Thanks to http://www.digits.com for their badass righteous free counters
Pro Lucha TV on GAORA 12/00
Since the vast preponderance of wrestling fans live in either the United States, Canada, or Japan, typically those three countries are the only three given any national identity in professional wrestling. But this view isn't exactly faithful to the accurate world-view of wrestling; in reality, there's wrestling all over. Successful wrestlers have come from locales like Ireland, Germany, Australia, Korea, and Great Britain.
Great Britain in particular has left a phenomenally well-defined impact on professional wrestling, largely due to the lasting influence of one Tom "Dynamite Kid" Billington. It's been said a million times that Billington and Satoryu "Tiger Mask" Sayama invented the modern junior style of wrestling in their feud in New Japan Pro Wrestling in the early 1980s, but it bears saying again - from an artistic standpoint, Billington's impact on professional wrestling is equal to Hogan's or Inoki's. It may even exceed theirs; the modern junior style is arguably what brought professional wrestling out of the 1970s form. And the most surprising thing is that even today, in 2001, his matches with Sayama are still jaw-droppingly great.
Obviously, if those matches are still that good today to a honky American wrestling critic/dork, then imagine how great they were back in, say, 1994. They were at least good enough for Chris Benoit and the Great Sasuke to use their match at the final of the legendary and phenomenal 1994 J-Cup as a near-homage to Billington and Sayama, respectively, by incorporating elements from all over their feud, and pulling them all together into one coherent, breathtaking match. It's the match that really put the Great Sasuke on the match, just as the feud with Dynamite Kid really put Tiger Mask on the map. The J-Cup match was so good, in fact, that Sasuke was able to parlay it into national prominence for his upstart indie fed called Michinoku Pro.
Now, in the past, MPro has demonstrated an almost-self-destructive willingness to work with people from all over the globe, bringing in people like Jerry Lynn, Dos Caras, and plenty of people from Great Britain. It's always intriguing to see how Sasuke, who idolized Tiger Mask, scours the British indies for people who could benefit both themselves and MPro simultaneously. Without MPro, for example, the world might never have known the name of Johnny Saint, the man with the funniest complicated submission moves ever. Or James Mason, the man who makes his debut on this GAORA block and has made a small name for himself among workrate fans for his innate ability to add flips to moves where the laws of physics dictate that flips cannot be.
In a weird way, it's always the British tours that go well for Sasuke. His tour with AAA from earlier in the year proved DISASTROUS in a workrate sense, thanks to him getting some of the worst workers known to man (Electro Shock, take a bow). But the British kids are always there, always willing to work with Sasuke first and foremost and get themselves over second, and most importantly ALWAYS DIFFERENT.
Like I said, this show is the beginning of a mini-British tour with the introduction of Mason and Brett Como (who played WAR's Ultimate Dragon). And while Como's got some cool highspots, it's Mason's freaky-freaky matwork and fundamentals that really make Great Britain stand out on this show.
I keep going on and on, but think about this - Twenty years ago, the greatest wrestler in the world was a man from Britain who was inventing the style out of thin air that would, eventually, lead to Michinoku Pro. Today, we get Michinoku Pro hiring TWO guys essentially simply based on this legacy.
Meanwhile, in America, Hulk Hogan can't get a job.
YOU try telling me that Tom Billington didn't make an impression.
So on with the show!
1. Dos Caras vs. Great Sasuke Well, this should be depressing. I last saw Dos Caras in the finals of the MPro mask tourney, where he was working WICKEDLY brutal on Sasuke, giving him the first skull fracture of his career. He was pretty decent back then. These days...well... As for Sasuke, he's been doing nothing but tarnishing his legend ever since his great match with Magnum Tokyo in early '99. These days, he's been content to just hit his spots early and pick up his statue. So THAT'S what I'm looking forward to in this match, a Grim Spectre which Dos Caras pretty much fulfills about three seconds in when he opens the match by selling a Sasuke shoulderblock by...standing...differently, while Sasuke feels that ten seconds in is a GREAT place for a Tope Atomico. BOOOOOOOOOO. There's really nothing to see in this match - the two guys try to go for spots to pop the crowd, like de-masking each other or a mirror ram-your-opponent's-shoulder-into-the-corner spot, but fail to recognize that these spots DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE IN THE MATCH. It doesn't help that Caras is REALLLLLLY Nashing it up here. He's literally jogging off of Irish Whips, and just walking the rest of the time, which means that Sasuke's got to try to compensate on things like his quebradas and such. He's also not doing anything at all to try to contribute to the match telling a story; he either uses these weird submission attacks that target pretty much every part of the body simultaneously or throws these weak-ass strikes that don't look like they have anything at all behind them. So Sasuke, realizing that his opponent's not really doing anything, says "Fuck it" and throws transitions out the window. So instead of BUILD to moves like, say, the friggin' SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP, we get Dos Caras being sent out of the ring on a weak handspring elbow followed by a full two seconds of Sasuke standing around puffing and panting before busting out the SFTD. It should, of course, come as no surprise that the finish comes suddenly and without any real reasoning. This is NOT a good Sasuke match. Hell, this isn't even a good match. 1/2* Maybe with some transitions and build they could have cracked **, even with Dos Caras' laziness, but as it was, they both just screwed the pooch that WAS this match.
2. Tiger Mask 4/El Gran Hamada vs. Pentagon/Rocky Santana Well FUCK ME IN THE MORNING. Pentagon's managed to find the one wrestler on the AAA tour that's even worse than Electro Shock, who tagged with him allllll the long, arduous way to the finals of the tag tournament on last month's horrible show. This one's JIP, thank the Lord. We also start off with TM4 vs. Pentagon, which, all things considered, is the best possible scenario. This match is just IRRITATING, because it's not without action. Hell, there's ACTION galore. There's ALWAYS something happening. It's just that it doesn't have any rhyme or reason behind it, and it's all really basic, and it's really, REALLY shoddy work. Pentagon in particular isn't doing anything of note; he's throwing around powerslams that look like armdrags, or nearly forgetting to flip over when taking a back body drop, or busting out a lariat that really couldn't suck too much more. BLEAH. And for those of you who have the distinct pleasure of having never seen Rocky Santana before, I'll just say that he's pretty much the world's worst Stevie Ray, thus unseating Stevie Ray from a position that he really had locked in. He can't brawl for SHIT, as evidenced in this match. And Hamada...well, he used to be decent, but these days he just sucks. He's willing to take the big moves (viz. the DDT on the chair that probably only looked badass because Santana fucked up), but he can't really throw around any of his own. Really, TM4's the only one doing anything to resuscitate the situation, and even then there's only so much he can do with these three other loads. There's no story going on, of course - hell, there isn't any discernable selling by anyone except TM4 - so TM4 tries to use his natural athleticism to give the match SOMETHING appealing to watch. And he really does know how to move; he gets an obscene amount of air on a dropkick, and even knows how to angle his kicks so that they look even more precise and targeted. He's the one responsible for the one cool spot of the match: he grabs Pentagon by the hand, runs up the corner turnbuckle, and upon seeing Santana charging over to block whatever, he gives Pentagon a diving armdrag and Santana a diving headscissors simultaneously. But in the end, even TM4 can't overcome the fact that he's in the same match as Rocky Santana and Pentagon. The finish, actually, is probably endemic of the entire match - Hamada hits the top-rope rana, but Santana LITERALLY hops right back up after taking it. But of course, the REGULAR rana in the ring two seconds later is enough to put him away for good. GOTT IN HIMMEL, this was a big bag of ugly and bad. 1/4*
3. Mima Shimoda vs. Obacchi Iizuka JOSHI! Joshi will cleanse my palate. But sadly it isn't to be, as we get a comedy match between the stout Iizuka and the SCORCHING HOT MIMA. I can say this - for a comedy match, this is actually pretty funny, albeit in an 8 1/2 sort of way. The biggest thing about this match is the use of outside objects by Iizuka; she starts off hitting Mima with...a hat? a jellyfish? Hell, I don't know. But she hits Mima with it, that's for sure. She also uses pantyhose to choke Mima (by putting them over her face), an extendo-arm (you know what I'm talking about - those novelty grip arms) which she uses to reach the ropes in a spot that had me laughing out loud, and the piece de resistance, some phallic squash-like vegetable, which she uses by replacing the chop at the end of the Shinzaki ropewalk with smashing the vegetable over Mima's head. GOOD STUFF. But believe it or not, there's actually some decent NON-phallic-vegetable stuff going on. Witness the HELLISH right cross Mima dishes out. I mean JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESUS. She just hauled off and socked her RIGHT in the face. Mima's stiffness is actually her primary ouvre in the match; she's breaking out the wicked eye rakes (leaning back on Iizuka's face in the ropes), and dropping a pretty nice Tiger suplex for the win. Match wasn't anything above 1/4*, of course, but it was fun.
(During the commercial break here, I note that the GAORA wrestling-lineup ad is set to Limp Bizkit's "My Generation". The UNCENSORED "My Generation". Thank God we have Standards and Practices to protect us from such reprehensible filth.)
4. Magnum Tokyo/TM4 vs. James Mason/Brett Como THANK THE FUCKING STARS, it's about time a match with some promise showed up. Mason, for his part, is working STUPENDOUSLY crisply; even his ridiculous flips look clean. He's just a whole lot of fun to watch. Hell, at one point he eve exposes TM4; Mason rolls through a TM4 pinfall attempt in a way that screams "HEY! Let's do a pinfall reversal sequence!" to me, but TM4 drops his part, likely because he'd been working with Rocky Santana and Electro Shock and Pentagon for the last couple of shows and wasn't called on anything more demanding than to grab his mask. Really, TM4's hesitation is pretty prevalent all through the match; he's uncorking wicked kicks on Mason, but he's a little hesitant when it comes to working the mat. The best parts, thusly, are Tokyo vs. Mason, with Mason busting out the needlessly complicated matwork and Tokyo actually trying to provide build to his big moves (like the Viagra Driver, or the VERY chic new jumping corkscrew elbow drop), and landing them VERY crisply. His problem is that he still sells like the Rock ("OW-OW-OW-hey, I'm all better; HAVE AT YOU!"), and isn't nearly good enough on the mat to keep up with Mason. So while we get Mason doing all this ridiculous stuff, we have Tokyo just busting at the seams to build up to his spots, which hurts the match significantly. Actually, it's pretty typical of the type of match this was - an undirected sprint. But at least it's a crisp, active sprint, so its entertainment value can overcome its emptiness. It's a little surprising, though, that the weakest work in this match comes from the two most stable commodities - the aforementioned hesitant TM4, who can be one of the fifteen best workers in the world whenever he wants to, and Brett Como, who on occasion has been more spectacular than Ultimo Dragon. To be fair, Como does do some nice stuff here - witness his cool Shooting Star Press - but for every one of those spots, there's one of his Worst Diving Headbutts Ever To Come Down The Pipe. No, really - he lands ON HIS FEET and drops the headbutt. It's embarassing. The finish is really representative - TM4 gets a hesitant, out-of-nowhere double chickenwing for the tap to end a decent, if empty, match. **1/4. Nothing that you should sell your grandmother for, mind you, but perfectly entertaining.
5. Great Sasuke/Jinsei Shinzaki/Dragon Kid vs. CIMA/Sumo "Dandy" Fuji/TARU My oh my, how I wish that TARU would have been replaced with SUWA. TARU, you see, isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination; he's just bland. His moves have no attitude, and when you're in the same match as CIMA and, to a much lesser extent, Sumo Fuji, attitude is a MUST. In a way, though, this is probably the SmackDown match these guys would have; storytelling is minimized, and the signature spots are emphasized. That's why we get things like the Praying Ropewalk and the diving sunset flip and such in the first five minutes, and in turn it throws the whole match off. Everyone's timing seems to be off - ESPECIALLY Shinzaki's. Granted, *his* moves are pretty crisp for the most part, but he really isn't selling ANYTHING. And worse, he starts fucking up everyone else's timing; he fails, for instance, to give Dragon Kid the height he needs to catch CIMA with the assisted top-rope rana. Really, Dragon Kid and CIMA are the only two who look comfortable in this match at all, likely because they tend to wrestle a very signature-spot-driven type of match as their bread and butter. But since they're so used to the type of match, their spots are typically very crisp. CIMA busts out a withering facebuster, and Dragon Kid shows off his exceedingly crisp springboard Ace Crusher. And there are the Standard Issue Crazy Max Double Teams; witness the vertical double wishbone which sees TARU axe-kick Kid right in the bits and pieces, or the WICKED Giant Swing Dropkick. But as great and crisp as some individual spots are, it's the overall match that's the problem. Matches like these typically work best as huge train-wrecks, with SPOT after SPOT after SPOT over the course of the whole match. Doing this not only keeps the match fresh and fast, but it also camoflauges blown spots and non-crisp work - by the time the audience realizes that someone blew a spot, there's something else going on. This one was just undirected and had infrequent spots with no real build. The only real dive SEQUENCE came pretty much as a setup to the finish, which saw Shinzaki take out TARU with a praying powerbomb. I mean, it wasn't offensive - it was a **1/2 match, after all - but considering the prior works of the guys in the ring, it wasn't what it should have been.
Is It Worth It?
It's really sad that this is what MPro has become, because they used to always be fresh and exciting, even with the same fifteen people every week. This show was just bland and empty in comparison. The only exciting aspect of the entire show was James Mason, who was REALLY entertaining for the six-ish minutes that he was on the tape. And even he's supposed to have better matches - the December MPro Samurai TV apparently has not only a Mason match, but an excellent WarGames match as well. Pick that one up instead. This one's got six minutes of entertainment.
Other than that, you could live a very happy life without ever seeing a single second of this tape.
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