Last Refuge of Scoundrels
Jericho & Eddy Guerrero v. Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko
Benoit start. They lockup and Benoit grabs a side headlock. Eddy shoots
him into the ropes, but gets knocked on his ass. He gets up and charges
Benoit, who takes him over with an armdrag. He lays in a few chops in
the corner, but Eddy cuts him off with an eye rake. He rams him into the
corner and scores with some chops of his own. He goes for a whip, but
Benoit reverses him into the opposite corner. Eddy rebounds out and gets
press slammed. Benoit adds another chop, sending Eddy scurrying into his
corner. Tag to Jericho, who is still wearing his Cruiserweight belt. Ref
makes him take it off. Benoit takes advantage, kicking him in the gut.
He whips him into the ropes and takes him over with a backdrop. Tag to
Malenko. He nails Jericho with a leg lariat, sending him to the floor.
He manages to tag Eddy as he rolls by. He and Dean close in for a lockup.
Eddy dropkicks him in the knee instead.
him into the ropes and lines up for a clothesline. Malenko ducks it and
grabs a rear waistlock. Eddy reverses and goes for a rollup. Dean hangs
on to the ropes. Eddy charges, but Dean drops him throat first across
the top rope. He picks him up for a backdrop suplex, but Eddy rolls through.
His momentum takes him into the ropes, where he accidentally collides
with Jericho, knocking him off of the apron. Malenko picks him up for
a powerbomb, but Eddy ends up spilling over the top rope and to the floor
as he tries to break free. The heels regroup, taking time for a nice,
big hug. Eddy finally climbs back in, where Dean is waiting with a few
kicks to the gut. He whips Eddy into the ropes and plants him with a flapjack.
Tag to Benoit. He chops away at Eddy, eventually bringing Jericho into
the ring. Benoit has a chop for him, too. He takes Eddy over with a snap
suplex and makes the cover. Eddy manages to get a foot on the ropes.
him up, but Eddy rakes his eyes and starts pounding on him. He goes for
a whip, but Benoit reverses. Eddy tries to slide between his legs, but
Benoit grabs him by the hair, pulls him up and drills him with a German
suplex! Jericho comes in to break the count. Benoit tags in Malenko, who
scores with a wheelbarrow suplex on Eddy. He turns him over into a Boston
Crab, but Jericho is in to make the save. Benoit is sick of Jericho's
interference. He comes in and tosses Jericho to the floor. In the ring,
Malenko goes for a suplex. Eddy slips away and spikes him with a brainbuster!
He hits the Frogsplash and makes the cover. Referee gets to two, but Benoit
breaks it up with a diving headbutt off the top! Malenko rolls on top
of Eddy, but Jericho makes the save once again.
Eddy back up and starts punching away at him. Eddy grabs his tights though,
ramming him face first into the corner. Tag to Jericho, who comes in with
a missile dropkick. He gives Malenko his double underhook backbreaker
and locks him in the Liontamer. Benoit runs in, so Jericho releases the
hold. He nails Benoit, sending him to the floor. Eddy goes up top…plancha
onto Benoit! Back in the ring, Jericho is going for a whip. Malenko reverses
and goes for a dropkick. Jericho stops short and tries to put him back
into the Liontamer. Dean was waiting for it though, countering into a
rollup. Jericho counters, but Malenko quickly locks him in the Texas Cloverleaf.
Jericho is tapping out before the hold is even fully applied…
Not as awesome as should have been, though. You can't blame any of these
guys for the WCW booking style. This is a match that demands 30 minutes.
There's just too much going on to condense it into 10 minutes. The biggest
compliment that this match can get is that it was one of those rare instances
where the announcers were so into the match, that they stopped hyping
the latest nWo shenanigans and stuck to calling the match. It didn't happen
often, so you knew you were in for something good when it happened.
Koloff (w/Ivan Koloff) v. Magnum T.A.
Great American Bash - 8.2.86
This is match
four out of their famous seven match series to decide a new United States
champion, with Nikita up 3-0. The angle leading up to the series saw Magnum,
who was the champ at the time, being stripped of the title after attacking
the NWA President, Bob Geigel. At the time, Nikita was the "Next Big Thing,"
so this is basically his ascension to the main events. He'd worked Flair
already, but this series is really his big singles break.
We open with
a stare down, as the referee checks both guys. Nikita arrogantly holds
up three fingers, reminding Magnum that if he doesn't win tonight, the
US belt goes home to the Mother Russia (by way of South Carolina, I guess.).
They lockup several times, but neither man is willing to give and inch.
Magnum finally takes control, grabbing a side headlock. Nikita shoots
him into the ropes and lines up for a back elbow. Magnum ducks it and
floors him with a forearm smash. Nikita bails out to talk strategy with
Uncle Ivan. Back in the ring, we have another lockup. Nikita backs him
into the corner. Nikita reverses positions before anything can happen
and we get a clean break. Nikita looks to Ivan for some advice. He grabs
a side headlock, which Magnum quickly counters into a top wristlock. Nikita
yanks his hair and gets him back in the headlock.
to counter it again, but Nikita is too strong. He takes Magnum down and
grabs his arm. Magnum slips away and puts him in a hammerlock. He drives
a pair of knees into Nikita's shoulder, then turns it into a keylock.
Nikita manages to get to his feet and back Magnum into the corner. Magnum
breaks the hold, allowing Nikita to drive a series of shoulders into his
gut. Referee Tommy Young gets in his face, telling him to break, but Nikita
just glares at him. He scoops Magnum up and drops him across the top rope.
He also takes the time to sell Magnum's prior offense, shaking out the
arm that had been worked on earlier. People liken Koloff to Goldberg.
I can see the comparison, but I maintain that Koloff was a much better
worker. Anyway, he whips Magnum into the ropes and catches him with a
back elbow. The match clips and suddenly Magnum is transitioning back
away at Nikita and whips him into the ropes. He ducks his head for a backdrop,
but Nikita cuts him off with a kick. He gives Magnum a backbreaker and
gets a two count. He follows up with a slam for another nearfall. The
announcers are really trying to push the fact that Nikita isn't hooking
Magnum's leg. Nikita tosses Magnum out. He climbs back onto the apron,
but Nikita stretches him out in the ropes and nails him with a forearm
to the chest. He tosses him to the floor once again, this time at Ivan's
feet. He distracts the ref, allowing Ivan to get in a kick.
Magnum back in, but only so he can toss him to the floor again. Magnum
hits the corner of the steps on his way out. Nikita starts celebrating.
Magnum slowly gets to his feet and we see that he's busted open. Nikita
starts arguing with Tommy Young. Magnum climbs onto the apron and catches
him with a shoulderblock. He goes for a sunset flip back into the ring.
But Nikita holds onto the ropes. Tommy Young kicks his hands away. Nikita
goes down and Magnum picks up the win!
isn't a great match. It isn't even the best match in the series. But for
some reason, it's my favorite. The crowd is just white hot, wanting Magnum
to win so that "their" belt wouldn't belong to those filthy Commies. Magnum
was great at playing that up. He went into overdrive in his selling, trying
to make every little thing that Nikita did look like it might be enough
to end it. The true tragedy of this entire story is that a little over
two months later, Magnum wrecked his Porsche and ended his in-ring career.
He had so much potential and was poised to be the next breakout superstar
of the time…
British Jr. Title match: Jushin Liger vs. Dick Togo, NJPW Sky Diving J
GHC Jr. Title match: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa, NOAH 12/9/01
claiming to remember the clamorous hype springing up around the Marufuji
vs. Takaiwa match isn't really anything special, seeing as how it only
started six months ago, and even then didn't get crazy until February
or March. But in order to put the match in the proper perspective, you
really have to remember exactly how loudly people were proclaiming this
match to be one of the all-time greats.
Marufuji was the biggest success story of puroresu in 2001; NJPW dropped
the ball on striking with Yuji Nagata while the iron was white-hot, and
even Momoe Nakanishi's stellar year proved insufficient to sustain AJW,
which lost its TV deal in February of this year. Marufuji, however, singlehandedly
generated a ton of interest in two companies, Shinya Hashimoto's Zero-One
(where he only wrestled two matches, both of which stole the show in such
convincing fashion that when he left, US fan interest all but evaporated)
and his homebase of Pro Wrestling NOAH. And while I of all people don't
want to trivialize either of his Zero-One matches, the
first of which was the best match I'd seen all year for nearly eight
months of it, it's not hard to say that his NOAH work was overall more
impressive, simply because Marufuji is a junior in a big-man's fed.
differ from pre-split AJPW in a ton of fundamental ways, but in terms
of the juniors, the song pretty much remains the same. I'm no AJPW expert,
but I've watched my share; therefore, when I say that the only juniors
in AJPW of any distinction that jump to mind are Fuchi, Furnas, Kroffat,
and Kikuchi - over a TEN YEAR PERIOD - that's not insignificant. NOAH,
like AJPW, was built on the premise that the people were there to see
the big guys like Misawa and Akiyama and Vader, and while that's not UNtrue,
it became patently clear as the fed progressed that a whole lot of people
were there to see Naomichi Marufuji. Compared to the rest of the roster
- including the aforementioned heavyweights - Marufuji's pops were ASTRONOMICAL,
which looking at his matches wasn't really surprising. Marufuji's style
is spotty, but exciting; he's a natural athlete, and he's got all the
natural charisma in the world, something that can't be said for a lot
of the rest of the NOAH roster. Eventually, even Misawa had to grudgingly
give in and let Marufuji pretty far into the uppercard, tagging with the
heavies and occasionally even getting singles matches with them. By the
big 12/9/01 show, it was clear that the kid was capable of having one
of those Big Matches, so they let him do just that.
Make no mistake
about it; this match is very much one of those Big Matches. The heat is
astronomical, NOAH show or not; everyone's there to see Marufuji take
the title back from Takaiwa, the Zero-One interloper. And again, it's
not debatable whether or not Marufuji delivers, because he does,
in style.The match is flashy, but more importantly, once the spots
get going, it's paced really well - fast as all hell in a handbag, but
not too fast, since they want you to keep up with it. Of course, he's
not wrestling himself; he's wrestling Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Resurgent Motherfucker.
Takaiwa is just stupefyingly good in this match; I can't quite figure
out who exactly convinced him to stop the no-selling bullshit, but I should
send them a barrel of roses. The difference between Takaiwa here and Takaiwa
even two years ago is like night and day; he doesn't have to rely on his
natural heel charisma in order to give a match structure, instead pacing
a match based around his Power Junior offense. He's also progressed to
the point where he can credibly work a body-part-specific storyline, as
here he MAULS Marufuji's leg in a ton of creative ways, yet never neglects
his aforementioned Murder-You-Good power offense, the gal that brought
him to the dance.
It's a very,
very good match - one of the four or five best from last year by my reckoning.
It's exciting, fast, fresh, and you really can't underestimate the oft-mentioned
big-match feel. This truly does "feel" like a momentous wrestling
match; the heat is nuclear, the moves are spectacular, there's plenty
of involving near-falls, and the finish is GREAT. But this match was getting
praised as one of the best junior matches in history, and having seen
Togo/Liger, I can conclusively say that it most certainly isn't.
of the big-match feel, you see, is all well and good, and again I don't
want to take anything away from either Takaiwa or Marufuji, both of whom
put on the performance of their careers up to this point, but it all boils
down to the irrefutable fact that they just aren't good enough to pull
it off yet. They're both very one-dimensional workers, and no matter
how involving that one dimension is, it'll never be enough to pull off
the match that they needed to. Jushin Liger and Dick Togo, on the other
hand, are more than good enough; and as would befit two of the five best
juniors of the '90s wrestling each other during their arguable prime,
their match - which compared to the gravitas of Marufuji/Takaiwa
wasn't even really all that big - comes off as a world-changing wrestling
speaking, that's obviously what it was. Togo/Liger was a spotfest, plain
and simple; I'm certainly not going to argue that it was more than that,
despite the obvious undertones of Big Swingin' Dick Jushin Liger Wrestles
the Local Indy Star Guy. But so much of its structure shows up in Marufuji/Takaiwa
that it's hard to write off. The heels in both (Takaiwa and Togo) start
the match in control, breaking out GIGANTIC moves which could otherwise
be credible finishers, before slowly injecting a body-part-specific storyline
into the match (with Takaiwa working Marufuji's gut and Togo working Liger's
belly), at which point the face capitalizes and slowly turns the tide.
Once the face is in control, the match is all but over; despite a heel
comeback (and a stepped-up return to the prior psychology), both the face
and the heel killing each other's "regular" finisher (especially
the face - Marufuji's shiranui and Liger's Fisherman Buster are killed
in SPECTACULAR fashion) and some excellent nearfalls in both matches about
3/4s of the way through, it's obvious that the face will win as soon as
the heel starts pulling the face at the two-count. The finishing sequence,
of course, is the most revealingly similar part; in both cases, the face
hits the heel with a top-rope version of their finisher which by all rights
should be enough to cap off the day, but then hits a "backup"
finisher for good measure. It's all right there.
between the two matches is, of course, the undeniable edge that Liger
and Togo have in terms of wrestling smarts. Takaiwa's ridiculously credible
offense and Marufuji's unbelievable athleticism make for great spectacle,
but Togo and Liger click to make a very smartly-wrestled match by cutting
down on the ways the match can go wrong. Takaiwa, for instance, chooses
to work on Marufuji's leg, and while it certainly makes sense to ground
the high flyer, it forces Marufuji to either change his style dramatically
or ignore it down the stretch. Naturally Marufuji does the latter; given
the amount that Takaiwa worked on his leg, it's painful to see Marufuji
jump right up. And of course Marufuji doesn't even really work on anything
in particular, choosing just to capitalize on moments with big moves.
Togo and Liger, on the other hand, have duelling targets - more importantly,
very smart duelling targets. Togo targets Liger's belly, a smart choice
in that all Liger has to do to sell it is sell overall damage and grab
his stomach every so often AND in that it builds to his finisher (the
Big Fat Diving Senton), while Liger targets Togo's arm and shoulder, which
may be even smarter, since it guarantees that the other guy can still
get up and move without having to worry about how he should be walking.
for all the praise that Takaiwa should be afforded for his efforts in
pacing the match, it's just not as well-done as Liger-Togo. Takaiwa opens
the match by WASTING Marufuji with IIRC a clothesline, then planting him
on his head, then taking him out to the ramp, which is effective insofar
as it makes him look like a force of nature, but it throws off the flow
of the match when they have to take it back down. Liger/Togo starts off
with big moves too - the first segment is pretty much one extended sprint
to Togo's diving footstomp, but it features a tope con hilo for good measure
- but with one major difference: whereas Takaiwa started off the match
with credible finishers, Togo started off with moves more suited to the
middle of the match, slowly building to a credible finisher.
think it all comes down to the issue of how one-dimensional the Takaiwa/Marufuji
match is; although it's undeniably Marufuji's moment in the sun, and he
hits all the biggest moves that stay with you, Takaiwa's got the match
on his back the whole way. He sets the tone, he sets the pace, he sets
up when the big sequences are going to go down; Marufuji might as well
be a high-end Yaz Urano for all the input he has on the match. Togo/Liger
is much more of a back-and-forth affair; they seem to actually be working
together, rather than simply working in the same ring. Each gets their
chance to control the pace and show off what they can do, and the end
result is a much more dynamic, dramatic match. Again, I hate to take anything
away from Takaiwa and Marufuji; they wrestled about as well as they could
have. And wrestling a match in the ****1/4 range certainly isn't
anything to be ashamed of, nor is being unable to compare to two of the
most innately gifted wrestlers of our time. But Togo/Liger isn't just
a more "quality" match (something like ****1/2 by my
count); it's a dictionary definition on how formula, in the hands of two
masters, can exceed the expectations of both the card and the formula.
And again, while I'm not saying that Takaiwa and Marufuji won't be capable
of hitting those heights in time (Marufuji in particular, who has all
the markings of the next Great Sasuke), I'm just saying that right now,
this was the best they could do, and it wasn't the world-beating show-stopper
that it got credit for.
Here for Part 2
Digable James Cobo
this on the Message Board!
Simpson and Ralph Wiggum are the property of 20th Century Fox, all rights