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Dump or Keep? #1

Pro Wrestling - by - March 31, 2011 - 23:46 UTC - Be first to Comment!

New-fangled post idea: I took the 170 or so professional wrestling contests I had on DVD that I had downloaded over the years and I uploaded them to my brand new computer that has 500 GB on it. I then decided to compress them all into a video format that could play on my iPod, and now, I spend my free time on my lunches watching a match or two. Then, to make sure I’m keeping the matches I actually want on my iPod (to conserve space, these ARE video files, after all) I choose to either dump or keep them due to whether I like them enough or not. Reasons for keeping matches range from everything including historical value, a favorite wrestler, video quality or it being a fantastic match. Of course, us wrestling fans all have different tastes, so it’s a matter of opinion, and hopefully ours match up. So without further ado:

All Japan Pro Wrestling – 3/31/96 – Champions Carnival – Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa – DUMP

This match is a fine one (although people who loved All Japan in the 1990s would feel this is about a Top 300 match or so…) but considering I have a lot of other AJPW matches on the docket, I felt that I could keep this out without feeling too bad. There isn’t anything that special to it, as Kenta was trying to establish himself among the upper tier that Toshiaki Kawada and then Akira Taue had broken into, but there were some video issues near the end of the match that kept me from enjoying it…plus, I feel like it was cut off at the end. As good as these two are, I’m sure some of their other, more acclaimed matches will find their way onto the iPod.

AJPW Puroresu TV – 2/14/05 – DUMP

Not much of anything here in preparation for the big February 16 show that includes Kawada defending the Triple Crown against Satoshi Kojima. Kojima would win the belt in a very good match (although many believe it could have been a lot better had Kojima stepped up a bit down the stretch) and then would go on to become the only wrestler to hold both the Triple Crown and the IWGP Heavyweight Title at the same time when he beat former tag team partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan four days later in a match that went 5 seconds short of the full 60 minutes. The fact I wrote more about the events following this TV shows you how much I wanted to keep this bad boy.

AJPW – Triple Crown – 7/28/94 – Mitsuharu Misawa (C) vs. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams – KEEP

In a booking decision that AJPW had used many times before (Most notably in June of 1990), the idea of keeping an alluring victory over the company ace (Misawa) as the #2 guy in the company (Kawada) chased him really was a great way to expand the suspense of whether or not Kawada could take him down. In the greatest men’s singles match I’ve ever seen on June 3 of that year, Kawada made his most fervent push towards being level with Misawa six weeks after winning the Champion’s Carnival, pushing Misawa to the limit in a 36 minute masterpiece that ended only when Misawa brought out a move that was made infamous 3 years earlier after Misawa nearly injured Akira Taue with a misused Tiger Driver, a vertical-drop variation of the move that was dubbed the “Tiger Driver ’91”.

Williams himself had his biggest moment in an AJPW ring three months before this match in the CC final against Kawada, putting on the match of his life while pushing Kawada to his own limit, cementing himself as the #1 foreigner in the company as Stan Hansen had been phasing himself out of the main event picture. The reason? He had learned the deadly finisher of AJPW legend Jumbo Tsuruta, the backdrop suplex, and had altered it to land at a higher angle, making the opponent fall either on the back of his neck or the top of his head. He debuted it almost a year prior to his match with Misawa, and it turned into one of the most dangerous moves in AJPW, if not the most dangerous.

The story of the match is pretty simple: Misawa needs to avoid what became to be known as the Homicidal Backdrop Driver to have a chance against the former Oklahoma football star, and if he takes one, he best make sure he stays away from a pin attempt. After about 20 minutes of back and forth action, Misawa went for his patented rolling elbow, and in one motion, Williams ducked, wrapped the arms and dropped Misawa with the move, knocking Misawa senseless to the point where he rolled out of the ring. Williams recovered, grabbed Misawa, rolled him in, but couldn’t get the pin due to Misawa being able to recover just enough, which then led to a nice couple of minutes where Misawa did everything in his power from getting out of the way of the move again, only to fall to it and take a final pin, giving up the title to the foreigner.

The booking was simple: Williams wasn’t on Misawa’s level when it came to standing in the company (even though he had been successful as a tag competitor with Terry Gordy), but because of the Homicidal Backdrop Driver, he had an equalizer like few others in the company as it was a guaranteed game-changing move. A lot of AJPW fans didn’t like that Misawa ended up dropping the belts to Williams as opposed to Kawada nearly two months earlier, but some semblance of satisfaction was resolved when Kawada beat Williams for the belts that October in another great match, although not as good as their CC final. Kawada fans would get their wish for a Misawa pinfall in June of 1995, however, in a tag match that has been called amongst the greatest matches ever, if not the greatest. Williams’ fantastic 1994 continued here in a match somewhat overlooked in the gamut of great TC matches.

WCW Monday Nitro – 12/28/98 – Booker T vs. Fit Finlay – KEEP

1998 was a pretty good year for Nitro undercard matches, as Booker T had split from Stevie Ray and guys like Fit Finlay, Mike Enos, He Who Shall Not Be Named and others were having a great run at opening up Nitros, Thunders and PPVs. This match was a prelim to see who could get a run at the World TV Title (back when it semi-meant something) and Finlay brought his stomping boots to this one. Booker was pretty game and it was apparent that he was coming into his own as a singles competitor, and he brought a lot of athleticism to the table with his sidekicks and his leaping forearms. The real surprise was him standing toe-to-toe with one of the stiffest guys in the company and landing some great shots, including probably the best lariat he ever threw that probably caught Finlay by surprise. Booker also had a great missile dropkick that finished, a move that at the time worked for him because as he was so big, the impact of the blow could really knock someone for a loop. Booker would ride this into a 1999 run that included a US title go, and then in 2000, finally won the big one before going on to WWF/E as a strong hand. Finlay would take some time off after a bicep injury, but then returned almost 6 years later to become a great wrestler in his own right at the age of FIFTY-FOUR.

WCW Fall Brawl ’95 – US Title #1 Contender Challenge Match – Flyin’ Brian vs. Johnny B. Badd – KEEP

Brian Pillman is one of the most enigmatic wrestlers in history: A former CFL player and member of the Bengals, Brian took a shot at pro wrestling and was a gifted natural, showing off great athleticism and a penchant for bumping. As the years progressed, he became a showman of sorts, and his work led to the formation of the Light Heavyweight division in WCW, where he feuded for over a year with Japanese legend Jyushin “Thunder” Lyger. After the division fell through, Pillman was in limbo until him and “Stunning” Steve Austin, who was in limbo himself, came up with the idea for The Hollywood Blondes, a team that got themselves over by sheer hard work and determination, earning them tag team title runs and main events with the biggest names in WCW at the time.

But after Steve Austin was fired by FedEx and Pillman was left yet again without anything to do, he had been saddled as a nobody with the arrival of Hulk Hogan and Friends, being relegated to the lower end of the card once again and being forced to carry stiffs to decent matches. The booking team at the time gave him possibly the nadir of those decisions: Carrying Johnny B. Badd to not just a 20-minute draw, but to add on 10 minutes more in an overtime period to fill time. While Badd wasn’t outright bad (heh), he still wasn’t someone who had any business going 30 minutes, but there he was, being asked to go 30 minutes.

So Pillman, in a giant middle finger to the booking team, ended up showing how much of a team player he was by taking Badd with him on a ride to a great match, and one of the finest examples of someone getting over on sheer willpower alone (something Pillman had gotten used to). While the first half of the 20 minute draw period was a normal back-and-forth match, the last 10 was a wild ride of spots that had the crowd standing and cheering, something that nobody expected for the last 2 minutes, let alone 10. Then, with the overtime period upon them, the two threw out every big move they had, with a mid-air meeting on a cross body attempt seeing Badd fall on top and take the win from Pillman.

Pillman’s reward? He joined the Four Horsemen, made his “Loose Cannon” persona, blurred the line between fake and real on live television, went to ECW and almost pissed in the ring, and then after an accident, messed up his ankle so bad that he had to get it fused into a fixed position before succumbing to an undiscovered heart condition at age 35, two years after this match.

It’s sad to think that a match like this that was so inspired was followed by that series of events, but the world of professional wrestling is like that sometimes. Sadly, the bad stories have outnumbered the good in recent years.

WCW Thunder – 3/16/01 – Jason Jett vs. Cash – DUMP

Jason Jett was a wrestler who didn’t care that WCW was in the crapper: He used his month with the company to put himself in position to be seen elsewhere, but unfortunately, nothing came of it, and he became a non-entity. Meanwhile, Cash was Kid Kash, someone who got over in ECW and had a bit of a following. He was also a bit late to the part with WCW, and it took him a few years of roaming TNA and the indy leagues before he found a temporary home in WWE, where he won the Cruiserweight belt and got a decent push.

Oh, the match? There were a lot of cool spots, but it didn’t flow together that well. Both of them tried really hard, and the effort was definitely there, but in the end, it wasn’t that noteworthy of a match.

Ring of Honor – October 2005 – Kenta Kobashi and Homicide vs. Samoa Joe and Low Ki – DUMP

After being the most dominant force in the biggest indy federation in the United States, Samoa Joe had himself one of the most unique opportunities ever: He got to face one of the biggest stars in the history of Japanese professional wrestling in Kobashi in a singles match. That match drew rave reviews and made Joe one of the biggest names in the United States, and it’s also seen as his peak as a pro wrestler. The night after, he teamed with a former enemy to face Kobashi and his biggest rival at the time in Homicide. The match was clipped down in the video which is why I dumped it, but I think the full is out there and is a pretty good match. Kobashi’s arrival in ROH drew the biggest crowds ROH had seen at the time and it made for a fantastic atmosphere, which only added to his matches with the company and made it bigger in the eyes of fans worldwide.

That’s it for now. More to come soon enough!

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