Welcome to the first edition of the clumsily titled “Lanza Reviews Ten Random Matches”.
Here’s how this works. In each edition (which i’m going to try to do bi-weekly, but don’t hold me to that), I’m going to review ten random matches of recent vintage (shows that have taken place within the last three months or so), as I attempt to chase my tail and catch up on my never ending backlog of wrestling viewing. The plan is to try to make sure all ten bouts are from different promotions, but there will probably be times where I break this guideline. I’m also going to try to stay away from New Japan, Dragon Gate, & WWE, since those companies get more than enough coverage on this site (and by me in particular), as we continue to try our best to do the impossible and cover as many different promotions and styles as we can.
So here we go. This week, we’ve got action from TNA, Toryumon Mexico, Zero-1, Michinoku Pro, SMASH, PROGRESS, CMLL, WWE, Big Japan, & Wrestle-1.
TNA X-Division Title – Seiya Sanada (c) vs Austin Aries, TNA “Impact” 7/10/14 (air date) – This was the best TNA TV match I’ve seen in ages, but it was also an example of how a crowd can take a match down a level. This was not just a dead crowd, this was a comatose crowd. Had this been a taped WWE show, we would have definitely been treated to the piped in murmuring of some sweet canned heat. Don’t know what I mean? Go watch any Randy Orton Smackdown match. As for this bout, they told a nice little story and the work was sound enough, with only two minor blips (a Sanada dropkick that missed by a mile, and an Aries 450 splash that came up short), both of which were covered nicely by the underrated TNA production with some crafty switching of angles. My favorite moment of the match was Sanada hitting what he thought would be the match ending moonsault, and then showing just enough believable frustration at the Aries kickout without being over the top or hokey about it. He went for another, but Aries blocked it. Aries hit a brainbuster, but Sanada kicked out. Aries then hit the aforementioned 450 to win the title. Everything after the first Sanada moonsault was pretty great, with each guy kicking out of finishes. Well put together, but like a lot (actually, all) of Impact matches, it felt rushed. ***
Ultimo Guerrero vs Tigre Ali, Toryumon Mexico 5/11/14 – This was something. Tigre Ali, sometimes billed as Tiger Ali or Behnam Ali, is a Michinoku Pro regular who looks like Necro Butcher on a hunger strike and does a Tiger Jeet Singh gimmick. Guerrero is a guy who has no problems dogging it in certain situations, which I was fully expecting here, but he proved me wrong by working hard and bumping plenty. Ali twice tried to set up a superplex, but Guerrero must have had this man well scouted, as he countered it both times, first with a big sit out powerbomb, and then with a front face buster. They did a ref bump, and Ali grabbed his sword and presumably was going to murder Guerrero. Ultimo Dragon did a run in and made the save by hitting Ali in the back of the head WITH HIS SHOE. Ali took the most timid of sword swings at Ultimo (Dragon this time, try to keep up), but whiffed. Ultimo (Dragon again) hit a sliced bread, woke up the ref, woke up Ultimo (Guerrero), and Guerrero pinned Ali. This whole thing was bizarre. The rest of the show was even more bizarre. *
NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Titles – Masato Tanaka & Takashi Suguira (c) vs Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazuki Hashimoto, Zero-1 “True Lies” 6/1/14 – With Tanaka, Suguira, & Sekimoto, three of my favorite wrestlers ever, there was very little chance I wasn’t going to like this, and in fact I loved it. The story here was Hashimoto being the weak link, and taking a pretty wicked beating the entire match. By the end of this thing, his legs were jello and he was bleeding from the forehead. This had all of the stiff action and big throws that you would expect from this group, and then some. I really enjoyed the opening sequence, with Hashimoto attempting to go toe to toe with Tanaka, trading forearms and showing tons of heart, despite Tanaka getting the better of him. The Hashimoto/Tanaka slap fight as Hashimoto tagged out was a nice touch. Later, Hashimoto took the bump through the table on the trademark Tanaka splash off of the top to the outside. I mean, this poor guy was just getting annihilated. The finish was Hashimoto being isolated with Suguira, and surviving everything but the kitchen sink before falling to a nasty Olympic Slam/head drop. I loved everything about this. I can watch young Japanese guys showing heart while getting beaten up by veteran Japanese guys all day long. It might be my favorite style of match. Fringy MOTY contender, and the Tanaka/Suguira team is awesome every time I see them. ****
Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Title – Shu Brahman (c) vs Fujita “Jr” Hayato, Michinoku Pro 6/8/14 – I can’t stand the Brahman’s (Shu & Kei). If you’ve never seen them, picture Toru Yano’s worst match, without a fraction of Yano’s charisma, with the antics turned up to ten, and make it a half hour long. Hayato is a guy I like, so I gave this a shot, knowing full well what I was likely getting into. And that’s what I ended up getting. Endless crowd brawling, buckets of water being tossed, bowling ball spots, and plenty of the mysterious Brahman black mist. Yawn. The final 8 minutes or so (really, no Brahman match should even go longer than about 8 minutes) was ok, with Hayato trying to win with a dragon sleeper, but by this point I had already checked out mentally. Brahman won with a backslide. Whatever. First half, -***, Second half, **
Josh Alexander vs Kyle O’Reilly, SMASH Wrestling “Rival Schools” 6/8/14 – KOR is having some kind of year, so I was looking forward to seeing what he could do with a big hoss like Alexander. O’Reilly came to the ring with his PWG World & ROH Tag titles. This started off with some good back & forth mat work, which I can usually do without if it’s nothing more than “we have to do some mat work because that’s what you do and we have to burn five minutes”, but this was compelling and held my attention. Alexander then went after KOR’s legs, with KOR targeting Alexander’s arm. I would have bumped this match up a slight notch if they carried that theme throughout, but the limb work was abandoned mid way through. That was fine though, because they absolutely tore the house down the rest of the way. This is one of those matches where I just tossed my pen away, because it was impossible to keep up with taking notes. All sorts of creative reversals, innovative spots, and good, solid, fast paced wrestling and counter wrestling. They lost each other once or twice, but who cares. This was great. Alexander won it with a jumping tombstone, but there are no losers here. They win, the fans win, everybody wins. Some people will think they did too much, but those people are wrong, brother. Great match, slightly below the MOTY level. ****
Prince Devitt vs Zack Sabre Jr, PROGRESS Chapter 13 5/18/14 – Remember how the lame crowd took the Aries/Sanada match down a notch? Welp, this crowd was the exact opposite. They were MOLTEN, from introductions until the final bell. Remember how I said I don’t like mat work just for the sake of mat work? Welp, none of that nonsense here, as Devitt dropkicked Sabre right in the mouth at the opening bell, getting right to the ACTION, and followed up with a top rope double stomp, nearly scoring the flash pin and causing a riot. Remember how I was critical of Alexander & O’Reilly abandoning their limb work? Welp, Sabre worked the left arm of Devitt the entire match, which was built around Sabre trying to score the win with arm bar variations. This was one hell of a match, close to MOTY level for sure, but will probably fall right outside my top 20 or so. This is the best Zack Sabre Jr match I’ve ever seen. ****1/4
Shockercito, Angelito, Fantasy vs Pierrothito, Pequeno Warrior, Pequeno Nitro, CMLL “Lucha Libre Mexicana” 7/12/14 (airdate) – These were some of the biggest minis I’ve ever seen. Aside from Shockercito, these dudes were all taller than Spud, Davey Richards, and probably at least a half dozen other well known “full sized” wrestlers. The best minis match I’ve ever seen is still the first minis match I ever saw, the opener from the 1994 AAA “When Worlds Collide” PPV, but this came close to topping it. The technicos took a nondescript but fairly action packed (by lucha standards) first fall. I always root for two straight falls when I watch lucha, just to break up the predictable patterns, but it almost never happens. Fantasy & Pequeno Nitro didn’teven tag in until fall two. Pequeno Warrior absolutely crushed Shockercito with a sit out powerbomb to take the second fall. I mean, he just killed him. The first two falls in this were better than the usual going through the motions you typically see on lucha undercards before the third fall, so I was excited for the finish. Let me tell you, the third fall was INCREDIBLE. These guys were taking insane bumps all over the place. At one point, Nitro held Fantasy in a powerbomb position on the floor, and Warrior came over the top with a sick leg drop. Nitro pinned Angelito, but while showboating Shockercito put him in a wacky submission and tapped him. Warrior got a hold of Shockercito and gave him a great looking buckle bomb. This Pequeno Warrior is an absolute bad ass. Pierrothito locked a cattle mutilation type hold on Shockercito, and he tapped. He was a captain, so the rudos win. Wow. I chose this match totally at random, simply because it was the opener of the TV show recorded on my DVR, and it ended up being amazing. This might be my lucha match of the year to this point. Seek it out. ****
Rusev vs Roman Reigns, WWE “Smackdown” 7/11/14 (airdate) – I disliked everything about this. First of all, it was too soon to book this match, but at least they did a screwy DQ finish, so I guess I can live with it. Reigns dominated from the jump, which is not how I would have structured this at all. Rusev has been killing people, so he should have been the one in control from the get go, to build for the big Reigns comeback. Rusev’s strength is that he comes off like a unstoppable beast, and Reigns’ one & only strength is his comebacks. This should have been easy. Anyway, when they come back from commercial, Rusev is in control, and proceeds to use a very long NERVE HOLD. Jesus. Might as well use a bear hug while we’re at it. In the age of MMA, I can not accept these lazy, uninspired rest holds. Use something people perceive as dangerous. Reigns breaks free after comically Hulking Up (he looked like a total goof), and goes through his three move comeback routine (apron drop kick, Superman punch, spear). Randy Orton interferes before the spear. Not a good match. Reigns still hasn’t had a singles match that has managed to be average. Hard to blame Rusev, because while limited in terms of experience level & gimmick restrictions (and the awful use of the NERVE HOLD is unacceptable to me), he’s managed to have a few very good matches, including two great matches with Big E. I am not going to like the Reigns era WWE. He’s everything they want, and nothing I want. *1/2
BJW Tag Team Titles – Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto (c) vs Kohei Sato & Shuji Ishikawa, BJW 5/31/14 – This was recommended to me by a Twitter follwer, and even though i’m waaaaay behind on my Big Japan watching, I jumped ahead and watched this anyway. Yes, some of you might be surprised to know that Kohei Sato is still a thing. Sato & Ishikawa are known as the Twin Towers. Kodaka & Miyamoto played the role of the underdog champions here to perfection, flying around and taking big bumps for the (much) bigger team. The Twin Towers are just mobile enough to not drag the match down, but these two dudes don’t have much time left before they become just a little too old & a little too slow to not be cumbersome in the ring. But in this match, and in matches like this where they are playing bully, they’re fine. I didn’t like the crowd brawling, and I had an epiphany during this match that crowd brawling is my newest pet peeve. It takes me right out of things. The closing stretch was a lot of fun. Kodaka was great, pulling out all of the stops trying to gain a sneaky pin on Ishikawa, and getting tossed around like a rag doll before being flattened and pinned. This was like watching younger, faster kids lose a pick up basketball game to five guys with old man strength at your local park. If you watch this match, make sure you leave it on for the post match promos. Sato’s voice is going to keep me up at night. He sounds like a fucking monster. A fucking monster that smokes three packs per day and eats nails. Sato is terrifying. ***3/4
Koji Kanemoto & LEONA vs KAZMA SAKAMOTO & Rene Dupree, Wrestle-1 6/27/14 – LEONA is the son of Tatsumi Fujinami, but he simply isn’t any good. The story here is that he always gets his ass kicked by the heel group “Desperado”, but because he’s so shitty, and because the story is so boring, these matches never have any heat. Literally nobody gives a shit if LEONA is ever going to get his big win over Renee fucking Dupree. SAKAMOTO, who stylizes his first AND last name, is a favorite of mine. He’s like a less talented Akira Tozawa, and I mean that as a compliment even though it doesn’t sound like one. He was excellent here, despite being surrounded by the bad Dupree, the awful LEONA, and a going through the motions Kanemoto. This went about 8 minutes, and Kanemoto pinned SAKAMOTO, to the deafening silence of a half empty Korakuen Hall. This had no structure, no heat, very little action, and it came off much worse since it was the last match I watched for this article after watching all of the awesome stuff that proceeded it. *3/4