Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
By John Wiswell
Part 1: Introduction
This was the hardest 100 to date. Two weeks ago my ?short list? was 138 matches long. More great stuff appeared in December than in any previous year, despite most indies and internationals still having yet to do their releases. If some of your favorites are missing, that?s a good thing. That means this year was so good that a hundred other matches were noteworthy. Props to TJP in Evolve, Yuji Nagata?s phenomenal G1, and Shinsuke Nakamura?s best year in a while ? but a lot of things simply couldn?t make the list.
This annual list began out of one thing: bitching. Wrestling fans complain too much. We backseat drive companies on hearsay and accentuate negatives that we?ll never fix. I?ve been guilty of it. It?s inescapable in a fandom. But writing about the hundred best matches in a year forces you to embrace why you tune in and pay, the primal positive for partaking of pro wrestling at all. Every week WWE puts between 4-6 hours of wrestling on free television, plus their Pay Per Views, plus TNA Pay Per Views and their additional 2-3 hours per week, plus ROH?s weekly show and their DVDs, and those of every other indy. Add to that any international wrestling you watch. I?ve consumed a great deal of Puro, but little European or Mexican wrestling, because I like to spend at least a few hours a week outside. Regardless, if there weren?t a hundred matches you?re glad you watched this year, you should re-evaluate watching modern wrestling. It?s a hobby with a lot of great performances on an annual basis.
This list doesn?t determine who the best wrestler is. I don?t believe there is a single ?best in the world.? Davey Richards has more matches on this year?s list than Shawn Michaels. That doesn?t make him better. Nor do the Motor City Machine Guns having more matches higher than the Kings of Wrestling make them inherently a better tag team. Nor do I endorse any one style: there are technical clinics, hardcore matches, strike-heavy stuff and plenty of high-flyers. There?s even one comedy match that made my sides hurt. There are many ways to have a great match, and going beyond the Top 5 or Top 10 lets you reflect on that.
If you?d like to contact me with gripes, praise or job offers, hit me up at email@example.com. It?s established especially for the 100 column. You can also catch my non-wrestling writing at http://johnwiswell.blogspot.com.
I hope this helps you reflect on a great year of in-ring action. Cheers.
Part 2: Countdown and Reviews
100. Ric Flair Vs. Mick Foley (July 10) ? Last Man Standing Match from TNA: Impact
Ric Flair transformed into every bit the madman Cactus Jack ever was, especially with his eyes wide and face covered in blood. After his last WWE run it was no longer surprising that Flair would take a Backdrop into thumbtacks or a barbed wire board to the face, he still channeled it into the gruesome theme of two veteran brawlers tearing into each other. Only a performer of Flair?s class could beat up a writer with his own book and make it seem completely cheese-free, though credit also went to Foley for taking a couple of very loud shots from that book. Of course Foley had a career of sickening falls and fiery comebacks, and uncorked both. At this stage in his career it was cringe-inducing to see Foley fly off the stage and through the table, though you couldn?t have choreographed it better with the plume of DVDs shooting into the air upon impact. By the fifteen-minute mark they were clearly exhausted from the physical toll and bloodloss, having waged a sort of brawl that most wrestlers imitate today, but don?t actually perform. The ending cheapened things ? Flair clearly made it back to his feet, and no matter how classic his flop is, that still should have negated the count. But compared to everything else near the 100-spot in 2010, that can?t knock these two off the list.
99. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley Vs. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli (May 8) ? ROH: Supercard of Honor 5
Hero and Castagnoli usually define the offense of their matches by virtue of being so large and powerful. It was interesting to watch a match where smaller wrestlers distinctly defined the offense. While the Kings of Wrestling had moments of pure superiority, the Guns overwhelmed them with speed and scouted counters for their intricate moves, like catching Castagnoli in his first attempt at the UFO. Cutting off their big offense also added anticipation for when the Kings did finally land those moves, and drove the crowd wild in appreciation even though many of them were still pulling for the Guns. It was a great play on traditional heel/face dynamics that gave heat to the challengers while getting the ROH crowd to enjoy the villains. In many ways both teams were antagonists, and their ways of picking on each other were just as entertaining as their sprinting, like Sabin ticking off Castagnoli so often that he charged the corner to kick him, and Sabin continually dodging and posing to rile him further. It is a huge shame that TNA and ROH couldn?t agree on an ending and I won?t defend the Briscoes? run-in. Two men could Piledriving a woman in place of a legitimate ending was atrocious. It did not, however, damage it so badly that what the two teams did should be disregarded.
98. Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Tetsuya Naito (August 8) ? NJPW: G1 Climax 20th Anniversary Day 3
It was slow from the start as Tanahashi played with the younger lion and deceived people into thinking this would follow the normal NJPW match formula. But as Naito survived leg attack after leg attack and avoided Tanahashi?s Cross-Arm German Suplex, things spilled over. At the fifteen-minute point Naito managed to turn the ground attack around on Tanahashi, using some excruciating leg holds, and when they went to the floor it was Tanahashi whose leg was smashed into the guardrails. Every time Naito had to land something he had impressive execution, like his high German Suplex or late-match fast Dragon Suplex. They gradually turned the match into a story of equals and upsets, earning that time limit draw not just as a way to add drama to the tournament, but establishing Naito as an emerging singles star. Tanahashi failing to land the Frogsplash twice, and then going for it again just before the bell rang, was a strong touch of pathos for a guy who had either wasted time in the match or had met somebody who was going to give him trouble in the future.
97. Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli Vs. Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas (September 11) ? ROH: Glory By Honor 9
Everybody worked hard, but Castagnoli tried the hardest to make his point. From the opening lock-up with Benjamin that went all over the ring he was jockeying for position more than usual and kept getting into very physical exchanges with both guys until mid-match. Hero set him with some great little moments that let his energy play into the match, like the early Front Facelock on Haas that let Castagnoli Schoolboy him for an attempted flash ending. It was up to Wrestling?s Great Tag Team to one-up them, like Benjamin finding incredibly athletic ways to turn the advantage against his opponents. I mentioned that Castsagnoli was in very physical exchanges until mid-match, when Haas seemed to spiritually tag in and take over with things like the big German Suplex and Slingshot assist into Benjamin?s Samoan Drop. Haas seemed equally as driven as Benjamin, which was essential given how much more highly most fans regard the latter man. Nobody took the match off. It was to both teams? credit that they didn?t just execute smart or athletically impressive offense, but flew to make each other look impressive. Castagnoli did not have to fly that high off of Benjamin?s Monkey Flip, but he did and it made Benjamin look formidable in the strength dimension and it kept the crowd excited.
96. Chris Jericho Vs. Evan Bourne (June 20) ? WWE: Fatal Fourway
Leave it to a match not hijacked by external angles to deliver. Also leave it to Jericho and Bourne. Topping their Superstars encounters from 2009, this featured some brilliant little exchanges, like Jericho softening his landing on the Double Knees to float into a Walls of Jericho. Though Jericho took a noticeable number of pauses to direct Bourne around the match, the pace never suffered and Bourne never actually looked out of his element. He looked half-dead some of the time, but that was by virtue of bumping and selling like a crash test dummy. They topped the earlier Raw match?s Codebreaker spot by a rope break instead of a kickout and Bourne flying like he?d been in a crash. This was not the half-hearted kind of upset that WCW vets gave Jericho back in the day; they built a scintillating upset for Bourne.
95. Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw Vs. CIMA & Super Crazy (taped January 23) ? Dragon Gate USA: Fearless
CIMA usually has an attitude, but rarely does he look like this kind of a punk. He was petty in all his gestures to Quackenbush, while Super Crazy seemed almost like a brute. Those are unusual characters for them, and they were surprisingly good at it. It helped that their mat attacks against Quackenbush were slick and creative (wrestling Quack helps there), and that Jigsaw is a superior whipping boy. Super Crazy was actually bigger than his opponents, and his facial expressions locked in that angry aggressor role. From those characters, the four were able to spring into beautiful and downright neat offense, building on Jigsaw?s weakness with the heroic Quackenbush eventually making his hot tag for a play on the classic Southern style tag match type.
94. Rob Van Dam Vs. AJ Styles (May 16) - TNA: Sacrifice
You expect a match like this to have some great exchanges, and it delivered them. Van Dam going from his knees to his feet and into a spinning kick all before Styles could react was amazing. So was the Moonsault exchange near the opening. So was Van Dam shuffling across the ropes for a kick. But plenty of matches have great exchanges. What kept this match special was the story of Styles testing a veteran who was so much like himself, getting one-upped occasionally, and occasionally doing things even Van Dam couldn?t or couldn?t prevent (like the flipping Reverse DDT that Jerry Lynn taught him). Going slower or faster, they kept to a level of crispness and charisma that most athletically gifted wrestlers don?t fully grasp. Ric Flair was a champ for the whole match, from getting thrown out for blatant interference, to his ranting about greatness on commentary, and concluding when Jay Lethal put him in his place. The whole experience was more entertaining for his presence, even if he wasn?t actually in the match.
93. Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero Vs. El Generico & Colt Cabana (September 10) ? ROH: Fade to Black
For a team forged in a bloodfeud, Generico & Cabana might be the sunniest team in ROH history. Harassing the Kings of Wrestling with antics like Cabana?s wacky roll-ups and Generico?s mounted corner punches against both opponents at the same time set this off as a totally different defense. It wasn?t going to have dozens of deadly nearfalls or the Kings? normal underhanded offense. Instead Hero & Castagnoli had to play catch-up from behind two guys were very sound, always ready to make up for the other guy?s shortcomings, and overwhelmingly unorthodox. Moments like Generico flying over Cabana and into a Hurricanrana on the staggered Hero, or Generico?s High Cross Body on Castagnoli that knocked him into Cabana?s Sunset Flip, simply couldn?t happen in any other match for the champs, and even if they were attempted, wouldn?t work as well. This wasn?t hardcore offense, but mildly lighthearted stuff that was still effective enough to almost cost them. In that way, they guys built a totally different tag match than we typically see in ROH, set at a main event level of competition while still having a sense of humor.
92. Jimmy Jacobs Vs. Jon Moxley (October 29) ? I Quit Match from Dragon Gate USA: Bushido: Way of the Warrior
If this was the end for Jimmy Jacobs in hardcore, it was a great end. He planted several signature elements and had novel applications in mind. For instance, Jimmy Jacobs has been tied up in at least five big matches. You?d think by now he?d find a way to evade it. Not so ? but he was prepared to throw on a Guillotine Choke while his hands were bound. And Jacobs retrieving the spike in the middle of an Irish Whip segment, he was putting that weapon to one of its most clever uses in his career. For his part Moxley was a solid goon, mugging and getting in all the proper positions, getting things turned on him more than being an overpowering brute. When he was in control, though, he pulled out frightening offense, like his Running Powerbomb into the steel guardrail. Going into this I thought I simply didn?t care for bloody hardcore wrestling anymore. I left thinking otherwise ? I just don?t see it done like this very often.
91. Masato Yoshino Vs. Dragon Kid (May 7) ? 2/3 Falls Match from Dragon Gate USA: Open the Northern Gate
Yoshino and Dragon Kid?s best DGUSA match regrettably appeared in their least-watched venue, the non-PPV DVD. They had the speed and slickness of the their first match, channeled into three reasonable falls. While Yoshino had once been a step behind Dragon Kid, he had since geared up into a title contender and was on page with high-impact counters, not just his standard offense but things he could only pull off against a smaller opponent like the swift Powerbomb. After going down 0-1, Dragon Kid?s rebound with Headscissors-centric offense and pulling out the Bible Pin for a rare appearance in DGUSA weren?t just fun, but urgent. Of course it went to a third fall, but that fall had few lulls and set itself at the level of the best exchanges from their first two matches.
90. Meiko Satomura Vs. Aja Kong (April 9) ? SENDAI Girls: Sendai Zepp
As the match progressed Satomura desperately hung onto key holds, trying to either choke the giantess out or get her tired enough to reach the time limit. That rule that if the lighter Satomura made it to a time limit she?d automatically advance in the tournament turned things more in her favor than perhaps she?s ever had against Kong. Kong showed the pressure by immediately charging her with a metal tin and going for both weapons and heavy offense throughout, not creating the vicious atmosphere of 2008?s Joshi stand-out, but definitely delivering the best match of the tournament. Even when Satomura was trapped in something like a Single Leg Crab she fought with grit for the ropes or some semblance of leverage, keeping the idea of struggle that makes any match interesting.
89. Chris Hero Vs. Bad Bones (March 5) - Westside Xtreme Wrestling: 16 Carat Gold Tournament 2010 Day 1
A largely methodical match that actually worked. Randy Orton wrestles slow but not methodical. Watch Hero diving to regain his Chinlock, leaning across Bad Bones?s shoulders to apply more pressure and wrestling to keep his grip. That?s methodical. They used a lot of simple holds and strikes, but applied them at angles and largely kept in motion. The result was a feeling of novelty and energy in a plodding match. When Hero busted out something like a rebound Moonsault, it was suitably shocking ? to the crowd and to Bones. As opposed to Hero?s wXw matches in previous years that took too long for few good reasons, here he continued to display his growth by building up to a fever pitch of knockout blows. Bones was a great antagonist in his own right, taunting Hero the instant he finished a face rake and catching him with power offense. They needed to wrestle at the speed they did because their opponents were formidable, and they would turn the match around at any moment to remind the audience of that. It was the same formula for all of Hero?s matches in the 16 Carat Gold tournament, only ironically done the best the first time.
88. K-Ness & Susumu Yokosuka Vs. CIMA & Gamma (taped July 8) ? aired on Dragon Gate Infinity 182
CIMA & Gamma took a super-push over the last year as a tag team and so they rolled into this match against the champions as total aggressors. Gamma shone as an utter prick, squatting over K-Ness or posing to let his team?s dominance sink in. It was slower than the sprint tags you expect from Dragon Gate, but with K-Ness?s Steamboat-like timing for counters and small offensive comebacks, and just how formidable the WARRIORS team came across, it built into a compelling story. That swinging kick from K-Ness and Susumu?s flash cradle came across as equal parts skill and luck in letting the champions escape with a victory going into the PPV. It was more dramatic than most moments in any of K-Nesuka?s actual title defenses.
87. El Generico Vs. Roderick Strong (April 23) ? ROH: Pick Your Poison
Very similar in structure to Generico?s match with Hero at Epic Encounter 3 in March, which is not a bad thing. Strong is not as vibrant or convicted a character, even in the bully role, as Hero, and so the body of the match wasn?t as convincing. He was still able to brutalize the masked man with chops, power moves and grueling holds like the Bodyscissors, tormenting him and giving him things to fight through. That suited Generico?s story in ROH, particularly in the second half where he came back with even more fire than he?d had against Hero. Between the Tope and Coast-to-Coast Dropkick, he not only rallied counters but heavy offense that could have won him the match. Continuing to come up short in big singles matches wasn?t necessarily the best way to play his division from Steen, but if you?ve seen much Generico you knew his eventual story rally would drive crowds wild.
86. El Generico & Colt Cabana Vs. Kevin Steen & Steve Corino (April 24) ? Street Fight from ROH: Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 2
These matches are unfashionable today. We?ve seen enough crowd brawling, fears of concussions are so great that there is a wide anti-chairshot sentiment, and for a long stretch of the year Ric Flair was singlehandedly trying to make blood seem unfashionable by sheer overuse. I admit that I watched one moon-faced white guy with blood on his face Irish Whip another moon-faced white guy with blood on his face, the effect was lessened. But as the first encounter in Generico and Steen?s eponymous bitter feud, this match was wrestled in the right direction. Generico climbing the scaffold to face his ex-partner felt momentous, and the Michonuku Driver up there warranted the two-on-one advantage it created better than nearly any tag match has set such a scenario up in recent memory. Cabana was surprisingly less of a factor than expected because Generico came so alive, when he came to the rescue and for the rest of the match. For the long tease of Generico being unwilling to attack Steen, they gave no half-measures in the match. Generico ultimately beating Corino into unconsciousness was superb plotting, revenge against the mastermind who cost him his friend and testimony that he had far more in him than Steen gave him credit. Steen?s expression, even obscured by gore, was perfect. He knew something had gone wrong.
85. John Morrison Vs. Jack Swagger (aired April 23) ? WWE: Smackdown
Reminiscent of the Punk/Morrison matches from 2009 ? both in that they were above the champion?s average level of match quality, and that Morrison had a shocking upset. They also shared the biggest disappointment ? that Morrison?s victory didn?t turn into a big title challenge against that champ, as he was soon shipped to Raw. But within the match Morrison again showed why he belonged in top title pictures, bumping and going with all of Swagger?s offense, making it look especially effective thanks to his size. Swagger pulled out less common moves like the Wheelbarrow Suplex, brutalizing the other man, while Morrison saved up for passionate comebacks. Even though the escape from being pinned after a Gutwrench Powerbomb was formulaic, it was shocking because they didn?t wrestle like Morrison should have survived there. That was the great test of the match: wrestling something special and highly competitive without tipping their hand.
84. Davey Richards Vs. Kenny King (April 3) ? ROH: The Big Bang
King?s first stand-out singles match in ROH. They built great false finishes, like Richards?s comeback at mid-match in which, by the German Suplex, any move Richards hit seemed like a viable match-ender despite not being his finisher-offense. Similarly they teased running the ropes and going for knockout kicks so many times that when Richards finally blasted King with one and then went for the Ankle Lock, the pacing was there for it to end. Every time King looked better every time he countered, kicked out or escaped. The match was a fine example of how Richards can elevate people once he?s established as a main eventer, as he gave King plenty of offense and let him dodge so many knockout kicks and elbows, and counter so many times when he ran to the ropes. By giving King a little resilience and a lot of responses, the match kept him strong even when Richards finally caught him in the Texas Cloverleaf.
83. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. KENTA (June 6) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: Navigation With Breeze
Once they announced it, you knew there was no better opponent for KENTA?s return. Marufuji is one of the best in Japan and has such a storied history with him. Since his visits to New Japan, he?d also delved back into his scummier character, which made him an even better target for face-kicking. The match was as far from their 2009 draw as these two could probably get: rather than sprinting as rivals, Marufuji targeted KENTA?s leg and abused the injury for dominance. The opening exchange was fun, especially for the Dragon Screw that KENTA shrugged off to kick Marufuji?s face in. Yet the injury let them do a slower match, better for a guy returning to televised wrestling from so long on the shelf, and he was creative in his attacks, like dropping the knee onto the apron, or using a variant of his Neck Twist on the leg in a Figure Four. Marufuji has developed like Bryan Danielson, not in approach or how he carries himself, but in his ability to use technical wrestling and striking to abuse people who aren?t particularly good on defense and have it be highly engaging. Around that they created an opening and built a closing sequence that reassured fans that KENTA could still go.
82. Naomichi Marufuji Vs. KENTA (December 5) ? Pro Wrestling NOAH: Joe Higuchi Memorial Show
So when Marufuji returned from injury in December, KENTA was the perfect opponent for him. It was retaliation for Marufuji punking out KENTA on his return, and the story was a proper foil: now KENTA was at full speed and ease in the ring, able to see all of Marufuji?s trademarks coming, catching him and kicking him around the ring. One or two smart moves, like his Somersault Dropkick in the corner, didn?t earn him dominance like it did over the summer. In his role Marufuji often looked visibly lost or shaken, a different human being from the one who dominated the NJPW Juniors division this same year. As he had to, KENTA carried the match as a predator, stalking him, grinding his foot into his chin and grabbing things like the Hangman?s DDT as threateningly as anyone ever has. KENTA was perennially ready, and Marufuji didn?t have the resilience to keep up, needing to drop heavy bombs like the Apron Brainbuster out of sheer lucky timing simply to stay competitive. That built up Marufuji?s late-match flurry, things like responding to the boot with a Spinning Heel Kick that you hadn?t seen before, or hadn?t seen in so long you forgot he could do them, exactly the kind of offense necessary against his biggest rival. He was so vulnerable that when he yanked on the guardrail, the entire audience buzzed with anticipation that he?d actually try to fly that far. KENTA forcing Marufuji into an Octopus Hold to keep him still and wear him out, becoming afraid this guy was back to his old self, was just great. Ending it after a single Go 2 Sleep established that Marufuji was weaker, just as KENTA had been on his comeback, and that someday they?d need a new rubber match.
81. Christopher Daniels Vs. Frankie Kazarian Vs. Amazing Red Vs. Brian Kendrick (March 21) ? Ladder Match from TNA: Destination X
Daniels has great timing and a mind for innovative gimmick match offense, but in this match he shone for setting himself up to fail. At multiple points he went on a role only for the Amazing Red and Kazarian to cut him off and look like total cruiserweight dynamos. It didn?t hurt that Red?s amazing (pun unintended, but embraced) agility was very well-suited to scaling ladders and sending other men flying. Kazarian was just as sharp using more power-based offense like the Powerbomb off one ladder and onto the other. Kendrick responding to all their athleticism by sneaking in behind them, including literally trying to steal the match in the opening minutes, provided a second kind of foil, while still flowing well with the other guys when it came time for things like Kazarian?s Complete Shot sequence.
80. Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw Vs. Naruki Doi & PAC (taped May 8) ? Dragon Gate USA: Uprising
They know their audience. In most parts of the U.S. if you isolated and abused a man like Jigsaw the way Doi and PAC did, it would turn the crowd against you. But in this company, doing the appropriately impressive offense, it got the crowd excited positively. So when Quackenbush and Jigsaw turned the tables and gave PAC the same treatment with amazingly impressive offense, the crowd was still buzzing happily. With Doi?s impact and the agility of the other three, they were the right men to wrestle for that environment, trading control rapidly until the match boiled with cheers. PAC especially helped make himself for the U.S. audience, most of whom probably already knew him but couldn?t help losing their minds for his Twisting Moonsault to the outside. It?s difficult to praise any one man for his timing because all four were nimble and seemed to know exactly when to jump in without making it seem too choreographed, though PAC impressed the most in things like his Shooting Star to break up Jigsaw?s German Suplex. Was that choreographed? Almost certainly, but all the men moved at just the right time to avoid the appearance. They have the slickness that makes thought-out sequences click.
79. Undertaker Vs. Rey Mysterio (January 31) ? WWE: Royal Rumble
To see this match when the men were in their primes? Unfortunately, instead we got it when Undertaker was fresh off knee surgery. The Tombstone immediately went out the window, so they planted two huge Last Ride Powerbomb counters to build up that move in its place. By the time Mysterio escaped the Last Ride attempt on the outside, the crowd had no necessity for a Tombstone anymore. Mysterio, hardly in good health himself, hustled for the both of them, though Undertaker had his moments, like one big Clothesline that took them both off of their feet. The match was also a testament to allowing occasional blood in WWE, and the hypocrisy of their bleeding policy; when Undertaker bled, nobody was going to pause the match on him. With that, he looked more vulnerable, raising Mysterio?s stock, which was already high based solely on how beloved he was.
78. Kota Ibushi Vs. Prince Devitt (June 13) ? NJPW: Best of the Super Juniors 17 Finals Night
This is incomparably more complex than their earlier match in the tournament, and between the added material and buzzing crowd, was on a significantly higher level. Devitt played his fatigue to the crowd, pausing when he knew he had them and delivering his big moves like the Back Superplex just when they?d climax. Like the first, Devitt was frustrated with how much pounding Ibushi could sustain. But Ibushi didn?t rest on resilience, coming up with some great plays on Devitt?s finishers, like the somersault out of his favorite ?Brainbuster.? They built and built until Ibushi?s unfortunate injury, at which point calling the audible for one big counter was necessary. It prevented the match from being a BOSJ classic, but couldn?t break the fact that it was great while it lasted.
77. John Cena Vs. Dave Batista (March 28) ? WWE Wrestlemania 26
Upon re-watching it I was struck by how sensible kicking out of each other?s finishers actually was. The two had a very slow and low-impact start to the match, throwing each other around much less frequently than their Summerslam encounter, leaving both men reasonably fresh enough to struggle out of or even kick out of the big moves. Cena kicking out of the Super Spinebuster felt more like his superman act, but that had purpose in showing him overcoming the guy he was supposedly unable to beat and rising after the move (or a very similar move to the one) that broke his neck. Most of the match rode on their collective showmanship, reacting in big ways to sell things like the headbutt struggle on the top turnbuckle. And in the end the two deserved a medal just for attempting that finish.
76. Bryan Danielson Vs. Munenori Sawa (September 11) ? EVOLVE: EVOLVE 5 ? Danielson Vs. Sawa
The Danielson Indy Tour continued! But it was Sawa who stood out with this speed and kicks so unusual even Danielson hadn?t seen them before. Almost running in place while lifting each foot to kick Danielson in the spine could have been comical (and has been for Sawa in Japan), but instead made him look like an unorthodox challenge, especially contrasting with Danielson relying on very established heavy kicks that the audience recognized and adored. They took the right bits from indy formulas, going even in several strike and grapple exchanges to help establish Sawa, but when it came time to trade bigger moves, Sawa?s slickness kept him right in the mix. Even just holding an ankle, feeling each other out for what holds were possible, they kept studying each other and tensing in preparation. It was the sort of detail work you can?t expect in half-hour matches, and so this was actually stronger for lasting less than fifteen minutes. They were able to go after each other?s legs, set up dangerous holds, have several moments of one guy coming back and not burn anything out.
75. Jay & Mark Briscoe Vs. Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards (July 22) - ROH: Bluegrass Brawl
I spent most of the first viewing trying to figure out why this was so much better than all their other encounters. I wanted to love the original Briscoes/Wolves feud. But all the cheap attacks and all the times the Briscoes chewed up Edwards and Richards made the Wolves seem second rate, and when they were eventually supposed to be on the Briscoes's level their pacing wouldn't click or there was a funky ending. This time, removed from the animosity of bloodfeud, they simply wrestled as equals in front of an atypical ROH crowd that wholeheartedly got behind wanting to see the Southern jocks rip into the jerks in blue tights. Of all the ways ROH guys hammed it up for the OVW-regular crowd, Richards flipping his opponents the bird and constantly taunting the illegal man only to bump as hard as he possibly could whenever he was caught with comeuppance was the best. Edwards looked sounder as a technician than any time previous, picking at the Briscoes's legs and often rolling the hold to set up assists from his partner. Usually it's Richards who looks like the maestro, but Edwards was his comfortable equal. The Wolves couldn?t be bullied and thrown around, they avoided their other classic pitfall of hitting a great pace, and within that pace they created some great moments. Edwards hoisting Jay for a Powerbomb in the corner, and Mark climbing up behind them so Richards wouldn't see his flying attack coming was actually clever. The American Wolves had never looked so good in dominance or vulnerability, leaving me saddened that they were now heading to singles emphasis.
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