The Catch Up Column – Summer 2017
You ever have a feeling that you’re so far behind on watching shows that you’ll never catch up? Well, I had that today so instead of watching one long show or several long-ish shows, I’m watching all the big matches from lots of shows so I can cherry-pick my way back to where I should be.
August 1 2017
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. John Cena
This took place on SmackDown and was a #1 contender’s match. It’s one of the few WWE matches this year that feels like a genuine dream match that would never happen. This is exactly the kind of wacky match-up I was hoping for when Nakamura signed for WWE. Once the novelty has worn off the big match atmosphere is sporadic. It’s more weird than it is special. Nakamura getting an armbar out of the ‘you can’t see me’ taunt is pretty cool though. As is Cena seeing Kinshasa coming and countering right into the STFU and Nakamura gets out of that into an armbar. It feels like the match exists as a feeling-out process for a bigger match at a later date. Unfortunately Big Match John has absconded to RAW. The match has become famous for Nakamura dumping Cena square on his head when John didn’t recognise the reverse Exploder. Nakamura was very apologetic and Vince McMahon was steaming mad. It may even have changed Summerslam booking. Kinshasa puts Cena away. This was too short to be the epic it could have been.
Final Rating: ***1/4
August 19 2017
Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero vs. Mistico & Titan
I’m not a big lucha guy but this took place in ROH on iPPV. This is the new Mistico, not the one who was Sin Cara. He plays second fiddle to the more exciting Titan here. Guerrero gives no fucks whatsoever about his wellbeing and flat back powerbombs him on the floor with little to no protection. The match alternates between the veterans killing Titan and Titan making fiery comebacks. I’m of the opinion that New Mistico isn’t very good so whenever he’s in there I pretty much lose interest. Some luchadores make you suspend your disbelief in ways that don’t work for me. That said he does a wacky dive to the floor, converted into a rana so there is that. However he doesn’t kick out of a Superbomb, just lying there while Joel Allen has to pretend he’s kicked out. Guerrero tries to cover for it but it’s yet another issue from New Mistico. His timing and level of care for the business are not where they belong. Titan makes amends with an insane moonsault to floor. His feet land on top of the rail, which tells you how high up he is. Guerrero does not care and picks Titan off with the reverse superplex. This was patchy. Some of the high spots were sensational but some of the work in between was downright appalling.
Final Rating: ***
July 23 2017
K-OD Openweight Championship
Konosuke Takeshita (c) vs. Keisuke Ishii
This was on DDT’s Road to Peter Pan show from Korakuen Hall. Ishii is a strange guy. He’s a bit pudgy but he’s gotten over in DDT and has been a fixture for AJPW in recent years too. I put it down to his Team Dream Futures affiliation, with the clearly talented Shigehiro Irie and red-haired Soma Takao. But he’s standing on his own two feet and has a main event slot here, trying to dislodge the title before Peter Pan. Fat chance! Takeshita is DDT’s ace.
He has one of the dumbest Twitter handles I’ve ever seen but as a wrestler it’s hard to fault him. Ishii reminds me of Ogawa, which is probably why I don’t like him. He’s technically very solid but he has a terrible look and a punchable face. The match is sluggish with both guys just working holds until Ishii gets a neckbreaker over the rail to give the match some much needed focus. Takeshita might be the top guy in DDT but he still needs lessons in logic. When you’re trapped in a hold and the focus is the neck a series of jolts to get yourself into the ropes is not the solution. If that neck is really damaged that’s going to be impossible or too painful to consider. Takeshita takes some manly bumps to get the contest over with the fans. Ishii meanwhile falls over the ropes and looks badly out of shape. This spot is simply beyond him. However Takeshita takes such a fucking thrashing in this match, landing on his neck repeatedly, that I can’t help but love it. The near falls are a delight. Of course Takeshita retains but the assaults upon his neck are beautifully violent and makes it feel like the match isn’t a foregone conclusion. Which is why Takeshita is the ace of DDT right now. They need someone who makes all their midcard guys look capable. It used to be HARASHIMA. Well done to Takeshita for taking the step up.
Final Rating: ***3/4
June 1 2017
Sanshiro Takagi vs. Minoru Suzuki
This is the match that prevented Takagi from retiring – a no holds barred empty arena brawl around the Tokyo Dome with MiSu.
The building is quite literally empty. It’s not set up at all. It’s awaiting a baseball game. Takagi does his entrance by running the bases instead of running the ropes, posing on the bases instead of the buckles. MiSu has to time his entrance with the music and he steps over invisible ropes, while encouraging invisible fans. He literally does his entire entrance exactly as he would if the building was full. Then Aja Kong sings the national anthem.
These antics are well and truly in my ball park. And in an actual ball park. They brawl up the steps and go past Super Sasadango Machine who gives a PowerPoint presentation on what’s happening. Further up into the bleachers Gota Ihashi tries to interfere and Suzuki, after ignoring him for a while, kicks him down a flight of stairs.
They make their way to the very top deck, where Suzuki threatens to murder Takagi by throwing him off the balcony. Saki Akai shows up selling beer but neither man has any money in their trunks so she kicks them! Her dedication to the gimmick, wandering around after her spot still offering beer, is terrific. They brawl back into the building where Gota Ihashi attempts a second assault on Suzuki. When will he learn? He’s kicked down a second flight of stairs. The brawl continues around the concourse, interrupting Ladybeard in some sort of promotional shoot and Ken Ohka trying to sell the Dome on letting Ganbare Pro run there. Suzuki steals his money and goes looking for Saki Akai! Next up is a janitor, who is knocked over during the fray, and it’s Jun Kasai! Say is that Gota Ihashi at the top of a flight of stairs?
Have a guess what happens to him here? If you guessed ‘Minoru Suzuki punts him in the spine, he falls down a third flight of stairs and then MiSu walks over his corpse’ you guessed correctly! Danshoku Dino gets involved in a very weird thing with some gay comedians that goes completely over my head. After that they run into cosplayers, one of which is Chinsuke Nakamura. MiSu stomps the shit out of him in a manner that has me howling with laughter. The brawl continues and MiSu gets support from Genichiro Tenryu. Takagi is less blessed and gets pelted with baseballs. Out into the arena again for the finale and Meiko Satomura is waiting for them on the pitchers mound. It turns out she can’t pitch at all and Takagi is comically bad at baseball. Sports are bullshit anyway. A host of wrestlers watch on.
Suzuki takes exception and the benches clear out for a massive brawl on the field. Takagi’s final assault – running the entire of the baseline reminds me John Cleese in the Holy Grail. MiSu, having had thirty minutes to prepare, sees it coming, ducks it and hits a piledriver on home plate for the win.
Final Rating: I LOVE DDT
July 9 2017
WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Samoa Joe
I actually saw this entire Great Balls of Fire show, on and off, live. However it was on shitty Filipino WIFI and failed on me just before the main event. I got so irritated I didn’t see it live I’ve still not seen it some two months later. Joe brings a level of aggression that has defined his career. I wish he’d bring it more frequently. Of course the WWE schedule damages the body and he’s already worn down after years busting his ass on the Indies. Imagine 2006 Joe vs. Lesnar? When he had the speed and mobility and could compete for 15-20 minutes with Brock. They should feed every Indy Darling in the Biz to Brock one after another. It’d make for thrilling viewing, seeing who was capable of actually knocking him off his perch. Joe has a run at it here, taking shortcuts where he needs to and bringing a level of aggression Lesnar is not expecting.
Lesnar’s various escapes from the Coquina Clutch demonstrate his raw power and scary strength. The last one is a peach, jacking Joe into the F5 and retaining the belt.
Final Rating: ***1/2
July 1 2017
G1 Special in USA! Hosts are Jim Ross & Josh Barnett. I’m just watching the top end stuff.
IWGP US Championship First Round
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito
Ishii doesn’t care for Naito’s antics and completely no sells all his strikes. Naito in return acts like a complete dick and tries to get Ishii to make mistakes. It’s a lovely clash of personalities; the laid back Naito vs. the super pissed-off Ishii. They’ve wrestled many times before with Naito’s value within the company sinking and rising based on how over he was. This leads to lots of familiarity stuff combined with a genuine storyline of Ishii’s intensity barrelling headlong into Naito’s technique and heel persona. The match is not without wrinkles. Ishii occasionally abandons technique for just running through Naito and Tetsuya twice misses on a tornado DDT before finally hitting it. Naito is also slow on cutting off an Ishii assault leaving Big Tom waving his arm around for no reason. The flaws are compensated by raw aggression and hard hits. While it won’t trouble any year end MOTY lists it’s tough and rambunctious and the crowd love it. Ishii puts Naito away with the brainbuster to advance to the next round.
Final Rating: ****
IWGP US Championship First Round
Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin
I’m coming in having seen their G1 match already (which I had at ****3/4). JR can’t help himself and his old fashioned mentality has him yelling “go for the cover” after a big spot. Omega’s explosive offence runs headlong into Elgin’s sheer size. Omega is so over with the American fans that babyface Elgin gets heat just for cutting off a dive. Like the last match it’s intense and hard-hitting but unlike the last match it’s not riddled with small errors. The execution is excellent throughout. Kenny’s offence is on point and Elgin’s power overcomes any potential shortfalls. The way he hauls Omega back in using the ropes, catches him in mid-air and hits a powerslam is astonishing work. I’m not sure which is better; Elgin’s power moves or Omega’s incredibly timed strikes. One spot stands out though; a killer German suplex on the apron that leaves Omega folded up like a badly stacked deck chair. It’s one hell of a match with such high impact high spots and such glorious near fall moments. Even the most straightforward of moves, Elgin’s lariat, feels like a finish. The selling, bumping and storytelling is wonderful. The V-Triggers, the head-drops, the slow motion replays that reveal the extent of the snugness. It’s wonderful. When Elgin tells Omega to “do it” when faced with Kenny’s gun/finger point the storytelling absolutely peaks. Elgin takes nothing but abuse afterwards and the One-Winged Angel finishes. My God this was fucking great pro wrestling. Every bit as good as their G1 match, which was one of the best matches in that tournament. Long Beach was lucky to get a match this incredibly strong.
Final Rating: ****3/4
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Cody Rhodes
This is a huge challenge for Cody Rhodes. He’s not overly impressed on the Indies, having the occasional big time match but not having anything approaching a blowaway great match. Okada on the other hand is Wrestler of the Year. He’s hit it out of the park with a multitude of opponents and has a host of MOTY contenders. Cody comes in with a pedigree though, holding the ROH title.
The crowd do not want Cody to win. Hell, they barely want him to be here. Okada’s entrance, by comparison, is so loud they have to turn the audio down. Some of the crowd start chanting “Cody” and they’re drowned out by chants of “fuck you Cody”. I’m shocked anyone would want Cody to actually win this. Okada, clumsiest ace ever, manages his crossbody over the rail and then falls off the chair he’s celebrating on. Cody gives up on any semblance of balance and goes full heel; going after Gedo, spitting at Red Shoes and flipping the bird towards the front row. All while selling a shoulder injury that Okada hasn’t even worked on yet. Compared to the rest of Cody’s post-WWE run it feels tonally superior. Okada eventually gets sick of Cody’s bullshit and beats the shit out of him. Consecutive Rainmakers should finish but Kenny Omega shows up, complete with towel like Cody did at Dominion. Only he tries to get Brandi to throw the towel in like Owen Hart baiting his own parents back in the day. The distraction gives Cody a chance to rally and they steal each other’s finishers in a throwback to WWE in the Angle Era. Cody, taking that to another level, attempts a One Winged-Angel. That fails and Okada stumbles his way into another Rainmaker for the pin. Clumsiness at the finish aside this was excellent storytelling from a heel Cody and the standard quality from Okada, with the odd flub aside.
Final Rating: ****
I missed quite a lot of stuff over the summer months due to a brief exile on the other side of the world. So this is going to be a two-parter. I’ll be back to cover the other G1 USA show, that match DDT had in a forest and maybe Dragon Gate or something? I don’t know.