Our weekly Chairshot Classics WCW PPV series continues with Starrcade ’95!
Open: “As countries from across the globe compete for global dominance, World Championship Wrestling has accepted the challenge from New Japan Pro Wrestling in a best of seven battle for the World Cup of Wrestling. It’s Starrcade 1995.”
Match #1 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: ‘Crippler’ Chris Benoit vs. Jushin Thunder Liger w/Sonny Onoo
Collar & elbow tie-up to start us off, Benoit powers Liger to the canvas, they lock-up again with the same result, The Crippler avoiding a third lock-up with a kick to the midsection. He grabs a side headlock and Jushin sends him off to the ropes, gets run over by a shoulder block, Benoit goes back to the ropes, slides under Liger and surprises him with a double leg takedown. Jushin uses his legs to toss The Crippler away, scores with multiple arm drags, follows with a dropkick and Benoit rolls to the outside to regroup. Liger doesn’t give him a break and connects with a baseball slide, flies off the apron with a somersault senton, then allows the official to count.
The Crippler steps back inside and they go in for a test-of-strength, Benoit muscles Jushin to the mat, Liger bridges back up, but is forced down again. The Crippler hauls him to his feet, gets caught by a headscissors takedown, Jushin delivers the Abisegeri, then goes to shoot him to the ropes. Benoit reverses it, cracks him with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a 2 count, sets for a powerbomb, but Liger counters into an arm drag. The Cripper pops right back up and charges, Jushin leapfrogs over him, hits an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, drills him with a dropkick and Benoit spills to the outside. Liger hits the ropes for a head of steam, feigns an outside dive, The Crippler takes a breather, comes back in and calls for another test-of-strength, but suckers Jushin into a kick to the ribs.
He slams him with a snap suplex, follows up with a back suplex, whips him to the ropes for a big clothesline and slaps on an elevated Boston crab. The Crippler releases the hold and covers for 1, fires off stinging chops, Liger comes back with a series of palm strikes, Benoit decks him with a right hand, plants him with a bridging german suplex and gains a near fall. He quickly tries another cover for 2, looks to drag Liger back up, Jushin surprises him with a double leg takedown, flips him over and locks him in a Romero special. He switches to a modified dragon sleeper, Benoit rips at the mask to break free, Jushin stays on him, grounding The Crippler with a camel clutch.
Benoit powers his way up with Liger on his shoulders, drives him down with an electric chair, hooks him for another back suplex, Jushin switches his weight and falls on top, but only gets a count of 2. The Crippler quickly lifts him for a tombstone piledriver, Liger reverses it, plants him with an inverted belly-to-belly slam, then heads to the high-rent district. Benoit drills him with a right hand, climbs up and hits a superplex, crawls into a lateral press, but still can’t put it away. He scoops Jushin up for a body slam, ascends the corner to the top turnbuckle, takes flight for a Diving Headbutt, but nobody’s home. Liger drags The Crippler to his feet, shoots him into the corner, charges in with another Abisegeri, then connects with a Liger Bomb that nearly finishes it.
He hauls Benoit up and spikes him with a Brainbuster, The Crippler barely gets the shoulder up at 2, Jushin argues with the official about the count, attempts to shoot Benoit to the ropes, but it’s reversed. Liger ducks under a back elbow, gets flattened by a clothesline, The Crippler hooks him for a pair of german suplexes, plants him with a powerbomb, then goes back upstairs and hits the Diving Headbutt. The Taskmaster & Jimmy Hart run down to ringside, Sullivan climbs onto the apron, distracts Benoit, The Crippler turns around, gets surprised by a hurricanrana and Jushin steals the victory.
Winner: Jushin Thunder Liger (Hurricanrana)
- EA’s Take: Say what you will about some of the cheesy gimmicks and behind-the-times angles going on in WCW’s main event scene, but I’ll tell you, they sure figured it out with how to kickoff a pay-per-view using their undercard. It’s been multiple PPVs now that WCW has put on an excellent opener, really setting the tone with their younger, more athletic stars. The people are behind Benoit all the way here despite the fact The Horsemen are heels, backing WCW in this international clash courtesy of their working relationship with NJPW, so for the most part feuds are on hold, however The Taskmaster showing up will lead us to an excellent on-screen rivalry with Benoit that also led to scandalous behavior in real life. Also, isn’t a co-promotional PPV so strange to think about now, at least on this big of a scale? Could you ever imagine WWE doing something like this today with another company? Especially with New Japan being hot again like it was during 1995?
Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is joined in the locker room by Eddie Guerrero, Eddie says what just happened to Chris Benoit doesn’t sit well with him, claims The Taskmaster had no business out there and should have stayed away. Guerrero states it’s an honor to be here representing WCW in the World Cup of Wrestling, speaks about Shinjiro Otani being a tremendous athlete, so he had to put the hours in the gym to bring his best tonight. Eddie proclaims he will go out and give it his best like always and hope for a win.
Match #2 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Koji Kanemoto vs. ‘Das Wunderkind’ Alex Wright
They lock-up to a stalemate to start us off, go in for another collar & elbow with the same result, they tie-up once more and this time Wright hooks on a hammerlock. Koji reverses to one of his own and takes Das Wunderkind to the mat, Alex counters out with an arm drag, slaps on a wristlock and Kanemoto slips away after an arm drag of his own. Another lock-up now and the champion gains a side headlock, switches out to a drop toe hold, starts to work over the left knee, Wright finds his footing, then clocks him with an enzuigiri.
Das Wunderkind unloads with European uppercuts, goes back to a wristlock to punish the left arm, Koji reverses to one one of his own, Wright cartwheels through for a hip toss, then grounds him with an armbar. Kanemoto works to a vertical base and gets sent off to the ropes, Alex catches him with an arm drag follows with multiple headscissors takedowns, then scores with a dropkick. The champion staggers to the ropes, Das Wunderkind buries shoulders to the breadbasket, builds a head of steam for a crossbody and both guys spill over the top to the floor. Wright uncorks another uppercut and slides back inside, Koji tries to pull himself up to the apron, gets knocked back down with a baseball slide, Alex hits the ropes, then takes flight with a crossbody plancha.
Kanemoto loses his cool and yells at a fan in the front row, takes a minute to regroup before stepping into the squared circle, they tie-up and Wright snapmares him over for a rear chinlock. He releases the hold and delivers a dropkick to the spine, slaps the rear chinlock back on, the champion finds a standing position, backs him into the corner and scores with stinging chops. He snapmares Wright over and drives down an elbow to the top of the head, brings him up for a series of leg kicks, rocks Alex with a spinning wheel kick, then planks him across the top in the corner. Kanemoto hammers him with shots to the abdomen, drops him to the canvas with a dropkick, powers Das Wunderkind to the apron, wants to suplex him back inside, can’t pick him up and instead sends Alex to the floor with a dropkick.
Koji climbs up top for an outside dive, Wright sees it coming and quickly takes a walk, the champion stays in pursuit, slingshots over the top with a crossbody, then goes to whip him into the barricade. Das Wunderkind turns the tables and sends Kanemoto into the guardrail instead, heads back in and allows the champion to get a breather, Koji hops back to the apron, gets caught by a kick and Alex tries to suplex him back in. Kanemoto slides out of it, sets for a Bridging Tiger Suplex ant hits it, but Wright gets a foot on the ropes at 1. Koji scoops him up for a front slam, scales the corner for a moonsault, doesn’t go for the cover and puts the boots to Das Wunderkind.
He shoots Wright to the corner and follows him in, Alex hops up-and-over, plants him with the Bridging German Suplex, but still can’t find a 3 count. Wright drags him up, staggers him into the corner with a jumping heel kick, drives shoulders to the abdomen, sends him across and charges in with a back elbow. He drops Kanemoto with a front slam and steps out to the apron, slingshots in for a splash, utilizes a lateral press to cover, but the champion finds the ropes to stop the count at 2. Alex looks to upstairs for a missile dropkick, Koji tries to cut him off with a dropkick of his own, both guys are off-target, fall to the mat and double down.
They stumble back to their feet and Das Wunderkind looks to shoot the champion into the corner, Kanemoto reverses, Wright springs to the top rope for a crossbody, but still can’t put it away. He hooks Koji for another Bridging German Suplex, Kanemoto fights out with back elbow, decks Alex with a spinning back kick, delivers a body slam, then springs off the 2nd rope with a corkscrew senton. The champion with a lackadaisical cover that only gets 2, he climbs back to the high-rent district for a crossbody, Das Wunderkind meets him in mid-air with a dropkick, ascends the corner and connects with a missile dropkick, props him on the top turnbuckle.
He climbs up and hits a superplex for a near fall, wants to whip the champion to the corner, Kanemoto reverses it, catches Alex trying to hop up-and-over, then drops him face-first on the top turnbuckle. He sweeps the legs with a double leg takedown, jackknifes over into a cover and picks up the win.
Winner: Koji Kanemoto (Jackknife Cover)
- EA’s Take: Two more young talents here in a match that was a little bit similar to the first one, but not nearly as crisp. Kanemoto has a good amount of charisma for a Japanese star, something which was not the norm for this time, while Das Wunderkind is still a clean-cut babyface who was remarkably only 20-years old, but was already considered to be a veteran. He’s still pretty “white meat” as a character though and it appears WCW is using their younger stars to put New Japan over, likely allowing the bigger names to get them back into the series through the night.
Backstage: Gene Okerlund is in the locker room and plugs the WCW Hotline, welcomes in Sonny Onoo and Sonny claims the World Cup of Wrestling will soon be out of hand for WCW. Onoo says after New Japan’s victory he might try to purchase WCW, Okerlund tells him that’s assuming someone’s willing to sell it, but Sonny states that in America, everything is for sale.
Match #3 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: Masahiro Chono w/Sonny Onoo vs. ‘The Total Package’ Lex Luger w/Jimmy Hart
Big pop for Luger as he enters the ring, the bell sounds and they exchange words, The Total Package fires first with right hands, then slaps on a side headlock. Chono pushes him off to the ropes and gets run over by a shoulder block, Lex muscles him up for a military press drop, buries kicks to the ribs, then shoots him to the ropes. Masahiro ducks under a clothesline, scores with multiple flying forearms, goes back to the ropes and connects with a Mafia Kick, sending Luger retreating to the outside. He gets some advice from Jimmy Hart, Chono steps out and stalks him around ringside, they meet back in the squared circle and Masahiro calls for a test-of-strength.
The Total Package baits him into a knee to the breadbasket, drives Chono coast-to-coast into the turnbuckles, puts the boots to him in the corner, then sets for a suplex. Masahiro blocks it and delivers a snap suplex, unloads with knees to Luger in the corner, chokes him, then snapmares Lex out and starts ripping at his face. The Total Package fires up with heavy forearms, irish whip to the ropes is reversed, Chono catches him in a sleeper hold, plants Lex with a reverse DDT, then locks on the STF. Luger drags himself to the ropes to force a break, Masahiro argues with the official, batters The Total Package with right hands, Lex tries to battle back, hits the ropes and gets split by an inverted atomic drop.
Chono builds a head of steam and drills Luger with another Mafia Kick, climbs to the top turnbuckle and flies off, but gets surprised by a back elbow to the jaw. Lex finds his footing, powers him up into the Torture Rack and Chono submits.
Winner: ‘The Total Package’ Lex Luger (Torture Rack)
- EA’s Take: If you just jump into this match without knowing any of the angles going on in WCW at the time, you might think Luger is a babyface because he was very over with the crowd. Part of that is the fact that he’s the first “top star” they’ve seen in the ring so far, but another part is his association with Sting I think. He’s supposed to be a heel, but the people don’t seem to want to boo him. Like I had said about the last match, it looks like the younger stars will be doing the heavy lifting in the squared circle for the most part, this match being pretty short and to the point. Chono is a legend in Japan that we’ll certainly be seeing more of in the future, had the match-ups been different tonight then I’d argue he should have been one of the NJPW guys to get a win.
Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene is joined by Sting in the locker room, The Stinger says it’s now 2-1 in favor of New Japan, claims Johnny B. Badd is about to even the score and believes WCW is coming on strong. Okerlund reminds Sting that Kensuke Sasaki defeated him not long ago for the United States Title, The Stinger states that was a bad day and the championship isn’t up for grabs tonight, but pride certainly is. He speaks of Sonny Onoo wanting to buy WCW, says it will happen over his dead body, then talks about tonight’s Triangle Match. Sting says he is friends with Lex Luger, reminds us things got a little edgy with ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage last week, but he patched that up. The Stinger states that he has to do what he has to do tonight and expects Luger to do the same thing.
Match #4 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: WCW World Television Champion Johnny B. Badd w/The Diamond Doll vs. Masa Saito w/Sonny Onoo
Sonny grabs a microphone and says he doesn’t think The Diamond Doll should be here, states she should be home cooking and doing dishes, thinking that’s what is wrong with America. The Doll swipes the mic away, informs him this isn’t a Japanese bathhouse and she’s not a geisha girl, then wonders if wrestling is for men, why is Sonny here. Everyone gets set now and we’re underway, they lock-up and Saito backs Badd to the ropes, breaks clean and takes a bow. The champion looks puzzled, ducks under a collar & elbow for a hammerlock, switches to a wristlock and Masa hurls him over with a hip toss.
He catches Johnny coming back in with a modified STO, grounds him with a seated cobra clutch, transitions to a rear chinlock, Badd finds his footing, but gets ripped down by the hair. The champion pops right back up, they go into another tie-up, Saito breaks free and scores with stinging chops, Johnny fires back with some of his own and they continue trading shots. Masa hooks in a side headlock to slow things down, delivers a chop to the throat, drives Badd head-first into the top turnbuckle, then chokes him over the bottom rope. The official finally backs him off, Sonny uses his flagstaff to get in some more choking, Masa follows with the Saito Suplex, goes for a cover and gets only 2.
He whips the champion to the ropes, levels him with a clothesline for another 2, grinds him down with more choking across the 2nd rope, then distracts the ref for Onoo to some more in. Saito hits a side russian leg sweep for a count of 2, hauls Johnny up, the champion starts to battle back, shoots him to the ropes for a kick to the abdomen, then drops him with a knee lift. Badd ascends the corner and comes off with a high double axe handle, climbs upstairs again and hits a sunset flip, but Masa just barely kicks out at 2. Johnny scores with a kick to the chest, ducks under a clothesline, unleashes a series of lefts-and-rights, then hooks Saito for a snap suplex. Masa kicks out fast at 1, Sonny hops to the apron to create a distraction, Badd grabs him by the jacket and Saito clobbers him from behind, dumps the champion over the top and that’s a disqualification.
Winner: Johnny B. Badd (Disqualification)
- After The Bell: The Diamond Doll climbs into the ring and Saito stalks her, Johnny rolls in from behind, batters Masa with fists, then clears him outside with multiple dropkicks. He slingshots onto Saito with the Badd Mood, chases Sonny around ringside and then slides back in to celebrate with The Doll.
- EA’s Take: I think I’d have to go with this one over Luger/Chono now for worst match so far. It looked like there were communication issues between Badd & Saito, so this felt really choppy at some points, had little build to anything and the finish was bad. I always thought the over the top DQ was the dumbest “rule” and if you’re going to book a DQ, had much less meaning than say, outside interference or use of a foreign object. However, for storyline purposes it does tie things up now 2-2. We’re getting seven matches in this World Cup Of Wrestling “no matter what”, so it’s not too hard to figure how this will go down.
Backstage: Gene Okerlund is in the locker room with Lex Luger & Jimmy Hart, The Mouth of the South talks about The Taskmaster having a short fuse and that’s why he got involved with Chris Benoit’s match earlier in the night, warning The Four Horsemen they are in a lot of trouble. The Total Package speaks of WCW being all about the big match, believes the moment has arrived and talks about facing Sting and Ric Flair tonight. He says it’s all for the top prize and that’s ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage’s WCW Title, states that Savage is pathetic as a champion and he’s coming right at him, reminding us that he’s had Macho in the Torture Rack many times. Lex tells Jimmy he needs to go out tonight by himself for just this one time, Hart says he’s here for a good time and not a long time, saying Luger just needs to bring the title home.
Match #5 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: Shinjiro Otani w/Sonny Onoo vs. Eddie Guerrero
The crowd gets into it with some “Eddie” chants as we start out, Otani looking very cautious, continuously backing to the corner as Guerrero approaches. They finally tie-up and Eddie grabs a side headlock, Shinjiro counters with an arm drag into an armbar, Eddie gets to a standing position, but gets pulled back down by the hair. He works back up and looks for an arm drag, Otani blocks it, rips away at Eddie’s face, Guerrero slipping free before regrouping. They tie-up again and Otani backs Eddie to the ropes, doesn’t break clean and grabs for his nose, Guerrero finds some space, Shinjiro picks the leg and gets rocked by an enzuigiri.
Otani takes a break in the corner, they go in for another lock-up, Eddie snapmares him over, grinds the bottom of his boot in Shinjiro’s face, looks to haul him up and gets surprised by a single-leg takedown. Otani locks on a heel hold, tries to transition to a front facelock, Guerrero counters to a rear chinlock and Shinjiro fights to his feet. He shoots Eddie to the ropes for a back body drop, Guerrero backflips over him, turns around and gets launched by a monkey flip. Both guys pop back up quick, Eddie avoids a clothesline, irish whip to the ropes is reversed, Otani elevates him into the air, but gets caught by a headscissor takeover. Shinjiro rolls to the floor for some council from Sonny, heads back into the ring and they go in for a test-of-strength, but Eddie explodes into a dropkick.
He scoops Otani up for a body slam, steps to the apron, slingshots in with a somersault senton, then looks for the submission with a Boston crab, then switches to a single-leg crab. Shinjiro pulls himself to the bottom rope to force a break, Eddie hauls him up, plants him with a powerslam, stacks Otani and gains a near fall. He spikes Shinjiro with a brainbuster and tries another cover, Otani gets a foot on the ropes at 2, Eddie drags him back up, shoots him to the corner and follows in with a clothesline. He drives Shinjiro head-first into the top turnbuckle, sends him to the opposite corner, rushes in for a splash, Otani slips to the apron to avoid it, then springboards in with a missile dropkick.
Guerrero gets sent to the outside, Shinjiro springboards off the top with a crossbody, throws him into the squared circle, then steps in and sends him to the ropes for a dropkick. Otani chokes Eddie with the bottom of his boot, uses the bottom rope to get in some more, puts the boots to him and proceeds to tear at Guerrero’s face some more. He hooks in a rear chinlock, Eddie fights to a standing position, plants him with a Saito suplex, then rolls into a cover for 2. Guerrero sets him up for another brainbuster, Otani slides out it, hits a bridging german suplex for a count of 2, then quickly crawls to the apron. He springboards in with a spinning wheel kick, delivers a body slam, heads to the high-rent district, but Eddie’s there to meet him with right hands.
Guerrero climbs up for a super hurricanrana, still can’t finish it off, powers Shinjiro up for a sit-out crucifix powerbomb and again Otani kicks out at 2. Guerrero pulls him to his feet for a waistlock, they exchange standing switches, Shinjiro sweeps the legs, slaps on a modified ankle lock and Eddie reaches for the bottom rope. The official has to force Otani to break the hold, Guerrero pulls himself up using the ropes, Shinjiro rushes in, gets dumped to the floor and Eddie heads out in pursuit, driving him into the barricade. He drops Otani on the floor with a body slam, climbs up to the apron, springboards off the top with a crossbody, then deposits him back inside.
Eddie climbs back to the apron and looks to suplex him to the floor, Shinjiro blocks it, hits a suplex of his own to bring Guerrero into the squared circle, then rolls to the apron. He springboards in, connects with a missile dropkick to the back of the head, says that it’s finished and attempts his patented Bridging Dragon Suplex. Guerrero fights it off and hits the ropes for a hurricanrana, Otani rolls through for a cover, they trade-off pinning predicaments and Shinjiro finally holds him down for a 3 count.
Winner: Shinjiro Otani (Roll-Up Counter)
- EA’s Take: I think I still would pick Liger/Benoit over this one, but man, that was a pretty good match. Lots of high-flying, which I didn’t really expect from Otani, plus some really high impact moves. Especially those powerbombs by Eddie, a move he really seemed to excel at which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him perform. Unfortunately for Guerrero, Savage & Sting are still left to wrestle in this and if New Japan is going to pick up a win out of the three of them, Eddie is the odd man out. He’s still getting a solid push still in WCW and would continue to rise up the ranks over the coming year, gaining popularity despite being “cookie cutter” with no real on-screen persona.
Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene is back in the locker room and welcomes in WCW World Heavyweight Champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, informing him that it’s all up to him now with New Japan up 3-2, then the Triangle Match. Savage tells him to forget about the Triangle Match, claiming the pressure is on him with WCW’s back against the wall. He speaks about thinking Sting is cool still, speaks of Luger’s win earlier in the night and says they are in a team situation until later. The champion states he’s wrapped up in the moment, plans on taking advantage of it and tells Tenzan he is coming to get him. Okerlund says he just got off the phone with Hulk Hogan who is suspended, tells Savage that Hulk wants to know what frame of mind he’s in, Macho stating that he’s in the zone and that’s what makes him different.
Match #6 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: Tenzan w/Sonny Onoo vs. WCW World Heavyweight Champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage
The fans are getting behind Savage as the bell sounds, collar & elbow tie-up begins things, both guys jockey for position and the champion backs Tenzan to the corner before the official forces a clean break. They lock-up again with the same result, Tenzan catches Macho with strikes this time around out of the corner, batters him into the canvas, then rams him face-first off the top turnbuckle. He grinds the champion’s face into the turnbuckle padding, shoots him to the ropes for a clothesline, hooks the leg for a 2 count, then slaps on a front facelock.
Tenzan rakes Savage’s eyes, puts him in the corner and unleashes a barrage of chops and headbutts, chokes him with the bottom of his boot and then celebrates. Macho surprises him with a kick, drives him head-first off the top turnbuckle, uncorks a series of right hands, Tenzan absorbs it all and returns fire with a headbutt. He rakes the champion’s eyes and looks to wear him down with a nerve hold, clobbers him across the back, Savage rips at Tenzan’s nose to stop the onslaught, then whips him to the ropes. Tenzan reverses it, connects with a spinning wheel kick, puts the boots to him, then rocks him with more headbutts.
Macho rolls out to the floor and Tenzan comes outside in pursuit, rams him off the steel post, drives him into the barricade and deposits him back in the ring. Tenzan climbs inside, continues to batter Savage with kicks and headbutts, sends him to the ropes for a fireman’s carry slam and goes to the top rope. He scores with a Diving Headbutt and hooks the leg, the champion barely kicks out at 2, Tenzan picks him up for a body slam, climbs back up top for a moonsault, but nobody’s home. Macho sends him to the apron with a clothesline from behind, reaches over the ropes to suplex him back inside, drops him stomach-first on the top rope, then heads upstairs. He soars off the top with the Diving Elbow Drop and hits it, makes the cover and WCW ties it up.
Winner: ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (Diving Elbow Drop)
- EA’s Take: If you enjoy a lot of choking and throwing punches, this is definitely for you. This is nearly 1996 and the days of Savage/Steamboat performances from WrestleMania 3 from Macho have been over for a while. At the same time however, he’s still Randy Savage and ‘Over’ like he was a Drake single. I found it dry and boring, but that was all because of Tenzan as he controlled basically the entirety of the match. Plus, like I said after the last match, it was very predictable. All negatives in my book and besides, the more interesting parts of the night for Savage are yet to come.
Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene is still in the locker room and talks about a meltdown taking place in the wrestling world, which you can hear about on the WCW Hotline. He reminds us of the score in the World Cup Of Wrestling, brings in Ric Flair and The Nature Boy speaks about WCW vs. New Japan, but it’s all about the WCW World Title. Flair claims he will style and profile, reminds Sting & Lex Luger they have to beat the man to be the man, stating they will both have wrestled already while he is fresh.
Match #7 – Best Of 7 Series for the World Cup Of Wrestling: WCW United States Champion Kensuke Sasaki w/Sonny Onoo vs. Sting
Sasaki goes on the attack as Sting finishes his entrance to the squared circle, the bell rings to make it official and he unloads with kicks to the midsection, then chokes him over the 2nd rope. Kensuke bludgeons The Stinger across the back, sends him head-first into the top turnbuckle, scoops him up for a body slam and make a lackadaisical cover for 1. He hooks in a rear chinlock, Sting battles his way back up, sends the champion to the corner for a Stinger Splash, then tries to shoot him across. Sasaki reverses, hits the ropes and plants The Stinger with a running bulldog, goes back to the ropes for multiple clotheslines, attempts another and it’s off-target.
Sting explodes up with a dropkick, clotheslines Kensuke over the top to the floor, the champion clears the cobwebs, steps back up to the apron and Sting sets to suplex him back in. Sasaki slides out into a waistlock, gets decked by a back elbow, The Stinger rushes in, gets planted by a powerslam and the champion says it’s over. He spikes Sting with the Northern Lights Bomb, doesn’t go for a cover and plays to the crowd, puts the boots to The Stinger, then slaps on an armbar. The arena fills with “USA” chants, the champion releases the hold and peppers Sting with more kicks, whips him to the ropes for an arm drag takeover, goes into a lateral press and finds a 2 count.
He hooks The Stinger by the legs and puts him in a Scorpion Deathlock, Sting powers out of it, goes for a kick, Kensuke blocks it and makes him pay with a dragon screw leg whip. He grabs the leg to go for another, The Stinger drills him with an enzuigiri, both guys stumble back to their feet, Sasaki props Sting on the top turnbuckle, then puts him over his shoulder. He charges across the ring to drive him into the turnbuckles, Sting slips out of it, pushes Kensuke into the corner, flattens him with a clothesline, goes downstairs with a kick and hits the ropes for a one-handed bulldog. He quickly goes for the legs, turns the champion over into the Scorpion Deathlock, Sasaki crawls to the ropes, but gets dragged back to the center of the ring and submits.
Winner: Sting (Scorpion Deathlock)
- After The Bell: ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, Eddie Guerrero, Alex Wright, Johnny B. Badd & Lex Luger make their way to the ring to congratulate The Stinger, Gene Okerlund steps into the squared circle, Chris Benoit has arrived and the trophy is in the ring. ‘Mean’ Gene calls for a round of applause for Team WCW as the winners of the World Cup Of Wrestling, gets a word from Sting, he says he’s still got more work to do tonight, but for now just wants to say “USA”.
- EA’s Take: For as quick of a match as this was, compared to the earlier contests from Luger & Savage, it was the more entertaining. The pacing was solid and didn’t get too slow, but again, it was very predictable. You’re basically killing two birds with one stone here as Sting gets a win back from Sasaki after losing the US Title to him, getting him away from contending for it and puts the finish on the World Cup Of Wrestling. So maybe it should be three birds with one stone. He’s of course still to come in the Triangle Match, while the champion would lose his title against One Man Gang in I suppose what would be the dark match main event. Why would you even have a dark main event at Starrcade, let alone that one you may ask? Because WCW is all I can tell you.
Video: “Three men, one title. Three of the top superstars in the history of WCW will vie for the chance to face WCW World Champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. Macho won the title at World War 3 when he was in the last man in the ring…or was he? Regardless, Savage is the champion. The contenders? Lex Luger, who returned to WCW in September and made his intentions clear, claiming he is the uncrowned champion. The other, Sting, who has kept friendship with Luger intact even after Luger’s bizarre actions over the past few months in WCW. However, many have been wondering about Sting. As one of WCW’s most popular athletes, he has been involved in many bizarre incidents as well causing many, like Hulk Hogan to question his allegiance. Finally, there is ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, a man with a definite advantage as Luger and Sting will wrestle earlier in the night. A coin toss will decide which two men will start the Triangle Match. A man can tag out at any time, however the man who scores the pinfall will go on to meet Savage.”
Match #8 is a WCW World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender’s Triangle Match: ‘The Total Package’ Lex Luger vs. ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair vs. Sting
Referee Nick Patrick does our coin toss and Luger is the odd man out, Flair drops to a knee and poses to taunt The Stinger, does a strut and belts out a “Woo!”. Sting gives us one of his own, they lock-up and The Stinger backs Flair to the corner, they break clean and Sting shouts out to the people again. The Nature Boy looks for a test-of-strength, suckers Sting in for a kick to the gut, looks to send him to the ropes, The Stinger reverses, delivers a military press slam, then flattens him with a clothesline for 2.
He quickly attempts the Scorpion Deathlock, The Nature Boy is too close to the ropes, slides outside for a breather, then comes in and they tie-up again. Flair hooks on a hammerlock, uses the ropes for extra leverage and gets caught, the official forces him to release it and The Nature Boy hits right hands and chops in the corner. He goes right back to the hammerlock to grind Sting down, brings him up to shoot him into the corner, connects with another big chop and does a strut, but it has no affect. He turns around and The Stinger does a strut of his own, launches him out of the corner, connects with a dropkick, then sends him to the ropes for another military press slam.
The Nature Boy tries to beg off in the corner, Sting climbs to the 2nd rope, rains down heavy hands, bites Flair on the forehead, then hits the ropes for a one-handed bulldog. Flair rolls back outside to seek refuge, catches The Stinger coming out with a boot to the breadbasket, whips him into the guardrail, but Sting rebounds back out with a clothesline. Flair tries to do it again and The Stinger absorbs it, chases The Nature Boy back into the squared circle, then tosses him out of the corner again. He looks to follow with a dropkick again and it’s off the mark, Flair taunts Luger, hits the ropes for a kick to the midsection, decks him with a stiff punch and goes back downstairs with more kicks.
He baits Lex into the ring, the ref is distracted and Flair tosses Sting over the top to the floor, steps out and scores with knife-edge chops against the barricade, then heads back inside. The Nature Boy drags Sting to the center, connects with a knee drop for multiple counts of 2, does another strut and buries kicks into the ribs, then hooks The Stinger for a delayed vertical suplex. He mocks The Total Package by flexing and Sting bounces right back up, unleashes a flurry of right hands, props Flair on the top turnbuckle, The Nature Boy rakes the eyes, shoots him to the ropes, but Sting reverses for a third military press slam.
He positions Flair back on the top turnbuckle, climbs up to deliver a superplex, crawls into a cover, Luger steps in to break it up, but Sting spots it and stops him in his tracks. They exchange words and Lex goes back to the apron, The Nature Boy ambushes Sting from behind, he falls into the corner and The Total Package tags himself in. Flair runs away to the outside and walks up the aisle, Lex gives chase, carries him back to the squared circle and The Nature Boy tries to beg him off. Luger uncorks with fists, Flair goes to the ribs with a kick, buries punches into the midsection and hits the ropes for a shoulder block.
He runs into a brick wall and falls to his backside, hits the ropes for another try and gets the same result, Luger shoots him back in and powers him up for his own military press slam. The Total Package corners Flair and goes to the 2nd rope for a barrage of punches, The Nature Boy collapses face-first to the mat, Lex delivers an elbow drop and gets a 2 count. Flair sticks a thumb to the eye to buy some time, cuts Luger down with a chop block, stomps away at the left leg, drapes his legs over the apron, Sting has words with the ref, The Nature Boy grabs a chair on the floor and cracks Lex across the knee. He steps back in and continues to work over the left knee, struts to taunt The Stinger and hold the official’s attention, The Nature Boy takes the opening for a low blow to Luger, then wraps him in the Figure Four.
Flair uses the ropes for more leverage out of the ref’s sight, The Total Package works over onto his stomach to reverse the pressure, The Nature Boy gains the ropes, crawl out to the apron and tries to set for a suplex to the floor. Lex blocks it, brings Flair inside with a suplex of his own, crawls into a lateral press for 2, The Nature Boy staggers back to his feet first, then makes his way up top. Luger tosses him to the canvas with a military press slam, Flair fires away with fists and chops that have no affect, hits the ropes for a shoulder block, but The Total Package doesn’t budge. The Nature Boy gets angered, challenges Sting & Lex to bring it on, tags himself out and now The Stinger must enter the match.
Sting & Luger exchange words, they shake hands which earns some boos, they tie-up and Lex backs The Stinger to the corner, but breaks clean. Another collar & elbow and this time Sting drives Luger to the corner before a clean break, they go for a test-of-strength, The Total Package instead delivers a kick to the abdomen, rams The Stinger head-first off the top turnbuckle and puts the boots to him in the corner. He drives Sting back off the top turnbuckle, tries again and it’s blocked, The Stinger returns the favor heads to the 2nd rope for a series of punches, Luger powers his way out for an inverted atomic drop, but it doesn’t connect and he gets laid out by a clothesline.
The Stinger follows with another and Lex calls for a timeout, regroups in the corner, they lock-up again and The Total Package clubs Sting to the mat. He drives him spine-first into the turnbuckles, buries shoulders to the breadbasket, whips Sting across and charges in, but eats a boot to the jaw. The Stinger rushes out with a high knee, shoots him to the corner, The Total Package explodes back out with a clothesline, drops him throat-first across the top rope, then stomps away and Sting rolls to the outside. Lex steps to the apron and flies off for a double axe handle, The Stinger buries a right hand into the midsection, deposits him back inside, ascends the corner to the top and connects with a crossbody for a near fall.
He scoops Luger up for a body slam, slingshots off the 2nd rope with a splash, The Total Package gets the knees up, drops multiple forearms and hooks the leg for another2 count. He delivers a series of elbow drops and goes for a cover, Sting’s too close to the ropes and there’s no count, Lex hauls Stinger up for kicks to the ribs, Sting blocks one and drills him with big rights. He grabs the legs for the Scorpion Deathlock, Lex hooks the ropes to avoid it, sneaks in a low blow, splits Sting with an inverted atomic drop, then picks him up for a body slam. The Stinger surprises him with a small package for a near fall, The Total Package quickly sends him to the ropes for a back body drop, Sting counters with a sunset flip and still can’t put it away.
He can’t capitalize and Luger looks for a suplex, The Stinger blocks it, hits a snap suplex, both guys struggle back to a vertical base and Lex sends him to the ropes to try again for the back body drop. Sting prevents it with a kick, plants him with a one-handed bulldog, whips him to the corner for a Stinger Splash, sets for another, but this time nobody’s home. The Total Package muscles him up for the Torture Rack, Sting’s leg takes out the official on the way up, Flair steps in from behind, takes Luger out at the knee, then dumps them both to the floor. The referee comes to, puts the count on them both and neither man can make it back inside, giving The Nature Boy the match.
Winner: ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair (Count-Out)
- After The Bell: Jimmy Hart comes to the ring and has a conversation with The Nature Boy,
- EA’s Take: So I definitely do not remember that count-out rule ever being talked about. You know why? That’s because it wasn’t and for a match that was the real selling point of Starrcade, a pretty lackluster way to finish it off. Of course I understand it’s a way to garner heat for Flair, but it seems more like it was done to protect Sting & Luger. This is a time when babyfaces very, VERY rarely lost clean in big matches, so doing anything otherwise would have really been an out of the box kind of thought, especially for WCW booking. This was certainly the most intriguing match in terms of storyline leading into the night, the focus primarily surrounding Sting & Luger to make Flair’s victory more of a surprise.
Match #9 for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship: ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair vs. WCW World Heavyweight Champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage
Jimmy Hart is staying ringside for this one, Michael Buffer makes our introductions with both combatants already in the squared circle, the bell sounds and they go into a collar & elbow, the challenger quickly goes to the abdomen with a knee, then looks to shoot Savage to the ropes for a hip toss. The champion blocks it, counters to a backslide for an early 2 count, Flair retreats to the corner and Macho tears off his shirt, then throws it in the challenger’s face. They tie-up again and The Nature Boy backs Savage to the corner, scores with a big chop, the champion fights back with stiff rights and lefts, drops Flair with more heavy hands and ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff comes down to ringside in a neck brace for a closer look.
Savage tears at The Nature Boy’s nose in the corner, climbs to the 2nd rope to rain down with fists, the challenger brings him out for an inverted atomic drop, then tries for the Figure Four. Macho kicks him away and slaps on a front facelock, Flair backs him to the corner, doesn’t break clean, but Savage fires back with more punches. He drives the challenger face-first off the top turnbuckle and shoots him across, The Nature Boy gets turned inside-out, flips over the top and falls to the floor. The champion ascends to the top rope and takes flight with a double axe handle, Flair catches him mid-flight with a shot to the breadbasket and we see WCW’s Head Of Security Doug Dellinger escorting Orndorff to the back.
Back at ringside and The Nature Boy drives the champion off of the guardrail, sends Savage’s bad arm into the ring post, Flair peppers him with stinging chops, then heads back inside. He distracts the official and Jimmy gets in a cheap shot on the champion, Macho crawls back to the squared circle, the challenger drags him in from the apron, then grounds him with a hammerlock to the taped-up arm. The Nature Boy uses the ropes for extra leverage out of the official’s sight, stomps away at Macho’s elbow, then continues punishing the injured limb with a wristlock. He grinds the champion back to the mat, delivers a knee drop to the arm, Savage pulls himself up in the corner, Flair goes right back to a wristlock and Macho scores with right hands to break free.
He hits the ropes and runs the challenger over with a shoulder block, goes back in and The Nature Boy drops down, pops back up and grabs the champion in a sleeper hold. Macho looks to drag Flair throat-first into the top rope, the challenger has to release it to put on the brakes, drags Savage to his feet and hits the ropes for a right hand. The champion blocks it, delivers a stiff punch of his own, falls into a cover for multiple near falls, whips The Nature Boy into the turnbuckles and elevates him with a back body drop off the rebound. Savage starting to build momentum now, connects with multiple clotheslines, uses a lateral press for another 2 count, rocks Flair with more big fists and then heads up top for a double axe handle.
Jimmy Hart hops on the apron and gains the ref’s attention, Macho jumps off and again catches a shot to the midsection. The Mouth of the South tosses Flair his megaphone behind the referee’s back, the challenger tries to waffle Savage, it’s blocked and Macho drills the challenger instead. The Nature Boy has been busted open and the champion makes the cover, the official is still busy with Jimmy Hart, Savage decides to climbs upstairs and scores with the Diving Elbow Drop. He makes another lateral press, The Mouth of the South is still holding the official, Brian Pillman sprints down to the ring and heads to the top turnbuckle.
Macho sees it, launches him off the top as Chris Benoit hits the ring, they collide and the champion chokes Flyin’ Brian in the corner. The ref’s involved now, Arn Anderson slides into the ring, decks Savage with a loaded fist, puts The Nature Boy on top, the official finally turns back to the action and we have a new champion.
Winner and NEW WCW World Heavyweight Champion: ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair (Outside Interference)
- EA’s Take: Big pop for the title change, The Horsemen are supposed to be heels, but they were finding loads of cheers by this time. We’ve seen these two square-off multiple times now in both WWF and WCW, so you almost have no choice expect to give it all kinds of bells and whistles like interference in order to make it different. Personally, Flair is the greatest ever, however he will be the first to tell you that his standing in history is not due to his offense. As I said earlier, Macho’s best days are also certainly behind him, so this was middle of the road for me. Ultimately, this title change wouldn’t mean a whole lot as Savage would win it back heading into SuperBrawl in February. Macho will be bringing back his old flame Miss Elizabeth in January however, basically giving us a rehash of the Flair/Savage feud from the WWF in 1992.
EA’s Finisher: So we get a new World Heavyweight Champion, all the top guys competed twice in the same night, but for what is supposed to be WCW’s equivalent to WrestleMania, you didn’t get a few of their “big boys” on the card. Of course, this is due to the format of the World Cup Of Wrestling (Hogan also likely didn’t want to work two days after Christmas either and was therefore suspended on television. Pure speculation on my part), which I felt was an interesting concept that was used in Japan previously. New Japan didn’t have the following in America then like it does today, but for those who were familiar with their stars, I’d imagine you would be pretty stoked of the concept. As we head into 1996, the tides of the Monday Night Wars will be taking a drastic turn, as will the wrestling business overall, however there’s still a few more months of what we’re getting now storyline-wise before that happens.
Top Three To Watch
1 – Chris Benoit vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
2 – Eddie Guerrero vs. Shinjiro Otani
3 – Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair vs. Sting
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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