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.


Seth Rollins vs. The Fiend
October 6, 2019

Reviewed by Jack Beckmann (@packerman120)
Gifted by John Carroll (@toshanshuinLA)

Last year, I received a Milwaukee indie match for my Secret Santa gift. I wish I had received that again this year. This time, I got the equivalent of a whoopee cushion under my tree. Like a whoopee cushion, this is the most normie way to troll someone in a Secret Santa. It isn’t remotely clever, but hey, it’ll get a cheap laugh, so I guess that’s what makes it funny.

I knew that to get through this match, I was going to need to be in some sort of altered state. However, I am too young to legally purchase alcohol, so I just watched the match in Russian instead.

I went into the match knowing that the red light would be on the entire time, but it still remains a dumbfounding decision to me to actually do that. Instead of looking cool, and combined with the low crowd energy, it just feels like I’m watching some shitty local death metal band that no one gives a shit about that’s opening for some other cooler band. The first half of this match was your basic WWE weapons match – two guys go back and forth with the usuals, both taking turns pulling out various objects from under the ring. They did this until THE FIEND snapped Seth Rollins’s neck, or at least that’s what he was trying to do. It’s a shame the match didn’t end there.

Things really picked up when The Fiend pulled out a MALLET from under the ring. I’d heard about the mallet from general Twiter osmosis, but man, that thing is fucking dumb. However, it was the first time I’d had fun during this match, so I let it slide. At some point, before The Fiend drove Rollins into the cage with his mallet, Russian Announcer #1 mentioned Triple H, I assume because of the similarities between The Fiend’s mallet and HHH’s sledgehammer? I wish I was watching a Triple H match right now. At least those are funny in how masturbatory they are, this just sucks.

Enough words have been written on this site about the finish of this match, so I don’t need to go on a four-paragraph long diatribe about how inane and stupid it was. It sucked. I hope whoever gifted me this stubs their toe very hard in the near future. Happy holidays!

Dynamite Kid vs. Marty Jones
World of Sport
February 5, 1983

Reviewed by Liam Byrne (@tvtimelimit)
Gifted by Neil David (@chubby_cthulhu)

Considering I am a British wrestling fan, I’m not really much of a fan of British wrestling.

This statement is somewhat misleading; it isn’t that I’m not a fan of British wrestling per se, but that I’ve actually not watched a lot of ‘proper’ British wrestling in my time watching the sport. It sits somewhere alongside lucha libre in terms of areas of wrestling that I will occasionally return to with a renewed hope that it will sweep me along down a path to wrestling greatness. Unfortunately, I often get distracted by something else and before long my plans to really explore either style of wrestling falls by the wayside.

With that in mind, I was happy that someone gave me Dynamite Kid versus Marty Jones as my match, thus forcing me to watch a match from a scene I should spend more time with. I even got some additional Bruce Hart action as he was invited down to the ring, called a coward by Jones on the mic, and finally actually arrived to the ring in an awkward bit of television.

What I always like in my wrestling recently is a sense of escalation in violence where we don’t necessarily expect out and out violence to be. Though there are bad guys and good guys in British wrestling, there is often a sense of it being more about whether you are willing to bend the rules or not. Between Kid and Jones, however, it isn’t just about not following the spirit of the competition; from an opening slap on the break by Kid, things continue to rise in terms of the aggression shown by both men.

Talk is made of Kid gaining weight, what can only be shorthand for a more genetically enhanced physique – my Dad often spoke to me when I was younger about Kid’s change in frame from his debut to his time spent Stateside whenever we watched wrestling and he wanted to complain about steroids. This frame didn’t help Kid much after a slap to the face earned him a kick and a brutal throw through the ropes by Jones, with the blue-eye showcasing his willingness to get nasty if needed.

Jones took the first fall after turning a bodyslam attempt into a small package, sparking some more dubious tactics from Kid as he attacked him immediately after the fall, whilst a kneedrop earned him a first public warning. A huge whip into the corner by Jones on Kid was taken chest first in a move that was stolen by Bret Hart or stolen off of him, either way. Eventually, a top rope headbutt wasn’t enough for a first fall for Kid – the ref debating the legality of the move put paid to that – but a slam to follow was enough.

There was a lot more going on in the contest than I can truly do justice, but things picked up further in the third fall with both men taking a huge bump to the outside off of a Jones crossbody. A top rope dropkick almost had both men down for the eight count, before a sequence of reversals ended up with Jones on top of a roll-up for the pin. The finish was hurt somewhat by the referee not going down to count the pin, but the fans in attendance didn’t seem to mind too much.

A worthy way to spend my time, though also a choice that has left me somewhat unsure as to who might have gifted it to me. I feel like I should know a bit more about the staff members in order to make an educated guess, but my gut tells me it is one of Andrew Rich or Griffin Peltier. As I think Griffin might have gone later in terms of time period, I’ll take a punt on Andrew.

GHC Junior Heavyweight Title – Jushin Thunder Liger (C) vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Pro Wrestling NOAH
July 10, 2004

Reviewed by Sean Sedor (@SASedor2994)
Gifted by Kevin Wilson (@JoshiPuro)

So twice in the last three years, I’ve been given a match from the heyday of Pro Wrestling NOAH. I think the universe is trying to tell me something….

Anyway, my Secret Santa sent me back to the summer of 2004, a time when New Japan wasn’t the only promotion that ran the Tokyo Dome. NOAH was on fire during the mid-2000’s, and the junior division was certainly a significant part of that success. On this particular night, Yoshinobu Kanemaru challenged Jushin Thunder Liger for the GHC Junior Heavyweight TItle. First of all, it’s very appropriate that I was sent a match involving Liger just a few weeks before he’s set to have his final two matches in this same venue, so thanks to the person that sent me this (I’ll get to my guess later). As for Kanemaru, I’ve never seen any of his NOAH work, so I knew this was going to be an interesting glimpse at what he was like in his prime. What struck me immediately is that Kanemaru oddly reminded me of Tomohiro Ishii here, in terms of his look! I think it was mainly the weight belt and the buzzcut that gave me that impression.

The matches I tend to enjoy the most usually feature a lot of fast-paced, hard-hitting action, and boy oh boy, these two certainly didn’t waste any time!! Within the first thirty seconds of the bout, Liger nailed Kanemaru with a big Shotei Palm Strike and a Liger Bomb for a big nearfall. Then, Kanemaru quickly fires a counter strike with a big brainbuster for another nearfall. After gaining the edge over the champion, Kanemaru tried to ground Liger down with a couple of different submission holds. However, once Liger was able to regain the advantage after hitting a Koppu Kick, he absolutely destroyed Kanemaru with a series of powerbombs (the first of which was on the floor!). Liger would continue to punish Kanemaru with a variety of submissions and other big moves, but the challenger refused to stay down or give up. 

Kanemaru was eventually able to mount a comeback, and once he hit Liger with a powerbomb of his own, followed by the Deep Impact DDT, we got into an exciting closing stretch. Liger, sensing the momentum swinging in Kanemaru’s favor, tried to put him away with a series of flash pins. A couple more Shotei’s and a big top rope brainbuster only managed to get a one count!! Kanemaru fired up, and his brainbuster of his own, but Liger responded with a one count kick out of his own!! The challenger somehow managed to block a Shotei, but that opened him up to a big right hand, another Shotei, and another brainbuster for an incredible nearfall. This Tokyo Dome crowd is HOT for this junior title match. Liger tried for the top rope brainbuster again, but that proved to be his undoing. Another Deep Impact DDT, a moonsault, and two straight brainbusters finally put Liger away, and the crowd exploded as Kanemaru captured the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title.

This was a freaking awesome wrestling match, no doubt about it. Liger was awesome, as he always is, and Kanemaru really looked great as well. Obviously he’s not a regular contender for singles gold much these days, but this match does make me want to go back and watch some more of Kanemaru’s work. What I thought was so fascinating about this particular bout is that even though it was a big GHC Junior Heavyweight Title match, it wasn’t wrestled anything like the types of matches that more casual fans might associate with junior heavyweight style. It very much felt like the kind of match you would see between two heavyweights. There was barely any high-flying, and not even that many strikes (aside from the various Liger Shotei’s). This was just submissions, brainbusters, and powerbombs, and it was fantastic. ****3/4 

As for my Secret Santa, my first guess would immediately be Joe Lanza (since he’s a massive Kanemaru fan and this seemed like the kind of match he loves), but he doesn’t participate in our Secret Santa, so it can’t be him. I know it must be someone who really loved NOAH, and more specifically, Kanemaru’s work in NOAH, so I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say it was either John Carroll or Kevin Hare. I can’t decide on which, but I feel like it was from one of those two.

Kenou & Syuri vs. Masaaki Mochizuki & Mayu Iwatani
Hana Kimura Memorial Produce HANA
August 7, 2016

Reviewed by Joe Gagne (@joegagne)
Gifted by Taylor Maimbourg (@tamaimbo)

This is from a show called Hana Kimura Memorial Produce HANA, which makes it sound like Hana Kimura is dead, but she is not (she worked the main event). Former Okinawa Pro stalwart Golden Pine worked the opener, which interests me and likely no one else. Everyone but Iwatani’s music gets muted, which I find funny for some reason.

This is a hell of a collection of talent you would not expect to be in the same match. Iwatani and Syuri work a quick sequence before tagging the men in, and Mochi and Kenou have a great exchange where they try and kick the bejeezus out of each other. Syuri gets tagged in and I’m wondering if this will be worked traditional mixed-tag style (meaning men only interacting with men and women only with women) but Mochi and Syuri have an exchange where they boot each other in the spine like they’re trying for a 50-yard field goal. Mayu comes back in and hits a kick so stiff it earns the approval of Mochi (and a high five), the cutest scene involving abject violence you can imagine.

Someone in Shin-Kiba 1st Ring keeps yelling for Mayu and WON’T SHUT UP.

The bout unfolds like a Mixed Match Challenge meets Battlarts, with everyone pummeling each other with kicks. It comes down to a long closing stretch with Mayu and Syuri each going for pins and submissions, only to have them get broken up, and the match (inevitably?) goes to a 20-minute draw.

I won’t say this is a hidden classic, but I enjoyed it and never dragged in the slightest.  My big takeaway from the match is I really wanted to see a Kenou/Mochizuki singles match, and we actually got that match in the 2019 NOAH N1 tournament, which is something of a Christmas miracle.

As for who gifted me this match, we have several people on the site who are hardcore Mochizuki devotees, several people into joshi, and several people who would seek out under-the-radar matches like this. Thankfully, due to my procrastination, I’ve been able to cross out a lot of suspects, Clue-style. So I’ll guess Taylor Maimbourg.