Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Spin Fly Kick on Twitter

I've avoided Twitter all my life, and yet this morning, when I noticed Segunda Caida now has one as a promotional tool for content, I thought to myself that by imitating this I can now achieve two aims:

1. Have a Twitter account.
2. Not need to write about my current lunch/locations/feelings about wars

So, follow Spin Fly Kick for complaints about selling in a more easily digestible form. Will also add short thoughts and links to great matches and wrestling news as and when it occurs, countdowns, quizzes (unwinnable).

BattlArts: 26th July 2009

Here's some more BattlArts. Opening couple of matches are short enough. Basen TAGAI vs. Super Tiger was not good. I appreciated the focus on the arm, but the arm work was pretty lacklustre, and Super Tiger's kicks were sloppy (and not the fun, deadly looking sloppy, but the sort of sloppy that makes you question why that would knock a guy out). I also didn't really like the Walter vs. Yano match. Yano takes it to the outside and introduces a chair, which I hated. BattlArts is somewhere where the regular striking often looks (and is) nastier than most promotions . The chair would be unnecessary if Yano was able to actually hit anyone hard. He also does some other stuff that looks weak, like his standing splash to Walters arm (or leg, I temporarily can't remember what he was targetting in this match). I was hoping for Walter to smack Yano around a lot more, and there were a few nice punches (although I realised that they were actually to the shoulderblade rather than the head, which doesn't make much sense as an offensive strategy from a pure striker who struggles more on the mat with submissions). I did like the suddeness of the finish though, and Yano sold it like the victim of a blunt force head trauma (which it might actually have been).

Usuda vs. Yamamoto was a really great match. Comparing it to the other two great singles from February with these two guys (Usuda vs. Yoshikawa, Yamamoto vs. Otsuka), this combined elements I really liked from both - great, completely organic matwork exchanges and Usuda's selling in particular. I also liked the sense of a veteran on the backfoot, having to really struggle to find an opening to sneak a victory. In the Otsuka match, Yamamoto was very much the underdog for the middle of the match, but here's he is really in control. His mat counters are both visually impressive yet never contrived looking. Has this the length of the Yoshikawa match and the final few minutes of drama, I think we'd be talking match of the year.

I liked Ishikawa vs. Tiger Shark a lot. This was another great Ishikawa performance, where, like the Walter match on the previous show, the other guy (whilst mainly being along for the ride) plays his role. He had plenty of head kicks, and whilst I never really bought him as a realistic threat (which was probably the intension here), he didn't look out of his depth in any aspect. Ishikawa is maybe the best guy I've seen this year for little details, which in the context of the realistic BattlArts style, are really great.. Firstly, he never stops moving or doing things - in a submission, he'll look to add extra pressure by including another limb; on the backfoot he'll be firing off little counter punches, even whilst falling to the mat. The finish was a great example of the former, first countering an armlock with one of his own, then manoevering around so he was on top, then adding the headscissors to clinch the victory.

And the main event tag was just kind of OK. There was a load of no-selling that I wasn't wild about, with Sawa and Sasaki shrug off punches to the face. Then, after all that indyish no-selling and strike exchanges, they tag on a finish that was much more realistic, with a single knockout blow that just happens to get the job done. The match was really built around a feud they seem to have, which meant limited Otsuka, especially in the last seven minutes or so. His mat section wit Sawa wasn't high end Otsuka mat dominance, but was fine; in particular the bits where Sawa was fighting to avoid a suplex. Also enjoyed his running headbutt to the back of Yoshikawa - especially as it looked liked he was lining up for a punt. Otsuka will make you sell.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Big Japan: 28th April 2009

Two big tag league main events in this show. First one is Takeda and Kodaka vs. Shuji Ishikawa and Ito. This was a complete sprint, with a brief foray into the world of established tag team formula wrestling. There was a couple of spots that really highlighted the essence of the rookie team. Firstly, Takeda running charges a lightube into one of his opponents - I think it was Ito - and afterwards sells it with a look of, "what did I do that for?". Secondly, Isami lifts his knees to block a lightube assisted frog splash. They are a team that are frequently required to throw themselves in harms way to overcome higher ranked or larger opponents, and its this that makes them underdogs that the audience really want to get behind.

Other things I liked about this included the early work with Ito and Ishikawa targetting Takeda's back, the stiffness of Ishikawa's knee and kicks and even Ito's strikes looked more forceful than usual - I suspect this is because Takeda and Kodaka are relatively better bumpers and sellers for that sort of thing than much of the Big Japan roster. So many deathmatch guys have such perfunctory non-hardcore offence that its impossible for the match the come off as a series of spots with weak filler. Hence, I'm a big fan of Ishikawa kneeing guys with an audible thunk. I thought it definitely strayed into overkill at the end, which I'm not forgiving even if they want to play up the resilience of Takeda and Kodaka. Takeda's german suplex to Ishikawa onto Ito who was beneath a barbed wire board was an impressive spot.

The main event was a pretty typical tag match. They opened with some basic holds and counters, which was fine (and certainly by keeping it simple it looked a lot less contrived that some indyish matwork). The middle is power stuff on Miyamoto, targetting the back. The finish was typical back and forth stuff. I thought the execution of these elements was fine, although nothing stood out as unique or exceptional to me. If you are going to have two deathmatch workers doing straight tag matches, Miyamoto and Sasaki are the ones to do it. They have the moveset and they can match impact with Sekimoto and others, and they are better sellers and bumpers - Miyamoto in particular, during the heat section. I liked the surprise rollup finish here, which prevented further overkill, but I'm hard pushed to call this anything other than standard, with some things I really didn't like (like the Sliding D steal to no reaction, for no reason).

Monday, 7 December 2009

Best WWE matches of this decade (part three)

I'm working through a list of 64 nominated matches to compile this list. As aresult, it's unlikely the list will be my TOP 64. Some matches you might consider best of the decade aren't on that list. Feel free to suggest them, and I'll either shoot them down immediately (don't suggest Flair vs. HBK or Rock vs. Hogan or similar spectacle matches) or try and have a watch. As it now is:

1. Umaga vs. John Cena, 28th January 2007
2. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guererro, 23rd June 2005
3. Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit, 28th May 2001
4. Matt Hardy vs. Edge, 18th September 2005
5. Rey Mysterio vs. Finlay, 9th Novmber 2007
6. William Regal vs. Chris Benoit, 16th July 2005
7. Matt Hardy vs. Finlay, 22 June 2007
8. Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley, 18th April 2004
9. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels, 23rd April 2007
10. Hardy Boys vs. MNM 28th January 2007
11. Eddie Guererro and Tajiri vs. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, 22nd May 2003
12. Finlay vs. Undertaker, 9th March 2007
13. Steve Austin vs. The Rock, 1st April 2001

More thoughts:

William Regal vs. Chris Benoit, 16th July 2005 - I've watched three of their matches in quick succession (Pillman memorial, No Mercy 2006, this match) and they are all strikingly similar in terms of content and sequences, in the way that two guys who have a great match will often do (Sting-Vader is another good example). This is face vs. face, but it's the most violent face vs. face match you're going to watch in WWE. In all three of those matches, Regal bleed hardway from a headbutt. This is a match on a D-show, and Regal's bleeding hardway from a headbutt. Really nasty surfboard submission, and even nastier elbows from Benoit. In the Pillman match they do a tombstone reversal spot, which they do here also, only Benoit does a shoulder breaker, which is even better given the crossface finish. Loads of great struggle spots, this and the No Mercy match have a really cool battle over the crossface, with Regal blocking it until Benoit found a way to loosen Regal's grip.

Matt Hardy vs. Edge, 18th September 2005 - Exactly what you want out of a feud ending cage match. Guys punching each other, loads of bumps off the steel, a couple of high spots thrown in and an insane finish. Added into that, they play off the concussion from the previous month a lot, making everything, even Edge's usually weak looking offence looked deadly. I like how they moved between the twin aims of victory and revenge, which helped to deal with the most obvious flaw of escape cage matches (that there are usually loads of chances to win and slow crawling or climbing exposes the concept)

Steve Austin vs. The Rock, 1st April 2001 - Hard not to be massively disappointed revisiting this now. My biggest problem is how unepic it felt, despite the billing. Top two guys in the promotion, two year lrematch, huge arena - you expect a epic heavyweight war. I don't think either was so limited they needed all the gimmickry to have a war, although I was decidedly unimpressed with Rock's offense here. Even then, the furniture and weapons stuff felt weak to me - Rock obviously taking the table slamming with hands, the bell shots missing by a visible distance. Finisher theft stuff feels like a crutch to fall back on in lieu of anything more meaningful. There's other minor niggles as well, but it doesn't matter at this point. The finish is well executed as an angle, with Vince motivations being revealed slowly, but again this distracts from the actual matchup. Austin bouncing around the rings and the ropes was the only bit I really liked - that level of selling for long stretches whilst working fully heel was one of the things I really liked in his matches later in the year, particularly against Benoit. That match proves to me that Austin at least didn't need gimmickry to have a great match at this point in his career.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Best WWE matches of this decade (part two)

The list:

1. Umaga vs. John Cena , 28th January 2007
2. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guererro, 23rd June 2005
3. Rey Mysterio vs. Finlay 9th November 2007
4. Matt Hardy vs. Finlay, 22nd June 2007
5. Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley, 18th April 2004
6. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels, 23rd April 2007
7. Hardy Boys vs. MNM, 28th January 2007
8. Finlay vs. Undertaker, 9th March 2007

Umaga vs. John Cena , 28th January 2007 - Eddie Fatu died about an hour before I'm writing up this match which I watched last night, and it feels to me that talking about this match is an appropriate tribute, it being the best of his career (and possibly the best Cena match too) . There was a period in 2007 where WWE could have made a long-lasting monster heel out of Umaga. Perhaps this main event push was too fast, or not followed up well - his matches with Jeff Hardy later in the year rank amongst my favourite Jeff matches ever, but he was soon lost in the mid-card, and then distinctly not winning against HHH upon his return that summer. The character was well developed up to this point, with Estrada directing everything like Umaga really was a savage. In this match, there are a bunch of nice touches where Estrada stops Umaga from doing something counterproductive (like break up a ten-count just to hit Cena with the steps).

Much like a southern tag, monster heel vs. champion babyface is a difficult formula to mess up. John Cena had two perfectly decent matches with Khali later in 2007 because of this. Here, though, you've got a monster heel with a great looking moveset and an ability to bump, which means they could build a match around a series of Umaga domination sections with Cena selling his injuries (which he does brilliantly), and comeback spots. I liked how each comeback was increasing in its violence, as Cena had to go further and further beyond the norm to try to beat Umaga. It's an incredibly studied performance from Cena, torn between wanting to assert his superiority as champion and feeling no joy for the lengths he is being forced to go to. The monitor shot illustrates this best - he shows no eagerness, only weariness, walking up the steps to bash it into Umaga's skull, and raises the weapon to the crowd after doing so, but with a completely blank face.

What I like most about this is the balance and pacing off all the hardcore spots. It felt neither like overkill, nor like big spots with meaningless filler in between. There's a gradual build in their visual impact, and a lot of variety. The finish is great, with the ring literally pulled apart. The visual of Cena roaring, face red with blood, choking out an increasingly blue Umaga borders on iconic. Watch Cena during the final ten count. There's no celebration here, or particular pride in what he had done. It's because of the level of storytelling, along with the quality of its execution and the numerous memorable moments, that I placed this match top of the list. Probably the best gimmick match of the decade. This is also feels appropriate to have a match on top that is pure WWE style.

Eddie "Umaga" Fatu, 1973-2009.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Best WWE matches of this decade (part one)

Hey, this decade which doesn't have a snappy name like The Nineties, or The Eighties or countless (seven) others, is ending. I will compile a list of the best WWE matches from this decade in our new series: Best WWE matches of this decade. Currently:

1. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guererro, 23rd June 2005
2. Rey Mysterio vs. Finlay 9th November 2007
3. Matt Hardy vs. Finlay, 22nd June 2007
4. Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley, 18th April 2004
5. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels, 23rd April 2007

Rey vs. Eddie, 23rd June 2005 - Both men were at the point of their careers where they no longer relied on their moves - this thing is carried by everything in between, Rey's at the start of being the best babyface underdog in WWE history, and Eddie's every mannerism and reaction is hugely absorbing and believable. Opening establishes an Eddie trying beat Rey fairly. When this fails, he cheapshots in a break, and uses the outside to injure his opponent. Eddie's heel act is so understated for the most part, yet everything conveys his villany. The comebacks and cutoffs are textbook, and I love how this match has no hot finisher stretch and no high spots. In 2005, I expected them, hoped for them, was a different wrestling fan. I missed so much in the story telling. The finish is the perfect payoff. Eddie slips from his focus when he becomes convinced he's finally beaten his man - he avoids a 619 and finishes his suplexes. Rey, for his part, sells every inch of his predicament. This match is Eddie's - and this momentary lapse in focus and indulgence of his crowd taunting habits presents an opening, the only real opening, and Rey takes in and wins out of almost nowhere. I'm thinking top 5, probably higher.

Rey Mysterio vs. Finlay, 9th November 2007 - The first few minutes are pretty even - Rey lays into his punches, matching Finlay's intensity; after they spill to the outside, Finlay takes an above and beyond back bump off a Rey baseball slide and follows up with a hugequebrada. After that, Finlay looks awesome, in the original meaning of that word. This match is an absolute stomping, Finlay destroys Rey for most of this and looks unstoppable, more so than many of Rey's larger opponents. Some of the highlights include catching Rey mid-rana and powerbombing him into the corner and a nasty bump into the barricade. Aside from a couple of short comebacks (all ultimately cutoff, first with a lariat, and secondly knocking Rey off the ropes as he springboared), Rey's job here was to bump and sell, a task he obviously excels at. That said, I enjoyed some of his kicks, and the 619 seemed to connect with the point of the boot which was nice. The best thing about this match up is that Finlay can (and does) look great destroying Rey, but the size difference isn't as obvious a gimmick here compared to similar Rey underdog matches, especially with the way Finlay bumps and stooges for all of Rey's offence. I find there's added intensity find this credibility.

Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley, 18th April 2004 - This is a fish-out-of-water story, with Randy failing right from the beginning to compete in this environment, losing his barbed wire bat and running for cover. I don't know if the barbed wire board is gimmicked, but it looks pretty evil and distinctly denser with wire than most. The teased fire spot and Bischoff's intervention doesn't work for me - I get that it's about Mick wanting to go as far as possible, but it has no possible payoff, ruins the flow and weakens the impact of what follows by comparison. Orton's bump onto the tacks is great - the shock in his face at the landing is joyous, and that visual should by all rights be as iconic as Austin in the sharpshooter. Didn't coming away thinking I watched a particularly hate-filled encounter, and the match suffers from lacking a decent finish - an RKO onto a barbed wire bat (allegedly) lacks the impact of any of the big spots, or even Mick's suplex bumps onto the ramp. All told, I liked this plenty. Crowd chant "ECW" halfway through, but this is Mick's WWE tribute to his IWA Japan days, with the barbed wire board and the fire and the tacks. Would be topped in gimmickry in the Edge match, but this is a much better executed version and told a more compelling story.