Each of the last four years, members of the VOW staff have participated in our very own version of Secret Santa. VOW Secret Santa sees our writers, reviews, podcasters and contributors giving a gift to one another… the gift of a wrestling match. Learn more about the history and purpose behind this project in this introduction piece.


Orange Cassidy with Swamp Monster vs. Supercop Dick Justice
Beyond Wrestling
December 31, 2017

Reviewed by Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland)
Gifted by Steve Case (@coachcase44)

I deserve this. Last year I gave Jack Beckmann Joey “Jet” Avalon vs. Naomi Yoshimura from Silas Young’s budding shindie, and in return I received this lump of coal in my stocking.

Dad jokes nationwide tell you that getting coal in your stocking is actually a good thing. You can heat your home with it or, in the ultimate dad move, use it for grilling. It truly is the daddest gift of all, but would you believe there’s no definitive origin of the lump-of-coal-for-Christmas threat? According to Mental Floss, even the source of the first lump of coal could’ve come from St. Nicholas, the Dutch Sinterklaas, or Italy’s La Befana.

Apparently, and this makes some sense, the most likely scenario is that whichever gift-bringer was responsible would identify which children were undeserving of proper presents and just pick something up from around the house to signify they really ought to do better. So why coal? All of these gifting spirits comes down the chimney from the fireplace and picked up their nearest hunk of junk.

This match, too, is a hunk of junk. Hopefully by gifting a banger of a match myself this year, I’ll have earned a better myself a better gift next year. Gifter Guess: Chris Samsa

Jun Akiyama vs. Suwama
October 23, 2011 

Reviewed by Case Lowe (@_InYourCase)
Gifted by Thomas Fischbeck (@rasslinratings)

Whoever gifted me this match probably thought they were doing me a favor, but little do they know that I am typically anti-Suwama. I have found his career to be boring more often than not. He was ushered in around the same time as Go Shiozaki in NOAH, Shingo Takagi in Dragon Gate, and Shinsuke Nakamura in New Japan, and I’ve found all of his work to be far more boring and less engaging than the other three. However, this match rules. 

I had seen it before, but it had been a few years since I’d seen it and I had no reason to go back and view it again until now. What I like so much about this match is that it truly feels like a King’s Road classic. It’s not Akiyama and Suwama cosplaying as an All Japan classic from twenty years prior, it’s these two continuing the lineage of greatness that this company produced. Of course, it helps that Akiyama was present and was often a shining star during that era. I love these big, old man Akiyama matches. There’s something poetic and beautiful about seeing him be the shit kicker in Sumo Hall instead of getting his shit kicked in. 

There are three moments in this match I really loved: Akiyama’s Exploder Suplex that sent Suwama from the apron to the floor, Suwama’s vicious lariat that knocked Akiyama to the ground after diving off the top rope, and the brutality of the finish. Akiyama and Suwama bludgeoned each other into oblivion and it concluded in such a beautiful way. Akiyama drove Suwama head-first into the canvas with a modified Exploder for the three. Brutal. Exhausting. Brilliant. 

I believe John Carroll sent me this. I could be wrong, but I get the vibe that they wanted my Christmas season to be spiced up by some All Japan action. ****1/2 

Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Masaaki Mochizuki
Dragon Gate
November 2, 2015

Reviewed by Jeff Martin (@HEATcomic)
Gifted by Andrew Sinclair (@AMSinclair97)

This is one of my favorite matches of all time. 

In the 2015 VOW Match of the Year poll, I had this match ranked at number 2 on my ballot. In hindsight, it should have been number 1. I still think about this match on a regular basis, but couldn’t even recall what I had ranked number one in the poll (it was the Tanahashi/Okada match from that year’s Tokyo Dome show).

As someone who mostly parachutes into Dragon Gate for big matches, Shingo’s Dream Gate reign is one of my favorite periods in DG, and this is my favorite match from that period. It’s a perfect wrestling match that never wavers from its purpose. From the opening bell, Masaaki Mochizuki is the grizzled veteran who’s seen it all, standing up against the apotheosis of the high school bully that was Dream Gate Champion Shingo. Mochizuki’s offense is precise, calculated, and crisp – everything he does screams out his decades of experience and training. Shingo wrestles like a bully, all muscle, power, and clubbing blows. 

These two men spend the whole match trying to kill each other, and it’s incredible. They also spend the whole match trying to take away each other’s primary weapon – Mochizuki’s kicks and Shingo’s Pumping Bomber. In a subtle touch that I really like, it doesn’t actually work in either case. Whenever Shingo does damage to one of Mochizuki’s legs that might lessen the effectiveness of his kicks, Mochizuki kills him with the other leg. Shingo does the same thing, throwing Pumping Bombers with whichever arm hurts less. Both guys are so experienced that they know exactly what they need to do to win. They’re also both so formidable that they can walk through the other guy’s best shots like the Terminator. When Shingo gets a shoulder up after the kick rush that beat him in 2005, Mochizuki does what might be my favorite thing in all of pro wrestling – decide that the last of his energy will be devoted to making Shingo kill him. Mochizuki takes all of Shingo’s biggest bombs and kicks out at one each time. Each time, he looks Shingo right in the eye. Fuck you. Kill me, coward. 

Watching this match got me so fired up about wrestling. I’m gonna guess that my Secret Santa was Case Lowe – he’s a DG guy, and maybe he’s returning the favor after I gave him an incredible Michinoku Pro tag last year. Regardless of who my Secret Santa is, I think them very much, because I got to revisit one of my favorite matches ever, and I’m pretty sure Japanese men hitting each other is the true meaning of Christmas.

A BattleBowl Match
November 20, 1993

Reviewed by Sarah Flannery (@SarahFlann)
Gifted by Jack Beckmann (@packerman120)

I won’t lie, my knowledge of WCW is patchy at best so when I received this match I was excited to watch because it was something completely different for me to watch and enjoy. Also who doesn’t love a battle royal?

I had to read up a little bit about this because what the hell is a battle bowl?! Well, a quick read of Wiki tells me that it was a one-night tag tournament ran throughout the PPV, drawn at random in a lethal lottery. Members of the winning teams would then go onto compete in the Main Event, the Battlebowl. It was ran at two previous Starrcades but they’ve decided to make it a standalone PPV for 1993. 

Well, there’s just a little info for those of you who are like me and didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. 

The Network has this listed as “A Battle Bowl Match” so, here we go! 

What an eclectic mix of people we have! Shockmaster, Shanghai Pierce, Johnny B. Badd, all the lads! The match gets underway when all competitors are in the ring, commentators hoping Rip Rodgers does well and…oh wait never mind he’s been eliminated. 

I’m not really sure how anyone reviews or writes about Battle Royals to talk about to be quite honest so please enjoy some of my commentary. 

The first thing that is really of note in this match is Cactus Jack’s famous noises, you know the ones. I can’t even type how they sound so I’m just hoping that when you’re reading this you’re making them in your head and laughing away to yourself. 

The Nasty Boys feature in this match sadly and by god they’re awful. Were they ever good? It’s been a few minutes and they’re still in the mad which just made me quite sad to be honest. They’re getting way too much focus and are too much of a threat, especially considering some of the names that have been eliminated early or who’ve barely been seen. I’m getting sick of looking at them. With the likes of Vader, Flair and Sting still in the match I just want to get to the goods.

We’re a bit later into the match and Dustin Rhodes gets busted up REAL bad but he’s showing that great fire fighting back at Steve and YES HE ELIMINATES BOTH NASTIES! But crap he eliminates himself. A sacrifice for the greater good of the match so it’s a win. 

“ROAD WARRIOR HAWK IS OUT OF IT” Well now. That is one of the funny things about this match when people get eliminated, there’s no consistency to how it’s announced as you would expect, it’s just whatever comes to the mind of the ring announcer. 

Fast forward again a little bit through the fuller action and we’re down to four. The commentators say that Ric Flair is fighting for his career. In 1993. Harley Race who’s out with Vader takes him out of the ring and Flair gives him a nasty looking suplex on the runway. Now they’re all on the runway! “It’s battlebowl on the runway!” It’s all coming alive now with shenanigans afoot with trainers and security coming down to take Flair away after a nasty attack from Vader. As he’s being taken away everyone is just smack talking him which to me, is absolutely hilarious. Race is causing chaos with the “EMTs” one of whom looks exactly like 2 Cold Scorpio.

Meanwhile, the other 3 competitors are back in the ring with Steve and Vader teaming up on Sting, both attempt to do top rope maneuvers but Sting foils them with a strong babyface comeback with the crowd firmly on his side. 

SORRY IS THE CROWD CHANTING WHOOP THERE IT IS?!! I am absolutely crying ladies and gentlemen. I’m bringing that back at the next show I go to. 

Sting then again gets worked on by the 2 bad guys only to make another strong babyface comeback again, with another whoop there it is chant. The Stinger has to win now! 

Vader hurts his back giving Sting a Vaderbomb, an injury flaring up from earlier into the night so he leaves Steve to work away on Sting. Both Sting and Steve are working away on each other and Vader then throws them out, Sting stays on the ramp but Steve rolls onto the floor so he’s out. 

We’re down to two!

Sting is groggy and with Vader working away on him, who is also not in the best condition. Sting then recovers quicker as Vader’s back is bolloxed for lack of a better word. He goes to give him a splash with Vader positioned on the top rope but Vader falls off the ropes and Sting then eliminates himself…

Excuse me? Holy Christ what a flat ending. Vader wins, is the current champion so what does it all mean Basil? Who knows. Vader shouts something at the viewers at home and we fade to black.  

Anyways after that plain silly ending, I’m not going to be watching anymore old WCW. Slán.

Due to the fact its WCW, I’m going to guess Lee Malone gifted me this match.