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
Atlantis, Valiente, Volador Jr. vs La Máscara, La Sombra, Rush
Provided by Jeff Martin
So Fantasticamania is coming up in less than a month and boy did this match strike home just how much the CMLL guys change their style when they come over to Japan. I’ve seen at least five of the six guys in this match before for sure, mostly in Japan, and yet they all wrestled completely differently here. But at the same time this match gave me a strong lucharesu vibe, especially older lucharesu before the style kinda went more in the puroresu direction. For example, the first fall of this match is extremely similar to an early Toryumon Japan or T2P squash for a heel unit at the time (I got a strong early Crazy MAX vibe, though it could work for the Italian Connection too, especially if it was like everyone in the unit but Milano). It’s basically just the three heels completely ignoring the rules of tag wrestling to put move after move on their opponents; double- and triple-teams du jour but also just lots of chopping and such, and lots of random ringside & crowd brawling as well. The biggest difference from the Toryumon stuff was probably just the amount of posing the heels did. They posed a LOT, to the point where it somewhat felt excessive.
After the first fall, which the heels won basically clean, things slowed down a lot. To me this was the weakest part of the match, but maybe it’s something the lucha fans are a little more used to. The match just was nothing from the end of the first fall to the start of the babyfaces’ comeback; there was some mask untying and a whole lot more posing, but not a whole lot else. I was bored.
Once Volador finally fired up it was great again though. He did I think every variation of a hurricarana invented by man, except the reverse one (thankfully), and much fun was had by all. All, that is, except for Tetsuya Naito, who oh yeah was here the whole time lounging around (literally, he took a load off on the ramp stairs and the barricade at different points), occasionally stomping on guys on the floor, etc. Naito finally got directly involved in the end after the ref was pulled out, punting poor Volador directly in the nuts, which lead directly to the second fall and the victory for Los Ingobernables. To be honest, I didn’t even know the second fall happened at first; in hindsight I realize this was because I was watching Naito on the floor instead of what was happening in the ring, and I thought he got angry at a kick out when he instead decided to just celebrate a three count from one of his allies by stomping the hell out of one of the babyfaces on the floor. But when Ingobernables started cutting a lengthy post-match promo I was very confused, until they finally showed a replay of the second pinfall.
Anyway! This was fun but not something I feel like was life-changing or anything; if I was gonna give it a star rating, keeping in mind I have no idea about lucha, I would go ***1/4. Good enough, very watchable, but not essential viewing. Was this JR Goldberg who gave this to me? It has to be right? -John Carroll
Cicloncito vs Damiancito
Provided by JR Goldberg
Much like a lot of people on this site, I have to come forward and admit that Lucha only exists in the periphery of my wrestling fandom. I know more luchadors from their work in Japan than anything else, and I know it’s a black spot on my knowledge, especially as a Dragon gate fan given how much the promotion’s style draws from Lucha.
This is, from my understanding, a match contested for the CMLL Mini-estrella championship, with Diamancito as the defending champion. To be perfectly honest, when I saw that I had been gifted a lucha match, I was expecting a stronger contrast between the rudo (here, Diamancito) and the tecnico (Cicloncito), in their behavior or style, after seeing so many of the strong personalities that inhabit the world of modern day Lucha being so totally consumed by their roles.
This being said, I don’t think the more subtle dynamic hampered my enjoyment of the contest at all.
It’s no wonder lucha fans are so dedicated to highlighting the impact it has had on any kind of modern wrestling. Out of everything that was done in this match, I could point out so much that has since been borrowed by all the young stars making waves today. The smooth transitions from hold to hold, or from hold to pinning combination, especially, was a sight to behold, after witnessing so many of my Dragon Gate favorites make that a crucial element of their styles. Entering this exchange, much like last year, I was looking for something that would give me a new perspective on the wrestling that I currently enjoy, and this match did exactly that. Without guys like Cicloncito and Diamancito, there would be no CIMA or Super Shisa, and in turn, there would be no Eita or U-T. This was something I knew of course, Toryumon and then Dragon Gate have always been intrinsically linked to Lucha, but knowing and seeing are two different things.
This wasn’t a high-flying, edge-of-your-seat contest like what seems to be highlighted most in today’s Lucha scene, but truly a display of craft and technical proficiency, a reminder that sometimes you don’t have to be flashy to be impressive, and that it’s a good, solid base, that makes a good wrestler, something that seems to be oftentimes forgotten these days in favor of being the most GIF-able guy around. I’m glad I got to see this match, and tip my hat to these gentlemen who, along with their peers, helped create the wrestling I love today.
Given the nature of the match, I’m going to guess my secret Santa was JR Goldberg, which would be really funny as we’re both Jewish. -Milo M.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Takehiro Murahama vs. KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji
Pro Wrestling NOAH 7/16/2003
Provided by Andrew Rich
While I’m very familiar with Liger, KENTA, & Marufuji, I had honestly never heard of Takehiro Murahama until I saw that it was my Secret Santa gift. After doing some quick research on cagematch (just to look for context), I discovered that this match was apparently the finals of a tournament for the (then vacant) GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.
Right from the start, it was very clear that this was more than just a tag team title bout, as there appeared to be some individual issues involved in this one. Liger and Marufuji had an intense face-off, while KENTA shoved Murahama during his entrance (all before the bell even rang).
This was a really exciting tag team match that featured a ton of great action throughout. The aforementioned individual issues were on full display as KENTA and Murahara beat the crap out of each other during a number of kick exchanges. Meanwhile, Marufuji and Liger didn’t hold back in their interactions either, as there were plenty of awesome moments involving those two. At one point, both KENTA & Marufuji hit these insane dives over the barricade. KENTA did more of a regular dive to the floor onto Murahama (seeing KENTA doing a dive like that is very foreign to me), while Marufuji hit an insane springboard moonsault to the floor, onto Liger. That was easily one of the highlights of the match.
It was very cool to look back at the younger versions of KENTA & Marufuji. If I was a young twenty-something in 2003, I definitely would’ve been a huge fan of them, even at that early point in their respective careers. I also really enjoyed seeing a more vicious Liger. As someone who’s used to seeing the uber-babyface version of Liger, it was intriguing to not only see him in action when he was much younger, but in a completely different role. As for Murahama, he looked pretty impressive here, and I’m curious to learn more about him in the future, if I ever have the time or the opportunity in the future to dive deep into Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Something that caught my attention as the match progressed is that it was like a rollercoaster ride, in terms of the pace. Things got off to a hot start before KENTA & Marufuji isolated Murahama for a little bit. Then we got that aforementioned dive sequence with KENTA & Marufuji before Liger & Murahama isolated KENTA for a decent amount of time. That led to the final stages of the match, which featured some great near-falls where Liger almost had Marufuji beat on a few occasions. In the end, Marufuji would capture the titles for his team after hitting Murahama with a Shooting Star Press, which came as a surprise to me. I never knew that Marufuji did that move (according to Wikipedia, he stopped using it in 2004, which was a whole year before his first ROH appearance). It seems as though he was regularly using it at the time, but I suppose he might’ve been doing it as a shot at Liger, who invented the move. As a whole, this was pretty great, and it definitely convinced me to check some more matches from NOAH featuring this KENTA/Marufuji tag team. ****1/2
As for who gifted this match to me, I’m horrible when it comes to finding out my Secret Santa (in any scenario), so I’m just going to take a shot in the dark and say…..Andrew Rich? -Sean Sedor
KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji vs Takeshi Morishima & Takeshi Rikio
Provided by Milo
This Secret Santa thing really did its job here, as I have seen a grand total of zero NOAH matches in my life. Nothing against NOAH, it’s just one of my many, many blind spots in the world of pro wrestling. I am a little aware of Morishima though, as I know he broke Bryan Danielson’s orbital bone in their feud from around this time. However, I don’t know the difference between KENTA and Hideo Itami, which I know will sicken several members of the VOW Staff. But despite never watching NOAH, whoever picked this match (my guess is either Rich Kraetsch or Brennan Patrick) picked a match right in my wheelhouse. KENTA and Marufuji were two smaller heavyweights who had a ton of fight and weren’t afraid of their bigger opponents. Morishima and Rikio were two bigger heavyweights who didn’t give a fuck about fighting spirit and were just going to knock the blocks off these young punks.
This match was fantastic as a result. Marufuji and Rikio started and Rikio kept in charge as the larger man. They tagged in KENTA and Morishima respectively, and they immediately started fighting with the fury of a million suns. KENTA had no fear going after this man that he’s giving up 100 pounds and a foot of height to, and he actually took him down with a fisherman’s suplex. KENTA and Marufuji would double team these guys and hit them with 4 or 5 big kicks and tag moves, and it would only take 2 or 3 lariats from the big guys to take control again. The match slowed down a bit as Morishima and Rikio tried to grind the smaller men down. There was a fantastic near fall, where KENTA hit the Go To Sleep on Morishima, but Rikio rolled in and kicked the ref to break up the count.
Then came the final stretch. Rikio and Marufuji were mostly dealing with each other on the outside, leaving KENTA and Morishima in the ring. There were fast and furious strikes and pin covers, as both guys seemed suddenly desperate to get the win. And then the bell rang for a time limit draw. The time was never even apparent to me, as this 30 minute draw felt like 20. This accomplished what the goal of all time limit draws should be, leave the fan wanting more. This was absolutely stellar. And yes, I see the difference between KENTA and Itami now. ****½ -Suit Williams