? Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore…

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow ?

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 Raw Bowl
January 1, 1996

Reviewed by Kevin Chiat (@kevinchiat)

Gifted by Liam Byrne (@tvtimelimit)

So somehow I ended up with a Gridiron themed match; despite being an Australian who has seen a combined total of one American Football game in full. Although maybe I can use this as the inspiration to make my own overly complicated Tag Team match based off Aussie Rules Football. 

We start with Tag Team Champions the Smoking Gunns coming out. During their walk out we see a promo from Brother Love. You’d think that decades of playing a sleazy conman on TV would have meant that less people would have fallen for Prichard’s sleazy conman act on a podcast; but marks will always be marks. 

Next out we have Owen Hart and Yokozuna and I am still somewhat surprised that they were able to get away with saying that Yokozuna was Japanese for so long. Then Razor Ramon and Savio Vega come out of the entrance way; but on his way down Razor is given roses by Goldust’s usher. Meanwhile Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler make a bunch of football puns/gay panic jokes. 

The final team is Psycho Sid and 123 Kid accompanied by Ted Dibiase. I actually had no idea that Waltman had a heel run in WWF during his first stint there. The rules are explained, it’s basically an elimination tag but with Time Outs for Football reasons and you need to make contact when both men are in the ring. 

Starts off with Bart Gunn and Owen Hart, but Owen tags in Billy. This leads to the smartest spot in the match where Bart and Billy are meant to fight even though they’re on the same team, but instead they just do some chain wrestling that doesn’t hurt and then tag in Owen and Yoko at the same time. Normally heels are smarter than this, but for whatever reason Yoko ends up clotheslining Owen.

At about halfway through the Dailymotion video of this, a horrible buzzing starts; and I had to test that it was from the video rather than my laptop. After watching a couple SNL sketches, confirmed that the problem was with this upload – I’d still rather put up with headache-inducing audio than give money to the morally bankrupt WWE to watch this on the Network. 

There’s a timeout called by 123 Kid, but Razor gives him the Razor’s Edge anyway, so I thought Ramon was going to get DQed for that. Instead Dibiase gets on the apron and causes a distraction, allowing Sid to hit a cheapshot from behind that knocks out Razor. 

We’re down to three teams now; with a Bart Gunn roll-up getting a Whatamanouever out of Vince (like really; you couldn’t remember what a roll-up was called?) Yoko goes for the Bonzai drop but the Gunns get out of the way and push Owen into the drop zone. 

So we’re down to The Smoking Gunns and Sid/Kid to end. Finish comes with Razor pushing Kid off the top rope so he falls onto Sid, and that allows the Gunns to get the win. 

This was very silly and not particularly good; but was at least less soulless feeling than modern pandemic WWE. 

As for who gifted me this; I am going to guess Suit Wiliams because from memory he discusses betting on American sports the most in the VOW slack. 

MIZUKI & SAKI vs. Best Friends (Arisa Nakajima & Tsukasa Fujimoto)
Japanese Women Pro-Wrestling Project (JWP)
May 22, 2016

Reviewed by Matt Francis (@archivingmatt)

Gifted by Ed Grsevinsky (@FosterDisbelief)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the time when all of the Voices of Wrestling contributors get together to gift each other wrestling matches. Like many other people here, I relish participating in these projects as they provide both an opportunity to interact with other wrestling fans in manner as well as allowing me to continue expanding my wrestling horizons. The latter point is especially meaningful to me, since as I continue to get older and life has gotten busier, my wrestling viewing has naturally declined, to the point that up until recently I only really had the time and inclination to follow a single promotion (New Japan Pro Wrestling). In fact, as I sit here reflecting on my relationship with wrestling, I realize that one of the main reasons that I still make any time for our favorite pseudo-sport is because it is something that I enjoy getting to watch with my kids (girls, ages ten and eight), and as a wise wrestling fan once told me at a wrestling event that I attended with my family, “Wrestling, much like Christmas, is always more enjoyable when sharing it with kids.” Even though my kids know that wrestling is staged, they still easily lose themselves in matches and stories the way that I did when I started watching WWF and WCW in the 1980s when I used to watch wrestling with my parents, and when I got to spend time with my grandmother. 

Now three decades later I have the opportunity to not only enjoy wrestling based on my own experiences, but also through the eyes of two newer wrestling fans who haven’t yet become jaded with cynicism towards certain elements of wrestling, or seen the variations of angles run through countless times. In practice, this meant that during the past year I got to watch them literally run around the house chanting “Naito” when Tetsuya Naito defeated Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom, hear their anger and sadness when EVIL turned on LIJ to join Bullet Club (their first wrestling betrayal), and watch as Hiromu Takahashi and Hiroshi Tanahashi developed into their respective favorite wrestlers…the latter in part spurred by watching My Dad is a Heel Wrestler.

All of this brings me back to my own wrestling viewing habits (and I promise I will tie this into the gifted match in just a moment!), in which the most joy I have watching wrestling now is when my kiddos get lost in watching a wrestling match the same way that I used to, celebrating when their favorites win, and feeling heartbroken when they come up short. And it is their fandom that caused me to start watching wrestling outside of New Japan once again, as they began to ask if there were women wrestlers that we could watch as well. While we ended up deciding to add STARDOM to our viewing rotation, I have also made an effort to become more aware of the larger joshi scene (special shout out to Jumping Bomb Audio for their amazing coverage!), and so I was thrilled when given the push to check out four wrestlers who I had never seen before with the gifted Best Friends vs. MIZUKI & SAKI match.

Sitting down together we were fairly unsure what to expect from the match, and performed a quick Google image search just to make sure we knew who was who. Yet despite this ignorance, we were quickly drawn in through the charisma and work of all four wrestlers, and in particular Nakajima and Fujimoto stood out to us, with my girls developing a quick affinity towards them…though apparently that was in part due to the Best Friends reminding them of characters from the Pretty Cure anime. As the match progressed in a relatively straightforward fashion, the wrestlers’ pace, along with the blend of suplexes, strikes, submissions, and double-team goodness kept us all entertained throughout. By the time that Nakajima scored the victory for her team, my ten year old clapped her hands and let loose an enthusiastic cheer, a nice reminder of the magic that wrestling can create even when dropping into a match completely cold. While I really enjoyed the match, I didn’t have the same raw enthusiasm for it that she did…but what I did have was a sense of happiness from having another opportunity to share and enjoy wrestling with my kids. 

And at the risk of getting even more sentimental about a silly wrestling match, I also have the knowledge that I don’t know how much longer my kids will enjoy watching wrestling with their dad. As they continue to develop their own hobbies and interests along with their friends, I think it is likely that at some point watching wrestling (and Japanese wrestling at that) will likely fall to the wayside for them. But for now, I am just glad we are enjoying wrestling together, and I am thankful to my secret santa for giving me an additional opportunity to sit down and watch some good old wrestling with them.

Loser Leaves Town Cage Match: The Rock N Roll Express vs. The Heavenly Bodies
Smoky Mountain Wrestling
April 1, 1994 

Reviewed by Kelly Harrass (@comicgeekelly)

Gifted by Andy LaBarre (@trillyrobinson)

Someone must have heard that I enjoy a good punch and decided to send me this match. If you like punches, this is certainly a match for you. I’ll be honest, I came into this really wanting to like it, but I came away feeling kind of bored. This match took place in 1994 and I would have guessed that it was from about a decade earlier. Smokey Mountain is a blind spot for me, so I don’t know if this is how the company always is, but everything about this match, from the in-ring to the entire presentation, feels like it’s from the prior era of wrestling. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work though. Just watch the crowd, they’re cheering for the Rock N Roll Express like their lives depend on it. The cage in this match is something else. It’s got a wooden frame with a fence wall that is so thin, you couldn’t really see it on this fancam. The whole thing looked like it could fall apart at any moment. While that did add a fun sense of danger to the match, it didn’t really help keep my interest.

I couldn’t really get into things for the first 15 minutes or so, until the Heavenly Bodies took control of the match. Things really kicked into gear for the closing stretch. My favorite part of the match came when a replacement ref tried to count a pin on Morton after he got blasted with Cornette’s tennis racket. The original referee comes back to life after being knocked out earlier and grabs the replacement ref’s hand to stop him from counting the pin. It was a cool moment and I respect how much the original referee respects the rules, even in a cage match. Early on, he kept telling the wrestlers to open up their hands when they used closed fists. Punches are illegal in wrestling and I will not be convinced otherwise. So anyway, I didn’t really like this match very much. It had a good finish, but had a long boring lead up. I’m sure if I was more familiar with SMW or the story of this match I would have enjoyed it more, but I didn’t. Sorry Santa! I’m guessing Andy gave this to me. Please don’t punch me for not liking this match. **3/4

AJPW & RO&D versus Voodoo Murders
September 30, 2006

Reviewed by Liam Byrne (@tvtimelimit)

Gifted by Gerard Di Trolio (@GerardDiTrolio)

Before I watch a match for Secret Santa for VOW, I always like to try and orient myself, especially when it is a promotion, time period, or match I haven’t seen. My gift was AJPW & RO&D versus Voodoo Murders in a Ten-Man Elimination Tag from All Japan. With it being the 30th September 2006, I would have been twenty, at university, and barely watching wrestling at all. However, I never stopped following wrestling – looking at results on websites, going to forums, that type of thing. Therefore, it was always interesting to see the names that were mid-card at best in the WWE who had turned up in All Japan and were rocking and rolling around the top of the card for several years. It was eye opening and had always been a time I’d wanted to re-visit, so with this gift I get my chance, if just for one match.

The teams are TAKA Michinoku, Keiji Muto, Satoshi Kojima, Taiyo Kea and Kaz Hayashi against TARU, D’Lo Brown, Buchanan (formerly of the Bull variety), RO’Z and Suwama. The video came with a montage of the action that had led up to this contest, and from what I could tell, this was TAKA seeking revenge on Brown, Buchanan and RO’Z in particular for turning on him in recent months, with the involvement of the AJPW wrestlers a case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is a friend’. Whatever the storyline, the teams look stacked on paper with interesting potential pairings, so I went in excited to see what mid-00s All Japan had to offer.

What did surprise me to begin with was how relatively slow the opening felt, especially as both teams started by brawling in and around ringside, only for things to settle down a little too quickly for my liking in this match between two hated teams. Part of my intrigue was also built by wondering how some of the bigger names might end up getting eliminated from the contest – the answer came at eight minutes when Muto used a headscissors to take both himself and Suwama over the top rope; a viable method of elimination, it turned out. I get why you’d protect people from eating a pinfall or submission in a match like this, but it was a shame and it felt like a bit of a cop out.

What the involvement of larger physical specimens like RO’Z, Buchanan and even Brown (relatively speaking) allowed for the heel team to overpower their opponents for long periods, effectively building heat. To add to the hatred for the VM team, Suwama’s illegal involvement with a head and arm suplex on Kojima eventually led to the popular wrestler getting eliminated after an impressive Lionsault from RO’Z that came off the back of some excessive double and triple teaming. Suddenly, Taka’s team were a man down and with little to no momentum…until a combination of flash pinfall attempts saw Hayashi eliminate TARU!

Eliminations began to come thick and fast: a weapon shot by Taru sent Hakushi into a Rikishi Driver by R’OZ to re-establish the one man advantage for the briefest of moments, before an appearance at ringside by Minoru Suzuki distracted the big heel long enough for Kea to superkick him over the top rope. As the numbers settled down, it felt like it was all set up for TAKA to rise to victory against his former stablemates…only for him to jump into a Buchanan chokeslam and end up eliminated mere minutes later. For the AJPW lads, it was left to Kea – the reigning Triple Crown champion, I believe – to take on Buchanan and Brown as the odds were stacked in the heels’ favour.

To add to the drama, Kea was soon bleeding a gusher as Buchanan and Brown took it in turns to methodically beat him down. However, Kea was a wily opponent, using the momentum from a Buchanan Irish whip to wipe Brown out with a forearm before reversing a back suplex into a pin for a three count on Buchanan. Once it was down to the final two, it felt only a matter of time before Kea picked up the victory, though Brown did make him work for it with a powerbomb and a particularly bloody STF. There was still time for Muto of all people to re-insert himself into the match as a wild brawl after the referee was pulled from the ring during a Kea pinfall allowed Keiji to hit a shining wizard before Kea nailed his finisher for the win.

This was a good match, but was entirely not what I expected in some ways. I expected more violence and brawling, but it never really went to the next level in terms of that. If not, I was hoping for TAKA to win, but I guess that was always unlikely to happen considering the treatment of the heavyweight/junior divide in Japanese promotions at the time. The quick spate of eliminations in the middle was fun, as was Kea taking on Buchanan and Brown, yet my preconceived ideas of what might happen and what eventually did happen were very much at odds with each other. What I will give it is this – it hasn’t put me off the idea of checking out more of that time period’s AJPW action, so that can only be a good thing.  As for who gifted it to me, I’m guessing Jack Beckmann for no other reason than trying to match the account name with someone who was involved.