(by PHIL RIPPA)
The running gag has always been “Okay – it’s February time for the WWE to acknowledge that it had black wrestlers and randomly push the current black wrestlers on the roster” time. Of course – this year, while Naomi did emerge from the ether to win the Smackdown Women’s Title (though had to give said title up due to injury) and to suddenly put Apollo Crews in a feud (where he repeatedly looked like a goof) – it seemed that Vince and company went out of their way to A) ignore all the black wrestlers from their past B) do less research about Jackie Robinson than my son did in third grade and C) shit on Wayne Gretzky. But hey – at least we talked about Robinson (TWICE!), Rosa Parks and Barack Obama.
We correct that wrong because focusing on the variety of black wrestlers throughout wrestling… while trying to not highlight all the times they were portrayed as savages because wrestling. Yes – it would have been better if this was posted in February but shit happens.
541) BOBO BRAZIL vs. JACK BRISCO – ALL JAPAN (3/13/75 – NWA World Heavyweight Title)
Bobo Brazil was one of the early “star” black wrestlers and here he takes on Jack Brisco for the NWA Title (in Japan). A title that he kinda sorta had won a dozen years early that no one really talks about because eventually the WWWF formed from it but… umm… “Hey! We put you in the Hall of Fame! We are good right?”
542) ERNIE LADD vs. ANDRE THE GIANT – WWF (04/26/76)
Ernie Ladd was THE number one guy the WWE would suddenly remember every February. He and Bobo inducted each other in the WWE Hall of Fame because All Look Same – right Vince? *Cough*… this match is technically great but you have two legit Giants waffling each other and I don’t complain about that. Since it is MSG – prepare yourself for the unsatisfactory ending.
543) PEZ WHATLEY vs. BOB ORTON JR – ICW (October 1980)
Far too little Jive Tones and far too much Pez Whatley WCW jobber is online. This is a spirited studio match between Pez and Bob Orton Jr that includes insane Randy Savage commentary. If we were giving out Worldwide points in 1980 – this would have gotten a full one.
544) BUTCH REED vs. BUZZ SAWYER – MIDSOUTH (12/31/85 – Dog Collar Match)
Closing out 1985 – Reed and Sawyer bleed all over the place in an “impromptu” dog collar match. Oh – I should point out that this was Sawyer’s second great dog collar match in the span of four days.
545) NORMAN SMILEY vs. KAZUO YAMAZAKI – UWF (6/11/88)
At first I was a little depressed that an entire generation will only know Norman Smiley as random dude at the WWE Performance Center. Then I realized that is still better than the generation who only knows Smiley as Big Wiggle. But my generation will always remember this awesome Smiley. Insanely jacked, great mat technician Norman Smiley. (This match also has the claim of being the match before the awesomeness that was Maeda/Takada so I don’t blame you for not remembering it.)
546) RON SIMMONS vs. BIG VAN VADER – WCW (8/2/92 – WCW World Heavyweight Title)
Here mainly for the historical nature of the match with Ron Simmons winning a raffle to replace an “injured” Sting in a house show title match to become what is recognized as the first black wrestler to win a World Heavyweight Title (again – ignore Bobo Brazil). No matter the semantics – if you wanna know why it was important watch the kid who freaks the fuck out when Simmons win. That is why pro wrestling can be great.
547) BOOKER T vs. CHRIS BENOIT – WCW Great American Bash ’98 (6/14/98 – “Best of 7”, Winner gets WCW TV Title shot)
Match 8 of the Booker T/Chris Benoit Best of 7 series because of course it is. This series was the one that helped established Booker as a major singles wrestler. I am gonna level with you in that I honestly haven’t watched these matches in at least 15 years. They were at least good with some being great. I think this match is in the latter category but who can be sure?
548) SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. SHAWN MICHAELS – WWE RAW (05/02/05 – WWE Gold Rush Tournament)
The Shelton Benjamin singles career is a lot like what the Kofi Kingston singles career ended up being in the WWE. Through a guy out there who you know can have a good match, give him a handful of tag and IC titles for being a good hand, throw them into gimmick matches to do a crazy spot and call it a day. In fact – Benjamin is the IC Champ in this match but shhh…. don’t want to remind folks that the IC Champ jobbed out in the first round. Y’all have seen the finish of this match a hundred times as the WWE has placed it in almost every highlight video ever.
549) LOW KI vs. KENTA – RING OF HONOR “FINAL BATTLE ’05 (12/17/05 – GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship)
Knee deep in the NOAH/ROH partnership – Ki and Kenta collide (Kollide???) in their only singles match. One of these days someone will figure out if Ki’s true rank on the “Guy Who Burnt the Most Bridges” list.
550) ATHENA vs. MERCEDES MARTINEZ – SHIMMER (03/17/12)
The list of black women professional wrestlers is not very long. The list of great black women professional wrestlers is even shorter. The recent years have seen some women who would love to change all that. One of them is Athena (now Ember Moon in NXT). This was her first major feud in SHIMMER. I feel like we have been watching Mercedes Martinez wrestle since she came out of the womb and if I ever do a greatest female North American worker list she is going to finish absurdly high and everyone will have sand in their vagina yelling BUT WHAT ABOUT MICHELLE MCCOOL! ROSE MENDES!
551) BIG E LANGSTON vs. SETH ROLLINS – NXT (01/09/13 (Aired) – No DQ, NXT Championship)
Maybe the first great match of the NXT era? Here is what I wrote about during that like 4 week period when I wrote NXT Workrate reports
Rollins/Langston – No DQ with Jim Ross calling – why didn’t I watch this fucking show sooner? This is booked so amazingly great as the No DQ rules work since it allows for the set up of the story of the Shield constantly interfering because it’s the only way Langston can be hurt. (Though of course Seth Rollins bumps insanely to get over how strong Langston is. Sure I will take the press slam to nowhere. Sign me up!) Plus, the No DQ means that this week’s chaotic locker room brawl works because when the 55 faces charge out of the locker room (and seriously how many fucking guys work in this company) to drag Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns away the crowd absolutely loses it. It’s gonna be tough to top this as best NXT match I will watch (though I know what is coming down the pipe). And then Langston – the loveable dope – does this tremendous job with his facials over winning the title. Good Lord – if he could have somehow worked WAR, he would be Dean’s favorite wrestler of all time.
552) KOFI KINGSTON vs. ANTONIO CESARO – WWE MAIN EVENT (4/15/13 – United States Championship)
Remember all those things I said about Kofi Kingston well here is with the foreign version of the same guy I described having the best match in Main Event history.
553) JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. MICHAEL ELGIN – BEYOND WRESTLING (10/26/13)
Jonathan Gresham is a tiny dude who is awesome. For me – he works best when he is a tiny dude wrestling a giant individual. In this case – it is Michael Elgin and his unfortunate hair. Oh wait – I forgot. It is all internet cool to be MICHAEL ELGIN IS POOPY!!!! HE WRESTLES IN JAPAN AND MELTZER LIKES HIS MATCHES!!!
554) RICOCHET vs. KOTA IBUSHI – NEW JAPAN “DOMINION 2014” (06/21/14 – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
So remember the big fuss over Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay? Yeah… picture it two years earlier.
555) JAY LETHAL vs. TYLER BATE – SWA (8/29/14 – ROH TV Title)
Jay Lethal has been around for a minute. He probably will never get his proper due from the internet wrestling community for reasons that I will never grasp. Tyler Bate is the latest, greatest UK sensation. He is only 19 which means he was only 17 during this match.
556) ARIK ROYAL vs. TREVOR LEE – CWF MID-ATLANTIC (10/01/16 (Taped), 10/12/16 (Aired))
Eventually folks will start talking about Arik Royal the same way the talk about the other indie darlings of the year. If he is on a card – it has my attention.
557) KEN BROADWAY vs. ZACK SABRE JR – HOUSE OF GLORY (10/21/16 – HOG Crown Jewel Title)
I still am not 100% sure what to make of Ken Broadway. I can enjoy most of his matches but it seems like everyone I watch has a sports entertainment ending. Still – this one was really enjoyable, especially because Sabre isn’t infuriating during it.
558) LIO RUSH vs. ANTHONY HENRY – MCW PRO (01/28/17)
Two more guys who should be starting to appear more and more on guy’s radars. Heck – Lio Rush really should be already after the 2016 he had.