Happy Holidays, wrestling fans! We at Voices of Wrestling wanted to give you all a little holiday treat. Last year, I had the idea to put together a secret santa for my fellow writers and reviewers, but instead of giving a gift, we would all have to review a match.
The result was a huge success and a good representation of the different styles of wrestling that we all love.
There were lots of first time viewings and people getting out of their comfort zone. We decided to bring the secret santa project back this year but make some small changes mostly instead of posting every gift/match review in one piece, we’ve broken it up into a few smaller articles that will be released over the next few days. Whatever you celebrate, I hope you find some time to give a gift to someone you love, and I hope you find some time to watch a little wrestling. -JR Goldberg
Yoshiaki Fujiwara defeats Kazuo Yamazaki
Presented by Drew Wardlaw
Man, when I saw JR talking about the VOW Secret Santa Project I thought it was a great idea and an awesome way to watch something different. Well I most certainly got different. I have never before watched a match containing either Fujiwara or Yamazaki and I had never before watched a UWF match.
I can safely say I will ever watch another UWF match again by choice. I did not enjoy this. It bored me at times and I didn’t understand the rules and why there was no pinfalls. As the match went on I learned that there was a limit on knockdowns and how many times you could use a rope break which made me laugh as I learned where Gabe lifted the ROH Pure Title rules from. One thing that did confuse me though is why sometimes strikes that put the guys to their knees counted as a knockdown and at other times it didn’t.
I got the impression that Fujiwara was the valiant tough babyface as he refused to use a rope break whenever Yamazaki had him in a submission hold, instead he would work to shift position and eventually reverse it. Some of the strikes were good, Yamazaki in particular had a pretty nice kick to Fujiwaras ribs which put him down. The insistence by both men to stay down until 8 before popping right up to their feet as if nothing was wrong after every knockdown was another negative for me.
In the end after 29 minute grueling minutes(and that is just how I felt) Fujiwara knocked Yamazaki down for the fifth time and won via TKO. I will end on a positive by saying the crowd was into the match throughout and the finish got a pretty loud response but ultimately UWF is just not for me. I would hazard a guess that Andy LaBarre is the VOW staffer who picked this match for me. -Lee Malone
British Strong Style vs. Angel Cruz, B Cool, Tyler Bate
Presented by Lee Malone
First thing’s first, whoever my Secret Santa was really nailed it as far as giving me a match that’s outside of my comfort zone but is a style of wrestling I enjoy. I have never seen a match from OTT, nor have I seen any of the participants wrestle before. I’ve heard of Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and Trent Seven, but not Angel Cruz or B Cool. With that in mind, let’s get to the match….
In a pre-match skit, Angel Cruz tells Tyler Bate they will be teaming together against British Strong Style, which Bate is apparently a part of, but Trent Seven appears and Bate plays it off as though he won’t be teaming with Cruz, and Angel Cruz refers to him as Tyler Breeze.
In the ring, British Strong Style enters to a big crowd response, & Tyler Bate disappears, re-emerging with Angel Cruz and B Cool as Tyler…. Breeze, but doesn’t dress or act like him. Regardless, it looks like the match will be built around Bate being a member of both teams which is a really cool setup and could provide some great comedy and interesting interplay between the wrestlers.
That does not happen, unfortunately, and the vague idea of Tyler Bate being stuck between both teams is not a story that is executed well in my opinion. Being unfamiliar with the wrestlers involved, it is very likely that a lot of the nuance was lost on me, but the entire segment seems to exist to pop the live crowd through arbitrary spots rather than tell any kind of cohesive narrative. Bate and Seven strut around the ring in Team Pricks blazers after beating them up, and later, Angel Cruz gets an axe and attempts to decapitate Trent Seven. These get over huge with the crowd, but doesn’t translate at all to someone parachuting in and watching on video. The in ring exchanges we do get are very dull, mostly worked around each wrestler’s shtick that again, doesn’t connect with me at all. B Cool works a brainbuster spot with the ref, only to then have his fingers bitten by Dunne. Towards the end, when both teams are fighting over Tyler Bate, he lays everyone out with punches and seems to go it alone, which would have been cool and tied everything together, the idea that he’s sick of everyone fighting over him and he’s his own man, but then he just rejoins BSS after all, and in the process, Dunne pedigrees Trent Seven, Team Prick joins Pete Dunne, and Pete Dunne turns on Team Prick and gives them a double pedigree. The finish is Tyler Bate beating Angel Cruz with a Tiger Driver.
One of the reasons why I love comedy wrestling so much is that it provides an alternative way to tell a compelling story using its own absurdist logic and can provide a way for wrestling fans to think outside of the box a bit, in terms of what it means to have a successful pro wrestling match. This match seemed to miss the mark entirely and came off rather lazy and bone-headed. Again, this may be a case of me just not understanding the internal logic of the company or the storylines going into the match, so if that’s the case then I apologize, but this was very difficult to get through. I really appreciate my Secret Santa giving this one to me, since, like I said, it’s a style of wrestling I like and it’s not a company I’m familiar with, but it’s not something I’ll be seeking out in the future. -Drew Wardlaw
Atsushi Onita/Tarzan Goto/El Hijo Del Santo vs. Negro Casas/Horace Boulder/Tim Patterson
FMW in Los Angeles 5/16/92
Presented by Kevin Hare
In the great pantheon of what we like to call at Voices of Wrestling, the Fire Pro Random Select Match, is this battle between Atsushi Onita, Tarzan Goto and El Hijo Del Santo vs. Negro Casas, Horace Boulder & Tim Patterson.
That it happened in freaking Los Angeles on the campus of Cal State-Los Angeles is just an added bonus. This unique amalgamation of promotions, wrestlers and styles was a joint production of Japanese-based Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) and Mexico’s World Wrestling Association (WWA). The event was the final leg of a two-night North American tour (first night took place in Tijuana) for FMW, a uniquely-styled promotion that gained a cult following in the early 90s.
The makeup of the crowd was among the first things that caught my attention as the camera shows swaths of Japanese fans waving the great Hi no maru chanting Atushi Onita’s—founder of FMW—name. You’ll then see a group of Mexican fans rooting on both Negro Casas and the son of Mexican folk hero El Santo: El Hijo del Santo. Sprinkled in are some obvious American fans, the tape traders and hardcore of the hardcore in that era.
Overall, the crowd makeup creates an amazing atmosphere as each subsection loses their mind for their respective representation. The result: a match with a hot, lively crowd from opening bell through the first two falls and up until the final pinfall. (Really… after it as well)
The match is not a ***** star classic but it wasn’t designed to be. Early on I realized this wasn’t going to be a normal six-man tag with guys waiting patiently on the outside for their chance to showcase themselves. Literally seconds into the match, Onita and Horace Boulder (later known as Horace Hogan to American fans) fall to the outside and start brawling. Onita, as he was want to do, starts belting Horace with chairs and even tossing him through a set of doors presumably to the outside.
In the ring, as expected, are Negro Casas and Santo who exchange holds, go back and forth with some impressive groundwork and to the delight of the crowd, a lot of high-flying from Santo.
This beginning portion would define much of the match as Onita and his FMW boys brawled to the outside (and briefly in the ring) while Santo and Casas dazzled with their in-ring work. It both looks and feels like two different matches occurring within one. One review of the match I read likened it to something of a shark cage with Santo and Casas on a floating ring surrounded by sharks, or in this case, bloody brawling FMW folks.
Throughout the match you’ll focus on three men: Onita, Santo and Casas. The others each play their role well but ultimately mean very little. Boulder is there to get beaten up by Onita and Tim Patterson—a former WWF jobber who found life in Onita’s FMW promotion—is there to get beaten on by the bulky Tarzan Goto. Both Goto and Patterson get busted open at one point during the match and despite watching it two times in a row in an effort to pinpoint when it happened—I’m at a loss. I don’t know. They bleed easy, I guess.
While I wouldn’t call this a great match, it was a wonderful gift from my secret santa. It allowed me to dig into all six of the competitors’ careers, do some research on FMW’s North American tour and really, despite it not being what I would normally described as a great match—it was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a match that despite me not being emotionally invested in any of the participants, I would have love to have been at live only because so many people in attendance WE’RE emotionally invested.
When the final bell tolls (OntiaWinsLOL), the crowd explodes and starts waving Japanese flags. Santo gets on the mic and although we can’t hear him, we see him motion to the crowd who delivers a Japanese flag to Santo who proudly waves it to the delight of the over 5,000 in attendance. -Rich Kraetsch
Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk – I Quit Match
Provided by Alex Wendland
Now this is a walk down memory lane. My anonymous match giver probably didn’t know that my earliest wrestling memory is watching WCW/NWA in 1989. I saw my first live event that year (saw Great Muta vs. Sting!), and the area I grew up in (Norfolk, VA) was a regular stop on the WCW circuit. I am sure I watched this event at the time since my dad used to tape every WCW show, but I haven’t seen it since so its been… 28 years since I’ve seen this match. I’m a very old person.
Flair and Funk had a very entertaining and lengthy feud going into this match, which I won’t summarize since that would be a column on its own, but safe to say that these two hate each other and want to inflict as much pain as possible. This was the grand finale of the feud, the I Quit Match, which hadn’t been seen on American television since the famous Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard match in 1985. I love when a match between two people that hate each other goes straight to strikes and looking like they want to inflict pain – nothing kills the hate-filled mood like a long feeling out process. The match is a contrast to Flair’s other matches that year against Steamboat, also great of course, as this is a pure brawl for 98% of it. And what a brawl it is, neither Flair nor Funk were young pups in 1989 but they go virtually non-stop with no breaks or rest holds for almost 20 minutes. Funk’s work on Flair’s neck was top notch, and him referencing Flair’s airplane crash while taunting him to quit was a nice touch that showed what Funk was willing to do to win.
I think today, new fans watching this match probably wouldn’t really appreciate it, as it really needs to be seen in the vacuum that it took place in. This was a match in 1989 that used a table as a primary weapon, had a suplex spot on the apron (don’t tell Bix), a piledriver on the ramp, and multiple uses of the guard rail all while making none of those spots seem out of place or excessive. Flair and Funk spaced out everything perfectly and used the extra violence intelligently so it felt like a legitimate fight, not two wrestlers going spot to spot. The stipulation of being an I Quit Match actually enhanced it, which says a lot as I think its the type of stipulation that can really slow things down and work against the wrestlers. We’ve seen so many matches with this general style since, with much more violence, so this may seem tame in comparison but it was still worked masterfully by both. I don’t think I’d put this on the level of Flair’s matches with Steamboat, as those are all time classics, but it definitely deserves to be mentioned in the same realm as it shows how versatile Flair really was. An easy recommendation and a quality pick for Secret Santa, and I’ll throw on an extra 1/4* as the post match beatdown of Flair was fun as well. ****¾ -Kevin Wilson
Check back tomorrow (Christmas Eve) for the fifth and final installment of Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa!