Roll the Dice #1

I have a lot of wrestling.

If I wanted to, I’m sure I could watch wrestling back to back for a year, and still have many matches that I’ve left untouched. The problem is that it almost becomes a self-defeating process – the more matches I have, the harder it is to find a way to get through them, or to even know when to start. As I rapidly approach thirty, am married and have a full time and time consuming job, I need a way to begin working through my backlog.

I decided to Roll the Dice.

Metaphorically speaking, at least. Using a software programme that randomly selects files on your computer, I will pick six matches at a time to review and check out with a critical eye. I’m not looking to recap them match by match; instead, I’m focusing on what the matches offer for me, the wrestling fan. With matches spanning several decades, and covering the US, UK, Japan and Mexico, it will throw up a range of different prospects. All that matters is that no matter what it chooses, I have to watch it.

With that being said, let me talk you through my first six matches as I decided to Roll the Dice.

Christian © vs Ezekiel Jackson (ECW Title Match, Royal Rumble 2010)

When ECW was recreated under the WWE umbrella, hardcore ECW enthusiasts couldn’t have imagined that the title would eventually be competed between wrestlers the likes of Christian and Ezekiel Jackson. It feels somewhat incongruous to the spirit of the promotion, but due to Christian’s ability in the ring, the match itself is pretty enjoyable. Considering Ezekiel’s size, he should really be able to connect with the crowd better than he does, yet he is a more than competent offensive foil to Christian’s bumping throughout.

To be fair to Christian, he is over with the fans, and they do pop for his offense. Zeke initially doesn’t offer much offensively, though a throw head first back into the stairs is an impressive way to gain control. William Regal, Zeke’s manager, is thrown out early on, and does allow the focus to be on the action in the ring. As the match progresses, Zeke does bust out some decent offense – a chokeslam picking Christian off the floor, a double choke throw and a stalling suplex at least giving Christian something to respond to. Christian’s pace is what allows him to keep in the ring, and he hits a couple of top rope moves, as well as several slaps to annoy the much bigger man.

After Matt Striker (eww) chooses to call a ‘LARIATO’ to irriate me further than he already has, Christian is able to slip out of the back of repeated slams into the turnbuckle to hit the Killswitch and retain his title. A solid match, with Christian making the most of his limited opponent. I’m no fan of the Canadian, but he showed enough wrestling nous to engage throughout.

Jushin Liger vs Owen Hart (NJPW 28.04.1991)

A match that I have seen before, and a match that gets a lot of buzz due to it being an opportunity to see Owen Hart outside of the WWF and showcase the ability he had at a young age. I am an unashamed Liger fan, and know that anything involving the masked superstar is often worth a watch. I wasn’t disappointed, but couldn’t help being left feeling that the match got more attention due to the unique nature of it, rather than the action in the ring.

What we do get to see, as well as Hart’s impressive athleticism, are his heelish tendencies. Early on, he sends Liger into the barricades, a spot that Liger will cleverly repeat shortly afterwards, as well as targeting the arm and elbow with stomps. Generally, Hart’s work on the arm is sound, though Liger offers much more in terms of unique submission offense – a pendulum and a nelson using the feet two particular highlights. As the pace quickens, a couple of spots are ragged; Liger whiffs on a dropkick off of a Hart crossbody, whilst Hart struggles to reverse a tombstone attempt into one of his own. The tombstone itself, followed by a diving headbutt for good measure, gets a two, a result that always feels odd considering how big a move it is in the US and Mexico.

The quickened pace makes up for a slow, sometimes dull middle, and it takes a top rope electic chair-style drop by Liger, followed with a really stiff top rope DDT to pick up the victory. Solid action, interesting for the nature of its combatants, but nothing to really write home about. It did remind me of the athletic ability of Owen, however, as it wasn’t always an aspect of his offense during his peak TV runs.

Jamie Noble © vs Billy Kidman (WWE Cruiserweight Title Match, Vengeance 2003)

Jamie Noble is accompanied to the ring by Nidia, and their ‘white trash’ relationship is a fun little way of giving some colour to a division that didn’t always get much in the way of interest when promoted in the WWE. It is Nidia’s involvement that initially allows Noble to take control, the champion using her as a shield to slow down Kidman’s early offense, but after that, the match and the finish are surprisingly clean.

The big problem for these two is that the crowd really doesn’t seem to give a shit about anything they are doing in the ring. Noble’s work on Kidman’s arm is effective, as he uses the ringpost twice to wear his opponent down, before both men use interesting offense in an effort to raise the crowd’s interest; Noble landing a fireman’s carry onto his knee, Kidman landing a top rope sitout spinebuster. Noble is stupid enough to realise you never powerbomb Kidman, but he is able to avoid the shooting star press. A tiger bomb gets the three count in, as aforementioned, a surprisingly clean finish. The arm work is primarily shrugged off by Kidman in the finishing stretch, which is a shame, but the match was fun for what it was.

John Cena © vs Rob Van Dam (WWE Heavyweight Title Match, One Night Stand 2006)

This just shows what is capable with a rabid crowd, a motivated RVD and one of the most impressively worked matches by John Cena. Cena makes this match, as he plays to the crowd’s hatred of him, even silencing them and grudgingly working them around to almost…almost respect him. The tone is set with the early refusal of the crowd to accept Cena’s shirt, and we get some X-rated chants for good measure. Each time Cena is subject to chants from the crowd, he seems to step up his offense; a ‘YOU CAN’T WRESTLE’ chant sees a fisherman suplex, a ‘SAME OLD SHIT’ chant (whilst ironic considering the opponent) leads to Cena jumping off the top rope with a forearm to ringside. Even simple uses of punches are effective, as the crowd boo and yay in stereo with the action in the ring.

It helps that the match feels legitimately heated, as RVD and Cena don’t mess around. We get brawling in the crowd, weapons and RVD using his athleticism to take the fight to the champion. Cena continues to push the envelope of what we expect of him, using the ropes to assist in a pinfall and blocking top rope offense with a one armed powerbomb. Several times, RVD’s bumping almost looks like he is getting killed – a slingshot into a chair lodged between the turnbuckles in particular is an impressive visual.

The finish feels a little overbooked, but arguably plays into the nature of ECW and allows Cena to lose without losing face. Cena attacks the referee after the ref forces him to break the STFU. What follows is another ref bump, an Edge run in, a spear through the table that takes out a camera man, an impressive Five Star Frogsplash that sees RVD change direction in mid air and the three count coming from Paul Heyman of all people. In some ways, it would have been nice to have RVD go over clean in this setting, but as a way of developing future storylines, the ending works.  A match that is touted as worth seeing due to the crowd, though arguably it is worth seeing because of Cena’s work in difficult circumstances.

Ric Flair and Razor Ramon vs Randy Savage and Mr Perfect (Survivor Series 1992)

A match that saw Mr Perfect have to turn heel to fill the void of a departed Ultimate Warrior, the match almost works as an angle as much as anything, as we get the opportunity to show that Perfect is still competitive after a long absence from the ring, as well as toy with his new face leanings throughout. However, the match feels overlong for what it accomplishes, not helped by the lack of interesting offense during the heel heat section.

With the story behind the match, it always made sense for Savage to play face in peril, and he does this admirably, a guy who worked amazingly as a heel but was just as good at garnering sympathy from the crowd in attendance. In a nice touch, Ramon does try to work the leg to work towards Flair’s figure four leglock, but his submissions are lazy at best.  Mid-match, Perfect does threaten to walk out, only to come back and get a huge pop for the hot tag.

The ending is overbooked, primarily because it seems the WWF didn’t want anyone to take the loss. Following the hot tag section, the first ref gets bumped and is replaced by a second referee. A very weak chair shot drops Savage on the outside, leading to two Perfectplexes that see the pins broken up by the heels. As both referees try and regain some order, the heels are DQ’d for their refusal to leave the ring. Flair slaps on the figure four, only for Perfect to escape, leaving him and Savage to run Ramon and Flair away from the ring. There is further teasing of dissension between the two faces, but they eventually give each other the thumbs up before leaving. A pretty average match, saved by telling an interesting story at least.

Crazy Boy, Xtreme Tiger and Rocky Romero vs Decnis and La Hermandad Extrema (AAA 01.02.2010)

The final match on this first Roll the Dice is a 6-man tag team match from AAA. Normally, I can enjoy both Mexican and Japanese wrestling without understanding the commentary, but the nature of this match meant that a lot of what occurred went completely over my head. Decnis is initially attacked by his own partner, Joe Lider, and this leads to Decnis refusing to help Lider out of a submission within the first few minutes. When Decnis finally is able to put the rudos in control by hitting moves on all three tecnicos, he gets attacked by both Nicho El Millionaro and Lider, with a double team throw though three ringside chairs putting him out of action for the majority of the match.

Due to the angle playing out across the match, the structure just feels awkward. The offense on show by all men is interesting, with Crazy Boy hitting Nicho with the Diamond Dust and Romero landing a top rope legdrop to a standing Lider, but nothing seems to work together towards the collective whole of the match. They feel like moves for moves sake, as much as anything else.

It isn’t helped by the ending. After a short heel offense segment, including a pretty neat powerbomb/top rope backcracker combination and the introduction of chairs, Nicho and Lider head to ringside to berate the commentary team. By this time, Decnis has recovered, and he heads into the ring, drops to the mat and allows Romero to pin him for the three count. When they realise, La Extreme Hermandad get into the ring, only for Decnis to get out of the ring and head to the back before they can extract any revenge. Just a nothing match, with an angle that didn’t really make sense to me.

There you have it. Six matches that cover WWF, NJPW and AAA, offering a mixture of wrestling for me to get my teeth into. As always, please comment and share your thoughts on any and all the matches I cover, and I look forward to Rolling the Dice once more and checking out a whole range of wrestling.

Making PROGRESS: Chapter 13

After a reasonably long delay where I have attempted to undertake over projects, I’m back to cover another PROGRESS event. My ability to follow modern PROGRESS is always hampered somewhat by my desire to try and watch the shows chronologically, so this should be the start of a renewed push to watch more PROGRESS and attempt to catch up with the promotion.

The opening match sees two stalwarts of PROGRESS, Darrell Allen and Rampage Brown, square off in a match of size versus speed. Allen, replacing Scurll, initially is able to hold his own, including an early suicide dive to the much bigger man, but as soon as Brown is able to land a big boot on his opponent, we get a prolonged sequence of Allen getting mauled. A short arm clothesline and a falcon arrow leave Allen in some danger, yet he is able to avoid a charge into the corner, with Brown hitting the ringpost for good measure. A baseball slide and a floor rana have Brown rocking, and Allen is even able to turn a powerbomb attempt into another rana. However, with someone the size of Brown against him, one big move would be all that it took, and out of nowhere, Brown landed his piledriver for a three count. I liked the match and the ending, as I do find it realistic when the size disparity is such for the bigger guy to occasionally just win over with brute force. Engaging opening to the show.

We get our first look at Pete Dunne in a PROGRESS ring as he goes up against Robbie X in a Natural Progress Tournament match. Both men are faces, so we get an initial section of parity before X shows his impressive athleticism with a handspring headscissors and a big dropkick. Dunne is always going to have the slight power advantage, and shows it with a pumphandle flatliner, moving on to target the knees after a kneebreaker. This is sound strategy against a man known for his high flying offense, yet it does little to stop him as a missile dropkick is followed with a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Comically, X gets a ‘red face’ chant due to the exertion turning his skin a bright shade of red, though this doesn’t seem to affect him too much, landing a springboard moonsault to his opponent. Outside of a nifty tombstone counter to the springboard ace crusher, it feels that Dunne doesn’t have enough to beat X, who does eventually land his combo ace crusher/standing shooting star, only getting a two count. The finish feels a little blown, as they repeat the spot after the first time it goes a little awry – a moonsault by X is then turned into a Texas cloverleaf by Dunne for the submission victory. A decent showcase for both men, let down a little by the ending.

I’ve often complained about Eddie Dennis wrestling his size, but against Michael Gilbert, he begins by donning a mask and dubbing himself Eddie Mysterio Jr. Some lucha armdrags and dropkicks follow, though Gilbert is able to escape a 619 attempt. Gilbert feels fairly bland, and his offense when he does get in control is primarily working the leg, though he does remove the Dennis’ mask, hit the Welshman with an ‘accidental’ low blow and ram the leg into the ringpost. The comeback from Dennis starts with an atomic drop and a clothesline, whilst an Exploder suplex gets him a two count. Gilbert makes the mistake of putting the mask back on Dennis, and eats a 61knee for his troubles for another two count. Just as it looks like Dennis has the upperhand, a roll-up is reversed for Gilbert to pick up the victory. A match let down by Gilbert’s lack of character and general apathy of the crowd to his work.

The next match is for the Number One Contendership to the PROGRESS Tag Team Titles, and it features the teams of Project Ego, The London Riots, Swords of Essex and Screw Indy Wrestling. Most notable pre-match is that SIW has Sha Samuels as Mark Haskins’ partner for this number one contender contest. Martin Kirby and James Davis start off in the ring, and the Riots are still Enemy Number Two after their alignment with Jimmy Havoc.The opening segments see both members of Project Ego outwrestle their bulkier opponents much to the enjoyment of the fans. This sequence is fairly repeated by the Swords of Essex and Screw Indy Wrestling, including Ospreay throwing Robinson into a low angle (…a poor throw) huracanrana. Travis ends up being the first big face in peril, as Samuels hits a knee from the outside to halt his offense against a grounded Haskins. Some novel double team offense, a slingshot into a spinebuster an impressive example, allow SIW to keep control of the match, as well as Samuels’ proficiency with a scarf and suspenders choke. Davis is clever enough to tag an unsuspecting Samuels, much to the annoyance of the East Londoner, and Travis continues to receive punishment.

After a brief altercation between Samuels and Davis, with slaps replacing tags, Haskins spits water in the face of Travis before he recieves a chant of ‘Evil Jesus’ in ode to his new, longer hair. Travis is finally able to tag out after a jawbreaker and Kirby gets an early two count off of an enziguiri following a loudly shouted ‘stop!’. All eight men end up in the ring at this point and quickly to the outside, leading to a brilliant spot where Robinson is launched in a double hiptoss over the top rope by Project Ego, who then land stereo dives of their own. Not to be outdone, Ospreay hits a Sky Twister Press to the outside, taking out everyone. We get a ‘signature spam’ sequence, leaving all eight men laying in the ring. The ref has lost complete control by this point. A cheap initial elimination happens as Project Ego and Screw Indy Wrestling are both counted out – a little on the weak side, and clearly booking that is meant to protect rather than put over.

Ospreay almost has his head taken off immediately by Davis for a nearfall and the Riots begin to go to work on their smaller opponent. It takes a handspring pele-style kick to take out both Riots and put himself in a position to make the tag – but Robinson refuses the tag and walks away. The Riots smell blood and they drop Ospreay with the District Line, but he kicks out! Not only does he kick out, but he begins to mount a comeback, hitting a springboard double stunner for a near fall. The numbers game wins out in the end though, as Ospreay is nailed with the pop-up spear and gets pinned. A good multi-man match, even if the middle elimination was a bit on the weak side – the Robinson turn was a good moment, and I look forward to him heeling it up from now on.

Jimmy Havoc, fetching pink chair in his hands, comes out with Ospreay still down on the mat, and proceeds to get the Riots to tie him to the chair. After promising to try and torture Ospreay, Havoc pulls a switchblade and forces the music men to play ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ in order to try and recreate Reservoir Dogs. Just as it looks like he is about to slice an ear, FSU and Pete Dunne hit the ring to clear them off. There seems to be an altercation with the crowd as there is suddenly a lot of security around – just the sort of reaction you might expect a heel to get when he whips out a lethal weapon.

An interesting match post break sees El Ligero going up against Tommy End, finally competing in a match that was signed for Chapter 12. Both men are well liked by the fans and are competent on the mat, so we get a few minutes of ground work at the start, but Ligero’s speedy combination of moves is quickly nullified by a big knee to the gut. It was always likely that End would control the match if he managed to get his strikes going, and he leathers Ligero with two big kicks in the corner. End is methodical, using his size advantage to keep Ligero grounded. A charge into the corner is missed, however, and Ligero hits a kick to the head against the steel post and a crossbody for a two count.

After eating another couple of kicks, Ligero hits a unique wheelbarrow into a facebuster for another two count and the pace is building up nicely enough. Both men begin trading big bombs, with End landing double knees off of the second rope and then wiping out Ligero off of a springboard with a roundhouse kick. A brainbuster gets two, as does a deadlift German suplex, but Ligero is able to hit a cutter off of an End springboard moonsault. A splash off of the top rope should be the end, but Michael Gilbert of all people interrupts, causing a DQ. Ligero doesn’t like the match ending this way, forcing the restart. A couple of quick nearfalls follow, before End locks on a modified Dragon Sleeper for the win. Again, the booking was a bit odd here, as I don’t think the Gilbert interference did anything for the match as a whole, except stop the momentum. To top off a bad night for Ligero, Gilbert returns and takes him out with a guillotine choke. Not a good night for the good guys thus far.

The next match is a potential classic, with Zack Sabre Jr. going up against Prince Devitt on his victory lap of the UK before heading off to join the WWE. Devitt is dressed as the Joker, and when the bell hits, he gets very near fall in the first thirty seconds with the double foot stomp off of the top rope following a dropkick. Though Devitt feels like he has the measure of Sabre Jr. in the early going, Sabre grabs a kick from the outside and uses it to hang the arm on the top rope, a precursor to some always engaging arm work on the mat. Several stomps to the elbow and some digit manipulation have the crowd firmly behind Sabre, and he is able to reverse several Devitt attempts to fight out of his holds, holding onto the arm like a long lost childhood toy.

Brute strength eventually allows Devitt to get out of the hold, and he blasts Sabre with several ludicrously hard chops to the chest, including a running chop to finish off. All the strikes are coming out now, as Sabre shows he is no slouch with a PK to Devitt off of the apron, bringing the crowd into the action with a several stiff shots at ringside. Devitt introduces a chair (not receiving a DQ in the process for some reason), and hits an insane running dropkick to a seated Sabre Jr. which sends him about six rows back. A double foot stomp to the back and an inverted suplex get Devitt a near fall, and both men are soon down following several stiff strikes. Sabre Jr. gets a nearfall of his own off of a half nelson suplex and a PK, turning the kickout into an armbar that needs the ropes to be broken. A mat scuffle sees Sabre Jr. almost lock on the armbar again, as well as Devitt nearly sneak a pinfall in the altercation. Another kickout of the double foot stomp is possibly a little overkill, but Devitt’s finisher at the time was the Bloody Sunday, and he lands it shortly afterwards for the pinfall. An impressive match, just what you would expect from these two.

The main event is a ladder match for the PROGRESS Title, as the champion, Jimmy Havoc, would defend against the man he won the title from, Mark Andrews, in the first every PROGRESS Ladder match. In an unsurprising opening, Havoc attacks Andrews before the bell begins with the PROGRESS staff, but it isn’t long before Andrews is jumping through the ropes to knock Havoc into the front row. The first ladder that is picked from under the ring is a very oddly shaped one, but the men battle over it as best they can, a Havoc powerbomb onto the ladder in the corner the first introduction to the steel. With the match No-DQ of course, other weapons are brought into play early on, a table getting destroyed with a sitout uranage by Andrews. The second ladder they get out is at least one that would allow the men to get the clipboard masquerading as the title.With Andrews distracted by his own attempts to get the belt, Havoc introduces a chair and waffles the Welshman several times with it.

An apron DDT by Andrews blocks an attempted move through a second table, but he is able to move before Andrews can drop him through it with a top rope move. A snap suplex on the unforgiving floor has Havoc back in control, leading to an exchanging of reversals and a powerbomb by Havoc off the apron through the table that left me cringing. Havoc spends time methodically keeping Andrews down, but the challenger is able to land a hiptoss on the chair to allow him to grab a chair or two of his own. A chairshot halts Andrews’ progress, but following a reversal of a powerbomb on the ramp, Andrews nails a running somersault senton through a third table. In another mental spot, Andrews dumps Havoc through two tables with a top rope huracanrana, but the London Riots are down to stop Andrews taking advantage of this opportunity. Unsurprisingly, Pete Dunne and Eddie Dennis hit the ring and end up landing their own dives to ringside to take out Havoc’s cronies.

With Havoc battling with Dennis on the outside, Andrews has a chance to reach for the title, but chooses to launch himself on the five men at ringside from the top of the ladder! As the non-competitors brawl to the back, a fourth table is introduced and left outside, before both men fall off of the ladder following a sickening headbutt. The table does eventually come into play, as Havoc gets knocked backwards off of the top turnbuckle, leaving Andrews free to get the title – only for Paul Robinson to hit the ring and lay him out with several chair shots! Robinson shakes hands with Havoc and continues the beatdown on Andrews, allowing Havoc to retain the title. A fun spot match, with some frankly insane spots.

The show was solid, if unspectacular, in most places. However, the final two matches were both worthwhile watches, and we leave with Jimmy Havoc still champion, much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance. Next up – The PROGRESS World Cup! As always, comment and share your opinions as you see fit, and follow me on Twitter @tvtimelimit. Until next time.

A Wrestling Year – 19.03.1986-25.03.1986 (Part 3)

The final two shows of the week are both from the NWA as we head to World Championship Wrestling and Pro. Things are heating up as many tag teams get a chance to tune up on the road to the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Tournament, whilst we also get a title change on Pro.

NWA World Championship Wrestling 22.03.1986

The pre-show VT shows footage of a match between Sam Houston and Black Bart, with the referee taking a bump off of Houston dropkicking Bart into the collision. Following the opening credits, we are informed that Black Bart would go on to defeat Houston for the Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Title. Before the first match, we have the Rock and Roll Express out to talk about the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Tournament, but they also have words for The Midnights, who they are due to have title matches with in the coming weeks, and Ric Flair, as the Morton and Flair feud continues to bubble under the surface.

The first match of the evening has Jimmy Valiant out to take on Kent Glover, and it is fairly standard Valiant fare. Rakes, thumbs to the throat and back scratches are all used, as Valiant proclaims ‘This is for the weasel’, aiming his jibes at Paul Jones. An elbow and an elbowdrop are enough for Valiant to pick up the victory.

Ron Garvin is out at the commentary booth next, and he talks about a cage match that has been booked between himself and Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Garvin talks about how he likes that a cage will keep the Horsemen out, but it is the usual plodding Garvin promo to be honest. It is followed by a return to the pre-show footage as Black Bart defeats Sam Houston. After the bump, Houston would hit his bulldog but with no referee to count the pinfall. Bart would grab a handful of trunks to pitch Houston to the outside, and catch him with a second rope legdrop to the back of the head as he came back in to get the three count and win the title. I’m surprised they took the belt off of Houston so quickly, especially to give it to someone who was jobbing as part of a tag team around a month prior to this.

Jim Cornette is out for the first of three times this evening, as he is still not happy with the seedings for the tournament. He makes it clear that no matter where the Midnights are seeded, they will

It is always strange seeing Ray Traylor do job duty, but with his partner Phil Brown and their opponents The Midnight Express, he isn’t exactly going to break his duck tonight. As Traylor and Brown get beaten down in the ring, Cornette continues to complain about the seedings, with Schiavone trying to rationalise that the seedings are based on offense due to the time limit and the ‘win only’ rules. At least he tries. Brown is subjected to the first Air Eaton move, an elbowdrop, but pulls Brown up at two. As is becoming the norm, the only way Traylor and Brown tag is through the Midnights throwing them back into the corner. Even Traylor gets manhandled, with a particularly impressive back suplex by Eaton. Cornette finds every opportunity to show off the belts to the opponents in the ring and Brown is even brought to the camera to allow Eaton to show off his own punches. The two champions also play catch to the outside, with Eaton missing Brown’s flying body. The Rocket Launcher eventually puts the challengers out of their misery.

The announcement that follows involves the rest of the teams for the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tournament being announced. The next fourteen teams are:

Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood

Black Bart and Jimmy Garvin

Hector and Chavo Guerrero

The Barbarian and Baron von Raschke

Buzz Sawyer and Rick Steiner

Jimmy Valiant and Manny Fernandez

The Fabulous Ones

The Fantastics

Nelson Royal and Sam Houston

Bill Dundee and Buddy Landell

Bobby Jaggers and Mike Miller

The Batten Twins

Koko B Ware and The Itallian Stallion

Brett Wayne Sawyer and David Peterson

Peaks and troughs, but when you add in the first ten teams, a stacked tournament.

The next match in the ring is Leo Burke against Don Graves, and the biggest issue for Burke is that he doesn’t feel too dissimilar from a lot of the other jobber talents I see for NWA week in, week out. He beats Graves down with minimal hassle, pulling him up at two following a samoan drop style move. He does the same following a back suplex, getting up afterwards to shadow box. A third time following a russian leg sweep at least gets a reaction out of the crowd, but by the rourth time he does it with a piledriver, it feels a bit too much. Even worse, he beats him with a dropkick, rather than a piledriver. Odd booking, especially when they overturned the result after the following promo due to the piledriver technically being illegal in the NWA. Way to blow a chance to get over.

Jimmy Garvin tells Schiavone that he chased Wahoo McDaniel looking for an opportunity to fight him tonight, but claims that McDaniel is a coward and might not even turn up for his scheduled match later on the show. Garvin’s own opponent is Bill Mulkey and ‘Gorgeous’ begins his taunting of Wahoo from within the ring. Mulkey aims a few tired shots at the stomach, but Garvin controls the match, locking Mulkey up in a modified camel clutch. Garvin hits a greco roman side suplex, only to pull Mulkey up off of the mat, which is less effective considering the overuse by Burke in the previous match. Mulkey fights back, but is cut off quickly. A couple more camel clutch-type stretches lead to the suplex/brainbuster for the easy three count.

Dusty Rhodes appears to be here only to promote a cage match between himself and Arn Anderson, before celebrating the return to TV of Wahoo McDaniel.

After weeks of taunting by Jimmy Garvin, Wahoo McDaniel finally reappears in an NWA ring to face off against Bob Owens. Both men spend time working the arm, with McDaniel getting the better with a top wrist lock and hammerlock. A short section of grappling on the mat follows, before McDaniel wails away with several chops and the chop off of the rope to get the pinfall. Pretty underwhelming, but will be interesting to see where the feud between him and Garvin goes.

After some time to promote the LSU baseketball team, Paul Jones is out with Baron Von Raschke and Teijo Kahn promising a big surprise for Jimmy Valiant next week. A new member for the Army, perhaps? The two current members of the Army take on Tony Zane and The Italian Stallion. Initially, the Stallion is able to outwrestle Kahn, but Zane doesn’t have the same luck. As Von Raschke runs through his repertoire of snapmares and kicks, Jones spends time reprimanding Kahn for his performance thus far. The story of the match is primarily that Stallion is a match for the other two, but as soon as Zane is brought back in, Von Raschke is able to take back over before tagging to a refocused Kahn. We get the obligatory ‘Jones interference spot’ with Zane getting rammed into the ringpost as Kahn distracts the ref and the Stallion. A Kahn powerslam is followed by the Raschke claw for the victory.

Ric Flair is then out on the microphone, talking really creepily about co-eds before promising that this title shot for Dusty Rhodes will be his last. Another promo follows with a man called Joe Nighthawk Coltrane, though the fact that I have never since heard of him doesn’t exactly fill me with the belief that he will bring much to the table. After being introduced, he is effectively run off by Jim Cornette anyway.

The Rock and Roll Express are up against Larry Clarke and Paul Garner and they seem to have ditched the tennis rackets that they begun carrying a few weeks ago. Even though, in a similar vein to the Fantastics, the Rock and Roll Express churn out mostly the same type of matches with their jobbers, they just feel a lot more interesting and engaging than the Fantastics. Quick tags, takedowns and arm work are the order of the day as per usual, with both Clarke and Garner getting nothing of note on offense. A double dropkick on Clarke is enough to get the win in short order. I’ve yet to see a return to a jobber match with the Rock and Roll Express that involves a brief face in peril section like the first one this year.

After another promo by Ric Flair promoting the belt and the team, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard are getting in the practice time pre-Jim Crockett Memorial Sr. Cup against the luminaries of Mike Simani and Ron Rossi. This is one of the earliest opportunities I’ve had to see what would later form the Brainbusters, and Simani is destroyed early, with an Anderson powerslam a particular highlight. The two heels target the leg and use quick tags to allow the offense to stay high tempo, dropping knees and legs to work on Simani’s left side. As Simani is dissected, Flair continues to talk about his dislike for the cage match he is due to have with Ron Garvin, The Teeny Booper Express (Rock and Roll) and The Midnight Express (perceived jealousy). A backbreaker/second rope kneedrop combo seems like a potential finish, but Blanchard and Anderson one-up it with a super-gourdbuster, leaving Simani no chance to beat the three count.

Wahoo McDaniel talks about Jimmy Garvin, saying how it is easy to talk when you know someone isn’t around. They make the mistake of bringing Magnum TA out (off screen) when McDaniel is talking, meaning the fans pop for him as McDaniel is trying to talk meaningfully about Garvin. The TA match is his standard short squash, hitting a couple of armdrags, a punch and the belly to belly suplex for a win in less than half a minute. Magnum TA then joins McDaniel at the commentary booth, who is carrying his strap and promising to team up with TA and Rhodes against the Four Horseman. When TA gets the mic, he is naturally very vocal about Nikita Koloff, and it turns out that the Russian has offered Magnum out in a chain match, a match that TA has chosen to accept.

Whenever we get Magnum on the mike, it isn’t often very long before the Koloffs are out to retort, and after the advert, Ivan Koloff is incredibly happy that TA has accepted the chain match. The Kremlin apparently are writing up the contract, and Nikita promises to cause injuries to the current US Champion. Before they leave, they also have words for the Road Warriors as that feud rumbles on. Ivan Koloff heads straight from the commentary booth to the ring to fight Rocky Kernodle. Koloff is always a masterclass of heel squash beatdowns, giving his opponent enough to keep the crowd interested, and using every heel trick in the book even against lesser opposition. Kernodle gets a one count off of a sunset flip and even avoids an elbowdrop, but it isn’t long before Koloff suckers him in with a test of strength, kicking him in the gut when it seems things aren’t working out. Kernodle has a couple more hope spots during the match, but Koloff comes close to victory with a second rope first drop. Nikita even gets involved with a Russian sickle on the floor, throwing him back in for Ivan to pick up the three count.

Jimmy Garvin is back out, wearing different gear than when he came out to wrestle – man has style. He is out to retort against McDaniel, even going as far as to besmirch the feathers McDaniel wears on his head. It becomes a bit ‘you are fat and smell’ in nature, but I do generally enjoy Garvin on the mike in small doses. After a break to share birthday and anniversary announcements, Cornette is back out to badmouth ‘million dollar bodies and ten cents brains’ The Road Warriors. Nighthawk Coltrane comes out and stands up to Cornette. The Midnights are out to protect their manager, leaving the Rock and Roll Express to come out and run off the trio.

The final match of the evening has Ron Garvin against Brodie Chase, with Chase ending up like a pretzel within the first minute of the match. Garvin bullies him about with his usual mixture of strikes and throws, twisting him with an abdominal stretch with additional slaps before putting him down with the Hands of Stone punch. Before we go to the credits, we have a retort from Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard towards Wahoo McDaniel, as they profess that they don’t fear McDaniel or his whip.

NWA Pro 22.03.1986

The Midnight Express are heading down to the ring as we join this week’s episode of Pro. The Express generally aren’t as exciting on Pro, as they are often given a lot less time to run through their exciting offense. Their opponents are Rocky and Don Kernodle, and I can only feel sorry for Don in this situation. Don at least shows what he is capable of with an arm drag on Eaton and brawling out of the corner when the Express try to double team him. The faces even get a couple of quick tags in, with a couple of hope spots as Rocky gets a crossbody and a roll-up. Unfortunately, the roll-up is reversed by a Condrey clothesline and the Express win with limited actual offense.

Jimmy Garvin is still looking for Wahoo McDaniel, and we get a repeat of the McDaniel music video from a week ago. After the video finishes, Garvin decides to leave as McDaniel is too busy at home making small wooden Indians to meet him.

It feels like a little time since we had Tully Blanchard in a singles match, but tonight he is up against George South. South often is given enough of a chance to look good, and initially is able to outwrestle Blanchard down on the mat, driving knees into the hammerlock for good measure. It takes a cheap shot elbow to stop South and finally allow Blanchard to take control. One slingshot suplex later, Blanchard wins. Again, a victory with little in the way of any actual offence.

Contradicting his decision earlier to leave, Jimmy Garvin is up next to face Rocky King. The fans are firmly behind King, the perennial jobber getting chants as Precious helps Garvin get out of his flamboyant attire. An early dropkick has King down, and although he throws a few punches, a back body drop and a brainbuster has King defeated in real short order. Typical Pro squash, with limited time and moves even for the bigger stars on show.

Jim Cornette is still incredibly unhappy about the seedings, especially as he believes that it is a conspiracy by the owners who don’t want the Midnight Express to win. Cornette believes that they will be able to defeat both the Rock and Roll Express and the Road Warriors on their way to victory.
This is one of those moments where I have already had an outcome spoilt for me by the ability to watch World Championship Wrestling – the next match in the ring is Sam Houston defending the Mid Atlantic Championship against Black Bart. To be fair, Houston is very over with the fans, though he looks really small compared to Bart and outmatched because of it. In the early going, it is all about Houston’s speed as he lands three dropkicks in a row to send Bart fleeing to the outside, before a further dropkick sends Bart over the top rope to the floor. Ron Garvin on commentary believes this could be a main event match anywhere, forever stretching the concept of what a main event can be. Every time Bart seems to be building momentum, Houston is able to use his speed to counter, moving away from a corner charge and targeting Bart’s arm on the mat. A poorly timed advert finishes with Bart in control, dropping Houston throat first on the top rope. Whilst neither man is the best in the ring, Bart has enough big man heel offense and Houston is a legitimate enough face in peril to make the match at least watchable. The finish was already covered on WCW, but worth mentioning how legitimate the legdrop to the back of the neck feels as a finish.

SHOW OF THE WEEK

It has to go to the UWF re-branding show. Two big title changes, even if the first one came off of the tail end of a really convoluted storyline. The decision to put the Sheepherders over felt like a bold move, and excited me to see where they were heading next.