For an explanation as well as the history behind VOW Social Distance Santa, please read Part 1 and Part 2. All matches from VOW Social Distance Santa that are available on YouTube can be found here:

No-Rope Electrified Barbed Wire Deathmatch: Combat Toyoda vs Megumi Kudo
FMW 7th Anniversary Show June 5, 1996

Reviewed by Andrew Sinclar (@AMSinclair97)
Gifted by Kevin Hare

I’ve got to be honest, I’d never seen any FMW before I was given this match to watch and rather regrettably I’d not heard of either woman involved. 

Deathmatch wrestling isn’t usually my thing. A lot of the stuff I’ve seen has either just featured gratuitous violence without much semblance of a story or has been far too wink-wink, nudge-nudge for my liking. 

Stipulations like these, however, seemed like they’d be the complete opposite – I’m not squeamish at all but they seemed like they would be too much for me to engage with. Oh, how wrong I was.

I loved every moment. Every movement felt significant and the stakes, and structure, involved had me completely gripped. It seemed as though one wrong step would but either woman in an irrecoverable position. It took about eight minutes for the first explosion and I felt myself recoil in shock but then immediately jump back in as Toyoda smelled blood, pummeling her smaller opponent and locking in a tight surfboard stretch.

Moments later though, she herself went flying into the wire after a missed lariat and we had another explosion. Now the playing field seemed level and it was Kudo in ascendancy, trying to choke the life out of her opponent. 

Toyoda, whose left arm was a mesh of skin and profusely leaking plasma by this point, responded and she tried to empty the tank. Powerbombs and suplexes were hit in isolation followed by desperate covers – what would it take for Kudo to just stay down and end the chaos?

A roll up attempt gave Kudo some respite and that opened the door for the third and final explosion. Toyoda reversed a shining wizard attempt into a german suplex against the ropes. It was the final salvo in her retirement match and in the end it was her undoing.

When the smoke settled it looked like something out of a car crash, with lifeless bodies strewn in the corner and blood everywhere. Both women emerged from the carnae shadows of their former selves, pawing at each other, knowing that they had nothing left. Kudo somehow got her up and hit a vertabreaker. By then it was academic; both women had proved themselves winners in this ultimate battle of wills. 

When you leave Atsushi Onita in tears on the outside, you know you’ve pushed yourselves to the limits. To whoever gave me this, you pushed me into a genre of wrestling that I’ve always shied away from but one I now want to explore more of. This is easily the best deathmatch I’ve ever seen and one I’d have no problem watching again, especially now we have more time on our hands with the whole Corona lockdown. I’m guessing that Kelly Harrass gave me this, but I have no idea. I’m just very grateful that someone did. 

WWF Championship, Empty Arena Match – The Rock (c) vs. Mankind
January 31, 1999

Reviewed by Griffin Peltier (@Hollywd12)
Gifted by Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland)

Continuing with the social distancing theme, we have the Halftime Heat match between The Rock and Mankind for the World Wrestling Federation Championship. The crowd is empty, and it strikes me just how much it looks like a modern SmackDown! taping. The match started hot and cut to the action right away and we are blessed to have “What a maneuver” Vince McMahon on commentary for this historic bout. The Rock and Mankind mesh so well in the ring, but out of the ring is where the real magic happens.

For a WWF title match, this had the perfect mix of being a serious feud with a lot of comedy antics involved. The Rock chiming in on commentary for a bit, Mankind tumbling down the stairs like a fish out of water, and cotton candy being used as a weapon (think of the children!) started us off and it continued to build. This will never be considered a great match – this is no Kobashi/Misawa classic – but damn is it a fun pick to help introduce non-fans to the wacky world of wrestling. THE POPCORN bag will always be a WTF moment that will stand the test of time.

Want a good laugh? Rewatch this match but keep your eyes glued on Earl Hebner the entire time. He tries to stay as serious as possible but he nearly slips on food a few times. I don’t understand how he kept his composure and treated this as just another match. A+ and five T-shirts to Earl.

The brawling continued and The Rock’s trash talk remained a highlight until the end of the match. Mankind pinning The Rock with a forklift is a hell of a finish and certainly unique. The best part was The Rock’s facials as the lift slowly came down on him. The camera angle was ridiculous, the acting was hokey, but it was awesome all at the same time. Losing the championship via forklift pinfall was a smart booking decision to keep Rock strong and was the perfect ending to this wacky affair. Foley gets the pin and just like that it is all over and fade to black.

I loved this. It’s a perfect campy wrestling match to watch without needing to think. Mick Foley is extremely underrated as a star-maker and this feud with The Rock made The Rock who he is today. Not a lot from the Attitude Era aged well when it comes to entertaining matches, but this one did. As for who gifted me this match, I think Andrew Rich is my Social Distance Santa – this seems like a match he’d enjoy.

Hulk Hogan & Sid Justice vs. Ric Flair & The Undertaker
February 8, 1992

Reviewed by Jeff Martin (@HEATcomic)
Gifted by Liam Byrne (@tvtimelimit)

The WWF in the early ’90s is my favorite era of wrestling. I started watching wrestling in late ’93, and the aesthetics of that period defined a lot of my tastes moving forward. The bright colors, big muscles, and non-sensical promos ranted at a long-suffering interviewer by extremely charismatic sentient mounds of beef ARE pro wrestling to me.

This match is pretty typical for how WWF treated matches with big stars that were on TV – it’s a showcase of personalities more than an athletic competition, with action that is breezily entertaining if viewed mindlessly, but fails to satisfy a more starz-centric analysis. The action here is completely secondary. The match exists solely to decouple Hulk Hogan from his initially intended program with Ric Flair set up the main event of Wrestlemania VIII against Sid Justice.

Instead of talking about the match, I’m going to touch on that story, and how it highlights that Vince McMahon has never known what a good babyface is supposed to act like. It’s something I’ve been thinking about off and on for a while, after reading this piece about the Death of the Territories book a few months ago.

Hulk Hogan spends this entire clip being the biggest possible dickhead to Sid Justice and also cheating harder than both of the ostensible heels COMBINED. Here, he is everything that Jesse Ventura’s commentary throughout the Hulkamania period made him out to be – jealous, paranoid, and a dirty cheater. It’s like he sees Justice as the man who will usurp his place, and is desperate to squash that potential at any cost. Hogan answers Sean Mooney’s interview question to Sid Justice before Justice can even take a breath. Hogan’s music interrupts Justice’s (generic but very catchy) theme before Justice even reaches the ring. Hogan spends as much time in the spotlight as possible, rarely tagging voluntarily. Every single mannerism and behavior that Hogan exhibits is exquisitely performed as a heel believing in his own righteousness. It’s great… except that he’s the good guy.

Hogan is positioned as the good guy against every other man in the match, including Justice, who is being wronged at every turn tonight after being eliminated by sore loser Hogan in the Royal Rumble match that crowned Flair the month previous. But Justice is the bad guy, because Hulk Hogan is the good guy, because Vince McMahon has never actually been able to portray a babyface as a genuinely heroic character. Vince McMahon molds his top babyfaces after his own personality – charismatic, but ruthlessly selfish. It’s become blatantly obvious now, with the complete lack of crowd investment in most WWE characters, but it has always been there. The closest the WWF/E has gotten to having a truly “good” character in the role of top babyface is Bret Hart, during the period where Vince was in and out of the booking process (and also court).

Anyway, I had fun watching this. If you want a nice little nostalgia hit, watch this for 12 minutes of bright colors, big muscles, and a promo ranted at an interviewer by an extremely charismatic sentient mound of beef.

Oh, I almost forgot to guess who sent this to me. I’m gonna guess Steve Case, I know he likes this era of the WWF, too.

Arez vs. Ricky Marvin
Lucha Memes ‘Chairo Kingdom’ March 31, 2019

Reviewed by Liam Byrne (@tvtimelimit)
Gifted by Ricardo Gallegos (@wallyrgr)

In trying to reach for a connection to this match, I was able to get about as far as knowing Ricky Marvin and that was about it. Oddly enough, considering my occasional sojourn into puro and lucha, I’ve never watched a Marvin match, let alone one with Arez in it. Lucha has always been a bit of a blind spot for me, with my preference either being a balls to the wall spotfest or a hated and heated apuestas match; I looked forward to what this match had to offer.

Working under the belief that this was wrestled under one fall rules until shown otherwise, I loved that they threatened with some early mat work until Marvin just stomped on both of Arez’s elbows. This set the tone and it fell nicely in the sweet spot between the two lucha styles I like – Arez was soon launching himself and Marvin into the crowd with a suicide dive, whilst a slap exchange near the end brought the hate. When I say slap exchange, it is worth noting how ridiculously hard Marvin hit Arez to begin the exchange and to end it by dumping him on his arse. These spots can be contrived, but this was a fun use of it.

The match itself was quite short so it meant that they rarely came up for air. A bucklebomb by Marvin was followed by a superkick by Arez, whilst a neat swinging Northern Lights Suplex was the closest Arez came to downing Marvin. The biggest issue was the slightly slow transitions at points, with some moves clearly being set up just for the counter so executed in a way that looked lazy, but that’s nitpicking.

The finishing exchange was cool as well as Arez kicked out of a driver variation at one, only to get blasted with a lariat and a variation on a tombstone – I’m sure it has a fancy name that I’m not aware of – in which the legs were hooked and Marvin went straight into the winning cradle. I was waiting to see if there was indeed a segunda caida and there was a lot of stuff happening afterwards that left me wondering, yet eventually some kids were invited into the ring and that was the end of that.

A fun match that didn’t overstay its welcome and was enjoyable from bell to bell – couldn’t ask for more. If I had to guess who this was, I’d say Ricardo Gallegos primarily as he is the main guy I know who loves lucha.