It’s the most wonderful time of the year. We’re talking, of course, about Secret Santa season at Voices of Wrestling. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees our writers, reviews, podcasters and contributors giving a gift to one another… the gift of a wrestling match.

The result of the initial VOW Secret Santa was a huge success and a good representation of the different styles of wrestling that we all love. Last year’s Secret Santa was another resounding success and we expect this year to be more of the same.

The goal of the project was to provide first-time viewing for contributors while also trying to get people getting out of their comfort zone. Throughout this multi-part series you’ll see wrestling matches from every region and every era from black and white French wrestling to modern Japanese deathmatches, our contributors went above and beyond to make this year’s Secret Santa the best yet. Sit back, sip on some egg nog and enjoy VOW Secret Santa 2018. -Rich Kraetsch

VOW Secret Santa 2018 Archives

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sheamus vs. Big Show – World Heavyweight Championship
October 28, 2012
WWE Hell in a Cell 2012

Reviewed by Damon McDonald (@thesuperjcast)
Gifted by Garrett Kidney (@GarrettKidney)

As a child and all through out my teenage years, I had grown up poor. Second-hand clothing shops, empty refrigerators, space heaters in rooms where (for some reason) heat was unavailable, and leaky roofs were just another day. While friends went on school trips or prom, I didn’t because I knew the sheer idea of having the money to pay for such an extravagant and lavish lifestyle would be met with laughter.

Christmas was somehow different. Even at a very young age, I questioned to myself the lack of “normal” living luxuries during the year and yet under the plastic Christmas tree were bikes, hockey gear, wrestling figures – like actual GIFTS under a tree. I had eaten spaghetti for a month, yet a magical being – dare I say a Secret Santa – had to have found his way into my home to deliver my treats and finally recognized the suffering I had to endure. Christmas was real. Santa was real. Magic was real. There could be no other answer.

  • “Your gift from your Secret Santa is Sheamus vs. Big Show from Hell in a Cell 2012” – Rich Kraetsch.

Are you familiar with the Twitter meme where you are asked to create a tweet that would immediately inform your followers that something is so strange and off-brand that something must be wrong? People, Santa (Secret) needs us now. Please stop what you are doing immediately. There is no other logical reason for this “gift”, right? This is a sign. This is a cry for help. (Secret) Santa wouldn’t do this to me – wouldn’t do this to anyone – but especially ME?!

  • “In the days when you were hopelessly poor, I just liked you more.” Secret Santa via Morrissey

Brogue Kick vs. The Knock Out Punch that went a whopping 20:26 according to Wikipedia. The longest match on the entire show almost doubling the CM Punk vs. Ryback Hell in the Cell match. This must be a misprint or some type of error – TWENTY MINUTES of Big Show? Help me Father Christmas.

  • “Wait is that actually good? Didn’t they have like one match that was actually good?” John Carroll
  • “Pretty sure it’s that Big Show vs. Sheamus match. It actually rocks.” Kevin Hare
  • “Yes it really, really, really could happen.” (Secret) Santa via Blur

By no means was this Daisuke Sakamoto vs. Tomohiro Ishii or Walter vs. 1995 Stan Hansen, but for a WWE match in 2012, this was a hard hitting big boys match. Again, we are on a WWE curve here and I do not want to mislead anyone, but for a solid ten minutes, Big Show chopped and slapped and kicked and hammered the shit out of Sheamus. It was enough for me to (at the very least) “ouch!” on more than a few shots. The closing stretch was well done with both parties hitting their finisher and both kicking out along with Sheamus getting Show up into a White Noise. That was impressive. Show throws a final KO punch and the crowd is on their feet. Sheamus has had enough and is out cold. A three count. New World Champion, I am enjoying this. What is happening?

  • “Time after time, you were there for me” Damon McDonald via Skid Row

So call it a Christmas miracle. Call it being in the right frame of mind at the right place at the right time. Call it two pro wrestlers looking to stand out from the pack and giving something, that while not ground-breaking, was unexpected and actually good. Whatever road you choose, (Secret) Santa came through again when I least expected it. Cheers to you, whoever and wherever you are.

Shin M2K vs. Crazy MAX vs. Italian Connection vs. Do FIXER
August 8, 2003
Toryumon Japan Verano Peligroso II 2003

Reviewed by Ricardo Gallegos (@theunderwally)
Gifted by John Carroll (@toshanshuinLA)

I must have been a good boy in 2018 because my Secret Santa gave me an awesome gift. I started watching Dragon Gate last year and I’ve fallen in love with the product since, so this crazy Elimination 4-Way Trios Match with guys like Dragon Kid, CIMA, Yoshino, Mochizuki and Susumu was right up my alley.

This match was the definition of fun. Twelve guys going at it at an unbelievable pace, implementing high flying action, some power moves (I LOVE you, Don Fujii) and even comedy, all accompanied by a red hot crowd that wouldn’t stop screaming. I actually got dizzy a couple of seconds when watching a particularly insane exchange. I didn’t know this was an elimination match so when Shin M2K got pinned I instantly felt sad: ‘please Santa, don’t let this end so soon!’, I thought. Fortunately, the jaw-dropping tornado of insanity continued with some mind blowing smooth sequences that I would’ve thought were impossible. And after all the fast-paced craziness, I found poetic that the ending came from a dramatic grounded submission move courtesy of Milano. What a cool way to end the party. Please, watch this match and let your heart enjoy this chaotic, fun, beautiful match.

I’m new to the site so I would have to dig a little bit more to know who my Santa is but sunce Case Lowe is in charge of our Dragon Gate reviews, I’m just gonna guess it was him. Whoever it was, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks with my health but this 30 minutes of insanity made me forget absolutely everything about it and for that, I thank you very much, Santa. Happy holidays!

PWG Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. © vs. Chuck Taylor
July 7, 2017
PWG Pushin Forward Back

Reviewed by Kelly Harrass (@comicgeekelly)
Gifted by Sarah Flann (@SarahFlann)

I’ve written and rewritten this opening sentence multiple times and the only thing that I can really say is this match was incredible. Zack Sabre Jr. and Chuck Taylor put on a classic here, but not what you expect when you hear a classic from PWG. This isn’t a flipz or a work rate match, these two tell a perfect story. It’s less a battle of skill and more of a war of wills. Zack is the biggest asshole in the world and is one of the most talented technical wrestlers to ever live. He’s doing everything he can to get Chuck to give up, but he just keeps pushing forward.

Zack becomes so frustrated with Taylor’s continued ability to make it to the bottom rope to escape holds that he removes the rope from the ring itself. Sabre does his best to get disqualified so he’ll keep his title, but the referee refuses to let him take the cheap way out. Chuck reaches under the ring at one point and grabs what is apparently the spinach to his Popeye, thumbtacks. The match continues for a short time after that, but eventually, Taylor plants Sabre into the mat with an Awful Waffle and picks up the win. The crowd goes insane and it’s an amazing moment. Chuck is the everyman hero of the PWG faithful and this is as much their victory. The British prick falls and the underdog wins. A perfect ending to a perfect story. *****

There aren’t any obvious tells for this match so I’m just going to guess that this was gifted to me from Andrew Rich.

Ric Flair (c) vs. Koko Ware
Continental Wrestling Association @ Mid-South Coliseum

Reviewed by Mike Spears (@fujiiheya)
Gifted by Barry Hess (@BFHess171)

One of my glaring weak points in wrestling is the territory era. I was far too young to follow the last high point of it in the 80s, and my hometown territory (World Class) was done with a body count by the time I could have started watching it. That being said, I really love reading about the time period, and I recently finished Death of the Territories by Tim Hornbaker so this was really neat to watch. It’s something that normally I wouldn’t have ever seen.

I saw a bunch of Flair NWA title defenses through the WWE DVD sets, but never have seen him in Memphis. At this time, he was the traveling champ so he came into Memphis the week before Thanksgiving to defend the ten pounds of gold against the young upstart Koko Ware. Another point of my ignorance is Koko Ware. The 1980s to early 90s WWF isn’t my cup of tea, but it was neat to see him early in his career. I’m an overall prospect nerd, both in sports and in wrestling, so I love seeing someone who had such potential. Having him against Ric Flair, whose reputation alone as “the guy who can carry a broomstick to three stars”, is an added delight.

Before the match, we have the recently departed Lance Russell give a quick fifteen seconds of build up. Koko’s obviously being thrown into the deep end. This is Flair in his prime. He has Dusty Rhodes in his corner to provide support against his mortal enemy. A little nugget that was thrown in was that this was apparently the first ever African American to ever get an NWA World Title shot in the Mid-South Coliseum. I’m in no ways a Memphis historian, but I found that somewhat surprising and now wonder if Ware was the only one to have that distinction.

I found the match itself pretty interesting. Getting to watch this the same week (I’m writing this on December 14th) as Daniel Bryan faced Mustafa Ali is interesting. Both are matches with an out-classed challenger, but there was a lot more hope built up in Ware vs Flair than Ali vs Bryan. The match started with the typical tie-ups and backing into the corners before someone shooting the half. The crowd wasn’t super into this early, as this was the second time they’ve seen Flair as a traveling champion in 1985 and Ware wasn’t a serious challenger.

Memphis did really get into this when Ware was able to frustrate him in grappling and firing up with some right hands. Flair got frustrated and took to the outside, where Dusty was audibly shouting at both him and Ware to pay attention. If I got anything out of this, it was how great Lance Russell was as the local announcer. He was tremendous in pointing out how Flair took back over the match and basically calling the match by himself (the color commentator, whose name I forgot, was practically non-existent during the match).

Koko Ware had his nearest fall with a really long sleeper hold where Flair barely draped his leg on the bottom rope. I mention this because the smartest part of the match was a result of it. After a backslide attempt and Flair regaining the heat, he went for the Figure Four Leglock. Instead of them going for another rope break, Ware broke the hold when he did the reversal. I loved this. Only having one real consequential rope break and then a reversal owns.

The finish came when Koko Ware was firing up and was hitting dropkicks. Bill Dundee hit the ring, powdered Dusty Rhodes, and then distracted Ware for Flair’s easy pinfall. I liked this a good deal, but it’s clearly several levels below Flair’s epic title defenses. This could have been the typical touring champion match, but it was a bit more. This got Ware over as the big up-and-comer who had a shot against the World Champ. This isn’t going to encourage me to go seek out more Memphis, touring Flair or Koko Ware, but I enjoyed it and would go ***½.

If I’m guessing who gave this to me, I’d say probably Liam Byrne, knowing how involved he is in reviewing Memphis as of late.

John Zandig & Nick Gage vs. Mitsuhiro Matsunaga & Jun Kasai
August 8, 2000
BJW Summer Jumbo Series 2000

Reviewed by Jeremy Sexton (@jeremysexton)
Gifted by Kevin Hare (@stan__hansen)

I was legitimately excited to watch this. I got even more excited when immediately after it started Kasai and Matsunaga ran to get a car. THIS IS THE CAR MATCH! I’d only ever seen the GIFs of Zandig stopping the car by compelling it with the power of JAYZUS. I dig weird stuff like this, I was pumped as it got started, but that enthusiasm was beaten out of me pretty quick. At the 8:48 mark, I thought, “Surely this is almost done.” It was not even halfway there.

This was the most Zandig match that ever Zandigged. All four competitors here were invested enough to put themselves in grave danger at every turn Simultaneously, they could not be bothered to do literally anything with any degree of craft that says they’d even seen a wrestling ring before. Though, to be fair, the ring here appears to be the floor from an old-timey saloon. At one point, Zandig even steps through it turning it all into some sort of Targaryen Vaudeville act.

Ultimately, physical comedy is the main thing this match has to offer and there’s a lot of it. Everything that could go wrong in this did. The ring breaks, the fire ropes catch the ring board on fire and then refuse to sell for the fire extinguishers. (They need to get the Japanese table manufacturers to start putting out fire extinguishers; they know how to make a quality product.) There were two powerbombs off a car onto a table. One went very poorly, the other went… well… I guess ok? Jun Kasai managed to nearly die every time he left his feet, with a hilariously bad plancha off Matsunaga’s back and a dive off a giant truck straight onto his face on the (nonexistent) mat when no one caught him. This match is awful.

Everything with the cars was just hysterical. From Zandig stopping the car with his bare hands to Nick Gage wobbling awkwardly on top of it, it was all just so silly. Less silly, I suppose was Matsunaga dragging Zandig behind the car for a couple feet. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t look all that impressive on first sight. It isn’t until you think about it that you realize how horrible that must have been. That’s the opposite of what you want, man.

One thing that I do have to praise, however, is how striking visually this is. It’s hindered by the potato quality that it’s been degraded into through transcode after transcode and the fact that it was shot in digital standard definition. There are several shots, though, that are kind of beautiful in their own weird way. From the opening where Kasai and Matsunaga are standing in front of a crowd looking at Zandig to the end where Nick Gage stands on a ladder with smoke billowing all around him, there’s some really nice photography happening here. Big Japan Wrestling: Every frame a painting!

I have no idea who gave me this, but God bless ‘em.

Neo Street Fight/Dress Up Wild FIght Match: Mayumi Ozaki vs Dynamite Kansai
March 17, 1995

Reviewed by Jeff Hawkins (@Crapgame13)
Gifted by Kevin Wilson (@JoshiPuro)

So as the oldest member of the VoW extended family, and having watched far too much wrestling than I should have growing up, I was intrigued by the time of this match as it pertains to my fandom.  In 1995 I was 22, heavy into, downloading binaries of wrestling I didn’t have a lot of exposure to and buying the occasional compilation. In college a channel broadcast SMW about once every three weeks, I had friends tape ECW (and I skipped classes to go to the “ECW Arena”). Back home there was a channel that had wrestling 5 nights a week, including USWA in its death throes.  I had already been run out of wrestling “training” which was still more or less of a grift. Jeans were acid washed, gas was less than a buck a gallon, and most of my classmates were sad knowing that the Dave Matthews Band would no longer be playing weekly shows for 5 bucks..

By November of 1995, I had graduated college, gone through a sitcom writing class at NYU and was back home, living in the basement of my parent’s house, writing spec scripts for shows like NewsRadio and The Naked Truth and writing to every agent listed in the WGA manual.  But, I was depressed that I was back working at my summer job at Discovery Zone. I met up with a few old high school friends at a mall when I went to an arcade and my friend Lee told me he was going into the army and we should do something as a bon voyage.

We decided to go to the WCW pay per view at the Norfolk Scope.  So for the huge cost of at most 35 bucks we got second-row seats, got drunk, had a fun time making each other laugh.  The wrestling was okay, at least the wrestling I could remember through the boozy haze.

So why bring that memory up?  That pay per view was the very first World War 3, and Mayumi Ozaki was on that card.  She teamed with Cutie Suzuki against the team of Akira Hokuto and Bull Nakano. That match was awesome but I was certain Ozaki was dead after a belly to back suplex where she landed square on her head, followed by Bull Nakano dropping a guillotine leg from the top rope to finish it. Though it was slightly weird to me that Hokuto kept searching for cheers despite obviously being a heel, as Sonny Onoo accompanied them, and as we know, Sonny Onoo is shorthand for  “foreign heel” in WCW circa 1995. I can’t remember all of the bad and mostly politically incorrect jokes we made, but we all loved this match the most of all the ones we watched. So, thanks Secret Santa for that walk down memory lane.

So to the match…apologies to Scott Keith.

I vaguely remember Ozaki and Dynamite Kansai as a tag team on one of my (stolen when I moved to L.A.) compilation tapes.  One could say Ozaki is decked out in “mall chic” with the aforementioned acid wash jeans with bandanas tied to it, and combat boots.  Kansai has Army green pants and vest, so it’s time to go to war.

Kansai doesn’t get to complete her entrance as Ozaki attacks from behind with a chain that she places around Kansai’s throat.  The larger Kansai gets control of the chain once in the ring and after choking Ozaki, whacks her in the side of the head. Kansai loses the chain and just goes for a rear naked choke.  On the outside, Kansai and Ozaki take turns throwing each other into barriers and Ozaki eventually gets the chain and hangs Kansai from the apron. I will note this was to be expected in these kinds of matches with these kinds of weapons whereas Daniel Bryan got fired for using a necktie. Ozaki wraps the chain around her fist and WITH NO REGARD FOR CONCUSSIONS, whacks Kansai a few times in the head.  From a layman, it looked like at least one of these shots got Kansai pretty good and annoyed. Time to go out in the audience and clear some rows of chairs. Ozaki proceeds to make good use of a few of these, whacking Kansai in the head. After returning to the ring, Kansai gets Ozaki in a back body drop position and dumps Ozaki outside. More walking and brawling until HOLY BALLS KANSAI PILEDRIVES OZAKI on a chair.  

She dead.  

Nope.  Transition spot.  Jerry Lawler is rolling in his grave.  

Then Kansai goes back to the ring and FUCK YOUR CHAIN, SHE’S TAKING THE TOP ROPE WITH HER and walks back to choke Ozaki.  The ring girls are being very helpful in this street fight giving the ropes enough slack to move. It’s a walking mass of screaming Japanese women in white shirts, which makes for a funny visual if one is not accustomed to it, and JWP is not something I was heavily into.

We’re out of the arena to the stairs, where the crowd can’t see.  This has to be annoying as a fan. “Hey, I paid for these tickets, but we’re going to leave the arena for a bit and do some cool shit.” It’s one of the things modern wrestling has learned, as now there’s at least one “jumbotron” at major shows.  Small feds still do this. It’s fun when you’re 22 trying to get a vantage point. At my age, I just want my Ensure and nachos. A couple of clotheslines and Kansai grabs Ozaki by the hair, drags her back upstairs and into the arena. The chain is back to help expedite the process.

Once in, it’s time to finish her and wow….this high angle belly to back suplex, Ozaki flies for Kansai.  A second attempt goes into an arm drag and Ozaki hits a Tiger suplex. Ozaki ties up Kansai to a turnbuckle with the chain across Kansai’s neck and KICKS HER IN THE FACE MULTIPLE TIMES!  Ozaki does a half-assed job of wrapping the chain around the chair and whacks Kansai in the head, which looked mildly unpleasant to take, followed by a bulldog to the floor off the guardrail.

Kansai goes down holding her face and right now it’s obvious she’s blading/stalling and DEAR SWEET BABY JESUS, KANSAI DUG A HOLE IN HER OWN HEAD.  Ozaki bites the cut, places a dog collar on Kansai and “walks” Kansai around the ring. Ozaki’s DIGGING HER TEETH into the cut and spitting out the blood.   3 awesome ddts and Kansai KICKS OUT.

1995 me is all “This is awesome, but get the fuck out of here with that being a two count”

Payback time as we get some vicious clotheslines with the chain in Kansai’s fist.  A boot to the face followed by Kansai WRAPPING THE CHAIN AROUND HER BOOT AND KICKING Ozaki.

Kansai is a mess, as the brawl goes back outside, and it’s time for a table, and we’re talking the type Terry Funk put Ric Flair through or Randy Savage put Ricky Morton through, except, this has a metal storage area underneath to hold things. In other words, meant for heavy duty use instead of to be broken by sado-masochistic Japanese women.  The table gets teased in favor of another Tiger suplex by Ozaki, who then POWERBOMBS Kansai on a flat table. Good Lord. Two count and Kansai again ragdolls Ozaki with a high angle belly to back. These ladies have no regard for human life.

Kansai sets up the table, both stand and she PILEDRIVES HER THROUGH IT.  FOR 2! Alright, my suspension of disbelief is waning. Luckily, there’s not much more in this match as Kansai throws the table in disgust, signals it’s time for another powerbomb, a third Ozaki arm drag reverse into a victory roll for the 3.  I thought this was a bit anticlimactic but that might be modern sensibilities talking.

Ozaki out here celebrating like Rocky to the delight of the crowd.  

A fun bloodbath.  Thanks “Santa.”