Thanks to http://www.digits.com for their badass righteous free counters
Super 8 2001
I. Intro (duction)
Y'know, I was all set to do some smart-alecky "This many babies have been born, this many people have died, this many elections have taken place"-type intro, but then I sat down and decided that that would require research and, by corrolary, effort, and I H8 EFFORT. So suffice it to say, I've been away a long time. Chalk it up to general malaise, rediscovered love of the Sega Dreamcast (~!), and delving deeper and deeper into a love for indy wrestling. I had about nine columns (artistic license - don't quote me on that) that were a hair's breadth away from being finished, but then of course my hard drive faise, so it's sitting in Best Buy. I also turned 20.
How you doin'?
And a lot of shit happened in the interim: WCW got bought by the WWF. Wrestlemania 17. Jeff Hardy, IC champ -> Jeff Hardy, Former IC Champ. The Rantsylvania Megapowers Collide. The Best Rev Pro Show Ever (if I can dig up a copy of my recap, I'll send it along). My website, the Land of Digability, changed addresses to http://digable.topcities.com/ (update yo' bookmarks, children). In short, it's been really, really interesting lately in the big show.
Then why the hell am I always reviewing indy cards?
II. I Recieve Correspondence
Lies, all lies. Jeez, you take one month and a half off, and look what happens.
III. The ECWA Super 8 2001 Review
When you move out to the West Coast, you give up a lot of amenities when it comes to wrestling: The people are fewer and farther apart. The preponderance of the wrestling is VERY much Sportz Entertainment based (UPW, take you a bow!). It's hard to convince people of a wrestler's worth, since tapes can take a LONG time to come out (if they ever get released at all). And the crowds tend to suck ass, as just about everyone's afraid of getting lost in the moment.
But probably the biggest loss on this side o' the states, from a wrestling fan's perspective, anyway, is that we don't get to attend the Super 8, the annual indy junior tourney run by the East Coast Wrestling Association every February (assuming you aren't Mike Parkhurst and don't fly up). Every year, we have to sit around and wait for the DVDVR boyz to give their report on how great it was, and then wait another month before tapes start springing up, all the while those in attendence keep pimping the shit out of the guys they saw. It's pretty much the tastemaker for US indies for the year; it's where people come to SHINE, and where dream matches come true. Of course, it's the same way with everyone else and Rev Pro, but there you go.
This year's Super 8, though, had a more prominent buzz going for it. Every year, it seems like there's one guy who kinda breaks out and gets noticed, guys like Billy Kidman, the Hardys, Christopher Daniels, Steve Bradley, and so on. Usually, though, they get noticed more for their individual performances in a match rather than for the matches themselves. Last year's final, for example, saw Christopher Daniels carry Scoot Andrews on his back to the best match of Andrews' career. This year, however, the MATCHES were being pimped as great, and the show was being pimped as a landmark.
So now, only two months after the fact (IREGRETNOTHING!), I sat down and threw the tape in the VCR. Was it worth it? Let's us see.
(Let the record show that though there would ultimately be seven losers as far as the tourney goes, all eight participants go home REAL winners for overtly peering down Francine - your hostess' - cleavage. If Spanky had leaned any further over, he wouldn't have been able to hear IF YOU GET MAH DRIFT YOU SLY DOG.)
Conventional wisdom at the time was that Youth had this one in the bag, as (a) he had gone winless in his other two Super 8 appearances, and (b) they "apologized" to Christopher Daniels last year by booking him to win it, and (c) this wasn't a very star-studded field - Low-Ki was probably the most prominent non-Youth person in the field, and his stuff's been pretty recent.
1. Low-Ki vs. Billy Fives And less than a minute into the tourney, Low-Ki's established himself as THE babyface for the whole tourney by (a) getting tricked by Fives, who does the whole "shake my hand, pardner" routine, and (b) kicking Billy Fives REALLY hard. Seriously - I'd guess that he caught Fives in his lunch bag backstage, because he LAYS THE FUCK INTO HIM like a MAN. Of course, he also hits the Inaugural Super 8 2k1 Highspot with a NICE springboard splash. He also looks pretty capable of keeping his head in the match; early on, he looks like he flubs an armdrag, but compensates by rolling one out from a sitting position. What REALLY surprises me is the significance of the offense that Fives gets in; the match is MEGA short (like six or so minutes), but Fives gets in some NICE moves, like a reverse-Thesz-Press-facebuster-kinda thing and a Fisherman's Brainbuster. He's also QUITE unafraid to mash his shoulder good, landing spectacularly badly on a frogsplash. But really, the story of the match is Low-Ki's general stiffnes; the match pretty much even except for it. And really, the key to his stiffness is his general athleticism; the fact that he's conscious of how to get MASSIVE hangtime off a springboard kneedrop tells me that he's conscious of how a body works, and how to maximize it for wrestling appearances. The pin comes after a springboard enzuigiri by Low-Ki, who KILLS HIM GOOD with the Ki Krusher (Fisherman's Michinoku Driver - as brutal as it sounds). Call it ** for general stiff work and some impressive bits.
2. Tony Kozina vs. Jayson Reign And in stark contrast to the first match's stiffness-centered feel, this one's all about technique and endurance, as highlighted by Kozina nearly snapping his neck in half landing on his feet after landing on his feet in a snapmare. The key to the match's quality was really Reign: when he was doing simple stuff, like putting his foot in Kozina's face early and often, it was pretty decent, but when he tried to do more complex stuff, like selling the leg, it suffered a LOT. Really - the leg story was the primary one, as From What I Know, Kozina uses the Figure Four to finish a lot of people off, but Reign just essentially no-sold it. Speaking of Kozina, he really impressed the shit out of me - he looked pretty fundamentally sound, and had some great spots. I'm specifically thinking of his diving rana on Reign. But in general, his work was very crisp and stiff, and fairly sound - he worked the leg for the Figure 4, and he worked the neck a little to increase the effectiveness of the 'ranas. But as the match wore on, it became clear that this match was all about Reign and his no-selling tendencies. I mean, I'm probably being too picky, but he took a FISHERMAN'S NORTHERN LIGHTS SUPLEX for TWO. And considering how brutal it looked, it either should have been game over, or not done at all. Hell, even after all the leg work Kozina did, Reign kept getting to his feet first. No, fuck that - Reign was getting beat on for most of the match, but kept getting up first. It just didn't feel logical. They DID do a nice counter sequence at the end (a Super 8 tradition - you'll see more end-game counter sequences in one night than you'll see in some guys' careers) into Reign's finisher (an inverted Twist of Fate), but it was too little, too late. Match was about *3/4, and the wrong guy went over, to boot.
3. American Dragon vs. Spanky These two have a history of feuding since their TWA days (and continuing on into their MCW and Power Pro days), so they've faced each other like eight million times (including one match from TWA that WILL be on RC Comp Dos). And LORD GOD, does it show. They start off with a nod to people who know their history by countering out of each others' moves (they know each other, see?), then start throwing RIDICULOUS chairshots that would make the Pope curse. Really, it set the tone for the rest of the match - Spanky did high-risk stuff (including one quebrada early on that he blew, but he's a young man yet), and Dragon worked the arm (spot of the match: Spanky comes off the top and Dragon catches him in a Fujiwara armbar). Well, "worked the arm" is a little weak - let me change that to "Yanked Spanky's arm out of the socket". He was REALLY leaning back on him. And more impressively, everything (blown spot aside) looks crisp and stiff, which is a fine, fine thing indeed. And there's even PSYCHOLOGY, as Spanky releases on a HELLACIOUS German suplex due to arm pain. So, realizing that his suplexes aren't going to have the same effect since his arm's in pain, he starts running around the ring and using the ropes a LOT for springboards and such, which is cut off by Dragon busting out an Orihara moonsault (from the top rope to the floor), as if to say "Fuck you, buddy, I can take to the air too". So they close with a FANTASTIC rollup sequence, leading up to Dragon's BOSS-ASS finisher - a Dragon suplex into a bridged full-nelson armbar. And he'd do it better on later in the night, too. Just a good, good match. ***
4. Reckless Youth vs. Mike Sullivan
Yep, this match sure is
slow. It sure suffers a LOT following up that last one - the little things,
like Youth and Sullivan hesitating SLIGHTLY on their chain wrestling,
sticks out like a green thumb here. And the work in the match also looks
a LOT less crisp by comparison - some stuff, of course, like Youth's hands-free
somersault tope, look good, but there's a lot of
5. SPECIAL BONUS MATCH: The Haas Brothers vs. Ty Street/Simon Diamond If Dustin Rhodes and Scott Steiner had a child (a mental image topping MY list of "Conceptions I never want to witness"), he'd be Ty Street, who's got all of Rhodes' physique mixed with Steiner's interview skills. Oh, and the worst possible aspects of either's wrestling ability. The Haases are all kinds of vanilla - they do some nice rope-oriented work, but nothing really too special. Mostly, though, this match is what we Snarky Sarcastic Asses like to call a "Comedy of Errors". Be it Simon Diamond exuding the very essence of Bugs Bunny going "Lemme ad'im, lemme ad'im" when being held back from running hin to save his tag, or Ty Street being in for ENTIRELY too long (I swear - it felt like he was in the match for like eight years), or the slow count of the ref, or the World's Very Butt-Ass Worst Rydeen Bomb by Diamond, it SUCKED SUCKED SUCKED. Really, though, it was almost enjoyable, if just to watch Ty Street fuck up thing like a headscissors takeover or running the ropes. The Haases do their best to cover up, but their offense isn't flashy enough to distract from Street sucking big ass. And because you can't spell ECWA without ECW, we get a turn by Diamond for no apparent reason - or at least not reason enough for me to notice. Call the match 1/2*, and let us forget that it's on the tape.
5. Low-Ki vs. Jayson Reign Low-Ki
got pimped to hell and back as a result of this tournament - and not without
a lot of good cause, because he IS really good, and in a year, he'll be
one of the top five indy wrestlers going. But really, all this match showed
me was that he's not ready for the big time yet - it's just a spotfest,
really. It's innovative in that it's another spotfest held together by
Low-Ki's stiff work, but when there's no story or flow, really, it's not
a good match. In Low-Ki's defense, his spots can be really cool -
6. American Dragon vs. Reckless Youth They learn from the last match, apparently, as they IMMEDIATELY come out and establish finesse and technique as being the key factors in their match by working out of a test of strength. And then, of course, we're off; Dragon puts Youth in an inverted Romero Special and kicks him in the back of the head, thusly endearing himself to me in a BIG way. He further endears himself by proving that he's been paying attention to the crowd and the way they pop for stiff moves by LAYING INTO Youth (hell, even his kicks have psychology - he kicks high on the back to work the neck and shoulders for the Dragon Armbar). Youth, on the other hand, seems more concerned with cutting down Dragon's mobility; moves like the STF not only do damage, but slow Dragon down as well. There's just a whole assload of great moves in the match, too; Dragon busts out a SWANK Northern Lights Suplex -> Fisherman's Samoan Drop sequence (again, working the back and shoulders - I HEART IN-MATCH STORYLINES!), and Youth throws out a top-rope facebuster. Both guys also want to put on a bump clinic, too - AD sails over the apron to the floor without any apparent care for his well-being, and Youth decides to lean in on a top-rope Dragon armbar takedown and squishes his shoulder but good. They just seem like they're out there to get each other over. Really, though, the key to the match is each guy's arm; obviously, Dragon works to the Dragon Armbar, but there's a lot of subtle stuff like ducking & countering lariats or going around back. Finish comes with the Dragon Armbar; I HEART LOGIC. ***1/4. RY did a little overselling and looked out of place, but this was a *good* match. Additionally, since Youth was the odds-on favorite, this was one hell of an upset.
This is where the ECWA Summit battle royal would be, but my tape doesn't have it. Many deities are thanked.
7. *ANOTHER* GODDAMNED SPECIAL BONUS MATCH: JJ the Ring Crew Guy vs. Patch vs. Cheetah Master Ah, the simple overtness of indy wrestling: JJ the Ring Crew's gimmick is just that - he's the ring crew guy. And Patch? His gimmick is that he's got an eye patch. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Cheetah Master's gimmick seems to be that he induces instant orgasms in ringside teenage girls, because they go NUTS for him. In one way, this match is too short (it goes like four minutes), but in another, more important way, it's WAY WAY WAY too long. This match SUX. When JJ the Ring Crew Guy isn't the worst worker in a match (he might have been the best - honestly, he pretty much just stood around), something's awry. Patch just SUCKS. He has THE WORST, CAPITAL ENDGAME NUMBER ONE AND THE WORST END OF THE LINE W-O-R-S-T rib-breakers I've ever seen - he looks like he's using Cheetah Master to brush some lint off of his leg. They just looked laughable. And that's about the most significant thing in the match before literally six guys hit the ring and beat down Cheetah Master (with the ref not throwing it out - the beatdown went on for literally two minutes with no ref reaction. ECW(a)! ECW(a)!) before some other guy hits the ring in a ref's uniform to the consternation of JJ, who OF COURSE gets rolled up for the loss. BOOOOOOOO. Match was a DUD if I've ever seen one.
8. ECWA SUPER 8 2001 FINAL: Low-Ki vs. American Dragon Pre-match, Dragon promises Low-Ki that this will be the stiffest match of his career, thus FURTHER endearing himself to me. And he IMMEDIATELY goes after the legs of Low-Ki with these STIFF, precise Muy Thai kicks to the thigh (to counter Low-Ki's kicks, which have been the focus of his arsenal). But he doesn't just kick; he makes sure to keep the pressure on Low-Ki's legs at all times (I particularly remember him leaning in on a cover attempt), just to make SURE he neutralizes his legs. And he kicks Low-Ki right in the head, too, in an effort to work the neck a little. Remember this facet - the fact that he's working the neck second hurts his finisher. Low-Ki proves that he's more than a one-dimensional wrestler by chopping the SHIT out of Dragon. GOD, they're just cutting loose on each other. In an ordinary match, you wouldn't get the figure four spot, for example, where one guy (in this case, Low-Ki) is locked in, but keeps throwing WICKED forearms at the other guy's (in this case, Dragon's) head in an effort to keep his strikes established as the kingmaker. Finally, about six or so minutes in, Dragon stops focusing on the leg and works Low-Ki's neck with a Stump Puller, and RIGHT THERE he's lost the match - when you take your focus away in a match this dependent on psychology, you've guaranteed the other guy a win. It's also fair to say that his oversell of Low-Ki's chop (by which I mean "American Dragon takes a chop from Low-Ki and slumps to the ground) works, since it's so charictaristic - he removed his focus, and got KILLED. And when Low-Ki's in control of the match, you get STIFF STIFF STIFF cool work, like the SITTING ENZUIGIRI that had me marking out. Really, the whole match is like this - Dragon's move (the Dragon Suplex -> Dragon Armbar combo) pitted against Low-Ki's move (the kiiiiiiiiicks), and how they salvage focus when each of their gameplans are disrupted. Really, though, it's Dragon who's the glue in this match - he provides the psychology, as Low-Ki's role seems to mostly be to sell Dragon's moves and kick like a motherfucker. If Dragon hadn't gone in with a clear plan of focused assault being the clear road to victory, segments like the one where they get out of each others' finishers wouldn't work - Dragon can't tap Low-Ki out with the combo, as he hasn't worked the neck & arm enough, and the Ki Crusher doesn't work due to the fact that he's taken too much punishment to get to his feet. Hell, in a way, Low-Ki's lucky that the psychology was that deep; he spends a lot of time nearly no-selling it by using his legs an AWFUL LOT, be it via kicking hellaciously, or doing a somersault leg drop from the top to the floor, or all sorts of stuff. Hell, even his highspots got outclassed by Dragon, who had the Move of the Match when Low-Ki went for his handspring rolling kick in the corner, and Dragon caught him with a BEAUTIFUL Dragon Suplex->Dragon Armbar combo. Really, besides Low-Ki's extensive reliance on his legs, the only real problem was the time - it went a shade under twelve minutes. Had it gone twenty, there would have been time to build to the big sequences a LOT MORE. The last sequence, where each guy just said "Fuck it" and went for his primary strike - Low-Ki with his kicks and Dragon with his lariats (because remember, he's realized that he's got to work the neck to get the win) - all the while absorbing the other's move, would have been a million times more effective had they built to it more. But they do a good job of covering - Dragon blocks a Low-Ki kick, levels him with a lariat, and knocks him down, but goes for a pin instead of the Dragon Armbar - right there, it's over. Low-Ki fights up, gets the Ki Crusher, and wins the tourney in what had to be the best match in Super 8 history. ****1/4, a stupendous match, best American non-Rev Pro match so far, and a legit MOTYC. And because it relied on story instead of spots, like some other matches (hackcoughcruiserweightcountdown), it'll be as good in twenty years as it was last night.
Well, the Junior Tournament Corollary pretty much states that you need to pick up any junior tourney under the sun on instinct, really. But this one's special. Fuck the short match times, fuck the Horrible Horrible Special Bonus Matches, fuck Jayson Reign - this is, in all likelihood, the best junior tourney since the '95 J-Cup. Hell, maybe even the '94 J-Cup. And why? Two *** matches and one ****+ MOTYC from a guy called American Dragon, who I'm willing to call the second-best indy worker walking today. In five years, he'll be BIG news, and it'll likely all have started here.
More importantly, this tape represents a shift in the universe of junior wrestling. In the two or three years before this tourney, most high-end indy work didn't hold up, since it was built mostly on a foundation of highspots and Michinoku Pro aping. But this match marked a return to stiffness and storytelling, and I don't have the ability to say I'm disappointed in that. Smarks around the 'net (me included) are bitching about how the wrestling scene seems to be slipping away from wrestling, and relying even more on theatrics and sideshow antics. Well, this tape is just what the doctor ordered. Everything that Low-Ki or American Dragon does eventually builds to their match, and Youth and Kozina make a nice showing as well, trying to help out their opponents. It's WRESTLING, and I'll always support it.
Whew. Well, I'm back. I'll do better next time
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