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EL HIJO DEL SECRET SANTO: Match Club


Matt D
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Chris Brookes vs Gene Munny

I had a good time with this. I've never seen Munny before, but he projects the... well, let's say he projects inappropriate charisma appropriately well, and combines it with credible offense when things get serious. 

Brookes, I know quite a bit better. He spent the last year wrestling in DDT--his manager here has his DDT stable's shirt on--and at the time of this match, had just decided to move to Japan in order to wrestle there full-time. So that, I think, explains his insistence on being billed as an appropriately big deal--while still sneaking in a quick jab at NXT UK. I've seen Brookes work tighter than this--and I've been told he's done good work in more classically catch adjacent promotions--but he's clearly game, even if his execution isn't at its best.  

I think it's also easy enough to see this as a very DDT match, combining comedy, a little crowd brawling, props, while ultimately being structured around modern indie "strong style". Mostly, all of that worked for me. Brookes is the cocky, traveling heel, who nonetheless resorts to cheating. Munny is the everyman babyface (at least in this match) who proves more capable, and more resilient in the final reckoning. 

I thought both men tried a couple bits of offense they weren't quite up to executing--though with Munny, that almost fits his character--and Brookes got very leg-slappy with kicks and knees that clearly didn't connect. I also would have preferred a delayed cover on Munny's final kick out--but since Brookes is "leaving the territory", as it were, I can easily see the other side of things. 

On the whole I found it hit the beats it wanted to: I grinned a few times, and the finishing stretch had some clever in-match call-backs, and an ending that the work built to. 

Edited by Beech27
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Baba/Jumbo Vs. Mil/Dos

I haven’t watched a Mil Mascaras match in a minute. The last one was Mil and Dos vs. Hansen & Brody, which is a blast for what I suspect will be a totally different reason than this one will be. Jumbo’s coat is completely fantastic. Someone threw confetti instead of streamers when he got introduced and that’s a new one on me.

Dos and Jumbo start and that owns. They’ve got fun chemistry inherently, between Jumbo’s own traditional wrestling training and Dos’s brilliant lucha. It feels like a big style clash that Jumbo is completely down for. A lot of great technical work that ends with Jumbo escalating with the uppercut and the knee before nearly getting pinned anyways. Dos Caras and Jumbo are just so goddamn great, both by themselves and together in this match.

Mil and Jumbo is kind of pedestrian and I tuned most of it out. Baba and Mil fascinates me however.  It feels like they’re trying to figure out anything they can do together. Baba’s ankle pick is delightful. As is Mil’s block of the double arm suplex when Jumbo tags back in.

The stretch is peculiar. The teamwork breaks down- I assume because Mil doesn’t tell Dos what they’re doing for the double team- and so the lucha team start doing quick tags leading to a cross body. When Baba kicks Dos off of Jumbo, Mil runs at him with this like “WHAT’S UP BRO YOU WANNA GO” stance and while they chop at each other, Dos Caras headbutts the turnbuckle and gets pinned? The way that Baba tries to get out of there makes me really curious about how far that just went off the rails because it seems just super bizarre. Fun match, though.

Brookes vs. Munny

I’m not a great enthusiast of modern wrasslin, and even less of a fan of british wrestling, but I’m not infallible, and I am a good sport. One thing: although youtube is famous for intros that are too long, that intro was WAY too long.

Both of these people have get-ups that make me want to see them get beat up. I feel like I’ve seen Chris Brookes somewhere but I have no idea why. I would love for this holds section to not be obligatory, but I don’t think I’ll get what I want. Telling jokes to fake someone into a takedown you have scouted feels like the sequel to a Johnny Saint spot. After that, Chris Brookes does a combo of three straight moves and I am reminded why I have spent so much time watching older stuff. When Munny obliges with some contrived stuff of his own, I adjust my expectations. From here on out I am going to write when I have something positive to say about the match:

The commentary saying “we’ve lost the match on our screens” like they’re not sitting on a balcony or something was funny.

Munny’s elbows look pretty good, and the load is so subtle that I had to rewind to see it.

The octopus hold section felt like an actual contest, with the awkward stretching angles and the struggle over the pin fall was good too.

that was it. I'm glad the people in the building liked it, at least!

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For me, the joy of that '79 tag league match is twofold:

First, just the fun of seeing genki young athletic pure babyface Jumbo. Such a nice contrast to the grumpy ass-kicker we are all so much more familiar with.

And, it's kind of like watching young Bret in the WWF facing Savage (or that Boston Garden match he had with Steamboat).You can see the respect he's being given at this point in his career. Like they knew he would become something special. As @Beech27 put it, you want to see the trajectory of his career. It's like a backward glance at a future that we all know will actually come to pass.

Second is the happy astonishment of that finish. Looking at it on paper you'd just naturally assume, in order of likelihood: A count-out, DQ, or other stereotypically 70s/80s Japanese wrestling non-finish; Mil pinning Jumbo; or Baba pinning Dos Caras. Jumbo getting the pin blew my mind the first time I saw this... and I suppose that ties in with the whole "Jumbo was bound for greatness" thing.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to watch and review it!

 

Munny vs Brookes is absolutely something I'd have enjoyed the hell out of if I'd been there live. Very fun match.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, gordi said:

Second is the happy astonishment of that finish. Looking at it on paper you'd just naturally assume, in order of likelihood: A count-out, DQ, or other stereotypically 70s/80s Japanese wrestling non-finish; Mil pinning Jumbo; or Baba pinning Dos Caras. Jumbo getting the pin blew my mind the first time I saw this... and I suppose that ties in with the whole "Jumbo was bound for greatness" thing.

That's a really good point. It's not just surprising that Jumbo gets the clean fall; it's surprising that anyone does. This is amplified by the fact that Mil's rushing of and brawling with Baba is exactly what you'd expect to precede a total breakdown and DQ. So you get to quickly cycle through emotions, going from "ok, they've given us enough of a match, and now they'll avoid a real finish" to "wait, he could actually win this" to "wow, he did win it!"

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Some do for sure. Now, when draws and DQs are much more rare, tournaments are the most likely place to see them. It’s the standard way to eliminate favorites without having them lose a ton. 

You are right to note that clean finishes were more common as relates to the par of the time than the modern context.

Edited by Beech27
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The thing about Mil Mascaras is, every time I see him I'm reminded about what was in Have A Nice Day about him sucking his stomach in and walking on tiptoes. I think the feeling is that he's a vain and selfish type of wrestler, whereas his younger brother is more willing to do the right thing for business. Which considering who his son is, makes him the nicest wrestler in his whole family by default. Been a while since I saw a match where the participants are given flowers before it starts. You wonder what the point is there, because they're handed the flowers by a ringside attendant, and then generally they just hand them straight to a different ringside attendant. It's only a very few wrestlers who actually bother to show them to the crowd or smell the roses or anything.

I think my favourite part of the match was the early exchange between Caras and Jumbo, with Caras busting out the moves people never do any more, like the belly to belly version of the elevated surfboard and that. It was jarring seeing a younger more mobile Giant Baba, because visually he didn't look too dissimilar to the immobile 90s Baba, but he could still actually do moves in '79. With Baba staying as company Ace throughout the 70s, and Tsuruta therefore positioned as 'Young Up and Comer' right up until the early 80s*, he only got to be in his prime for like 8 or 9 years, before he became a Grumpy Old Man at age 38.

Gene Munny is already a Grumpy Old Man. He became one when he was 29. So there's our thematic link for the week.

* He's the original A J Styles in TNA. 

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Week 2:

I thought we did pretty well for this. Thanks for watching and reviewing. As long as we get at least this much interest, I think this is a success.

This week we have @Godfrey:

And @Morganti:

He also gave us a second match which I'm calling optional, but which to me sounds kind of fascinating. I've never seen any Orange Cassidy (in that gimmick) though I get the general gist and have seen some gifs and what not. 

In general, good variety to the project so far. Enjoy.

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Rocco vs Kung Fu. Random thoughts from a random black dude in CA.

Spoiler

 

The intro is snazzy, with some extra awesome cheesy music

Kung Fu is in a Gi
Goes for a sunset flip, and then a round kick

Kungfu with the Slick moves
Rocco with the mean stretches
Rocco with the biting, then some hammy kicks to prompt a down 10 count
Rocco with a diving knee from the top attempt and Kung fu goes after the knee but gets cut off
Rocco back in control the ref breaks it up for a 10 count and rocco is like why?!

Illegal Tactics from Rocco then a clothesline and the bell rings for round over

Rnd 2 starts with a hammerlock toss from Rocco and the crowd hates him all the more
Arm work time from Rocco, Kung Fu tries something and gets countered but then fires up and comes back and rocco runs away like a coward with a doodle, then gets the ole flair flop from the top 

Kungfu with some kungfu funk and a leeping kick
Rocco talkin trash and jawin with the crowd.
Rocco removes the turnbuckle pad but pays for it!
The Round is over but these two both go for the eyes and nose and the ref has to break it up.  Rocco with some extra torque on his nose pull

Rocco gets kick lifted over the top aand the crowd cheers, but then he gets an arm hold and the crowd boos
More classic Arm work
The crowd has a mix of men in suits and then 
some exchanges and a botch, then a snapmare and a double ax, then a snapmare and a senton missed by rocco leads to a missed drop kick 

Kung Fu with a flury and a counted cross body leads to a tombstone like piledriver for the first fall!

now some evil towel choking to start the next round 
Rocco takes the turnbuckle pad off again and it costs him the second fall as Kung Fu does some.. kung fu, then a pin Colt Cabana should steal! 

Round 5 starts with Rocco throwing his water into the eyes of kung fu and a piledriver and the ref refusing to count from illegal tactics!

Kungfu goes to work on the knee but Rocco shrugs it off and they go to the floor!

Rocco likes takin off turnbuckle pads, and it hasn't worked yet. This time he punches the exposed turnbuckle letting Kung Fu take over with some hand work. 
REF BUMP!
Low Blow!
Body Slam!
Rocco Wins and celebrates to the boos of the crowd!

 

Quack vs ZSJ

Spoiler

 

I love Quack, just gonna start with that


First exchange ZSJ gets quack, quack escapes
Second exchange Quack gets him, Zack tries to escape a couple ways before finally getting him with some tippy taps.
Sportsmanship and they circle for exchange 3
Zack with a Cravate!
Quack escapes with a wristlock, Zack escapes only to get put right back in the wristlock, a bunch. Then finally escapes only to end up in a twisty hold of some sort, then a backslide for a 2 count!

Quack goes ball mode on his back, but Zack refuses to buy it and they circle, the crowd is apprecitive

Zack with the arm lock, into the wrist lock and hand manipulation

Quack with the escape into the ankle pick and Zack with the escape.
Some wardrobe adjustments as they both shake the limbs out
Quack in control, then Zack escapes and grabs the legs. Quack attempts a similar escape, gets countered, then Zack goes ball mode!

and gets dropped on his butt for it.  
there is a baby in the audiance

Zack is pissed about being dropped on his butt, and the pleasent hold exchanging over, the happy faces are now angry and the pace quickens! 
flury of action but ZSJ catches Quack with a bridging half nelson suplex for the 1 2 3!

 

 

Edited by Morganti
added Quack and Zack and spoiler boxed things for reasons.
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Quack vs ZSJ

I have to admit that, given the two participants and the intro given, I wasn't expecting to like this much. It's not that I dislike either wrestler, so much as I worried this match would bring out the tendency I like least in each: namely, an indulgence in exhibition-style grappling that doesn't look the least bit combative.

Of course, they do precisely that; but I found my ready criticism disarmed for the most part. Fancy grapples for their own sake are "bad" insofar as the story of a given match is usually that the involved parties are having an athletic contest and trying to win. So, holds-as-filigree detracts from that narrative.

But when the story is that they're having a quasi-friendly (start to the) match, that kind of work suddenly makes sense. And it makes yet more sense in a tournament setting, when both men ought to have one eye on winning, and the other on having enough left to fight again soon. 

They keep going that way until they don't. Sabre gets grumpy, lays in some strikes, and things pick up. The work here is good, clean, and quickly decisive. 

This was cleverly done, and a fun example of story and work complimenting. 

Edited by Beech27
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Rocco vs Kung Fu:

Man, Rocco is exhausting to watch. I haven't seen him in a bit and it's not that I forgot so much as I blocked it out of my brain. He's a more dynamic and energetic Kurt Angle. That first round lasted three minutes and felt like it went ten. Even when he plays to the crowd, it's hyperactive. He has the same feeling about selling. He'll miss a top rope kneedrop, sell just long enough for Kung Fu to get an advantage, and then immediately charge across the ring full speed to cut him off. He'll have Kung Fu down and step on the top rope to choke him, get foot-pressed over, bump to the floor, and immediately bound back in to put on an armbar. It's baffling but you can't look away.

There's so much he does well too. Some of the roll-ups they do, or the timing on an eyepoke tease, or the creativity on how he uses the rope and the ring, or just how good he is at engaging the crowd and stooging, some of the physical prowess (like the catch into the tombstone that ends round 3) is all just great. He just shoots himself in the foot repeatedly by trying to shove about four times more of it than he needs and about six times more than is actually useful. The crowd doesn't care because it's all super exciting and because Rocco is emotive and engaging enough (and Kung Fu is charismatic and flashy enough) to actually get away with it, and he might be the best wrestler every at being able to get away with this bs because he's just that good, but sitting here watching this in 2020, I can only care too much. I think I got a cramp just watching this thing.

To call this a sprint would be an understatement. Look, there is literally nothing I loathe more about modern fandom than the insipid and ironic (moronic) twitter one-liners of "Spot monkeys! Lock on a hold already! Killing the business! SOMEONE TELL JIM CORNETTE!" whenever anyone posts literally any face-paced spot/sequence from before 2003 online. I think I'd be okay if people went back to shouting "WHAT" instead. That said, this is actually the one place where that notion applies. Slow the fuck down, Mark Rocco. You do such good stuff. Get your bullshit under control so that some of it might actually have a chance to mean something. This was pure, triumphant noise, but it gave me a headache. I was too old for this ten years ago.

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Quack vs ZSJ


I'm with Beech on this one, actually. My main feelings about Sabre stem from ten years ago and I fully admit that I am not qualified to have an educated opinion. My main feelings about Quack stem from when we had a nice talk at an indy show in 2002, so that's not unbiased either. People I respect have written plenty words about how Sabre has developed over the last decade, but this more exhibition style completely covers up any potential detriments that I remember. The problem about watching a bunch of old WoS (and not just Johnny Saint) is that it makes it easier to see the strings in virtually everything else. Add in that I've been spending all my time lately in 1950s France and that's doubly so, but here I really appreciated the little bits of testing one another. When Sabre would be in a friendly hold and would reach back with a leg to see if he might be able to hook something in escape, that was 100% believable and, in this setting, compelling.

Even then, I think it was Quackenbush's facial expressions that made this. The bit where Sabre uses annoying little boot flicks to escape a hold (which, in a different setting could have been grinding and punishing and brutal) and Quack portrays first bafflement and then, after the escape, appreciation, is the most pleasantly genuine bit of wrestling you'll see all week. The back roll right into the abdominal stretch might be the most imaginative.

The key moments of escalation, first Quackenbush not being as congenial with the turtling as Sabre had been and then the transition into the finish where Quack goes back to the turtling one more time as a lure only for it to backfire were both nice little bits of storytelling. I liked happy Quackenbush's emoting more than angry Quackenbush but otherwise, the last third of this was quite good. Fun little piece of business here.

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Cassidy vs Homicide

So again, this is my first time actually seeing Cassidy. And it's impressive I've gotten this far without seeing him, thank you very much, but for you guys, here we are. At first glance, I thought the deal was going to be that he was a constant, a wrestling prop (which is how I generally classify RVD, for instance), and it's all about his opponent making the most about the prop, but I also didn't expect him to break when Homicide started killing him, but from that moment it almost became a normal match. 

I really enjoyed the mauling. I have literally no idea the last time I saw a Homicide match but watching him maul some goofball is always a joy in life. He's a wrestler that 110% gets it. He let himself get clowned for the first few minutes knowing he was going to keep his heat for most of what followed and that getting clowned was going to make the beating mean all the more. It's not selfless. It's just wrestling. 

Maybe Cassidy's different elsewhere, but here the gimmick was primarily just some early head games. From a kayfabe perspective, he came off as someone who came up in the 00s, someone who can do all of the gratuitous strong-style cosplay but realizes the advantage in subverting it instead of buying into it and engaging. By doing so, it lets him keep his opponent off guard and unable to use basically the entirety of his normal pro wrestling skills (what traditionally works). After Homicide first took over, however, he more or less came off as a normal wrestler. I assume that there's some sort of Hulk Up associated with the Sunny D, which again, isn't all that different from the strap dropping or the magical lucha spray from that one Maximo match or the reviving elbow drop or what have you. After all the hoopla, I kind of wanted his hope spots and comeback to involve more Drunken Master hands-in-the-pockets deal, where so long as he could sort of defy convention, he'd be much harder to stop, once again. In that regard, I thought he didn't take the act quite far enough here, but maybe that's just because he wanted to go at it with Homicide and eat all of his stuff, which is totally understandable. It got just a little clunky in the stretch compared to how smooth things were at the start, but that was forgivable in the moment. It's been years since I saw Homicide and I still winced big when I saw him going for the cop killa. This doesn't really want me to go out of my way to see a ton of Cassidy but I imagine the first two minutes, or so, of all of his matches, where you can see how his opponents react to him not playing along and how they break it, could be entertaining.

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Hey Matt 🙂 The best example of the type of match you were expecting from Cassidy is actually his match with Kylie Rae, The sunny d is more like the green mist type deal, and if you aren't 100% aware cassidy used to be

Spoiler

fire ant in chikara (he might still suit up as an ant now but i dunno)

 

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The thing about Rollerball Rocco is, he always worked that super-speed style. Spot-spot-spot-sell for a second-spot. It's why I was curious about his Japanese matches (as Black Tiger) vs Tiger Mask Sayama. Because the talked out talking point of Sayama is that his best matches were with Dynamite Kid, because Dyno knew how to pace a match, and would slow Sayama down and make it more of a story and less of a high speed spotfest. Which is ironically the role that young Fuji Yamada played in his UK matches with Rocco - even though Rocco was the veteran and Yamada was straight out of Young Boy status, it was future Liger who was playing the vet role, almost.

So what happens when you have a guy working with Sayama who doesn't want to slow it down and tell a story? What happens when you have a guy who wants Sayama to go even faster? But when I asked how the matches were, I basically got a "Nobody likes them. Watch Sayama vs Dynamite again" response.

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Rollerball Rocco vs Kung Fu

To be honest, I bounced right off this match a couple times, and just went to do something else. Which I have not done with many matches that were far worse. It's just that this... I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. 

But something about the weather suddenly being brutally hot reminded me of a day during summer vacation and my Grandma's house. She had cable, and didn't much care what I used it on, whereas my parents did not, and were relatively strict about violent entertainment. I sat there in the air conditioning with a bowl of cereal and watched a worked martial arts fighting show--probably WMAC Masters based on Googling, but I can't remember. Anyway, it seemed at the time to be the coolest thing anyone could ever see. 

This was a lot like that. If I had stumbled on this match at my Grandma's house during summer vacation while eating Raisin Bran--she didn't ever have kid's cereal, but that was fine--I would have had no interest in seeing wrestling that looked any other way. And the kids in the room seemed to agree. 

Even watching it as my present-tense self, the athleticism and execution is obviously impressive, and they're pretty creative deploying those strengths. Rocco gets his hand karate chopped, and then headbutted. That's pretty great. And it doesn't matter and he wins anyway after a low blow, but that's fine.  

I'm still not sure what to do with this now, but if it was funnel cake and I was 8, walking around the fair grounds, I'd eat it, love it, and maybe even remember it.  

Edited by Beech27
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Rollerball Rocco vs. Kung Fu

Rollerball rulez ok. I watched this with a deeply crossfaded friend who was having his mind blown by the welsh commentary. It’s the first match with Kung Fu that I’ve seen where he looks kind of good, but I assume you don’t get to the point where you’re working with Rollerball if you’re not at least ok.  I wrote that before he started getting really weird with like the eyepokes and the missed irish whip. It was wild to see the Goto misdirection spot. Rollerball’s tombstone sent him to the fucking essence. This is really just the Rocco show until the comeback, where the Hand Based Offense gets brutal. Rocco’s weird ref bump setup is also good stuff, backing into him and then holding him still until the last moment.

Quack Vs. ZSJ

It’s funny to go from authentic WOS stuff to Quackenbush, who’s managed to be such a dork it’s made jobs and a pocket universe of wrestling where he’s right. I respect the shit out of that. In a way this match is like a celebration of that specific degree of that Tony Gwynn-esque tape devotion.  It’s close enough to the genuine article that it may as well be it nowadays. Maybe that’s from the playful nature of this, which is not a thing I’ve seen in a lot of wrestling matches. So it’s at least got that going for it. I do love the point in Quack matches where he gets frustrated and starts getting a little meaner, but I feel like the second we got to that point the match came to a close. Good time, if a little corny.

Homicide vs. Orange Cassidy

I like the Orange Cassidy gag well enough, and was super interested in seeing Homicide as the straight man in the routine just to see if he’d stab him at some point. I got taken in for a moment in seeing how the crowd has changed and how weird that’s been. I would feel like a mutant in this building. Was this at a chairty event or something? Anyways, Homicide puts orange through the ringer and the whole time it feels like he’s beating up the star of a very supportive community theater or some motivator from a corporate retreat who’s like “taking a licking for the team” or whatever. The orange juice spots were funny in the same way as like the “I have the power of god and anime on my side” thing is. Weird vibes.

Edited by Lamp, broken circa 1988
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I've watched more Rocco than most, and I have a real love/hate relationship with his work. When I first got into watching WoS, there were British fans who held him up as some type of workrate god. And to some extent, if you compare the Dixon Screen Sport stuff, or the ASW Slots on ITV, to some of the stuff Joint Promotions was putting out, Rocco was cutting edge for the time. Rocco had an amazing, forceful personality. His 70s work is some of my favorite WoS stuff. Not only his feud with Marty Jones, but his heel run in the late 70s where he's as good a heel character as any on TV. And his go-go-go style salvaged more than a few matches against lesser talents. If he had managed to transition into great 80s feuds with Finlay, Jones, Dynamite Kid, etc., I would accept him as a great worker. But you don't get it, and to me it's a real disappointment. 

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We didn't get quite the traction for Week 2, but I figure if nothing else, we get four good weeks out of this and then see what people are thinking.

Week 3.

From @Lamp, broken circa 1988, his favorite match:

From me, a bit of medicine taking as I've never seen it: what once had a rep as "Greatest non-pillars AJPW match of the 90s," one of my favorite wrestlers vs one of my least favorite wrestlers:

 

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I apologize for sleeping on the last batch of matches, they all looked awesome but life got in the way. BattlARTS will always put me back on point though. 

Murakami/Ishikawa I thought was gonna be the earlier fistfight with them where they went eight minutes and brawled into the crowd, which is one of my favorite matches ever, instead this one is the one where Ishikawa gets the flash chokeout. Great match with Murakami who is a guy that is mostly a deathly stare and a good punch and not much else. I love him but that's about it for his skils. Ishikawa is Inoki-ism at its best here. They kept it short and Murakami had an incredible left hook at one point, Ishikawa came up with a bloody mouth, this felt more like a boxing match than a wrestling match. Awesome. 

Kroffat/Van Dam was also a really good match. That felt really, REALLY uncooperative for most of it. Kroffat was just not having it with Robby V, pulling his hair, chopping the shit out of him, tossing him flat out of the ring, just mean as hell. The end of it got a bit too kick-out, 2.9 count for me, but it worked because of all the abuse they'd given each other. Even Van Dam's goofy karate moves worked because Kroffat would just paste him afterwards. He came off really well in this too with all of his moves landing and being stiff the whole time. If I was Baba I'd sign him up for another tour. 

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Rollerball Rocco/Kung Fu: Welsh has to be one of the strangest languages ever. It doesn't sound like English; it doesn't sound like any Romantic language. It doesn't even sound like an Eastern language. It's like aliens dropped down and invented something specifically for the people of Wales. That is also what the match feels like. Is it best out of five falls? Why does the ref not slap the mat? Despite that it's alright, there's a nice callback to the turnbuckle pad being torn off, and all the kids in the crowd are way into everything. I just can't get over the language. Welsh...

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