? Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore…
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow ?
Read the introduction, history and Part 1 of VOW Secret Santa 2020 at voicesofwrestling.com/2020/12/14/vow-secret-santa-2020-part-1-introduction/. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors giving the greatest gift of all to their fellow VOW friends: a pro wrestling match!
VOW Secret Santa Archives: voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/vow-secret-santa/
The Motor City Machine Guns vs Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi)
NJPW Soul Night 1 05/07/2009
Reviewed by Andrew Sinclair (@AMSinclair97)
Gifted by Matt Francis (@archivingmatt)
One of my initial takeaways from the projects like this I’ve been involved in since I started writing for Voices of Wrestling is how limited my wrestling knowledge really is. Almost every match I’ve been gifted is one I’ve not seen and taps into eras of promotions I’ve never investigated. I always mean to look into them more and then I realise that there aren’t enough hours in the day and I’m far too easily distracted… Anyway, I digress. Simply looking at the names involved here told me I was in for something special and very much up my street. When all was said and done, I wasn’t remotely disappointed.
The dynamic for this match, a main event on the first night of New Japan’s ‘Soul’ tour in a rowdy Korakuen Hall, was simple – the Guns were the cocky outsiders and Apollo 55 were the beloved ‘home’ team, desperately trying to unseat the heel champions and end their six-month title reign.
Devitt looks so young here and Taguchi’s mop is truly a sight to behold, as is the in-ring action. There’s some fun interactions in the early going before we settle into a pattern, the Guns using quick tags and working over Devitt, who finally tags Taguchi in on the 10-minute mark. From there it just goes bananas and is a tornado tag-style sprint, which allows both teams to thrive with slick double teams and some great spots.
There’s no commentary for this match, just the noises from the wrestlers and the crowd and it struck me how much that noise and natural emotional reaction means to the overall product. For a large part of the pandemic era I’ve got myself by with the notion that wrestling is wrestling but this pulled me right to the edge of my seat and the crowd definitely played a big part in that.
The Guns’ teamwork here is so slick (imagine my shock) and the pace of this down the stretch is really ridiculous. There’s a distinct absence of pin attempts in the first three-quarters of the match but their regularity increases as we approach the finish, with both sides emptying the tank in an attempt to finally put the other away. It’s the sort of natural escalation I live for (take from that what you will).
Every time the Guns get close to victory the crowd erupts in support for Taguchi and Devitt, desperate for their boys not to lose. The pop when Devitt, who earlier in the match hit a springboard dive from in the ring over the barricade, finally puts Shelley down with Shingata Prince’s Throne very much warmed the heart. Happy to chuck all the Christmas-related items you want at this, it was bloody brilliant from start to finish.
A great gift and one that I think has Andrew Rich’s name written all over it.
Lou Thesz vs. Verne Gagne
National Wrestling Alliance Chicago
January 25, 1952
Reviewed by Ricardo Gallegos (@wallyrgr)
Gifted by Taylor Maimbourg (@tamaimbo)
I had never seen a wrestling match from before the ‘70s so my Secret Santa definitely gifted something fresh for my eyes. This is a 2 out of 3 Falls 1952 black & white 40-minutes match contested between a couple of wrestling legends. I’m not the most patient of humans so I’m not gonna lie, this tested me. Watching a hundred headlocks is not my idea of fun. However, this was a fascinating bout that transported me to a time when things were more simple and therefore, allowed me to witness wrestling in its most basic form.
The crowd was firmly behind the babyface Gagne who had to deal with Thesz’s superb heel antics which was the most interesting element about the match. Thesz stalled and used a lot of rope breaks to take Gagne out of his game, he also used cheap shots and was a nasty jerk throughout. His villainous actions were subtle but effective. His use of a backdrop to get out of one of Gagne’s tough headlocks was tremendous and it allowed him to win the first fall, creating even more interest around the match itself. Gage was also very good selling the heck out of Thesz’s offense and hitting him very hard in the right moments which was probably very satisfactory for the crowd. The grappling was intense but repetitive; I’m sure this is like porn for hardcore old-school wrestling fans.
I appreciate this as a throwback learning experience, but I would never watch it again. This is the opposite of fun for me. I’m guessing my Secret Santa is Andy LaBarre because he has gifted very old matches in the last couple of years.
CrazyMAX (CIMA, SUWA & Don Fujii) vs. M2K (Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid & Kenichiro Arai) vs. DoFIXER (Magnum TOKYO, Genki Horiguchi & Susumu Mochizuki) vs. Italian Connection (Milano Collection AT, YOSSINO & Condotti Shuji)
Toryumon Japan Verano Peligroso II 2003 – Tag 16 (8/30/2003)
Reviewed by Jonathan Hernandez (@FatmansAlright)
Gifted by Michael Spears (@fujiiheya)
You know what I love most about Dragongate? Where in most promotions the multi-man tag is an excuse to get talent on the show, in Dragongate it’s the foundation of their house style. Any one of those six or eight man tags on the card could steal the show, and the playbook they draw from is right here in this match.
Just look at that lineup – seventeen years later, nine of these twelve guys are still active and bearing GIF-able fruit. Hell, eight of them (the exception being CIMA, of course) will appear on Dragongate’s next (as of writing) Korakuen Hall show.
The entrances are almost as vital as the match itself. The characters are impressively distinct, and even before the bell rings a clueless viewer could likely suss out everyone’s role. Magnum TOKYO’s fully fleshed out choreography and overflowing charisma put him on par with Ric Flair as pro wrestling’s most convincing fuckhounds. It’s comforting to watch Susumu Yokosuka be as uncomfortable and unenthusiastic a dancer back then as he is today, and Milano Collection AT radiates impossible swag walking his invisible dog to the ring.
As for the match itself, six minutes pass before things slow down enough for you to even consider what you’re watching. The pace they maintain while continuously swapping places and clobbering each other is ungodly. They line up for the classic “parade of corner lariats” routine, first with CIMA slumped against the turnbuckle. He interrupts the assault, and begins a sequence where the line is constantly re-directed and split toward different victims in different corners, no one missing a beat. My eyes cross trying to keep up. It’s the sacred geometry; I’m not meant to understand, just be grateful for a glimpse.
The final FIFTEEN MINUTES consist entirely of convincing near-falls and increasing drama. The last two teams are Do FIXER and Italian Connection. While Toryumon in particular is an unfortunate blindspot of mine, I’ve watched most of T2P’s run, so I attach to Italian Connection as my personal home team. As we move toward the final months of his career in the current day, it’s especially nice to watch a 23-year-old Masato Yoshino (YOSSINO here – he’s Italian, you see.) run the ropes with the lunatic abandon that would soon earn him the nickname Speed Star.
The closing face-off comes between Milano Collection and Magnum TOKYO. Milano Collection AT in the early 00’s is one of the most can’t-look-away professional wrestlers I’ve ever seen. No matter how much ass you’ve seen him kick handily, he’s just as convincing in peril. He has a room of shrieking fans on a leash, as if they were his invisible dog. You gotta see it.
I imagine this came from Mike Spears, but whoever it came from, thanks, and shame on me for not having seen it yet. Oh, and thanks to Masaaki Mochizuki too, for not aging a single day since.
Johnny Gargano vs Matt Cage
Reviewed by Kevin Hare (@stan__hansen)
Gifted by Rich Kraetsch (@voiceswrestling)
Revisiting Johnny Gargano’s indie run is always interesting. He was a guy I always considered good and was everywhere for a few years. At the same time, it was easy to take him for granted, especially outside of his Evolve stuff. I didn’t really consider him great until his NXT run really kicked into gear. Now, 2020 Gargano is a completely different beast, but I prefer to focus on positives, not negatives here.
Matt Cage, on the other hand, was a wrestler I’d hear about, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen. He was always presented to me as a really talented regional guy who just never really left his area. I’m excited to see him here.
The match started with a Cage promo calling out any challenger from the back. Gargano made the surprise answer. The first thing I noticed is how terrible 2014 Johnny Gargano’s hair was. It was like a weird pixie cut, so thankfully he got rid of that.
Gargano started strong, immediately punching Cage in the mouth. After a few moments of control, Gargano kicked Cage in the nose. I thought Gargano was going to start actually working the nose, which would be pretty unique, but unfortunately, he did not. Gargano keeps working over Cage, giving big chops in the corner. Finally, after Cage’s manager hung up Gargano’s legs, Cage took over.
As the match went on, I can’t help but think about a guy like Cage existing a bit in a bubble in Illinois. He looks good, he can talk well, he’s smooth and looks like a wrestler. If he was on the scene now, he’d stand out as one of the best in the country right now. I’m not sure I can’t think of more than one or two wrestlers on the indie scene right now who come off on the same level. Instead, he wrestled when the scene was overflowing with great wrestlers and never got a real shot.
The match continued as a pretty typical indie match. In real-time, I never thought of Gargano as a guy who’d end up in WWE. Watching now, it seems obvious that he would. He’s got the timing and mannerisms down and already feels a bit like a polished star.
The match kicked into next gear and has got pretty great. Both men traded near falls and reversals, with Gargano kicking out of the Money Clip for a big near fall. Gargano hit two lawn darts into opposite corners, but Cage also kicked out. Finally, Cage hit a second rope Codebreaker after a distraction for the win.
This was a very good match in front of a hot local crowd. Two good wrestlers wrestled in front of a hot local crowd in a match that had stakes. It happened at a small indie that didn’t have much national acclaim, but if dropped into 2020 would immediately jump to the top of best indie matches of the year. ****¼