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Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 9/29/2019

A few tournaments came to an end, and ROH even had a show, so who knows what made the Top 5.

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A few tournaments came to an end, and ROH even had a show, so who knows what made the Top 5.

Before we get to this odd week, let’s address the winner of last week. Everything got a few votes, so that’s nice to see, but there was a decisive winner. NJPW Destruction in Kobe: IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Jay White vs Tetsuya Naito (c), won last week’s vote.

Now I guess we see what the Top 5 looks like this week!

 

5. ROH Death Before Dishonor: Jonathan Gresham vs Jay Lethal

So apparently the set up for this match was quite simple. Lethal took notice that Gresham was on the rise and beating some people that he’s had issues with, thus, he needs to try and maintain his dominance.

Lethal and Gresham go back and forth with some classic chain wrestling and mat wrestling, before we get a little bit of jawing. Lethal starts to get an advantage, keeps Gresham on the outside and hits a Suicide Dive. It was at this point the match started to change since Lethal usually does three Dives, after the first, he started to sell a wrist injury.

The wrist played a big part in the story of the match. Gresham attacked it a couple times, but it was more interesting to watch Lethal adjust his offense to cope with the injury. He was even unable to execute the Lethal Injection because his wrist gave out. We saw one more wrinkle when Lethal tried to do a Drop Toe Hold into a chair on the outside, and Gresham blocked it, nearly using it himself.

So after more talking where Lethal accused Gresham of needing the chair, they brawled and then went into the ring. Lethal turned out to be too injured to do exactly what he wanted, and got caught in the Octopus Hold. Lethal taps out and Gresham picks up the victory in a great technical match with great selling.

Winner: Gresham via  Octopus Hold

Rating: ****

 

4. All Japan Pro Wrestling: Royal Road Tournament Finals: Kento Miyahara vs Jake Lee

The Oduou (or Royal Road) Tounament is basically the same thing as the New Japan Cup, for those unaware. A single elimination tournament, where the only difference is that the Triple Crown champion is involved in the tournament. Last year Kento won, and this was his path to getting the belt back from Zeus. So do we get back to back Kento, or does Jake finally get over the hump?

Kento matches tend to follow a similar pattern lately, and it’s a lot of him just being generally condescending and posing for the crowd/mocking the opponent. Instead of just taking the jabs like a little brother, Jake just stares at Kento and proceeds to light him up with kicks. This continues for bit with Kento hitting a few moves, posing and Jake just feeling disrespected.

Kento starts stringing together a few Blackout Knee Strikes, and goes for the German Suplex Hold, but Jake fights out. Kento attempts the Shutdown Suplex three times, but Jake fights out, much like Naoya did in the Triple Crown match. The difference here is that Jake gets some space and hits some strikes, lands Giant Killing and then gets Kento up for his Backdrop Driver. 1-2-3 and Jake finally beats Kento!

This is huge for the future of All Japan on multiple levels. Someone from Kento’s old group NEXTREAM actually beat him. Also, fans get some hope that the main event scene will start to fill out more. Kento is a great champion, but his current run is a lot like Okada’s nearly 2 year run. Kento has beaten most of the main event players, so they need to build up some new stars to keep interest on people not named Kento Miyahara.

Really good match, and hopefully a harbinger for good things.

Winner: Jake via High Angle Backdrop Driver

Rating: **** 1/4

 

3. Stardom: 5 Star Grand Prix Red Stars: Final Day: Momo Watanabe vs Mayu Iwatani

From Mathew’s Review:
 The two would shake hands this time before the bell rings and once it does, Mayu quickly went for a Dropkick to hit her and then gets her up for the Dragon Suplex but Momo fought out of it to kick her and quickly hits the Somato. These two are making it exciting and it hasn’t even been a full minute yet. When you look at this match, you will see Stardom’s top 2 wrestlers fighting each other and every single second used in this match was nothing but magic. Everything was nicely executed, the selling was unreal, storytelling was excellent, it was just a beautiful match and probably one of my favorites this year, it was that damn good.

The two were fighting on the apron and Momo looked like she was gonna hit the Package Driver but Mayu fought out of it and gets her down to the floor before she climbs to the rope and does a Diving Crossbody. Mayu hits Momo with the Bible and perfectly executed for a two count and Mayu goes to the top rope to attempt the Moonsault but Momo catches her foot before she had a chance to go up and hits the Package Driver this time but Mayu kicked out at two. Momo goes to the second rope to hit Mayu with the Somato not once but Twice as Mayu would find a way to kick out still. Once Momo locked in the Crossface Chickenwing, the fans were going back and forth with the chanting since they wanted both of these women to win but Mayu had her foot on the rope. Momo tried to pull her off for the Tequila Sunrise but Mayu wasn’t budging as Momo lets go running the ropes as Mayu attempted a Superkick, however, Momo ducked and caught her for the Tequila Sunrise and another Somato as Mayu kicked out again! Momo had Mayu on the top rope to hit the Package Driver but Mayu flipped over her to hit a Powerbomb and Momo is down! Mayu goes to the top rope now as Momo kicked her leg and catches her to hit the Peach Sunrise, however, Momo rolled Mayu around to hit another Peach Sunrise as Momo wins the match! Momo may be unable to advance, but she stopped Mayu from doing so as Hana Kimura is officially going to the finals. Fantastic match, look for it, right now.

Winner: Momo via Peach Sunrise

Rating: **** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

ROH Death Before Dishonor: World Heavyweight Championship: Matt Taven (c) vs Rush
Winner: Rush via Horns of the Bull
Rating: *** 3/4
Stardom: 5 Star Grand Prix Blue Stars: Final Day: Kagetsu vs Arisa Hoshiki
Winner: Time Limit Draw
Rating: *** 3/4
Stardom: 5 Star Grand Prix Blue Stars: Finals: Konami vs Hana Kimura
Winner: Hana via Grounded Octopus Hold
Rating: *** 1/2
Pro Wrestling NOAH: GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship: HAYATA (c) vs YO-HEY
Winner: Hayata
Rating: *** 1/2
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: G.o.D. & Jado vs Roppongi 3k (SHO, YOH & Rocky Romero)
Winner: G.o.D. via Assisted Gun Stun
Rating: *** 1/2
NXT: Keith Lee vs Dominik Dijakovic
Winner: Lee via Ground Zero
Rating: *** 1/2
WWE Raw: #1 Contender Elimination Match: Ricochet vs Robert Roode vs AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura vs Rey Mysterio
Winner: Rey Mysterio
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: NEVER Openweight Championship: KENTA (c) vs YOSHI-HASHI
Winner: KENTA via Go 2 Sleep
Rating: *** 1/4
ROH Death Before Dishonor: World Tag Team Championships: The Briscoes (c) vs Mark Haskins & Bandido
Winner: Briscoes via Jay Driller
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: TJP vs Ren Narita
Winner: TJP via Detonation Kick
Rating: *** 1/4
Pro Wrestling NOAH: IPW Junior Heavyweight Championship: Daisuke Harada (c) vs Atsushi Kotoge
Winner: Kotoge
Rating: *** 1/4
Stardom: 5 Star Grand Prix Blue Stars: Jamie Hayter vs Bea Priestley
Winner: Bea via Queen’s Landing
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Amazing Red vs Jay White, Chase Owens & Gedo
Winner: Goto via GTR
Rating: ***
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: Juice Robinson & Mikey Nicholls vs Alex Coughlin & Clark Connors
Winner: Nicholls via Mikey Bomb
Rating: ***
IMPACT!: Tenille Dashwood vs Madison Rayne
Winner: Dashwood via The Spotlight
Rating: ***
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Rock N Roll Express vs Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI
Winner: Tanahashi via High Fly Flow
Rating: ***
WWE SmackDown Live: Erik Rowan vs Daniel Bryan
Winner: Rowan win Iron Claw
Rating: ***

 

2. Pro Wrestling NOAH: N-1 Victory Finals: Kenoh vs Takashi Sugiura

From Hisame’s Newsletter Vol. 53:
Takashi Sugiura and Kenoh had an epic main event\N-1 Finals match, despite their agreement that their match would eclipse all others on the card (especially that of Mutoh and Akiyama), both knew that they had to win. The match was hard fought, the sweat flying off of them when they got into an exchange, and Kenoh finding a way out of the dreaded neck choke, which originally cost him the title, but he was determined that it would not cost him the match. Everything that Sugiura served to Kenoh, he threw it back at him.

After 28 minutes, 40 seconds with the spectacular Rolling Diving Footstamp, Kenoh picked up his first win over Takashi Sugiura and his (and the) ever first N-1 Victory Win, and with it the right to go to Sumo Hall and challenge Kaito Kiyomiya.

Winner: Kenoh via Rolling Diving Foot Stomp

Rating: **** 1/2

 

1. NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed NY: SANADA & EVIL vs Kazuchika Okada & Kota Ibushi

From My Analysis:
The match that got the only “All These Guys” chant. This was amazing, just beautiful how everyone moved around in ways that flowed with the match. Okada’s short pants pop was also louder than even I expected.

Ibushi and EVIL started things, and you saw Okada lose his mind on the apron, he was acting like his hair was red and he talked to balloons still. Okada got tagged in and did a goofy little shuffle and kept beckoning SANADA to get in as well, it was ridiculous but awesome to see Okada legitimately having fun.

SANADA gets Okada in the Paradise Lock and Okada did manage to hit a Dropkick, so I’m not sure if that Dropkick story was just a product of bad timing at Destruction, or if it will crop up from time to time. Also it was noticeable that SANADA and EVIL were the tag team, because SANADA got into position to do a few quick hit tandem moves with EVIL while Ibushi and Okada looked like two singles competitors doing the tag thing.

After everyone got in most of their signature stuff, we got a surprise. EVIL hit Darkness Falls on Ibushi, SANADA dealt with Okada and EVIL picked up the pinfall victory with Everything is Evil. So this was a great surprise that helps establish the challengers, especially since not many people see SANADA or EVIL picking up the wins at King of Pro Wrestling.

Winner: EVIL via Everything is Evil

Rating: *****

 

Thoughts:

It was nice to see that ROH Death Before Dishonor wasn’t a complete waste of time like a lot of their product the past year or so. Taven had possibly his best ROH match as champion, and Lethal/Gresham was a fantastic technical match.

Sure there’s a bunch of Japanese matches on the list this week, but when there’s a tournament, Japan puts on quality matches. Also, totally biased Live perspective of the New Japan show made that jump to the top of my list.

We know that my vote is for New Japan, but I really was impressed with ROH and Stardom honestly. If I wasn’t still on my live experience hangover, I’d probably have voted for the one of those. It was a good week for wrestling.


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Opinion

Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021

It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…

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It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.

It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!

5. Samoa Joe

I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.

Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.

In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!

4. Kris Statlander

AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.

Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.

Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.

Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.

3. Tay Conti

Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.

Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.

This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.

2. Bianca Belair

We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.

You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.

Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.

Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.

1. Darby Allin

Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.

The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.

What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.


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NXT Minus 6: About that Cole-O’Reilly match…

It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

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It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

Exclusive: Kyle O'Reilly is ready to renew his career-long rivalry with Adam Cole at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver

6. I was jacked to 11 for Adam Cole versus Kyle O’Reilly. I was ready to give it a Tokyo Dome 6 stars. MOTY before the bell rang. A masterwork of storytelling. I correctly predicted it would be an unsanctioned match. Then the action started, and it quickly became “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans | WWE

5. After the first few acts of violence, it was apparent that the problem with the match would be the stipulation. The last NXT unsanctioned match was Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa in 2018. That was 3 short years ago, but things move quickly in today’s world. There is very little chance an unsanctioned match can deliver the level of violence it promises as long as NXT is on the PG-13 Peacock.

The Most Brutal Spots from Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly's Insane Unsanctioned Match at NXT Takeover - EssentiallySports

4. Fans are losing their minds over all the content Peacock is leaving on the cutting floor. A lot of it was offensive and would never work today, but that’s not the point. The fact is there’s only so much violence Peacock’s parent company NBC will tolerate from wrestling. Take the chain, for example. Other than the clothesline, it was practically useless. O’Reilly tried to make it work, but it fell flat. In an unsanctioned match, 20 feet of heavy duty chain should be all you need to decimate another human being.

The B Word: Did Pro Wrestling's Blood Dry Up? | Ring the Damn Bell

3. Maybe I’m a victim of my own wrestling memory. An unsanctioned match in Memphis in the 80’s would have been a bloodbath. Someone would have been hung over the top rope with the chain around his neck. Whipped across the back. Hog tied. Someone would have wrapped it around their fist for a few stiff shots to their opponent’s forehead. But that goes back to my original point. None of that would fly today even if NXT was only on the WWE network.

5 Hilarious moments from this week's WWE programming

2. I’ll go so far as to say the only violent-promising stipulation that interests me is Falls Count Anywhere. There is zero drama in wrestlers pulling chairs from under the ring. The chance to use the naturally occurring environment as a weapon still holds a world of suspense. Someone is going through windows, walls, off the stage, over the guardrail, stuffed in a locker. Honestly, I’m tired of people getting hit in the stomach with folding chairs. Of all the ways to hit someone with a folding chair, that’s the least practical. 

WWE Announces Multiple Injuries At NXT New Year's Evil - WrestlingRumors.net

1. I’m sorry to say Kyle O’Reilly versus Adam Cole didn’t deliver what I expected. Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I don’t need over-the-top violence to entertain me. Maybe I don’t need wrestling to keep pushing the envelope. Five of my top 6 matches of 2021 are straight up wrestling matches. Maybe all I need is two (or three or four) strong characters and a good story. Damn, I sound old. 


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