Thanks to http://www.digits.com for their badass righteous free counters
Well, lookee who it is. I'm pleased to add my views to the cauldron here at Buster Time, the spiffiest new site of the past year containing two of my favourite writers, my buddy (and inviter to this green and pleasant land) "The Most Intelligent Southern Oaf I've Met" James Cobo (apparently you are able to dig him. A bit like a sandbox, I suppose. If I had to be a playground attraction, I'd be a swing, but it takes all sorts) and Shaddax "Brendan Welsh-Bailett" Shaddaxiffico, who I'm yet to really get to know but seems a cool guy. Hell, he likes Bob Dylan. That's good enough for me, as long as he doesn't philosophise disgrace and criticise all fears.
For all Lordamaniacs wonderin' what I'm doing fleeing the Keithster's warm embrace, YLF stays at The Smarks as long as they want me. Full show reviews (and probably all other non-YLF content) will come in from the rain for a cup of soup here. I have a lil' corner of cyberspace all to myself, and you can find it ovah at www.geocities.com/yourlucharesufix, if you weeeeell. If there is one thing I'll prepare you for, PBP takes me a not insubstantial time to do, so this is all analysis.
If you have any PAL or NTSC SP tapes you'd like to send me for review, feel welcome.
Now... Aah! Wrestling! I knew I was here for something. WCW Starrcade 1995. Several things are promising on this card: 1. Hulk Hogan is suspended. A certain Richard Flair is not. 2. Some of the super-workers that made WCW ringwork bearable through 1996-1999 had arrived. 3. These super-workers were able to meet again with some of the guys who they had caused smarks to cream their sweatpants in the very near past, and other NJ guys were there to perhaps change the pace of the heavyweight scene. 4. Not all of the guys that had been stars in the pre-Bischoff era had left, like Marc Mero and Brian Pillman. 5. Dusty Rhodes is on commentary. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. Highly entertaining, mostly in the unintentional way that was the mark of WCW from 1994-2001. You can't but dig the kayfabe rationalisations that ex-wrestler's commentary have, though.
Yes! It's the World Cup of Wrestling! Who will be Brazil of 1970? Who will be Zimbabwe of 1970? Everyone tonite will be compared to a futbol team (not the current side, but just the feel I get), just because I must allow my limeyism to manifest somehow.
First up, we have one of those classic WCW packages, with the classic bloodvessel-busting quick-talking intro. "A epic event of global proportions", just about sums up the mood. They tried for a legit sportish atmosphere for it, putting over the matches with a minimum of extraneous bullshit. Give me that over the splicing of Mr. McMahon with dictators or other WWF packages which seem too much like an opportunity for the production staff to show what effects they learnt in film school.
They then cut to Tony (before he was complete horseshit), Heenan (on the slide) and The Common Man! The Bull of the Woods! The Son of a Plumber! Dusty. While his commentators opt for tuxedos, Dusty wears a black dinner jacket, black shirt, a boot-lace tie (a fashion which, I'm glad, never caught on in the UK), a cowboy hat and jeans. Make of that what you will.
Well, they certainly pick a not too shabby place to start:
1. Chris Benoit (Brazil) vs. Jushin Liger (Argentina) This was very good indeed for the time it was given and the booking of the finish. Liger is at his peak here, and I'd venture to say he's the greatest ever at conveying nuances that most would need to use their face for with body language. Just perfect execution from both guys, apart from an awkward looking frankensteiner at the end, which added to the sense of Benoit being bundled over and robbed after a distraction from Kevin Sullivan. The early part of the match establishes Benoit's power advantage (shoving him down after a collar-and-elbow, the shoulderblocks) and Liger's speed and flying advantage (armdrags, a somersault senton of the apron). This is something that is not done enough, as in many situations there is a desire to establish parity, leading to stalemates, not particularly drawing the viewer into the action and not giving narrative progression. In this situation they have been established as equals in a far cleverer way, as one guy can obliterate the other without the recipient looking like a jabroni. If the speed/power dichotomy needed more emphasis, they broke into a Sayama/Dynamite (the original junior power vs speed feud) knucklelock sequence. The difference is maintained until the end, where Benoit breaks the Dragon Suplex to attend to Sullivan and walks into a Frankensteiner which is his ultimate undoing.
Later on, they bring the psychology, as Liger softens up the neck with a surfboard, into a surfboard chinlock into a surfboard dragon sleeper, then a camel clutch, which Benoit uses his power advantage to escape from by putting him onto his shoulders and dropping back. The cool thing was that Benoit had to take advantage of the moment shortly after, bounding to the top to superplex Liger, which damaged the neck more. He then misses the diving headbutt, which serves the dual purpose of saying that Benoit needs his opponents worn down a lot before he can complete highflying moves (he manages the move very late in the match). The first headbutt miss allows Liger to then break into power moves of his own, including the Ligerbomb (which puts some stress on the neck as the recipient's head is lowered before the drop commences), and when that fails, really turns up the notches with an evil Brainbuster, as only Liger can.
The coolest thing about this, however is rudo Liger and his rapport with the crowd. He is booed initially for being the Flag Waving Evil JapTM, stock character of American wrestling since WWII. However, in a promotion where the action is not as fast and furious as in the NJ junior division (which is exactly this match is, until Kevin Sullivan pokes his cuckold horns into the matter), Liger inevitably is cheered for his swanky skills, helped by the fact Benoit is exhibiting heelish tendencies (e.g. leaving the ring in a mood after losing the knucklelock sequence) and Liger is doing some face stock spots (e.g. fighting back valiantly (showing "fire") with slaps as Benoit methodically strikes the hell out of him (one area where the guys appear even). However, Benoit leaving the ring has implications. Liger goes overdrive into the taunting (holding the ropes open for Benoit, gesturing before he ascends to the top) as Schiavone (who is excellent here) puts over the fact he was the most confident NJer before the event, and Liger exhibits overconfidence in his wrestling (most notably reversing Benoit's tombstone and dropping him on the back instead of the injured neck), all elements (except the commentary, obviously) leading to the crowd's crescendo of boos towards him. The "whoo"ing and other mannerisms suggested to me that perhaps Liger had taken some tips on US heel psychology from Owen Hart, an opponent he fought several times around 1990.
This is far shorter I'm sure than any of their previous encounters, and shows other wrestlers that short matches in America need not be spotfests or mail-ins. ***3/4
Unfortunately, Bobby Heenan's mailing it in. If anyone can explain this line, I'd love to know what he's on about:
to Schiavone on Liger's popularity): "He's very popular with the kids
and people over there, but lemmee put this this way: does the word 'rickshaw'
mean anything to you?"
What the fuck?
Now we get a promo that shows just why Eddy Guerrero should not be left to his own devices as a face. He gives just the most pussified promo I've ever heard about how he's just happy to be here in what Gene Okerlund calls it "the most prestigious international event ever" and how Sullivan shouldn't have been down at the ring. Eddy's sneer and taunting have been removed, just leaving a colourless role-player to prattle on about the evils of rule-breaking. Nice jacket, though.
2. Koji Kanemoto (Spain) vs Alex Wright (Japan) Koji must've stopped off at Hashimoto's tailors on the way over to America. As I maintain, wrestlers with sashes (Sasuke, Ultimo, Hash, Octagon among them) rule. This match was fully passable. However, Wright showed he wasn't quite ready for the bigtime yet as he lacked the fluidity evident in Kanemoto's work, and furthermore, everything he was doing appeared he was doing was straight out of a textbook (well enough performed, but without any trace of personality) and was disjointed. There was the flying he picked up (I expect in Japan), US pro style staples (including a long resthold) and the European wristlock counter and uppercuts his dad probably taught him. The overriding aspect in my mind however was that everything seemed so much work for Wright, intensely concentrating on his execution, a factor causing him to neglect elements like selling and facials. One moment that really stood out was after he was pinning Koji he slapped the mat to convey frustration, but the gesture was hollow due to the lack of feeling behind it.
I truly believe that wrestling is similar to driving a car, in that there becomes a point where operating the controls becomes second nature. Once this point is reached, the person can solely worry about awareness of other cars and navigation. Thus, a wrestler, in the early stages of his career thinks that getting through a match with no fuck-ups is a triumph, and indeed it is. However, once that becomes the rule not the exception, you can concentrate on drawing people into the battle and telling stories. Liger and Benoit showed they were at that point in the previous match as there was no moment when they had no idea what to do, each spot was followed by a smooth transition into the next.
Koji appeared much more comfortable throughout. In the early stages, where Alex was doing more simplistic moves, Koji was doing stuff with a perceived similar level of pain, but with much more style, like the Sayama hammerlock => spinning drop toehold and spinning knee crusher. He didn't push himself too hard in the meat of the match, relying on his signature spots (moonsault, forward-drop slam => 2nd rope twisting senton, Tiger Suplex, a few spin kicks) when he wasn't on the receiving end.
The bare bones of a story were there, but that all rested with Koji, who was smug about his chances here and the progression was the realisation that Alex was not going to be such a push-over. The finish made sense as Alex attempted a showy aerial move (as he had been doing more of as the bout went on) which Koji countered with a short, sharp thud, echoing the kicks he had laid in beforehand. Alex only needed to be given offence to fulfil his end of the bargain, where as Koji needed to use facials, sell and interact with the crowd. Koji's biggest fault, underselling, was not out of place here as he was trying to deny he was even hurt by Actung Baby.
The saddest point about this match, though, was the fact none of the crowd knew the significance of the Tiger Suplex and the Moonsault, the moves that have most regularly given him victory. **1/4
Scheme Gene's hotline! Mark Madden is plugged, not in the mouth unfortunately.
And here's Sonny Onoo, who speaks comedy Engrish and wants to buy Iowa (obviously hasn't done much sight-seeing)! Gene doesn't like him from the get go. Gene's a filthy racist.
Well, it doesn't get more WrestleCrap than this. A parody of the Japanese and a self-parody.
3. Masahiro Chono (Italy) vs Lex Luger (Scotland) Wow. This is the first truly negative review of a match I've ever done. It is only possible to have a good match with Luger if you treat him as Ric Flair did or Bret Hart probably did (their feud was largely on 1993 houseshows, IIRC). You give him the initial offence, bump your ass off, then work him over on the mat, choosing a bodypart. Then he mounts the superhero comeback, bump your ass off again then go to the finish. This is because the only thing Luger can do reasonably well is sell. Okay, he might not be doing any type of specific of nuanced selling like a Kawada or Hokuto, but he can act hurt, get knocked goofy on punches and yell more than some joshi workers. Luger has more offence than he should have here, and apart from a passable overhead press, all he did looked really weak (I'm especially thinking of throwing him back first into the corners repeatedly and his forearm "smashes"). Chono's never been a favourite of mine, but despite all the reports of his severe neck injury at the hands of Austin he seems to work hard and take a fair share of nasty bumps (the one off the overhead press wasn't nice). He's way past it now compared to then but can be carried (when you start dressing like the Big Bossman (1999 version) to cut promos, it's probably time to hang it up) still. Also, it seems that Masaaki Mochizuki has a large collection of his tapes, as he has mimicked Chono's cool demeanour to a large degree in Toryumon. Chono tried here, working Luger over well on the mat, focusing on the neck for the STF. Luger hardly did anything to damage Chono's ribs for the Rack, which he just pulled out from the blue, and Chono almost immediately "uncled". Ugh. The finish was really badly blown, and I'm not quite sure who to blame. Luger had been crotched on Chono's knee. MC then walked to the apron, came back in, hit the Yakuza Kick, went to the on the opposite side of the ring, landed on Luger's elbow, then Luger magically recovered to hoist him into the Rack. I would like to think Luger was in the wrong position, Chono improvised by smacking him with the YK and then going to the planned spot. Scott Keith would complain about repeating spots, but I don't see why that's bad psychology. However, the fact Chono said nothing to Luger before hitting the YK suggests he gets ahead of himself. Either way, it looked like shit, and I don't like shit. 1/2*
Next is an awful Sting promo. He's got into the bombastic mood, but he hardly has anything to say, leading to stuff like "Yeah! Yeah! We're coming on strong..." The funniest thing about these interviews is the recurring issue of the Japanese buying WCW. "Over the Stinger's dead body!" Prophetic words.
4. "The Torture Master" (a name I will steal should I take up wrestling) Masa Saito (Bulgaria) vs Johnny B. Badd (Columbia) I don't have time for bad sports entertainment like "Sonny Onoo's a male chauvinist pig". Kimberly's bad acting but unrelenting enthusiasm is a cheese grater for the eardrums. Talk about an argument for the return of silent films.
The only other Saito matches I have seen are in the Pat O'Connor tourney at Starrcade 1990. He was pretty damn good, and as stiff as a twelve year old reading his first porno mag. I've heard he's a pretty important guy in the evolution of strong style wrestling, never afraid to bust out some head-busting suplexes. It's particularly nice to see him (at SC90) deliver them to Rick Steiner given the amount of people he's hurt doing the same thing, but without any sort of care. That's what pisses me off about Steiners matches. They are jawdroppingly nasty, but hardly ever are the Steiners on the receiving end of uber-stiffness. Stiffness is only fun when both sides are taking it (see Ishikawa/Ikeda, Kawada/Tenryu or Hash/Tenryu). Watching the Benoit/Liger team (perhaps the second greatest singles-wrestlers-tagging-up team in history, behind Misawa and Kawada) be murdered in early 90s NJ is particularly hard to watch. I am yet to see Iizuka's beatdown in 1992, but I should soon. Saito's got to be in his 50s here and probably way past his prime, but gives out such a cool vibe of a Sherman Tank made flesh, with malefactorious intent. That's the main attraction of this match, as Johnny B. Badd, even though he is less comical here than at any time in his WCW stint, is a party hat made flesh.
Unfortunately, this never has a chance to become anything. Both guys do well, Saito dominating the match with well-executed, well-transitioned offence and Badd, selling well enough and attacking with a gracefulness perhaps unmatched in the US at the time. Give me a guy with a beautiful double axehandle and gravity-defying top rope sunset flip over dangerous gymnastics that only hit 50% of the time. We get another bad ending, with Onoo, doing his best Mr. Fuji impression throughout the match (choking Badd on the rope, with the Japanese flag, etc.) and when Badd goes over to remonstrate Saito upends him, and the antiquated "over the top rope" rule is enforced. I always thought that was a get-out in title matches (Badd's TV title wasn't on the line, same for Kanemoto's IWGP Junior title), but I suppose it's valid in an environment when one side can't really lose to the other. It doesn't make watching it any easier though. *1/4
Good promo from Lex. Got his point over well enough, his friendship for Sting (which means he doesn't want Jimmy Hart (perhaps the most annoying speaker in wrestling's history. Grow some balls, man) and his dislike of the "one armed" WCW champeen Savage. On that note, the WWF has never really done anything like the Sting/Luger friendship, which transcended heel/face lines.
5. Shinjiro Ohtani (England) vs Eddy Guerrero (Holland) Now, this is a little bit more like it. Immensely fun match, with perfect execution throughout. There wasn't a story, but that didn't stop it being a joy to watch. Ohtani does a great little bastard heel schtick, wrestling Eddy repeatedly down to the mat at the start, and as he retains control, starts the dirty tactics, fish-hooking the hell out of him. All the chain wrestling was fluid, assured and pretty, the power moves athletic and nasty looking, the submissions credible (i.e. the opposite of the Steiner Recliner), the selling fitting and the highspots had immense hangtime and gracefulness (especially Ohtani's springboard plancha to the outside) and difficult stuff (like the vertical overhead chest press => hurricanrana) was made to look like child's play. The flash pin sucked, as they always do, but the idea throughout was these guys were absolute equals and after some sufficiently awesome mat wrestling, Ohtani just manages to edge Guererro out. Another political ending, but, fuck it, Ohtani's presence on US PPV is worth it. ***1/2
Dusty has two great lines here, one intentional ((After Heenan asks how he would feel if he was Guerrero): "I'm thinkin' I've lost a lotta weight, bruddah!") and one not (when he says a brainbuster will "ring his belly!"). Great stuff.
Good enough promo in terms of content from Savage, but his delivery has always irked me no end, dig it? He keeps saying "to infinity and beyond!" I didn't think Toy Story was out in late 1995?
6. Randy Savage (Australia) vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan (Belgium) Oh dear. We zoom back to the 80s as Tenzan (who really isn't the guy I've seen between 1998-2001 here) beats down Savage (who I don't think gets one blow in at all (he obviously didn't take lessons in "showing fire" from Steamboat (i.e. get one blow in roughly every five to tell the audience you're still in the game)) with a boatload of Yokozuna offence, including the dreaded nerve hold. Savage has his arm taped up, which usually works as an aide psychologique. Not here. Tenzan doesn't even bother. We get to at least 5 minutes before Tenzan actually performs a move (a really nice mountain bomb), then he realises that these move things are actually a good way of getting the crowd into it, so he follows with a scoop slam and a moonsault, performed pretty damn well for such a big guy. Savage's "comeback" consists of a forward suplex onto the top rope, then "boom boom boom", as the Torch might say, slam, top rope elbow, and that's that. If Savage debuted the "reviving elbow" on Hogan, Tenzan took the "kill 'em dead elbow". Real fast forward stuff. Savage is obviously saving himself for later on here, methinks. Not an attitude that gets brownie points for me. I lost minutes of my life to this. 1/2*
Also, does anyone else think it's funny Savage starts fighting with his shirt off again after jumping to WCW? Must be new... erm... vitamin pills.
Good enough Flair promo after the WCW Hotline is shilled until it bleeds by Gene again. I really don't like his promos from this era onwards (except for, of course, "Fire me? I'm already fired!") as he is a parody of himself, doing the "pissed, crazy Flair" (like after the Savage match at WMVIII) delivery all the time, though.
7. Kensuke Sasaki (Norway) vs Sting (Portugal) Sting comes out waving Old Glory and everyone indulges in a "U! S! A!" Chant when it's all said and done, WCW winning 4-3. Let's forget the fact that Benoit is Canadian, Wright is German and Guererro has Mexican heritage. The cup presentation went off without incident, too. I was expecting some sort of Bad News Brown/Jerry Lawler moment.
Ah, the match. Well... it was shitty, OK? Sasaki these days is over, carryable and equipped with a good-looking moveset. Around this time he seems to have a moveset, but little other of the many skills a wrestler need. He is also rather pudgy, perhaps yet to discover those vitamins Savage is packing. Sasaki is in control 80% of the time here, not really the best idea, but as he's a heel and WCW have decided to let these guys work the exact formula of the previous match, he has no choice. Here, he performs some good-enough power moves, but has no transitions whatsoever, looking around and not doing anything after most moves. Just enfuriating to watch. However, he does try to inject a bit of psychology into his beatdown (which is pretty constant except for a mid-match hope spot), working the arm with an over-the-shoulder arm throw and his stepover armbar, then the leg with a Dragon Screw (Tony, JR, that's about the coolest move name in wrestling that isn't the Hell Smasher or Burning Hammer, so stop calling it a leg drag/lace takedown) and a Scorpion. What do you need to have in use to do the Scorpion? One arm and one leg. The finish sucks, as (having sold earlier in the match) Sting just shrugs off it all like Superman, gets in a little offence, hooks the Scorpion then after a about 30 seconds, Sasaki cries "uncle" even though there was no previous leg work from Sting. Better than Tenzan/Savage for Sasaki's psychology and Sting's fire (which the crowd laps up), but they are variations on a common theme. 3/4*
Really, really good package telling one everything relevant to the triangle match=>title match stip. Over hammy voiceover was my only criticism.
8. Triangle Match (two men in the ring, one man always waiting for the tag outside): Sting vs Lex Luger vs Ric Flair (France) I am not really as much of a Flair fan as many, but this was a tremendous performance from him. Making his opponents look a million bucks, telling a story, and- the real proof- it still being all about him even when he isn't in the ring. Flair starts off with Sting, mostly working on the arm, with Sting periodically doing his mucho annoying total superman no-sell (worse than Luger, who yells a lot when no-selling, showing a fight through pain). Then (after bundling Sting into Luger for the tag), he gets his ass kicked before seguing into The Only Good Luger Match (body part psychology on the leg). During all this, Flair is just the consummate heel, struttin' and smilin' while in control. The Sting/Luger shaky friendship was a major storyline leading into the match, and their confrontation is OK in itself, but the vibe one really picks up is the fact Flair is the only man gaining from the friends (who have already fought one match that evening) beating the tar out of each other. The major theme of the match is that Flair can only slow down his opponents, who are always able to eventually come back against him in a big way. The other is that Flair is playing the ref like a Stradivarius, sneaking in and getting away with stuff like low blows in behind his back. The finish, then, is highly ingenious, and doesn't kill any of Sting or Luger's heat. Flair throws both men illegally over the top while the ref is down and both are counted out (with Luger holding Sting back, to add to the tension between them). Very engrossing, fun match, all down to Flair. ***1/2
Also, Naitch is wearing black trunks, red kneepads and yellow boots. Foreshadowing the Hogan heel turn? Nah, that would require WCW to be looking six months ahead...
Jimmy Hart ingratiates himself to Flair, seeing as Luger lost. Flair never really seems to agree, but Hart acts like his manager anyway.
Michael Buffer is a bitch. Anyone could do his job, if they acquired an insufferable arrogance.
8. WCW World Heavyweight Championship match: Randy Savage vs Ric Flair Had this match gone to around 30 minutes, it could have been really good, as they seemed to be in for the long haul, working smartly but slowly and establishing the ground on which the match will be fought (Savage's one arm is fucked, but he can punch and clothesline really hard with the other; Savage keeps trying, when he gets the upper hand, to score with the top rope double axehandle; Savage is prepared to use heel tactics (eye rakes, a megaphone) to combat the Dirtiest Player in the Game; Jimmy Hart will do anything he can, as a chickenshit heel manager to help Flair). As we seem to be emerging from that period, they hotshot the finish. The megaphone comes in, Savage gets it away from Flair, blasts him as Flair taps an artery and hits the elbowdrop (with a very impressive leap, I must say, at least two thirds of the way across the ring). The Horsemen then run in, and after some comedy pinballing by Pillman and Benoit, Double A brings the 'knucks to the Macho Man for Flair's umpteeth title reign. The end sequence was, admittedly, cool, but the thoughts of What Might Have Been were cooler. Watch their match at WrestleMania VIII instead. **3/4
Bad finishes were the bane of this event, especially in Benoit/Liger, Eddy/Ohtani and Flair/Savage, but the wrestling therein was more than enough to make each match worth your time. The shit really was shit, I'd recommend fast-forwarding through Tenzan/Savage and Sting/Sasaki. There were a few others (esp. Koji/Alex and Saito/Badd) that weren't actively bad but not of any real value.
Thumbs slightly up, I'd say. The only stuff you'll want to rewatch are Liger/Benoit and the Triangle Match.
However, the pluses or minuses of the card are secondary to the fact that any occasion where Japanese wrestlers compete in America compels a few each time to check out That Thing They Call Puroresu. And that's good.
This is my first show review, so I need to know if I suck or rule. All praise, complaints or suggestifications to email@example.com, please.
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