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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #13 – WCW Starrcade 1998

Harry decides to take a detour from the Indies and right into the heart of the Attitude Era; but the WCW side. WCW was still going strong, but take a trip down memory lane with Harry in case 1998 isn’t burned into your memory.

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In the last edition of ‘What I Watched’, I made mention of potentially wanting to cover some more mainstream shows with this run of the series (the original run focused mostly on PROGRESS (which I plan to get back to) and Impact Wrestling). This particular show holds a special place to me as back when I was first getting back into wrestling as a seventeen year kid (parents hated it and wouldn’t let me watch), my Uncle Gordon (may he R.I.P.) bought me a pair of VHS tapes at the local flea market (yes, I’m that old). Those VHS tapes were Fall Brawl and World War III 1998. While neither show is particularly good, they build to a time where WCW was not yet complete garbage and to their biggest show of the year; WW3 sets up Kevin Nash as the challenger to Bill Goldberg’s title at this very show.

I’ve now watched all of the Nitro’s and Thunder’s in addition to those PPV’s once again and now I head back to a show I’ve seen several times before but this time with the added perspective of all relevant TV from the time (Saturday Night still exists but is clearly the C show at this point). Join me as we get into the WayBack Machine to go back to the 27th of December in 1998 as ‘What I Watched’ presents WCW Starrcade 1998 from Washington, DC.

 

What I Watched #13

WCW Starrcade 1998

12/27/1998

Washington, DC

Runtime: 2:49:10 (Peacock…the convenience for a wrestling fan to have more or less every PPV available at the click of a button is something that would have blown seventeen year old Harry’s mind)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: WCW Cruiserweight Title- Billy Kidman © wins 3 way, pinning Juventud Guerrera @ 14:57 in a match that also included Rey Mysterio Jr.
  • Match 2: WCW Cruiserweight Title- Billy Kidman © pins Eddie Guerrero, Shooting Star Press @ 10:49
  • Match 3: Norman Smiley taps Prince Iaukea, Norman Conquest @ 11:32
  • Match 4: Perry Saturn pins Ernest Miller, DVD @ 7:07
  • Match 5: Brian Adams (Crush)/Scott Norton def. Fit Finlay/Jerry Flynn, Norton pins Flynn @ 8:56
  • Match 6: WCW TV Title- Konnan © taps Chris Jericho, Tequila Sunrise @ 7:27
  • Match 7: Eric Bischoff pins Ric Flair, brass knux @ 7:08
  • Match 8: Diamond Dallas Page pins The Giant, Cutter counter out of super chokeslam @ 12:46
  • Match 9: WCW Heavyweight Title- Kevin Nash pins Bill Goldberg ©, Jacknife PB @ 11:20

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Cruiserweight Title Series

*Gonna count this as one overall match description because they tell a story that goes from match 1 over to match 2. Kidman comes off like a superstar between the two matches and it’s understandable why he ended up getting a stronger push going forward. The opening triple threat is the better of the two matches but the finish comes off a little counterproductive as a Rey dropkick is the catalyst for the Kidman sunset flip. Why wouldn’t Rey break up that cover that he caused? (****) As for the singles match with Eddie, it’s a pretty good story of rallying by Kidman from the onslaught by the fresh Guerrero. Unfortunately, we get a ton of involvement from Rey and Juvi at ringside which takes the focus off the two men actually in the contest and thus lowers it slightly compared to the opener even if the ring work is top notch. (***½)

Norman Smiley vs. Prince Iaukea

*Iaukea at the time was a case of too much, too soon. I never really cared for him until he came back as the Artist and was managed by Paisley (the future Queen Sharmell). I like Smiley quite a bit as I found his antics entertaining and I am a fan of the British catch style. That said, whoever made the decision to give them eleven and a half minutes at the biggest show of the show should have been kicked off the booking committee. It’s just way too much filler and stalling on a show that had gotten off to an incredible start. (*)

Ernest Miller vs. Perry Saturn

*WCW Saturn had so much momentum going into this feud. I mentioned Fall Brawl earlier and it is widely agreed that the best match on a bad Fall Brawl show is a “Raven’s Rules” match between Raven and Saturn. The crowd is hot for that whole match, the work is good (a few moments here and there) and the story is excellent.

Why do I mention that? Because this feud with a green as goose poop Miller took all that momentum away. As big of a piece as Miller would become for WCW, he was barely TV worthy at the time and it comes off as a huge step down for Saturn. Saturn gets a W but overall for the scope of his career, this has to be considered a loss in the long run. (*½)

Brian Adams/Scott Norton vs. Fit Finlay/Jerry Flynn

*Biggest show of the year, right? Before you all get your collective panties in a bunch, I know why this match is on the card. Scott Norton was the IWGP (New Japan) Heavyweight champion at the time and I would imagine this match ends up airing on their TV show. That doesn’t make it any more fun to watch in 2022. Fit Finlay would go on to have a banger of a run in the WWE but you would never guess it here. Flynn ends up eating the fall and yet somehow would become a relevant (ish) member of the roster later in 1999 and early into 2000. As for Brian Adams, he would thankfully soon find new life as part of KroniK with Bryan Clarke (the former Wrath/Adam Bomb). (½*)

WCW TV Title- Konnan © vs. Chris Jericho

*Sigh. The politics alone on this match are enough to drive you up a goddamn wall. I’ll let you look into that story on your own. But suffice to say, the better performer is sacrificed here because he refused to kowtow to Bischoff’s demands.

The match itself isn’t bad. I’ve never been a big fan of Konnan (always thought he was more sizzle than steak) but he holds his own here and is (arguably) one of the most over guys in the company at this point. Chris Jericho is my favorite wrestler of all time but he is still pretty hit and miss in the ring at this point as well. The clean tap out by Jericho doesn’t come off as a surprise given the behind the scenes machinations but selfishly, it feels like the wrong decision. To be fair, Konnan would drop the strap the next night on Nitro anyway to Scott Steiner, so I guess I can deal with using it to elevate Steiner when you know Jericho is out come April. (**½)

Eric Bischoff vs. Ric Flair

*Speaking of behind the scenes machinations…honestly, it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Bischoff has always taken a competent ass kicking and Flair is in fine form here for his first match in approximately eight months. The finish is going to piss some people off, but I can appreciate the long term storytelling involved with it (Curt Hennig handed Bischoff the knux. The same Hennig who slammed the door on Flair’s head at Fall Brawl ‘97). We get a rematch the following night on Nitro where Flair gets the win back, in the main event, to gain control of the company for ninety days. Why would you do that? Because Nitro would have probably three to four times the audience the PPV would. And to pop a rating, of course. (**½)

The Giant vs. Diamond Dallas Page

*For as much as I disliked Konnan, DDP was the exact opposite to me. Yes, he got to where he was in the company by who he knew (Neighbors with Bischoff, close with Hall and Nash). But  Page busted his ass to improve at his craft to justify the spot he ended up in. Giant was clearly unmotivated in WCW by this point. However, he and DDP have really good chemistry and it shows during the course of this match. Pretty good big man/less big man story here and the finish is one for the highlight reel for WCW in 1998 as Page turns the super chokeslam that Giant had been using into a Diamond Cutter in mid-air for the three count with a huge pop. (***)

WCW Heavyweight Title- Goldberg © vs. Kevin Nash

*So, this is a tale of two stories. The behind the scenes story and the in the ring story. The behind the scenes screwery is the bigger of the two as the man who has the book is the man who ends The Man’s streak. That seems like a horrible idea for morale but what are you going to do? Goldberg’s first loss was promised to Hogan in exchange for Hogan putting Goldberg over for the title at the July show at the Georgia Dome. Hogan ends up taking time off to film Muppets in Space (or “run for president” according to WCW) and Nash ends up getting the W instead. That sets up January 4th and the beginning of the end for the company with Goldberg and Nash are slated to have a rematch that turns into Nash vs. Hogan. That leads to three words that will make most wrestling fans asshole pucker: “fingerpoke of doom”.

As for the match itself, it’s honestly not bad. It’s not good, but Goldberg was never known for having great matches and Nash’s best matches have always been against guys who can play to his strengths (not really Goldberg’s forte). They work a mostly ground game with submissions being exchanged before going to a finish sequence that will get people talking for a number of reasons. First; Disco Inferno interferes… Disco has zero business being anywhere near the main event of Starrcade. Second; Bam Bam Bigelow gets involved. This one I don’t mind as much because they had been building to a Bigelow vs Goldberg match. Bigelow gets dispatched and while the zebra is distracted by Bigelow, Scott Hall tasers Goldberg to lead to the Jackknife. I’m sure most of you have seen the finish before. It looks decent, I think. It protects Goldberg as well as he doesn’t take a clean loss. Unfortunately, it’s all irrelevant with where things go in just eight days. The build to Goldberg’s redemption is sacrificed to feed Hogan’s ego and there isn’t a person alive that can convince me that was a good idea. (**)

 

THE FINAL REACTION

The show starts amazingly. Seven and a half stars in two matches. The cruiserweight division truly carries the undercard in most of these older shows and Kidman proves to be no exception here as he puts in a fantastic performance over the two matches. Then, things go off a cliff. I like Norman Smiley, Perry Saturn and Fit Finlay. But none of those matches were Starrcade worthy. Jericho/Konnan annoys me but that’s a definite personal bias. Your mileage will vary. The Flair/Bischoff match is fine for what it is, DDP/Giant is surprisingly good and the main event mostly delivers on what you’d want from it. As a fan, I feel the good outweighs the bad here, but some of the bad is so bad that it drags down the show overall. Call it a 5.5 and know that if you do watch on Peacock, I’d keep the FFWD button on your remote handy.

Best Match/Moment: Kidman vs Juventud vs. Rey Jr. Don’t expect much in the way of selling here but the moves come a mile a minute and everything is crisp in its execution.

Worst Match/Moment: Norman Smiley vs. Prince Iaukea (yes, the tag match got a lower score but I get why WCW did what they did for that with the NJPW partnership)

Overall Show Score: 5.5/10

MVP: Billy Kidman kills it for the first forty or so minutes of this PPV. He has to get the honors here.

 

THE SIGNOFF

And thus wraps up Starrcade 1998 and my first venture into one of the “Big Three” for a ‘What I Watched’. The peaks are pretty high (the opening triple threat ties the ACW four way for best match of the return) but those lows…oof. So, where do we go from here? Well, since I covered WCW…I feel equality is required. I won’t go back to Rock Bottom (for now at least) as that show is pretty brutal top to bottom. So for the WWF, we will look ahead to the new year and our eventual first WWF show will be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. As for ECW, most likely it’ll be Guilty as Charged 1999 which takes place just 14 days after Starrcade.

But what about the Indies, you ask? Well, I head back to 2018 for the next planned show(s). All American Wrestling based out of Chicagoland is on the docket and a double shot weekend will lead to a pair of reviews back to back from the same promotion. It’s “Destination Chicago” for a “Defining Moment” up next here on ‘What I Watched’. Hope to see you there. Thanks for reading, everyone.


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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999

Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!

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Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?

ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!

What I Watched #16

ECW Guilty as Charged 1999

1/10/1999

Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL

Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)

Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
  • Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
  • Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
  • Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
  • Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
  • Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
  • Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think  that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)

Super Crazy vs. Tajiri

Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)

John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent

So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)

Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley

Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…

The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)

TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm

Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.

The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)

Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer

The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of. 

As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)

Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz

So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent. 

The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)

 

THE FINAL REACTION

  • Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
  • Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
  • Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
  • MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.

 

THE SIGNOFF

It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.

So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.


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What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018

Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!

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ALL IN

Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.

I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.

What I Watched #10-B

ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018

9/1/2018

Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL

Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)

Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)

THE RESULTS

  • Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
  • Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
  • Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
  • Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
  • Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
  • Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
  • Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
  • Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
  • Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
  • Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
  • Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)

*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)

Over the Budget Battle Royal

*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)

Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross

*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)

Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)

*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)

Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard

*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)

NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)

*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)

‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela

*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)

ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon

*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)

Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.

*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)

Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll

*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)

Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio

*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)

THE FINAL REACTION

There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.

Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.

Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.

Overall Show Score: 8.5/10

MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.

THE SIGNOFF

And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.


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