An Unnecessary Defense of Michael Elgin

At this point to rehash the “Michael Elgin situation” is probably unnecessary, but for purposes of this piece let me just quickly run down what we know, or think we know. On Saturday night at ROH “All Star Extravaganza 6″ Elgin lost the ROH World Championship to former champion Jay Briscoe. To say this was a surprise would be an understatement. Elgin just recently won the belt at ROH’s first pay per view “Best in the World 14″ back on June 22nd. Immediately after the title loss Elgin was supposed to hope a ferry to Cleveland to take part in AIW “Wrestle Rager” night 3. He never arrived. He never arrived because Michael Elgin’s work visa expired and while being in Toronto for ROH he was not allowed back into the United States. As of my writing, Michael Elgin is still in Canada.

Dave Meltzer has been the straw to stir the Michael Elgin drink recently telling Brian Fitz that the decision to take the belt off Elgin was a last minute decision, and indicating that Ring of Honor wasn’t even aware that Elgin was about to have a visa issue when they decided to take the belt. There have been rumors and speculation that Elgin openly discussing a desire to try his hand at professional baseball was a contributing factor in the decision to have him drop the belt to Briscoe. But there has also been talk that Elgin didn’t property “protect” the ROH World Championship, with specific reference and rumor around the interwebz being that the people at Sinclair Broadcasting were not happy with Elgin’s defeat at the hands of Trevor Lee at PWG’s “Battle of Los Angeles.”

Let me address each of these issues in kind, starting with the idea that Michael Elgin lost the ROH Title because he wants to play professional baseball.

No question that Elgin wanted to attend an open tryout to play professional baseball. He played baseball in high school and college and wanted to test his skills at the professional level. I’ve seen people call into question Elgin’s commitment to professional wrestling because he wanted to attend a tryout. Here’s my thinking on the subject. (1) if Michael Elgin has enough talent to make a professional baseball team, to be offered a try out and make his living as a professional baseball player — shouldn’t we just celebrate that? Wrestling is hard. It’s a serious grind. Michael Elgin is married, he’s got a mortgage. If he can find a better way to pay for said mortgage than killing himself on a weekly basis, who the fuck are you, or anyone else to judge that? But (2) Michael Elgin is not going to make a professional baseball team. Just stop it. Michael Elgin could try out for the Harlem Globetrotters that doesn’t mean he’s going to leave independent wrestling to throw buckets of confetti on people.

Remember when Tom Holzerman was blasting TNA because they had contracted employees who were working at Hot Topic in the mall to supplement their income? Well if Ring of Honor wants to dissuade their employees from exploring other avenues they should make sure that their mortgages are paid.

Honestly, I don’t even care about the baseball thing because it’s a red herring. I refuse to believe that anyone at ROH saw that Elgin wanted to try out for the Blue Jays and immediately decided to take the strap off him. Which leaves the idea that he wasn’t “protecting” the belt or the image of Ring of Honor.

If this is true it’s one of the most reprehensible reasons to take a belt off someone that I’ve ever seen. First and foremost, Michael Elgin has a pretty exclusive contract with Ring of Honor. He’s had to say goodbye to some great promotions that he’d worked with for a long time (Hi, SMASH Wrestling) because he is limited in the number of independent dates he’s allowed to participate in. I refuse to believe that ROH limits the number of dates a talent can book, but doesn’t also maintain some control over the booking of those dates.

If you’re even remotely familiar with how independent wrestling works in connection with the more “high profile” companies out there – specifically ROH, TNA, NJPW and to a lesser extent the WWNLive.com companies and CHIKARA, the talent that has a working relationship with those promotions (primarily title holders) always have their appearances booked in connection with their “home” promotion. Watch the Juicy Product/Throwbacks match from Beyond Wrestling “Battle of New England” and tell me that someone from outside Beyond Wrestling didn’t have a hand in how that match ended.

So, the idea that Elgin losing to Trevor Lee at BOLA somehow compromised his position as champion seems crazy to me. The only way it would be relevant would be if ROH okay’d Elgin appearing in BOLA, and was clear with Super Dragon et. al., that Elgin was not to be pinned, and then he was. If that happened, I could see there being some heat, but that would be between ROH and PWG — not between Elgin and ROH.

Here’s the other thing — who on the independent circuit right now is more protected than Michael Elgin? I watch a ton of Northeast and Midwest independent wrestling and do you want to know what consistently happens on a monthly basis? Michael Elgin shows up with his work boots on, has a 15 minute match, hits his three moves of doom, gets a pin, sells some merch and goes home. When Trevor Lee beats Michael Elgin at BOLA people don’t react because “LOL Michael Elgin” they react because “HOLY SHIT, Michael Elgin lost a match!” Elgin always wins, in fact the winningness of Michael Elgin is one of the reasons people get on his case — so he loses a match to Trevor Lee and suddenly he doesn’t deserve to hold the ROH World Championship? Give me a break.

Whatever the reason the rumor is that Sinclair Broadcasting came from on high and handed down the edict that Michael Elgin was not to hold the ROH World Championship any longer. Jay Briscoe, who has absolutely no skeletons in his closet and who under no circumstance can be questioned as the face of a company is now the world champion — nothing to see here folks, just whistling past the graveyard.

This is the point in this (overly long) piece where I give you my guess as to what happened and I think it has a lot to do with heat between Elgin and the “office” and I have nothing to support this theory. Elgin has always said that he had two dreams for his professional wrestling career — he wanted to win a world championship, and he wanted to wrestle in Japan for New Japan (he has specifically said New Japan, not just anyone). By now I assume everyone knows that New Japan and ROH have some working relationship. During the NJPW/ROH crossover shows in the states, there was a New Japan tryout. Adam Cole, Michael Bennett and reDRagon impressed enough to get an invite to Japan, Elgin very specifically was not invited. He was disappointed — he went on social media and said that he was disappointed (how the hell else would I know about it?).

Elgin is not shy about stating his opinion, both good and bad. Do I think the New Japan thing soured him on ROH a little bit? Yeah I do. I also think that if the Toronto Blue Jays offered Elgin a contract to DH for them next season he’d leave wrestling behind in a heartbeat. I don’t blame him. My guess is that over the past six months or so Elgin has realized that he may have reached the height of his professional wrestling career. If New Japan doesn’t want him, and there is no contract coming from the WWE — where does he go? He’s been ROH World Champion, what’s left? I know he has seminars that he runs, and he does train guys — Elgin is one of the most vocal proponents of getting his “guys” their chance, it’s why the Monster Mafia have had appearances in Ring of Honor, but other than “old guy on the independent scene” I’m not sure where Elgin’s brain is on his career.

I don’t think Elgin lost the title because he asked the Blue Jays about an open try out. I also don’t think that Trevor Lee beating Elgin at BOLA is why he’s no longer ROH World Champion. Honestly, I think someone at Sinclair just doesn’t like Michael Elgin and decided to take the company in another direction. I think it sucks for Elgin — he should’ve been ROH World Champion a year ago, they waited too long to pull the trigger on his championship reign and now it has ended too soon. I feel for Elgin because I think he’s a guy that truly loves to be a professional wrestler, and I think he was incredibly proud to hold the ROH World Championship. Elgin isn’t the first guy who has had a title reign cut short because of someone in “the office” and he won’t be the last. I just hope people aren’t blaming Elgin — we already know that the one thing Elgin could control (his visa) is not the reason he lost the belt.

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I Officially Missed the Best Beyond Wrestling Show at Fete Music Yet, “Battle of New England” Reviewed

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I was not at the “Battle of New England.” This is becoming a recurring situation for me but a Sunday afternoon during a holiday weekend with two small children is not the most conducive time to jet off to Providence for a day of wrestle-fun. I heard from a lot of people who were there, and the talk coming out of Fete Music was very positive. With that in hand I couldn’t wait to check out the raw footage of the “Battle of New England” and having watched the show I can say that I’m even more disappointed to have missed the best top to bottom show that Beyond Wrestling has ever run at Fete Music. Join me now if you will as we talk about the BONE.

  • The Night of the Non-Finish: I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with the fact that the second and third matches on the card both ended with non-finishes. I don’t *hate* a non-finish and I think it’s oftentimes a means to an end. However, I do hate a non-finish when it feels completely arbitrary and the end of the Juicy Product/Throwbacks match felt like a cop-out.  The worst part about the non-finish in the tag match was that it was *such* a good match before the ending. Dasher Hatfield and Mr. Touchdown get most of their publicity from CHIKARA but they are both excellent professional wrestlers which I think gets lost sometimes through the sheen of CHIKARA. Dunn and Starr are rolling right now and their tandem offense continues to be excellent. If more teams are just going to ape the Young Bucks and we get a whole generation of brilliant tag team wrestlers than I’m all for it. The match ended when Michael Bennett showed up, KO’d the referee and then everyone stood around in agreement that the match was over. It was a bit weird, I didn’t love it.
  • JT Dunn, Commissioner of Beyond Wrestling: If you completely forget about the exposition that followed Bennett knocking out the referee, we get a Kimber Lee/Bennett match set up, which is an excellent end-result. The way we got there isn’t relevant, and it was actually kind of dumb – but JT Dunn basically grabs a microphone, tells Kimber Lee she’s challenging Michael Bennett which works for everyone because Lee/Bennett sounds awesome, but when did JT Dunn become the Teddy Long of Beyond Wrestling?
  • The other non-finish: The other match that ended without an ending was the brawl between Stockade and Matt Tremont. In this instance I’m fine with the non-finish because I liked the way it was handled. Tremont and Stockade should never be in matches with “rules.” It just doesn’t make sense – so they just proceeded to beat the tar out of each other inside and outside the ring until someone rang the bell. Apparently they were both counted out. Neither seemed to understand or really care and so they brawled off into the ether. The non-finish makes sense because what you really want to see is Tremont and Stockade in some type of no-holds barred, no count out situation but because Beyond Wrestling understands how wrestling storytelling works, you don’t just start at the main course. This was a nice appetizer, and unlike the Juicy Product/Throwbacks match it felt like it was building to something.
  • The strangest “PLEASE COME BACK” chant I’ve ever heard: Perhaps it’s the raw footage feed that I saw, but the crowd for Timothy Thatcher v. Jonathan Gresham seemed ambivalent at best. I know enough people who were in Fete Music for #BONE to know that people weren’t exactly enthralled by the technical wizardry taking place in the ring. Honestly I don’t blame the crowd, the match never worked for me either. Both of these guys have had great matches recently with Biff Busick that I highly recommend, but it feels like maybe the highlights of those matches was Biff, and not his opponent. It’s probably an over simplification but if Biff/Thatcher is great and Biff/Gresham is great and Thatcher/Gresham isn’t great, the thing that made them great was probably Biff right? I also hate to be this guy, but Jonathan Gresham is really small — like to the point where it was distracting in this match. Thatcher is big, and he wrestlers tall. The height differential in this match was so pronounced that I had trouble not laughing at times. Put this match on, watch Jonathan Gresham lock in a figure four and then come back here and yell at me if you think I’m being insensitive or unnecessarily glib. The crazy thing is that as quiet as the crowd was all match when it ended and Gresham (the winner) was getting ready to leave the ring, he received a pretty loud “please come back!” chant. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a match elicit less of a response from the crowd be followed up with a desire of the crowd to see more of that thing they seemingly didn’t like.
  • I’m pretty sure Flip Kendrick is dead. Let me just say that watching either member of the Hooligans perform an Asai Moonsault to the floor is amazing. I’ve been in the tank for the Hooligans for some time now but they may have the worst luck of any talent that has been booked for Fete Music. Their for foray to Providence was the “we have no ring” performance at “Feeding Frenzy” and this match happened to take place on Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend. Seriously, The Hooligans are awesome and everyone should know that. Aeroform was a great choice as opponents for the Hooligans because they’re incredibly athletic and do some great “flippy shit” offense, which helps highlight how amazing the Hooligans are when they do similar “flippy shit” but they’re two hoss dudes with beards. At one point Flip Kendrick dove outside the ring, the Hooligans were call it 7 feet away, Flip dove 5 feet — I’m relatively certain they’re still picking up pieces of Flip in Providence right now. The one complaint I have about this match is it felt a little bit too long, like everyone just decided to get their shit in instead of constructing a more cogent story thread for a match. I’m fine with it, it provided some great “oh shit” moments, but if you compare this match to how psychotically energized the crowd got for Ricky Shane Page, I think you’ll recognize the shortfalls of this match.
  • Ricky Shane Page, from Ohio with a bullet! I’ve been a Ricky Shane Page fan for awhile. I love AIW and his work there is at times inspired, so I was very happy to see him come back to Beyond Wrestling and get to perform in Fete Music. The Crusade for Change/Eric Corvis story is one of the best things going in Beyond right now (maybe the best) and this match was just all out intensity. The crowd was so into what RSP was doing and Corvis came across so well in this entire segment. To the surprise of me at least Davey Vega was the weakest link on his team (and maybe in the whole match) which is crazy because Vega is legitimately awesome. I loved this match, Page was easily the stand out performer, but I have to give a tip of the hat to Darius Carter who continues to be the most committed performer in Beyond Wrestling. He looks like a tiny little man but when he gets in the ring he hits with such speed and precision that he can convincingly be a danger. It’s not as easy a thing to do as you’d think — just see Gresham, Jonathan on this same show. This was my favorite match of the show, it told a great story, it built off an already established thread and it left us wanting more. Corvis grabbing the corkscrew from Vega because he wanted to use it himself, ultimately leading to his teams downfall was great storytelling. The workrate was amazing, the match had the crowd completely engaged and the finish, though disappointing from a fans perspective was pitch perfect. I loved everything about it.
  • Ultimate Endurance shows what happens when 8 guys have great chemistry: The Ultimate Endurance match probably should’ve opened the show, except it would’ve burned the crowd out 15 minutes into the proceedings. The one complaint I have about the match is that the stipulations didn’t exactly work because the final fall was “Texas Tornado” rules but pretty much after the first five minutes or so everyone just brawled all over the place so the entire thing was kind of contested under Texas Tornado rules. I have to give a tip of the hat to everyone involved in the match for remembering some of the stipulations though as the referee actually refused to count a pin during the first fall because the guy being pinned wasn’t the legal man. As for everything else — simply incredible. Da Hoodz have (not so quietly) been the MVP’s of these Fete Music shows just busting their asses and having great matches every week, usually with some form of the other guys involved in this particular match. If you saw their XWA match you know that these guys all have amazing chemistry together, they even re-christened some spots from that match including the incredible launch of Brandon Watts off the stage to the floor (trust me that’s a long fall). At the end of the match Da Hoodz stood tall, which made sense from both a story telling perspective (they did afterall call out Beyond Wrestling to create the Tag Team Tournament for Tomorrow) and also from a performance perspective because those two guys have been absolutely KILLING it in Beyond Wrestling and they deserve the recognition they’re getting right now. Oh but please don’t think I wasn’t rooting for Milk Chocolate, I say it every time but if you’re not already in love with Milk Chocolate I’m not sure we can be friends.
  • I’m afraid of what’s happening here with Kimber Lee: Let me preface this by saying that I love Kimber Lee. I’ve been effusive in my praise for Kimber Lee for as long as she’s been appearing in Beyond Wrestling and I’m one of her most vocal supporters on these interwebz. That being said I’m noticing a concerning trend developing here with her that I’m not super thrilled with — basically all of her matches end with her “winning” after some quick roll up or school boy out of nowhere. I understand the story telling technique, heel male wrestler thinks little lady can’t hang, heel wrestler gets his comeuppance via pin out of nowhere. Here’s the problem, that story doesn’t work if it’s the only story you’re telling. Kimber Lee is the most “over” person in the room when she shows up at Fete Music. She has pinned Drew Gulak and Silver Ant in the last two months, she has wrestled and beaten almost everyone that has been put in front of her — are we still telling the same story that she can only win if the other person takes their eyes off the prize? I love Michael Bennett, I think he’s doing some inspired work in Beyond Wrestling and honestly him losing via quick schoolboy is kind of the only way that the match could end given his character and the storyline they’re telling — but it doesn’t sit with me that Kimber Lee is the woman who wins but….every month. Sometimes I’d just like her to be the woman who kicks guys in the face and pins them.
  • A moment to appreciate Michael Bennett. If you’re not on board with Michael Bennett you really should be — the guy is doing amazing work in Beyond Wrestling right now. I’m going to credit myself a little bit here, but from the moment Bennett took to twitter to attack Beyond Wrestling the thread that has run through his involvement in the company has been on point (including a blog entry written by someone). Find a misstep? You really can’t. He shows up and he’s immediately the most hated guy in the room. People chant about how he can’t wrestle, but honestly Michael Bennett might be the most gifted professional wrestler on the Beyond “roster.” He has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, everything he says, everything he does elicits an emotional response from the crowd — watch Bennett/Lee and then go back and watch Thatcher/Gresham. Everyone talks about how amazing Thatcher and Gresham are as wrestlers but neither of them can get anything CLOSE to the reaction that Bennett gets. I’m done praising the guy but I think it’s about time someone recognize that he’s been brilliant in his time at Beyond Wrestling.
  • Anthony Stone, Beyond Wrestling MVP. Silver Ant/Green Ant has had some good matches in Beyond Wrestling, his match with JT Dunn in the finals of the Tournament For Tomorrow II was very good, his match with Matthew Palmer was my favorite match ever, but this match was BY FAR my favorite match of his in Beyond Wrestling. I said it last month and I’ll echo the sentiment here, nobody has improved more since Americanrana 2013 than Anthony Stone. Go back and watch his match AR Fox, and then watch his match with Silver Ant here — it’s barely the same guy. When Stone pinned Fox it was a fluke victory, when Stone pinned Silver Ant it was justice. This was the first time that Stone was really featured by Beyond in a match that was likely tailored to his strengths and he excelled, he continues to show that he’s worthy of top billing and he’s been great when called upon.  The meteora rolled through into the cloverleaf into the pin was a great combination. It’s obvious that the spotlight being on Stone isn’t going to end any time soon as after his victory Mr. Touchdown showed back up and speared Stone to death. A Mr. Touchdown/Anthony Stone program is something I’d never thought of – and now it’s something that I can’t believe I could possible live without.
  • The opening four way: Hanson is a Hoss-God and I want to see him more frequently in Beyond Wrestling. I didn’t *love* the opening 4-Way but it was a very well executed match. Hanson as a veteran with great size provided a good base for “flippy shit” and also paced the match well. Brian Fury deserves a lot of credit for helping position everyone as well and it’s been a pleasure to watch Fury perform in Beyond Wrestling more frequently. The star of this match though was Julian Starr who was absolutely incredible, just flying all over the place and putting his body on the line. Antonio Atama wound up getting the win, which was fine but I’m not sure anyone watching that match thought anyone performed better than Starr. I’d love to see Julian Starr get a solo opportunity in the big room, maybe against “King of the Four Way” Jon Silver to see if he’s got the goods to start making a name for himself in Beyond.
  • The Main Event: This is how good “Battle of New England” was, a Team TREMENDOUS/Doom Patrol match was literally the last thing that I wanted to talk about. These four guys were hamstung by a couple of things – the first being that there had already been a ton of amazing tag team matches on this show, the second was that they were all handcuffed by their previous successes. The Doom Patrol had a match recently with the Juicy Product that was better than this one. Team TREMENDOUS has had a string of matches that were worthy of inclusion on End of the Year lists. Was this match good? Yeah, it was — but was it better than TREMENDOUS/Busick v. Mount Rushmore? Was it better than TREMENDOUS/reDRagon? I’m afraid that we’ve reached a dangerous point with TeamTREMENDOUS, essentially the point where they’ve run out of “dream” matches and now they’re stuck. I think their are some good tag teams out there for them to face, but I don’t know that they are any true “dream” matches left for them — and with that being the case I’m left to wonder exactly where they go from here. It’s obvious that Dickinson/Jaka are involved in a program with the Unbreakable F’n Machines that hasn’t ended yet, but Team TREMENDOUS has never really had a “program” and it’s probably time to start one. Unless you’re going to bring in Ricochet/Rich Swann or AR Fox/ACH is there another “dream” match on the table for them? I like that they’ve been highlighted and spotlighted because they deserve it but sooner or later they need something bigger to do than just come out and pop the crowd.
  • Championship Melt: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the announcement from the end of the show. Beyond Wrestling is the proud owner of the Championship Melt food truck. This is one of my favorite developments in a long time and I need to talk about Denver Colorado, the man, not the place for a moment. I don’t know what Denver thinks of me — I really like him. I like talking to him, I like interacting with him on twitter, I like that he lets me write a Beyond Wrestling newsletter and he’s been nothing but kind to me. I think he deserves a ton of credit that he doesn’t get because he’s willing to put it out there. Just look at the things he does for Beyond Wrestling, whether it’s releasing video for free, or instituting a “pay per match” streaming service, or a craft beer wrestling event (“Beerly Legal”). Whether it’s working with artists to create new shirts and posters, or working with talent for promos. Maybe it’s investing in a wrestling themed gourmet grilled cheese truck, or allowing the fans to vote on the match card, or flying the Young Bucks in from California. The dude loves wrestling, he “gets it” and he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. I think a lot of promoters in wrestling (and other sports) get lazy. They find a formula that works, they stick to that formula and if it stops working they blame you, the audience, and they never try to get better. Denver is always trying to get better. This show was an obvious risk, the biggest names in Beyond Wrestling were in California for “Battle of Los Angeles,” it was a Sunday afternoon during a holiday weekend and the last nice summer weekend of the year (at the time we thought that was true at least). The crowd wasn’t huge, but they were into the action and the performers went out and delivered. I’m just saying that while other independent wrestling companies tread water, or insult their audience with the product they put out there — Denver continues to try to get better, and this company and this promoter deserve your support. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Overall thoughts: Given the fact that most of the “big names” on the independent wrestling scene were unavailable and this card was happening on the middle day of a holiday weekend there was some cause for concern. I think not only did Beyond Wrestling deliver a very good show, I think it might have been the best top to bottom show in the Fete Music era. The only thing that really disappointed me was the non-finish to the Juicy Product/Throwbacks match and the Thatcher/Gresham match, everything else delivered. I thought the crowd (though small) was tuned in and really good – which is not always the case with Beyond Wrestling (or independent wrestling in general) rooms.

Match of the Night: Eric Corvis, Ricky Shane Page, Davey Vega v. Crusade for Change: The Ultimate Endurance match might’ve been better but I thought this match just did such a great job of telling a story and building on everything that has happened recently that it deserves the nod. RSP was the all-star of this match and probably deserves a tip of the hat as the performer of the night.

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Beyond Wrestling “Battle of New England” Preview (The Main Show)

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This weekend there is a pretty good chance that I’ll make the voyage from Worcester to Providence to attend the “Battle of New England,” Beyond Wrestling’s return to Fete Music for the first time since “Americanrana ’14.” In an effort to get you equally excited for a very interesting day of wrestling I’ll be doing a full preview of the show, as voted by the fans on facebook. If you haven’t decided whether or not you will be attending #BONE on Sunday afternoon you can still buy tickets at LookMaNoFans.com or pick them up at the Fete Music box office on Sunday.

*First Time Ever*
Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. Team TREMENDOUS (Dan Barry & Bill Carr)
Preview: At this point I believe it goes without saying that Team TREMENDOUS brings all the boys to the yard. No team better personifies what Beyond Wrestling is all about than Dan Barry and Bill Carr. They’re always featured in a highlight match, they always deliver and absent someone getting seriously injured during this match I don’t see how this could possibly disappoint. The Doom Patrol has been an “on again/off again” figure in Beyond Wrestling for years, Dickinson and Jaka are legitimately lifelong friends who have been delivering solid performances in Beyond Wrestling for years. This is a real contrast in styles as the Doom Patrol is a stiff, brutal, bruising team and Team TREMENDOUS is basically just a wonderful all around team. The one thing that I expect to see in this match will be a display of Dickinson and Jaka’s humor which is often understated but if you’ve seen enough Dickinson you know he has the ability to be just as engaging and funny as Dan Barry, albeit in a very different manner. This should be a really fun match that puts four Beyond Wrestling staples in the main event, for good reason.

*Scientific Showcase*
Timothy Thatcher vs. Jonathan Gresham
Preview: The fact that this match almost didn’t get voted onto the Fete main show disappoints me but I’m thrilled that there was enough movement at the end of the week to push this thing from the Secret Show to the big room. Gresham is one of those guys that always seems like he should be a much bigger deal than he is, and Thatcher has been performing as the poor man’s European version of Biff Busick/Drew Gulak for the last year. I expect this to be a very stiff combination of European and Japanese styles. The only thing that will hold this back from being an absolute show stealer is going to be whether or not Gresham or Thatcher can connect with the crowd. Neither of them is really known for their crowd work and if they’re not able to engage the audience the fact that this will likely be primarily mat based might lose the room and that would be unfortunate for a match between two skilled guys.

*Non Title*
Juicy Product (JT Dunn & David Starr) vs. The Throwbacks (Dasher Hatfield & Mr. Touchdown)
Preview: Mr. Touchdown becomes the first person to ever lose to Steve “The Turtle” Weiner eight times in one night, disappear for over a year and then return to Beyond Wrestling. I was shocked to see The Throwbacks announced for #BONE but was delighted to see that they’ll be taking on the Juicy Product. Over the past year plus JT Dunn has gone from plucky underdog savior of wrestling in Providence, Rhode Island to showboating d-bag and the room has been turning on him a little more each show. The Juicy Product are doing a great Young Bucks impression and taking on the Chikara Campeonas de Parejas is a nice way to continue that trend.

*A New Beginning*
Silver Ant (formerly Green Ant) vs. Anthony Stone
Preview: Nobody is doing better work with less fanfare than Anthony Stone right now. I talked about his excellent series of matches with Dave Cole before and his violent brawl with Nicholas Kaye gave us a satisfying resolution to that feud at “Americanrana ’14.” Now Stone moves forward mixing it up with the “big names” on the independent circuit and we’re going to see what he’s made off right off the bat. Silver Ant has a style that should mesh with Stone really well and this will be a really good measuring stick for where Stone is. If, as I suspect, he’s operating on a high level right now this will be a beautiful match and that’s exactly what I’m anticipating.

*Running Of The Bulls*
Matt Tremont vs. Stockade
Preview: Oh boy. I’ve been on record saying I’m not a huge fan of “deathmatch” types but Matt Tremont has quickly become one of my favorite things in professional wrestling. I have so much respect for what he does and how he handles himself in doing it, plus he comes across as a real gentleman and I just am very happy to support him and pay money to go to shows that he’s involved with. Stockade has been a revelation for me, and I think a lot of people through his exposure with Beyond Wrestling. I love everything about this match, two big hosses beating the tar paper off each other. Tremont hasn’t disappointed once during his time in Beyond and Stockade is probably going to try to drop a Cactus Elbow off the stage again. This should be excellent and brutal.

*Ultimate Endurance*
Da Hoodz (Davey Cash & Kris Pyro) vs. Minute Men (Tommy Trainwreck & Devin Blaze) vs. EYFBO (Mike Draztik & Angel Ortiz) vs. Milk Chocolate (Brandon Watts & Randy Summers)
Preview: Here’s what we know about this match. Da Hoodz have secretly been the MVP’s of the last year for Beyond Wrestling. While all the insanity happens at the beginning of the show, Da Hoodz always stand out, every time they get into the ring. They have amazing chemistry with the Minute Men and EYFBO because they’ve wrestled each other roughly 10,000 times over the years in New England. Milk Chocolate exists as a thing that I love unconditionally for almost no justifiable reason. Also these four teams put on a match recently in another promotion that was so out of control that Mick Foley posted about it (that’s a thing that happened). There is no conceivable way that this match isn’t insane and amazing and it should absolutely open the show and I feel terrible for whomever has to try and follow this thing.

*#TFT3 Preview*
Hooligans (Devin Cutter & Mason Cutter) vs. Aeroform (Louis Lyndon & Flip Kendrick)
Preview: One of these things I love, one of these things I should love but just can’t get behind. The Hooligans only appearance at Fete was the ill-fated “Feeding Frenzy” 2 1/2 hour no-ring experience which I think hurt them. This is the first time Aeroform has appeared at Fete. This should be a very interesting match and it’s going to be fun to see what the Hooligans have brought back from their Mexican tour. If the Cutter’s show up in lucha masks and their doing rana’s all over the place I’m going to loose my mind.

*XWA Showcase*
Julian Starr vs. Jason Blade vs. Antonio Atama vs. Hanson
Preview: Other than Hanson I know none of these guys. I have every confidence that this will be a fun opener, and Hanson is such an experienced pro that he’ll be able to direct the younger guys in the ring to make sure everything works. It’s almost impossible for these opening four way matches to not work on some level so I’m happy to see what these guys can do and I’m glad that XWA is getting the showcase even though this match features neither Brian Fury or the XWA Champion (David Starr).

So there you have it, the lineup for the Fete Music, main show portion of “Battle of New England.” This is a really stacked card when you consider that a number of Beyond mainstays will all be in California for some other “Battle of…” tournament (never heard of it).

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Saying Goodbye to “Mr. Wrestling” in Ring of Honor

I am unabashedly a Ring of Honor fan. I accept all of the criticisms and acknowledge that many (if not all) of them are warranted, but I have such a special place in my heart for the Ring of Honor of 2003 – 2007 that no amount of Jim Cornette and Davey Richards can sour me on the company. It is with my ROH fan boy hat in hand that I wanted to review ROH TV Ep #152 when it came out. My real life took control and I wasn’t able to do that but as I start to craft some new content (new content is coming) for this site and it transmorphs into something new I wanted to make sure that I talked about Kevin Steen’s final match in Ring of Honor.

Steen’s final match took place on July 19th in Dearborn, Michigan against Steve Corino. I won’t spend much time talking about Corino’s importance in Steen’s career right now, I’m working on a review of the Steen “Hell Rising” DVD where that relationship is covered in more detail. However, the important think to know is that Steen holds Corino in very high regard, credits him with a lot of his success and in a post-El Generico world, there really was no better person to select as Steen’s farewell opponent.

I think the thing that makes Steen’s farewell so much different from those of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness or El Generico (to say nothing of Richards, Tyler Black or Eddie Edwards) is that it was so unexpected. Steen has always been the type of guy that figured to spend his career as the king of the independents without ever having the steady income that a contract with Connecticut would provide. Whether it was “body type” or “wrestling style” Steen just didn’t fit the mold of a WWE Superstar. The ROH regulars that went before him made sense, for the most part every time WWE would raid the independents (and ROH in particular) we could see the thought process. Even Generico, who sans mask was a wild card was just so spectacularly gifted in the ring that you assumed he’d have a successful few years as an enhancement talent before showing back up in PWG with a bigger retainer.

It wasn’t until Steen popped up on the Steve Austin podcast that it dawned on me that he was going to get a shot with the WWE. When a slimmed down Steen started showing up at different events it really hit home that he was doing something to catch the eye of someone in Stanford. The move, beyond financially, made sense from an entertainers point of view. Steen peaked in ROH with his championship victory and feud with Jim Cornette. When Cornette was run out of the company Steen lost some steam. He became “too important” to hold the ROH World Championship but without Cornette as the focal point of his anger he was a bit of a rudderless ship. Nothing confirmed that more than his feud with Michael Bennett over the use of a piledriver. Steen needed a fresh start, he’s someone who it is almost impossible not to cheer for. He has a delightful Canadian accent, he is friends with one of the most likable WWE superstars of all time, he is a true “fan” of the form and there is truly nobody on the independent scene that is better at doing what they do well, than Kevin Steen.

So with that backdrop Episode #152 of ROH TV featured the farewell match for Kevin Steen. I was nervous about this one, Corino isn’t exactly in the best shape of his career, but as soon as it spilled outside and Steen threw on an El Generico mask to yakuza kick Corino as the crowd sang “Ole! Ole! Ole!” I knew we were in for a special night. The match was the type of match that you imagine two old friends would have on a special night. Both of them made sure to sprinkle in enough homage spots to pop the crowd and touch on the history of the company that Steen would be leaving behind. The Generico spot was great, Corino doing a Dusty Rhodes dance (Steen’s other great influence) and Steen following it up with a Flying Asshole (hi Colt Cabana!) was great as well.

The match itself was fine. It was pretty obviously a fan service match and the audience in Dearborn for whatever reason was relatively tame throughout. They cheered for spots, more than anything (though that’s not unexpected) and I thought they were really quiet in the ramp up to the finish. Considering it was Steen’s last match you would’ve thought the pop-up power bomb into the package piledriver would’ve elicited more emotion from the crowd.

My problems with the entire thing is this — ROH TV goes to commercial with the crowd chanting “THANK YOU STEEN” at the end of the match. Really? Way to space out your commercial breaks so as to not interrupt one of the genuinely good moments in your company. When we came back from commercial though we did get the final wrestlers obligation, which is to give someone the rub on their way out the door. Jimmy Jacobs comes out and hugs Steen, which of course leads to BJ Whitmer and Roderick Strong attacking Steen and Corino only to be chased off by the locker room emptying. So The Decade gets the rub from Eddie Edwards and Kevin Steen leaving and I’m still nonplussed by them.

Ultimately Steen now moves onto the next phase of his career, and if you were wondering how excited I am about that move — here is a picture that exploded my heart.

 

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ the one I avoided writing because I don’t want it to be over

The Seibu Dome is huge and the entrance ramp is about ten thousand miles long.

 

The video screen behind the entrance ramp is awesome.

 

Did you love the G1 tournament and think it was a series of some of the greatest matches you’d ever seen? Well now that’s over and here’s a bunch of dudes you either don’t already know, or never really liked to come muck everything up in multi-man matches.

 

Ryusuke Taiguchi, Tiger Mask, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan v. El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer: Immediately I’m disappointed by this match because El Desperado didn’t come out through the crowd but I’m immediately back on board with Taichi accompanying Suzuki-gun to the ring. Even in multi-man matches I guess we’re not done with the TenCozy/Killer Elite Squad feud. TAKA finally getting into the ring after being ringside for a million matches during the G1, and he immediately apes Rocky Romero with that corner lariat spot. The crowd goes wild when Tiger Mask gets the hot tag to Kojima. It probably doesn’t need to be repeated but this crowd is absolutely massive. This was a really fun and hot match that had bodies flying everywhere — everyone had a chance to look good and the match ended with Taiguchi hitting TAKA with the Dodon and getting the pinfall victory for his team. Fun way to open the show and set the tone.

 

BUSHI, Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata v. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows): BUSHI stepping in for an injured Togi Makabe. I’m guessing there are mixed feelings all over the world as to that substitution. Gallows has his noose back, and Fale is wearing a bandana over his mouth, which I think might be the first time I’ve ever seen him wearing the bandana. I had a feeling going in that this wasn’t going to be a match that I loved, and it wasn’t. I thought Nagata was great , everyone else was just there. Yujiro picks up the win for Bullet Club after the Miami Pimps on BUSHI.

 

YOSHI-HASHI, Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano v. Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuka, Minoru Suzuki: If I skipped this match completely would you blame me? At this point the Toru Yano/Minoru Suzuki feud has become the Israel/Palestine of our time – it’s a never ending cycle. We will all die and Yano and Suzuki will still be feuding in the afterlife. If you’re a fan of Iizuka walking through the crowd this is the match for you because he has to walk about three hundred yards to get to the ring. You’ll forgive me if I never really got into this match until Suzuki and Sakuraba wound up in the ring together just slapping the shit out of each other. Even Suzuki and Sakuraba couldn’t help me get into this one because Suzuki just lost his shit, attacked the ref, choked out Sakuraba in the ropes and wouldn’t let go, then all hell broke loose. I’m kind of at a loss about this whole thing, it’s probably better if we just move on.

 

Captain New Japan, Jushin Thunder Liger v.The Kingdom (Adam Cole, Michael Bennett): Michael Bennett throwing Maria at Captain New Japan to stop him and distract him is fantastic, seriously only the lowliest of heels needs a distraction to get the better of Captain New Japan. I can’t imagine anyone in this audience really knows who Michael Bennett is (or Cole for that matter). They do know Liger though and the crowd gets loud when he makes the hot tag from Capt. New Japan. I will give credit where it is due, Cole and Liger had some nice chemistry when they had the chance to be in the ring together, it doesn’t hurt that one is arguably the best wrestler of all time and the other is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now. Of course Maria winds up on the ring apron doing a strip tease to distract Capt. New Japan, otherwise why would she even be here, crowd popped for that because JAPAN. Bennett uses the distraction to hit the piledriver on Capt. New Japan and ladies and gentleman Michael Bennett just scored the pinfall in a match for New Japan Pro Wrestling. This is not a drill. I liked that, didn’t love it – but it was fun for what it was.

 

*IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship* Time Splitters v. reDRagon: After the Young Bucks I think you’d be hard pressed to find two better tag teams on the planet right now than these two, which is why the fact that they put on a potential Match of the Year should be no surprise to anyone. Heading into this match you’d have to assume that reDRagon would be a very popular act in Japan. Loved the tandem offense employed by reDRagon to focus their attack on Alex Shelley’s injured shoulder. Both Fish and O’Reilly did a great job of modifying their usual attack just enough to make sure it was directed at the taped shoulder (well taped until O’Reilly ripped off the bandage). There were some great spots in this match too — Shelley’s springboard from the outside right into a triangle choke from O’Reilly was spectacular and didn’t involve the “jumping nothing” that has become commonplace in those types of reversal moves. KUSHIDA with a flying cross body to the outside was also an excellent visual as he went over the guardrail and into the weird photographer’s pit that they set up around the ring. Of course none of that compares to Kyle O’Reilly’s insane leaping knee off the apron onto Shelley on the floor because they broke through the barricade and that shit looked super painful. Bobby Fish with a SUPER FALCON ARROW for two was amazing as well because nobody kicks out of the falcon arrow. Seriously though these four went for it in this match and I loved it so, so much. I hope this performance gets reDRagon back to New Japan because I think they have a chance to be stars in the company as a team and individually, seriously Kyle O’Reilly, Katsuyori Shibata anyone? The match ends with KUSHIDA getting O’Reilly to tap to the Hoverboard Lock and good lord was that match amazing — heart shaped eyes and everything for that one.

 

Tetsuya Naito v. Tomoaki Honma: How great is it that Honma’s hype video is him missing falling headbutts? Can we call the irresistible urge to go for a diving headbutt when you know it won’t succeed — Honmania? Like, the match was going well for Honma but he suffered from a bout of Honmania and the tides turned in favor of Naito? As crazy as it seems, nothing is more popular with a New Japan crowd than Honma actually hitting a diving headbutt, it’s like the Burning Hammer of 2014. Also for the record, “sort of a dick” Tetsuya Naito is a great development. This was a standard match that you’d expect from these two, but it was still pretty great. Naito sold the shit out of a launching headbutt and Honma got a great nearfall on a quick roll up attempt. Ultimately Naito got a little sloppy at the end, which is kind of his thing lately but Honma is just so great at taking offense that he could sell anything, even if it’s not clean. Naito wound up winning with the Stardust Press because even in meaningless G1 matches, Honma can’t catch a break.

 

Tomohiro Ishii v. Karl Anderson: It’s been awhile since a Bullet Club member had interfered in a match and actually had an impact so of course as soon as the bell rings Takahashi jumps on the apron, distracts Ishii and allows Anderson to attack. Welcome back, thing we all hated from earlier in the year. Ishii gets busted open pretty quick in this one and anytime I see blood in a New japan match it turns up the intensity. We even get a little break in the action for the ringside physician to check on Ishii, that’s commitment to a bit. Ishii selling the shit out of his injured shoulder during this match though I can’t say that Anderson did a ton of offense directed at the wrapped shoulder. For as much as Ishii sold the injury to his shoulder it didn’t really affect his ability to drop Anderson on his head with a brainbuster and get a two count. After the brainbuster Takahashi gets into the ring and puts a beatdown on Ishii — which brings out YOSHI-HASHI to make the save and those two wind up brawling into the netherworld somewhere. Great spot where Anderson goes for a headbutt only it winds up hurting him and not Ishii. Finally Ishii goes for the brainbuster, which Anderson reverses into the gun stun and the win. Pretty okay match though the interference was unexpected and the idea of YOSHI-HASHI being the guy to chase off Takahashi was surprising.

 

Hirooki Goto v. Katusyori Shibata: Sometimes you just know that you’re going to love a match as soon as you see it announced — this was one of those times. This was just two guys that know each other really well, beating the shit out of each other. There were a couple amazing spots in this match, Goto hitting Shibata with the PK was great, but the highlight had to be Goto eating one of the most brutal Go 2 Sleep’s that I’ve ever seen. I mean these guys are friends and Shibata just knee’d Goto right in the mouth. Even the second G2S was devastating by Shibata, followed up by a great PK and Shibata gets the win. That match was super exciting, it was exactly what I wanted it to be when it was announced and I loved really everything about it. Just hard hitting, brutal action from bell to bell with a satisfying conclusion. Good stuff. I even loved Shibata tossing Goto out of the ring by his hair and helping him to the back only to have Shibata fall before they get there and Goto having to carry HIM to the back. Wonderful.

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi v. AJ Styles: This is your 2nd place finishers match. AJ being accompanied to the ring by Doc Gallows waiving the Bullet Club flag and Bad Luck Fale regrettably not carrying Styles out on his shoulders. Both of these guys deserve a shit load of credit, they were put in a very unenviable situation, they had to know Goto/Shibata would be stiff as hell, and Nakamura/Okada is going to be amazing so they did everything in their power to put on a hell of a match. Tanahashi shoving Styles out of mid-springboard and watching AJ bounce off the ropes, then the ring apron to the floor was great. As was Tanahashi’s flying cross body over the guard rail and onto Styles in the media pit. During a near fall about 15 minutes into the match I noticed that the ref was red-sleeve referee and I was immediately nervous. Luckily those nerves were not warranted because the dumb shit parade didn’t start until after the match. The match itself was excellent, the dueling reversed High Fly Flow, and Styles turing a Styles Clash into a tombstone before hitting Bloody Sunday was cool, and Tanahashi getting the quick roll up victory actually made me pop because I thought a clean finish was warranted and it made sense to give the old man the nod. I also think it’s telling that as soon as Tanahashi got the win the crowd went bananas, little kids were like trampling each other to get to the guard rails to celebrate. Everything after that was dumb as shit. Jeff Jarrett joining the Bullet Club with Scott D’more is the most WCW thing ever and I hated every second of it. Jarrett saving Tanahashi and actually being a non-Bullet Club entity would be interesting, but this is just lame. Jarrett hasn’t been relevant in like 15 years and even then he was a middle act. The only positive that I could come up with is that at least the interference and guitar shot didn’t happen during the match, so I guess we’re getting better.


*G1 Climax Finals* Shinsuke Nakamura v. Kazuchika Okada:
I can’t be the only person who was surprised that Nakamura came out second right? This entire show was leading up to Okada’s first Rainmaker pose and the pull out camera shot right? It was worth it. Also I am going to see Nakamura’s Rainmaker lariat reversal into an armbar in my dreams for the rest of eternity. The other amazing point in this match is after Nakamura stops his momentum, Okada misses a dropkick and Nakamura hits the BomaYe he goes for a pin and gets two — red sleeve ref jumps to his feet in disbelief that Okada kicked out, sometimes the refs in these matches are just as important as the participants. The end of this match was just fantastic with Nakamura kicking out right into a lariat, second lariat, huge Rainmaker that Nakamura sold like a fuckin boss and Okada getting the pinfall victory. This was almost thirty minutes of the two biggest stars in the company going toe to toe, I didn’t love all of it (or really even half of it) but the final like seven minutes was especially amazing. The crowd was electric for the finish and they lost their minds when Okada got the pin.

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 11 Reviewed

Block A: Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.) v. Shelton Benjamin (8 pts.): Really? Honma couldn’t win a single match during the tournament? Look I thought Shelton was great over the first four days, and he’s never been anything worse than good throughout, but Honma has had the crowd in the palm of his hand the entire G1 and he deserved a win. I’m bummed out already.

 

Block B: Toru Yano (6 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (6 pts.): I’ve run the gamut with both of these guys during the tournament, I didn’t like either of them to start, went through a phase where I appreciated them both and now I’m back to not caring. It’s been a long, strange, trip. I’m going to give Yujiro a ton of credit because he winds up winning due to be impervious to Yano’s low blow because he was wearing a cup — there is something to be said about a guy actually watching the tournament, knowing his opponents MO and exploiting it to win a match, so for that reason, nice job Takahashi.

 

Block B: Hirooki Goto (8 pts.) v. Lance Archer (6 pts.): I don’t care what anyone says, Lance Archer has been phenomenal during this tournament.  He basically destroyed Goto in this match, I mean beat the tar out of him all over the ringside area, dominated him in the ring, Goto got a little offense in and then Archer put him away. Seriously this was as unequivocal a beating as we’ve seen in this tournament, even Tomoaki Honma felt bad for Goto. The beautiful thing was that it was warranted, Archer is a monster, he’s been a monster this whole tournament and he acted accordingly here.

 

Block B: Tetsuya Naito (10 pts.) v. Karl Anderson (8 pts.): If you’ve seen this match can you please explain to me what Naito was going for when Anderson hit the gun stun at the end? Brandon Stoud has used the phrase “jumping nothing” at points to describe those moves that guys do just to allow for a counter move — Naito perfected the jumping nothing here. He looked like a flying fish leaping out of the water, neck out stretched perfectly for a gun stun. To Anderson’s credit he nailed it — and Naito sold the shit out of it, but the way we got there was so ridiculous that it kind of killed an otherwise fun match.

 

Block A: Yuji Nagata (8 pts.) v. Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts.): You have to respect Nagata, he’s 49 years old, this tournament has been a long haul with very little time off and he’s just as stiff as ever. After happily exchanging strikes with Shibata on Day 10, Ishii exchanging face slaps with Nagata. Give Ishii credit man because he’s going for it, even if “it” is hemorrhagic brain disorder. This was everything you’d expect it to be, it wasn’t as good as Ishii/Shibata but it was in the same vein and it was hugely entertaining. Ishii wins with the brainbuster and hopefully Nagata can get some time in the ice bath and maybe a little time off. Say what you want about Ishii but he’s put on three potential Match of the Year’s in this tournament alone, and one with an almost 50 year old guy.

 

Block A: Katsuyori Shibata (12 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (6 pts.): At this point Shibata is basically out of it, but he can make the stat geeks go to the tie breakers with a win here and losses by Nakamura and Tanahashi, so he still has something to live for. I think the crowd going into this match knew what I knew — that this felt like a Gallows win and they were not liking it because they were dead silent throughout this one. This was a fine match, my earlier comments on Gallows holds true here even though Shibata was on the other side, completely average match that Gallows wins.

 

Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (12 pts.) v. Bad Luck Fale (10 pts.): The last time these two were in a ring together Nakamura was stretchered out of the building. The spot that’ll stick out to most people was Nakamura hitting a superplex on Fale off the top. Excellent visual and did add to the desperation that both guys had in trying to put the other away. For me though the most shocking moment came when Fale hit an amazing looking spear on Nakamura, possibly the first time in recorded history that Fale didn’t just look like he was hugging someone to the ground. Nakamura freaking out when Fale kicked out of the first BomaYe and then just leveling him with  second to pick up the pinfall was awesome. This match went to another gear at the end and I loved it, Nakamura gets some sweet revenge on Fale from the last time they met. With that win Nakamura is guaranteed a Top 2 finish in the Block. Nakamura will win Block A if Davey Boy Smith Jr., beats Tanahashi (or they draw).

 

Block B: Togi Makabe (8 pts.) v. AJ Styles (14 pts.): If the G1 ended with Day 11 I think the story we’d be telling in the future is how this was the tournament where AJ Styles got his “groove” Back. The Styles that we’ve seen in this tournament has been better than anything he was doing in TNA for the past five years (at least). There was a point in this match where the camera cut to the crowd and some weepy girls in the front row were taking cell phone pictures of AJ and doing his little hand gesture — that pretty much confirmed my suspicion that Styles is getting over like rover in Japan thanks to his performance in this tournament. I’ve always thought the Pele kick was one of the dumbest moves in wrestling, but Styles commits to it so hard that it’s tough not to like it. In this match he hits Makabe with the Pele kick while Makabe is on the top rope, a slouched over Makabe is then picked off the turnbuckle and dropped in the Styles Clash, an excellent transition to the finish and once again proof positive that when AJ Styles is trying, he’s still one of the best wrestlers in the world. Styles can win Block A if Suzuki beats Okada (or they draw), otherwise Okada would win the tiebreaker with Styles and capture Block A.

 

Block A: Hiroshi Tanahashi (14 pts.) v. Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8 pts.): We’ve got two matches left in the Block portion of the best professional wrestling tournament of all time and we haven’t had a draw. If ever there was time for one, this would be the time. Tanahashi had a little spring in his step for this one. This was an alright match, but the drama was through the roof. Tanahashi pulling out all the stops, going for pinfall after pinfall but coming up short, only to risk it all on a high risk move, get stopped and get dropped in a Bulldog Bomb for the pinfall win for Davey Boy Smith Jr. Actually crushing defeat for Tanahashi and you can tell this match told a good story because I feel legitimately sad for Tanahashi for falling short. With that Tanahashi loss Shinsuke Nakamura wins Block A.


Block B: Kazuchika Okada (14 pts.) v. Minoru Suzuki (10 pts.):
One more box to check off and it’s to see who will face Nakamura in the finals. An Okada win puts him in, anything else puts Styles in the finals. The story of this match was Suzuki’s relentless offense focused on the lariat arm of Okada. It’s a pretty easy story to tell — I mean if you neutralize the Rainmaker lariat you do a good job of taking the bite away from Okada, but it’s especially effective for Suzuki because he strikes to the arm and has vicious arm based submission offense. The question wasn’t whether Suzuki could effectively focus his energy on the arm of Okada, it was whether Okada could survive. At one point Suzuki is leaning fully back on Okada’s back wrenching on the arm, it looked very painful. Also during this match Suzuki broke out one of the most brutal looking dropkicks I’ve ever seen in my life – talk about Okada’s beautiful dropkick all you want, I’d rather take that then Suzuki’s full force foot to face dropkick. I have one issue with this match, and believe me it’s a minor gripe to an otherwise excellent main event — Okada wins with the rainmaker lariat. In fact none of the arm work by Suzuki early in the match ever really comes back into play, one Rainmaker and Suzuki is dead. It’s not a huge problem and it’s more a complaint about puroresu in general and the lack of selling – but this match was excellent and the only drawback is that I would’ve liked a little more selling from Okada on the large chunk of time spent working his arm by Suzuki. With the win Okada seals up Block A, and our finals will be Shinsuke Nakamura against Kazuchika Okada, the final that I predicted all along.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

BLOCK A

Shinsuke Nakamura (16)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (14)
Katsuyori Shibata (12)
Bad Luck Fale (10)
Satoshi Kojima (10)
Tomohiro Ishii (10)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (10)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Yuji Nagata (8)
Doc Gallows (8)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
Kazuchika Okada (16)
AJ Styles (16)
Minoru Suzuki (10)
Tetusyo Naito (10)
Karl Anderson (10)
Hirooki Goto (8)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8)
Togi Makabe (8)
Lance Archer (8)
Yujiro Takahashi (8)
Toru Yano (6)

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NJPW “G1 Climax 24″ Day 10 Reviewed

As I’ve fallen so far behind I’m probably just posting these reviews for my own personal enjoyment. With that being the case I won’t be doing much of a breakdown until the tournament ends and I’ll do a final recap. Until then we’ll just talk about the individual matches and try to get through to the finals.

 

Block A: Satoshi Kojima (8 pts.) v. Tomoaki Honma (0 pts.): Really? We couldn’t even give Honma this one? At this point my only hope for Day 11 is that Honma doesn’t get shut out. I guess that’s just another example of how good he is at working the crowd and the gimmick.

 

Block A: Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8 pts.) v. Bad Luck Fale (10 pts.): I have a stylistic issue with this match which is namely that Fale just isn’t that convincing as a monster — he can pull it off ok when his opponent is smaller than he is, but Smith Jr., is basically the same size. I just can’t get over the fact that Fale’s offense looks really weak when the guy he’s in the ring with is the same size and looks to be a much stronger striker. This was actually kind of a squash for Fale, which is still baffling as Smith Jr., is at least as strong as Fale and a more accomplished wrestler and yet Fale’s fake ass offense was enough to stop him. Not being able to hit the Bad Luck Fall makes this match a dud to me because why else should I be watching Fale if not to see that awesome finisher.

 

Block B: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8 pts.) v. Tetsuya Naito (8 pts.): For the past few days I’ve constructed this alternate world where Naito turns heel and joins the Bullet Club instead of Takahashi. I know Naito doesn’t always “sell” but man he throws himself around like a ragdoll trying to make people look good. I defy you to watch Naito eat a lariat on the ring apron and not smile. I was totally into this match and so was the crowd, Naito has just been on fire in this tournament and this was no exception. Naito wins with the Stardust Press. This one had those moments that you expect from Naito where he’s kind of going too fast for his body and the match, but Tenzan is a solid base and kept things going at a nice clip. I liked this a lot.

 

Block B: Minoru Suzuki (10 pts.) v. Karl Anderson (6 pts.): So the Bullet Club hasn’t actually done anything to benefit any other members to this point, but a win by Anderson in this match almost assures AJ Styles at worst #2 in the bracket right? Also you have to respect the fact that Suzuki, no matter how slowly he walks always gets to the ring at the same point in his entrance song every night, pretty impressive timing. Suzuki stabbing Anderson in the face with a pen while simultaneously giving crazy eyes to Jado and Gedo at the announcer booth is amazing. This match had a moment that legitimately made me laugh out loud with Suzuki running the length of the ring, pausing and slapping Anderson in the face who immediately responded by biting Suzuki on the top of the head. Absolutely LOVED the guys exchanging reversals from the gun stun to the saka otoshi and back again until finally Anderson is able to hit the gun stun and pick up the win. This was a solid match, which is to be expected from these two who have both had great tournaments.

 

Block B: Togi Makabe (8 pts.) v. Toru Yano (4 pts.): For the record before this match starts Yano is introduced as having 6 points, spoiler alert! Yano tries to jump Makabe at the bell, spraying water in his face and attacking him — that is not very successful and pretty quickly Makabe is beating the bag off Yano. Yano gets a low blow and a quick roll up for the win and can someone explain to me why Yano has been winning so many matches in this tournament? Poor Honma, who is over like rover can’t get 2 points but Yano now has three wins. Crazy.

 

Block B: AJ Styles (12 pts.) v. Yujiro Takahashi (6 pts.): Yujiro turned on CHAOS, joined Bullet Club, cost Okada the IWGP Championship and handed it to AJ Styles. So I am now to believe that he is so committed to competition that he won’t just lay down for Styles in a completely meaningless match for him?  I would love to say that this was another spectacular match out of Styles but it really wasn’t. One of the great things about the G1 so far has been the crowd starting to embrace Styles, but none of that was evident here and Takahashi is so hateable that the crowd was pretty dead throughout. Styles brainbuster looked awesome and the crowd did pop for the Styles Clash so it wasn’t all bad but it felt a little flat. With the win Styles does move into first place in Block B.

 

Block B: Kazuchika Okada (12 pts.) v. Lance Archer (6 pts.): This was an interesting match because you don’t really see long periods of time where Okada is manhandled, but Archer had a lengthy stretch where he was completely in charge. I liked the story these two told, though I’m not sure that I ever bought into the idea that Archer might win. After Archer misses a friggin moonsault, Okada hits the tombstone and the Rainmaker lariat for the win and Block B is a two man party.

 

Block A: Yuji Nagata (8 pts.) v. Hiroshi Tanahashi (12 pts.): You know Tanahashi has been burning the candle on both ends for New Japan when in a match with Nagata he seems like the older guy. Tanahashi doing the dragon screw on a laying on his back Nagata looked painful but the physics of that move don’t really add up to anything. You can tell this crowd was a little suspect because they weren’t even into Tanahashi which almost never happens. This match did pick up a bit with Tanahashi slapping Nagata who responded with an amazing “what the eff?!” look before slapping the taste out of Tanahashi’s mouth. Nagata is wonderful in this role, it’s basically the same character he’s been playing for twenty five years, he just needed to sync his age up with the character to make everything pop.  The finish came out of nowhere with Tanahashi getting the roll up and the quick three — the flash pin does play into the story of Tanahashi in this tournament who is using veteran tricks and guile to position himself near the top of the board. I liked the match more than the live crowd who were largely quiet throughout.

 

Block A: Tomohiro Ishii (8 pts.) v. Katsuyori Shibata (10 pts.): Heading into this match and having watched the entire show to this point I am sad that this match is happening in front of this crowd, this crowd doesn’t deserve nice things. When this match starts Shibata is still not mathematically eliminated in Block A. These two wasted no time telling us what kind of match this would be, bell rings, they run to the middle and just start slapping each other to death. Ishii kicks Shibata in the back from a seated position, Shibata gets to his feet, Ishii sits himself down and allows Shibata to kick him. They trade off that exchange for a bit which is something I’ve never seen before and absolutely would not participate in. If you’re wondering what type of person Shibata is, he is smiling during this exchange — and it is my understanding that nothing in wrestling hurts as much as being kicked in the back while seated. These two exchanging kick outs at one was amazing — this match should be in front of a better crowd, that Osaka crowd would be losing their minds right now. Ishii selling a shoulder injury and Shibata appears willing to exchange strikes with one arm behind his back — he’s evened the odds. Shibata is such a bad ass that he hits the PK and doesn’t even TRY to pin Ishii, also he gets headbutted for his trouble. Every near fall is a kick out at one, this is a war of attrition and even this lousy crowd can’t help but get involved (albeit a very little bit). Shibata with the Go To Sleep and the PK and he picks up the win, that was fantastic. One of the most stiff matches of the entire tournament and the only thing that it held it back from being a 5-star type of match was the crowd who remained pretty quiet throughout.


Block A: Shinsuke Nakamura (12 pts.) v. Doc Gallows (6 pts.):
Gallows has the noose back around his neck, whatever crime he’s been convicted of was apparently commuted during Day 9 but his sentence has been reinstated. Sometimes you know precisely how a match is going to go as soon as it’s announced — that’s pretty much what happened here. The thing with Gallows is that he’s nothing more than a completely cromulent professional wrestler. You know exactly what you’re going to get with him. He’s incapable of elevating a match, it’s just not going to happen. So while Nakamura is delightful, there is only so high that you can fly with Gallows on the other side, so this was a fine match, a pretty standard issue New Japan off-show main event that nobody will remember in a week. The only real stand out moment from this match was Nakamura turning a choke slam into an arm bar. Ultimately Nakamura finishes Gallows off with two BomaYe’s in a row and gets the win to close out a pretty average (by this G1’s standards) day.

STANDINGS THROUGH DAY 10

BLOCK A

Shinsuke Nakamura (14)
Hiroshi Tanahashi (14)
Katsuyori Shibata (12)
Bad Luck Fale (10)
Satoshi Kojima (10)
Shelton Benjamin (8)
Tomohiro Ishii (8)
Yuji Nagata (8)
Davey Boy Smith Jr. (8)
Doc Gallows (6)
Tomoaki Honma (0)

BLOCK B
AJ Styles (14)
Kazuchika Okada (14)
Minoru Suzuki (10)
Tetusyo Naito (10)
Hirooki Goto (8)
Hiroyoshi Tenzan (8)
Karl Anderson (8)
Togi Makabe (8)
Lance Archer (6)
Yujiro Takahashi (6)
Toru Yano (6)

 

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