TOP TEN BITS
I haven't written one of these in awhile so if it's overlong I apologize.
10. I've just watched Misawa/Kobashi v. Kawada/Taue so excuse me if I'm in a bit of a mindfuck.
Let me start out with a few thoughts on that match. It's the tag match, the famous one. The copy I have is kind of clipped, but I got the rest by reading a review here, a review there. The only real criticisms that could be offered about a match like that are criticisms that are thrown at All Japan in general. If it's not your cup of tea, it's probably better to stay away from it. I do my best to enjoy it - it's definitely not hard to enjoy the head-dropping, which is widespread even in '95. For me, All Japan is the same as lucha-libre, in that it's a style that isn't really done in the Big Three all that often and is less accessible to me.
This drew me to a tangent about how some workers have changed the sport by bringing other elements into it. Of course the Radicalz except for that crazy bastard Saturn are right in the thick of that. I doubt The Rock and HHH would have been able to put together the Iron Man match without heavy influence from Chris Benoit. He's really affected the way WWF Championship matches have been wrestled with his uses of psychology and flat-out workrate. He brought this from Japan. Meanwhile, Mick Foley did basically the same thing by bringing the ECW/Japanese brutality to the WWF. HHH and The Rock definitely tried to merge those two styles in the Iron Man match, while everyone was calling the match the best display of old-school wrestling they'd seen since whenever. I think that was odd. In terms of my wrestling fandom, I think everyone's a bit bored right now. I mean, Jeremy Botter's having a good time, but if I was sucking milk out of Scott Keith's teat I suppose I'd be enjoying myself too. Speaking of which, I was listening to Wrestling Observer Live the other day and Dave read an e-mail from Scott Keith about the WWF. It blew my mind, in a way, because Scott has all his minions and all his readers, but to Dave Meltzer, he's just Wrestling Observer Live listener Scott Keith. Funny stuff.
As I was saying, this 'Invasion' PPV should spark things up a little, but it won't change all the weeks of sleepwalking through WWF shows since WWF King of the Ring last year. I mean, what a stinky bunch of wrestling these past months have brought us. I'm trying to keep myself occupied, but I miss Nitro. It passed the time, at least. I have to get off my ass and order tapes, which is a huge pain in the ass, just because I can't survive on Dudleyz v. X-Factor, Benoit v. Angle, Jericho v. Regal part five million. The WWF is booking from week to week, and it sucks.
Back to that All Japan tag match. Kenta Kobashi's pretty much a waste of space at that point compared to everyone else in the match, totally being carried by Kadawa and Misawa. Kobashi never really was as good as he was made out to be. Taue knows his role and sticks to it. During the match, I feel that I felt the source of Misawa's greatness. I felt I saw in him what others did for the first time. That is that while he may not be the greatest wrestler himself...i.e. his moves don't look as good as Benoit's or Kadawa's and he doesn't have too much natural charisma like a Shawn Michaels or a Bret Hart, he puts together a hell of a match in terms of booking and carries guys better than anyone ever has.
Benoit always could carry a lot of people. I remember a **** match between him and Mike Enos at WCW Souled Out '99 and he's basically given Jericho his career by carrying him to the best matches he'll ever have. Nevertheless, he doesn't adapt his style as easily. He's like Flair in that way. Every Flair match is a Flair match the same way that every Benoit match is a Benoit match. Hell, I wouldn't have it any other way. But it's different for Shawn. Shawn can wrestle any style, and he can wrestle every style better than anybody. He put on amazing brawls with Foley and Nash and UT, he put on wrestling clinics with Bret, went to a southern style with Jeff Jarrett, he could fly with the light-heavies, he was part of one of the greatest tag teams of all time in The Rockers. If you watch that Jeff Jarrett match, you know what I mean. I don't even like that match. I think it's pretty awful. But for Shawn, it just shows that he can work one of the best matches that style has ever seen, and make it accessible.
Now, Misawa doesn't do that. What he does do is carry guys to ***** matches who have no right having them. Akira Taue is serviceable in the ring, but Misawa carried him to a five-star match. And if you've seen it, you know - it is that good, and Misawa is that good. I couldn't really appreciate his brilliance when he was fighting Kadawa, because Kadawa is so excellent, anyway. Misawa can also put on a paint-by-numbers match as well as anybody. I can't remember the last time Benoit mailed a match in.
9. I read Mick Foley's book the other day. It's a good read. He stretches what else he's lived of his life out for a lot of pages, but his description of the Royal Rumble 2000 and No Way Out booking was a real treat. He also rips the Rock a new asshole, which is uncalled for in my opinion. I mean, the whole "I Quit" match was his idea, and he's the one who is insane in the ring, not The Rock. Rocky certainly did enough jobs to him, so I wouldn't agree with his argument about "taking" too much in those matches. In hindsight, I wish they had gone with Rock v. Austin v. Foley in the main event, as was planned. The match would have been a better one, Austin v. Rock could be done at Backlash, and Foley would never have had to main event WrestleMania 2000. It would have changed things a bit, but for the best, I think. They never would have the balls to do a four-way the next year, and we could have seen HHH v. The Rock. There's also a weird bit in the book where Mick asks Hunter if it's okay for him to be in the WrestleMania 2000 main event, and HHH reluctantly agrees. Hey, big fuck, you're only a deserving WWF champion because Mick Foley gave you good matches when nobody else would or could, so ask him when he wants his coffee, ok? Besides, the four-way allowed HHH to keep his title, which I'm sure he LOVED.
8. Foley's defense of wrestling against his critics is defensive but always dead-on, so I liked that part of the book. He is really defensive about himself, which I found surprising. I guess battling your critics for most of your life would do that to you. But now that his place in wrestling history is cemented, and his position as one of the top ten workers of all time in the business despite never using an excess of technical skill is certainly in place. In the mean time, he's very, very popular, and I could see a comeback down the road as a possibility. He's only thirty-five. I'll always be sad they didn't do Foley v. Benoit before Mick retired, as he chose to put friends like Al Snow over instead. I also reflected on the way The Rock 'N' Sock connection carried the WWF on their back by stealing the show each an every week and dispensing the best TV the world has ever seen - a fact that Foley doesn't seem to realize.
7. DVDVR Top 500: I can't believe Storm ripped on the Boyz. Check it out at stormwarning.com if you haven't read it yet. Storm gets a few things right, and Meltzer basically stated it again on Wrestling Observer Live to DVDVR guy Tony Gancarski. These independent guys are not better than HHH. They aren't better than Billy Kidman, and the reason is because they have not worked regularly with top quality opponents 200 nights a year. I think the list is charmingly indie. It lacks the definition of a worker, but besides that it's a good effort. The whole point is to spark controversy anyway, right? With that said, Perry Saturn is a worse worker than Faarooq. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
6. I think if Kawada were in the World Wrestler Federation he could still work great matches. His style isn't all stiffness; he has all the tools to be a great WWF style wrestler. 5. We're still two pay-per-views away from King of the Ring. The tournament has been a total waste product the past two years with Billy Gunn and Kurt Angle's KOTR victory. Kurt's victory was largely unnecessary, and would have probably been better off going to Rikishi. Even if you liked the booking, the tournament itself was a total snoozefest. '98 had a good Rock v. Shamrock match on the card. It'd be pointless for Jericho, Regal, or to a greater extent, Benoit to win the tournament. We've already felt a midcard push with all three guys. I could see them giving the slot to Tazz, and redo a heel push with a stable that would let Tazz cut the type of promo we know he can cut.
Whoever thought we would look forward to the abortion that is usually King of the Ring with some hope?
4. I've been listening to a lot of Wrestling Observer Live lately, what with no news and no good wrestling to speak of. The show is really good, with Bryan Alvarez keeping up with Dave quite nicely. They seem to be afraid to disagree with each other. Both guys are dedicated to improving the quality of the show in recent weeks. Dave knows a lot, a lot, a lot about the business, and he's a really nice guy as well. At least, he appears to be. He may be in character.
3. How about that Perry Saturn match? He should be fired for going off on a jobber like that, pure and simple. That stuff is in the past of this business and doesn't need to be brought back to the present. Okay, give him another chance, but I have no idea why Saturn himself would jeopardize his future in the business by getting a reputation like that.
2. Are Chris Benoit's arms that short? When you can't complete the bridge on a dragon suplex on a regular basis, you may have a problem.
1. Judgment Day preview:
I'm sorry I'm doing this - I'll try to make it as quick and painless as possible.
Crash Holly v. Spike Dudley
They won't give this any time to be any good, so it won't be any good. **1/2 while it lasts, Spike Dudley to win.
Benoit v. Angle, 2/3 Falls (First fall is pinfall only, Second Fall is submission only, Third Fall is ladder match)
Expect this one at the nine o'clock hour. I applaud the stipulations and I think this will be the break out match of the series. *****, and Angle gets his medals back. Hopefully the ladder match will be a realistic diversion and an excuse for some actual psychology. Where Angle goes from there is anybody's guess.
Tag Team Turmoil: APA, Edge/Christian, Hardy Boyz, X-Factor, Jericho and partner, whoever else
Expect this one later in the card, probably before the main event. It's baby booking to assume that Benoit will be the partner here, and they'll win this one handily to set up the tag belts win in Canada.
William Regal v. Rikishi.
This won't be...any...good. William Regal goes over, Rikishi gets his heat back, WWF acknowledges it's letting Kevin Nash handle the book.
HHH v. Kane, IC Title, chain match.
If anybody thought this would be good, now we know it isn't. Pulling a good chain match out of Kane isn't in anybody's power right now, let alone HHH. HHH bleeds, I still call it an abomination. NEXT! **
Stone Cold Steve Austin v. The Undertaker, WWF Title.
Austin's going over here, as they'd be stupid to do anything else. Even the marks know it. Match should be passable, as these guys have engaged in *** WARS before. It won't be as good as Summerslam '98 or even their WWF Title match FROM TWO YEARS BEFORE THAT, but it should be decent enough.
Since I just read Mick's book - which features a list of his top ten favorite matches. This one is number two.
Cactus Jack v. Terry Funk, January 8, 1995, Guma Japan.
This match is a barbed wire match. Foley puts it above the Royal Rumble as the second best match of his career. I remembered that I had in on a compilation tape I hadn't watch since I bought it.
Foley and Funk cut promos before the match. Funker's promo is just okay, but Cactus promo is incredible, even better than his ECW stuff if you could believe that possible. Jack starts off by chasing Terry with a barbed wire bat, to no avail. He then throws a bunch of chairs in the ring and the bell rings. That's called an auspicious beginning. It should be noted that there is no commentary for the match as I have it.
Jack gets up on the apron, but Terry throws a chair at him, clocking him in the head and sending Jack to the floor. Terry then chucks a chair from the ring to the floor on Jack's face. He has the chair on the outside and brutalizes Jack with it, going after the leg immediately. They circle each other in the ring, and a small Terry chant goes out from the small crowd.
Terry headbutts Jack, and they circle more, with Jack saying come one and putting up boxing gloves like he wants to fight. Lock up, and Jack tries to whip Terry into the barbed wire. Terry rolls out and tries to throw chairs at Hack. This might as well be an empty arena brawl. Cactus Jack starts killifying Terry on the outside and starts rubbing his face into barbed wire. That's one way to draw blood.
Funk goes for the leg back in the ring and tries the spinning toehold but wrestling maneuvers won't work. Terry tries it again, but Jack pounds out after a bit. Jack drops an elbow and rubs Terry in the barbed wire again. Cactus' noises in this match are so loud, it's ridiculous. That stuff is phenomenal. He destroys Terry with the barbed wire, making some of the most insane noises I've heard in my life. He then rolls out to the crowd and picks up a chair. Funk is meanwhile trying to disentangle himself from the barbed wire.
Jack comes back with the flaming chair and slams it across Terry's back. He pounds on him on the outside, with fans and photographers following the brawl. Jack lights the flaming chair again, and hits Terry's arm with it. Jack then gets a hiptoss on the flaming chair, which is still burning. Funk throws it at him and then throws it in the ring, where is it still on fire. Jack grabs it and SLAMS it across Terry's back for two.
Jack tries a vertical suplex. Unfortunately, Funker reverses it and suplexes Mick on the barbed wire. Christ. Funk proceeds to slip on the water that's attempting to douse the flaming chair in the ring. He tosses Jack and pulls the barbed wire on the ropes apart, scraping them across Cactus Jack's face. Funk sets up one of those nasty looking Japanese tables (if you haven't seen one, you're missing out) and he slams Foley into it, hard. Foley is doing a .7 Muta bladejob, but perhaps I overestimate it. Foley is crawling on his hands and knees. Foley- ""Terry!"
Funk has the flaming iron, which he digs into Foley's back. He then beats him around the ring with it, including trying to put it ON Jack's face. This match is needless to say, intense. Jack picks up Terry and slams him on the outside. He then hits a sick looking Cactus elbow. It sounded like it broke something in Terry. That's the best I've ever seen him do the elbow, and he's pouring blood to boot. Well, not to boot...shit, you know what I mean. Cactus- "Bang bang!" Jack throws Terry into a bunch of chairs and Funk has bled himself silly as well, as the stains on his shirt attest. Both men are covered in chairs.
Funk has one around his neck, and he is so dazed he swings at a fan in a cool yet litigious spot. At some point Funk starts to go psycho, tossing chair all over the place. They rest for a bit this way, with Jack strangling Terry with his shirt and loving every second of it. Jack rolls him back in the ring. Funk kicks out at two.
When Jack is on top of Funk he audibly calls out "DDT" and then - surprise, surprise - DDTs Funk for two. Hey, it's not his fault - there's no commentary and no crowd; I'm surprised that's the only glitch like that. Jack hits a bad-looking vertical suplex for two. Funk is a wreck but he staggers Foley with rights and looks to come back he's gonna make it - but Funk does the Flair flop. Cover for two, reversal for two. Funk has the barbed wire in his hand, but Jack just slugs away with nice-looking punches for two. With a better crowd, this match would be so over it's not even funny. Funk reverses a spinebuster into a DDT for three in 16:23. ****3/4 Mercifully, this war comes to an end. If you like brutal brawls, this one's for you.
Post-match, Funk takes out the ref and assorted other officials, including a cameraman. I guess this is his gimmick in Japan. If these two had done this match at WrestleMania XIV, it would have gone over huge. Both men find each other for a handshake on hands and knees afterwards, but Jack turns on Funk and decks him, piledriving him on the floor shortly thereafter. Funk is left in a heap, and Jack leaves.
Funk would go on to have a much lesser match but just as insane a match at ECW Born to Be Wired, with Sabu. That's worth checking out if you want to see some insane barbed wire stuff with hype supplied by Joey Styles. It amazes me that Foley was able to get up for a match like this in front of nobody.
This match is nowhere near better than his triumphant classic at WWF Royal Rumble 2000, which he planned out and which I will forever maintain is his best match and better than WWF Mind Games on every storyline level you can think of. The match is better too. Royal Rumble is the match that made HHH and Foley at the same time.
Jack gives a bleeding interview after the match. Best promo ever. Bleed much, Cactus? He gets himself and his opponent over at the same time. A-fucking-mazing.