Raymond as the ref tries to restore order. Bret goes for a roll-up on Dino, gets pushed off, Hacksaw to the apron with a 2×4 shot to Bravo, Hitman covers and gets the 1-2-3.
Winners: The Hart Foundation & ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan (Hitman/Foreign Object)
- EA’s Take: A solid opening 6 man contest which featured a little bit of everything. Duggan, Bravo & Neidhart provide the muscle while Bret & The Rougeaus sprinkle in high flying, quick-paced action. The Hart Foundation’s continued rivalry against their former manager Jimmy Hart continues to boost their standing as a top babyface team, while Hacksaw is wildly popular defending the American flag.
Video: Earlier in the day, participants in the Royal Rumble would select their entry number via a lottery. Ted DiBiase’s number wasn’t great, offering Slick a bribe to get a better number. Honky Tonk Man, The Bushwhackers, Bad News Brown, Jake Roberts and The Rockers would all make their picks.
Match #2 for the WWF Women’s Championship: Judy Martin vs. WWF Women’s Champion Rockin’ Robin
‘Sensational’ Sherri is in the ring, taking the microphone and challenging the winner to a title match. She joins commentary for this contest. Martin attacks from behind at the bell, Robin firing back and whipping Martin into the corner. Judy reverses, charging into a back elbow and the champion following with multiple dropkicks. She whips Martin into the corner, rushing right into an elbow and the challenger takes control. Robin rebounds off the ropes with a clothesline, Martin sending her in by the hair and catching a crossbody attempt into a slam.
Martin dropping a knee, irish whip and a duck down, Robin attempts a sunset flip, but Judy with a right hand. She argues with the ref, Robin takes advantage with a double leg takedown, works over the leg and locks in a Boston crab. Martin counters into a roll-up for 2, Robin switches momentum for another 2 count and backs Judy into the corner. Martin fights out, grabs a small package and only gets 2. Robin comes back with a shot to the midsection, drops an elbow for a count of 2, then sends Martin in for a dropkick. Judy hangs onto the ropes to avoid it, Robin countering a suplex attempt and goes for a roll-up, the challenger hanging onto the ropes and pushing the champ off.
Judy whips Robin in, flattens her with a clothesline for a near fall, then a slam for another 2. Another whip from Judy, they collide and Robin scores with a DDT for 2, missing an elbow drop, but rolling away from a running senton by Martin. The champion goes for a slam, can’t get up the challenger and Martin with a slam for a count of 2, then a backslide for another 2. The challenger sends the champion in, ducks down and eats a kick, Robin covering for 2, then grabbing a small package for another near fall. Robin with right hands in the corner, Martin counters a whip across and Robin jumps the 2nd rope. She gives a head fake that Martin buys, then comes off with a crossbody and retains her title.
Winner and STILL WWF Women’s Champion: Rockin’ Robin (2nd Rope Crossbody)
- EA’s Take: I’d classify this as a watchable contest, but certainly nothing for the history books. Women’s wrestling still leaves a lot to be desired at this time, WWF seeming to recognize that there was little to no interest in women’s wrestling. The WWF Women’s Title wouldn’t be defended on PPV again for another 5 years, with the championship becoming deactivated in February of 1990. These two ladies would feud for a few more months before leaving the company when the division was completely phased out.
Backstage: Sean Mooney is standing with Slick & The Twin Towers. Slick talks about the chances of Akeem & Boss Man tonight in the Royal Rumble are more than great. Mooney would bring up Ted DiBiase possibly purchasing someone’s number from Slick, The Doctor Of Style claiming he hasn’t seen The Million Dollar Man in a month. Mooney directs Boss Man & Akeem to the footage of DiBiase drawing his number earlier. Slick explains that he must have misunderstood Mooney’s question, telling him it’s none of his business anyway.
In The Ring: ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund welcomes everybody to the Super Posedown, where the winner will be determined by fan reaction. ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan come out first, Rude taking the mic and stating he laid out the challenge to prove a point. Not only is he the best built man in the WWF, but also the sexiest man alive. WWF Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior is out next, not carrying the title with him. Warrior clears the ring, Heenan gets on the mic to kiss up to the fans here in Houston. Rude lays out the first pose, a simple double bicep. Rude disrobes and goes first, getting a mixed reaction, Warrior next and he gets a loud ovation. Heenan pleads with the people to be fair, next up is best abs which Rude claims to be his specialty. Rude rubs himself down with oil and hits his pose, still getting boos. Warrior again gets a big ovation and The Brain can’t believe it, asking for 15 minutes to get Rude ready for the next one. Okerlund won’t give it to him, the 3rd pose is the most muscular, Warrior with the larger reaction yet again. Rude takes his time prepping for the final pose, a medley of all the poses. The Ravishing One gets another chorus of boos, Warrior goes and Rude ambushes him from behind with his workout bar. He chokes the champion out with it in a camel clutch maneuver before posing again and leaving the ring. Officials try and help Warrior up, but he goes ballistic and clears the ring before running to the back.
- EA’s Take: One of the most memorable rivalries of the late 1980’s here got its jump start over who had the better body. An interesting way to go, as the IC Title was a bit of an afterthought at the beginning. Rude & Warrior’s bitter feud would continue through the summer, the two seemingly crossing paths off and on into 1990.
Video: Pre-recorded comments from Mr. Fuji about his guys The Powers Of Pain in the Royal Rumble tonight. He warns Demolition they’ll be the first victims, there can only be one winner and it will be Mr. Fuji. Next is ‘Mean’ Gene with Elizabeth, stating she’ll be cheering for both The Mega Powers and trying not to think about it coming down to Hogan & Savage. Lastly is ‘Mouth Of The South’ Jimmy Hart, claiming Greg Valentine & Honky Tonk Man will Shake, Rattle and Roll their way until the end.
In The Arena: Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura speaks about our next match, sitting in the throne and explaining that tonight there can only be one true king.
Match #3: King Haku w/Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan vs. Harley Race
Race dumps the chair over that Haku took to the ring, then slams him into the ropes as the bell rings. Harley rolls Haku inside, leveling him with a clothesline and hitting a vertical suplex for a count of 2. Another clothesline sends the King outside, Race follows and attempts to send Haku into the ring post again, but gets pushed into it himself. The King takes control, big chop out on the floor and back in the ring they go. Harley catches the King coming in with an inverted atomic drop, a couple of elbow drops and a count of 2. Haku fires back with chops, driving the shoulder into the midsection in the corner and whipping Race across.
Harley falls out over the top off the whip, spilling to the floor. Haku grabbing Harley on the apron, bringing him in the hard way with a clubbing shot and maintaining control with the heavy artillery. Race battles back, tries a headbutt that head no affect at all. They exchange headbutts, Harley with left hands a clothesline out of the ropes. He spikes Haku with a piledriver, covers and the King kicks out at 2. Race goes to a side headlock, gets pushed off into the ropes and they collide heads, Harley falling out to the floor once again. Race pulls himself to the apron, Haku bringing him in again with a suplex and a cover for 2. The King misses an elbow drop, Harley with a left hand and a suplex of his own for a count of 2.
Race tosses Haku to the outside, follows him out and looks for a piledriver on the floor. Haku counters into a back body drop, then drives Harley back-first into the ring apron. Race comes back with a shot to the midsection, dropping the King on his head with a piledriver outside. Back in the ring we go, Race with a swinging neckbreaker, but doesn’t hook a leg and Haku kicks out at 2. Big clotheslines from the left side from Harley, dropping a knee and getting another near fall. They exchange shots, the King gets the best of it and drives more shoulder into the midsection in the corner. He slams Harley, then comes off the top for a headbutt and nobody was home. Harley to the 2nd rope, now he misses a diving headbutt and both men are down. Harley up first, kneelift to Haku, then whips him in for a clothesline. The King ducks it, comes back with a superkick and covers for the 1-2-3.
Winner: King Haku (Superkick)
- EA’s Take: Decent match here, under unusual circumstances. Heenan was cheering for whoever had the advantage in the contest as both men are technically heels at this point, although the crowd was behind Harley for the match. Race has just recently come back from surgery, in which he suffered a hernia when he went through a table and a piece of metal penetrated his abdomen. While he was gone, Bobby Heenan vowed to crown a new king and did so in Haku. Harley’s wrestling days were coming to an end, as he would return to WCW the following year and become a manager until 1995. Race would be forced to retire from being an on-air talent in 1995 following a car accident that required him to have a hip replacement.
Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999
Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!
Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?
ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!
What I Watched #16
ECW Guilty as Charged 1999
Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL
Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)
Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)
- Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
- Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
- Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
- Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
- Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
- Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
- Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15
Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)
Super Crazy vs. Tajiri
Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)
John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent
So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)
Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley
Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…
The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)
TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm
Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.
The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)
Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer
The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of.
As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)
Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz
So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent.
The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)
THE FINAL REACTION
- Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
- Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
- Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
- MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.
It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.
So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.
What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018
Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!
Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.
I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.
What I Watched #10-B
ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018
Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL
Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)
Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)
- Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
- Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
- Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
- Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
- Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
- Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
- Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
- Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
- Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
- Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
- Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44
Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)
*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)
Over the Budget Battle Royal
*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)
Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross
*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)
Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)
*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)
Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard
*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)
NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)
*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)
‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela
*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)
ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon
*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)
Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.
*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)
Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll
*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)
Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio
*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)
THE FINAL REACTION
There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.
Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.
Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.
Overall Show Score: 8.5/10
MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.
And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.
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