For an explanation as well as the history behind VOW Social Distance Santa, please read Part 1 at voicesofwrestling.com/2020/03/27/vow-social-distance-santa-part-1/.
All matches from VOW Social Distance Santa that are available on YouTube can be found here:
El Generico vs. Kota Ibushi
ROH Return Engagement April 19, 2008
This was Ibushi’s first trip to America and one of his first matches in ROH. The prior night, he teamed with Austin Aries to take on The Briscoe Brothers in a match that I love dearly. That’s one of those ROH matches that has been lost to time but I highly recommend getting your hands on Tag Wars 2008 just to see that match if you ever get the chance.
Anyways, Generico vs. Ibushi is the first of what ended up being four singles matches against one another during their time. Their trilogy in DDT was one of the first things I watched when I got into Japanese wrestling, yet I’ve somehow never seen this match. Right off the bat, it’s clear that Ibushi’s greatest hits are over huge with the ROH crowd. He was still fresh enough on an international scale that stuff such as the moonsault-miss-moonsault combo garnered a giant reaction from the Chicago Ridge crowd.
As I spend more time social distancing, I’m becoming reacquainted with the magic of El Generico. God, I forgot how great he was. Mask or no mask, it just seems like this man should’ve been a bigger star but he’s been plagued by injuries and corporate incompetence. Oh well. He was outstanding here. Everything he did was on point.
This was an excellent touring match. Ibushi did everything the American crowd wanted to see, Generico played off of it super well, and in the end, this was a joyous 15 minute affair. Go watch this.
My guess is John Carroll gifted me this. I’m not sure. I just always guess John Carroll at this point. ****1/4
The Untouchables (Marcius Pitt & Damian Slater) vs Street Gang Hooligans (Alex Kingston & Logan Grey)
EPW ReAwakening 16 November 25, 2017
Now, I assume Kevin Chiat was the one to gift this to me and I’d like to thank him for it. I’ve been trying to get out of my Melbourne City Wrestling bubble when it came to the Australian Independent scene and Marcius Pitt just had a great main event at the last EPW show, so I was quite looking forward to this.
This one started pretty hot with Kingston and Grey hitting dives to the outside to kick start their ringside brawl with Pitt and Slater. The commentators did a great job of explaining that Pitt and Kingston used to be a team/friends before Pitt turned on him to join Slater, in fact they did a great job of adding context throughout the match like this being the one of the first times Kingston and Grey have teamed together and that all four men are former EPW champions. I always find it hard to go back and watch old matches from before I was a fan of a promotion because I find I lack context and emotion but the commentators did as good a job as any in giving that context which really added to the match.
The match itself was pretty good to great, around that **** region if you want starz. The story was clearly surrounding Pitt and Kingston and they were the stars of the match for me. I thought it dragged a little when The Untouchables were getting the heat on Logan Grey but when Kingston got that hot tag, it really picked up. Slater, whom I’m sure you all remember from the Cruiserweight Classic, was pretty good in his role here and Grey got better as the match went on and the pace picked up. There were some classic heel shenanigans with the ref towards the end but it all built into the finish with a low blow and big F5 from Pitt to Grey for the win.
The aftermath saw these two teams face off again a few months down the road with Kingston and Grey getting their revenge in a 2 out of 3 falls match which actually main evented EPWs Hot Summer Night 2018 show, which just goes to show how hot this feud was. This would’ve been great to live through and I am 100% going to seek out the 2 out of 3 falls match.
A really fun 23ish minutes of wrestling which left me wanting more from all four of these men. Thanks again, Kevin.
Kenny Omega vs Mike Angels
I was quite excited to find out what I was going to review. Would it be a puro classic or fast-paced lucha or something from the territories etc? What I received was a video that was titled ‘Kenny Omega IS the champion of anywhere match’. I shrugged ‘oh, okay’ because I’ve heard about this backyard match that Kenny had with one of his Canadian mates and I wasn’t too excited to watch their amateurly filmed backyarder stuff (no offense to my secret coronavirus santa). It was apparently Kenny’s DDT audition video and there were clips of it on an Omega documentary that I had watched.
The story is that Kenny Omega broke into a middle-aged man’s (or maybe Mr. Angels is an old looking young man) cottage home while he was playing Super Mario or some sort of Nintendo game and then challenged Angels to a match which was accepted. They played around in the kitchen to start. Angels pretended to have his face burnt by a turned-off stove. Both headed to the backyard. Kenny got to show off a few flips and dives with a tope over a deck rail and a moonsault off some rocks. Sudden cut to them battling near a river (I think) where Omega pushed Angels in and Omega tried to win by murder (drown him for the 10 count). However, Angels didn’t die. They ended up fighting in an area with a lot of big dirt mounds. Both traded fists on top of one that is probably twenty feet tall (or not, I’m a terrible judge of height). Kenny finished him with a very ballsy spot where he hit a Michinoku Driver which sent them both tumbling down to the ground. Easily the highlight of the video.
I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. I’m indifferent to it. Definitely was a good tape for Omega to give to DDT. He showcased his athleticism and zaniness which made him a perfect fit for the promotion. As for Mr Angels, he’s a JAG. But anyway, you can see glimpses of the creativity and talent that made Omega a star. However, the humor didn’t connect with me and I don’t find it that fun because I’m a miserable human being who just ain’t a fan of the rough, amateur footage stuff. From a critical standpoint, I cannot recommend this to anyone. It’s really just a bunch of compiled spots & gags rather than an actual match. If you like Kenny Omega’s goofy antics, then watch it. I am giving this the old NR (no rating). Sorry to my Social Distance Santa because this ain’t my cup of tea. I will give that person credit for choosing something that goes with the social distancing/no crowds theme that’s happening at the moment.
Kenta Kobashi vs. Stan Hansen
All Japan Pro Wrestling July 29, 1993
This match is actually a weird one for me to write about. As a member of the VOW All Japan Triumvirate I actually have a big blind spot when it comes to my favorite promotion. In fact I have seen very little of peak 90s All Japan. I have seen plenty of 80s All Japan and all the way up to 1992 and then most of post split as well as modern All Japan. But the 90s by and large are an unknown to me. Obviously I know the reputation of the period and thats actually one of the reasons that I have largely held off from watching it. Since it is so widely praised I am afraid of going in with too high expectations and being let down. However, after this match I am happy to say that these fears are unfounded. I watched the match once and then immediately watched it two more times and I am normally not someone who rewatches a lot of matches.
This was an absolutely tremendous match and immediately moves into my top 10 favorite matches. Stan Hansen is an all time great and this was so unlike any of his other matches. In a normal Hansen match he gets the jump on his opponents and beats them up until either he wins or he makes a mistake and his opponent can get the upper hand enough to get the win. Not in this match though as Kobashi gets the jump on him and just unleashes a relentless assault.
Kobashi’s intensity in this match is off the charts. I have mainly see post peak Kobashi when is knees had turned to dust and his offense consisted mostly of chops. Its easy to see why his knees would eventually give out on him but his offense here is so crisp and flawless it is a beauty to behold. He doesn’t give Hansen any room to breathe and even when Hansen manages to shake him off briefly he regain control of the match right away.
As I mentioned before this is essentially still a Hansen style match just that the roles are reversed. It is very interesting to see Hansen work from underneath and he does a great job. Hansen’s selling is not something that gets talked about a lot but he was willing to bump like a madman for his opponent if necessary.
The finish of the match was near perfect as well. Kobashi threw everything he had at Hansen but just couldn’t put him away. So he goes to the top for one more moonsault to get the win. But Hansen stops him and just lariats his head off as Kobashi is still sitting on the top turnbuckle. What a beautiful match and what a tremendous performance from both men. This is top tier wrestling and you should go out of your way to watch it.
As for who gifted me this match I would assume it’s either someone like Gerard who watched a ton of All Japan or someone well known for their love of Stan Hansen like Kevin Hare. I’m going to guess Gerard in this case.
Super X Cup Finals: Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles
TNA Sacrifice August 14, 2005
Guys, this match is pure nostalgia for me. I was 13 when this match aired, which was the perfect time for me to become a little baby snark. TNA came around at a time I was probably just watching WWE out of habit. I still had my ECW tapes, but I wanted something new. Along came TNA and, most importantly, the X-Division. Seeing these guys was my gateway to getting into indie wrestling. I was raised in a PW Torch reading home, and I was shocked to see names like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels listed in the results section of a promotion called Ring of Honor. It would take until 2007 or so before I would finally realize that if I actually saved my money or convinced my mom to give me more cash for doing housework, I could actually afford to buy ROH DVDs. Without those DVDs I never would have gotten into Dragon Gate or NOAH or pretty much any of the wrestling I watch today. I’m getting way ahead of myself, but that’s all to say that this era of TNA is incredibly important to me.
I haven’t actually revisited this stuff in a number of years, so I’m very happy to report that this match absolutely still holds up. Hearing AJ’s music and seeing him walk up that awesome entrance tube gave me chills. I’m 13 again and I’m just as impressed by these two as I was in 2005. Joe and AJ at this point in time maybe two of the very best to ever step in the ring. This match is almost predictably great. You have to have matches this good to make their later clashes in WWE so disappointing. You want to see the magic between these two perfect opponents captured again like it was here, but between age and circumstances, it just wasn’t possible.
A good match like this one makes you want to watch even more wrestling. With the free time on my hands brought about by the rona, I’m really tempted to spend a couple of days blazing through some of the 2005 TNA archives. God, I love this match. ****1/2
As for who gave me this, I have to go with our resident IMPACT columnist, Andrew Sinclair