I watch a hell of a lot of wrestling from a hell of a lot of different places. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Really bad. In an effort to convert this into something constructive, I have conceived a unique concept, one never done before. I take all those weird and wacky matches and just review a few of them. If you steal this idea you will be hearing from my people, okay.

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Ultimo Dragon & Funaki vs. Taka Michinoku & Jinsei Shinzaki

PROMOTION: Michinoku Pro Wrestling
DATE: 16 December 2010
LOCATION: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
SOURCE: YouTube

This was a special “WWE showcase match” taking placing on Michinoku Pro’s big year-ending Korakuen Hall show, which was really beginning to descend (or ascend, depending on your perspective) into the Great Space War madness that has become the highlight of every year since it began. The gimmick here was, as you may be able to guess from the name, that every participant had, at one time, been in the WWF/WWE. Ultimo was the natural heel in the match, having turned against Michinoku Pro in May 2010 and revealing himself as the mastermind behind the lead villainous group Kowloon, so he was a bit of a jerk although that wasn’t as over the top as it could have been. He refused to do cool dives a few times, I guess that was a bit mean. The others? They were in a slightly more fun mood. Taka, more than capable of being a first class dickhead when he wants to be, was trying out Shinzaki’s signature moves (rope running and so forth) and generally making a meal of them, so there was a bit of comedy early on. It did eventually settle down into something a little more conventional with everyone pairing off and, thanks to some frequent miscommunication, getting a chance to wrestle each other at one point or another. It was really nice to see Taka and Funaki wrestling each other and, of the various combinations, theirs was probably the most enjoyable, although the match never really strayed beyond that low stakes exhibition feel into something a little more epic. The finish also felt appropriate for an exhibition, as Taka dropped Funaki with the Michinoku Driver II only for the time limit to expire. This isn’t a match I’d encourage anyone to seek out as soon as possible but it checked all the boxes you’d want from a nostalgia trip and, as such, is probably a decent use of fifteen minutes. **1/2

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Kevin Steen vs. Kenny The Bastard

PROMOTION: Combat Zone Wrestling
DATE: 14 May 2005
LOCATION: ECW Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
SOURCE: YouTube

This period of CZW was not far from, in my opinion, the promotion’s peak. 2004 had seen a lot of talent from around the company make a big impression. Among that talent was Kevin Steen who had debuted in a four way also including El Generico, who hasn’t done a great deal since then really. Looking to continue that trend, another set of young high fliers from Steen’s home promotion, the IWS, made their debuts the following year. The Flying Hurricanes, Kenny The Bastard and Takao, were genuinely talented but never seemed to get a break in America, and as a result this was the highlight of Kenny’s time in CZW. This followed a very similar formula to the Steen vs. Generico wars in that Kenny would use a lot of arm drags and flips to his advantage and then Steen would respond with the hottest slice of murder you have ever seen. That nearly happened without Steen intending it, anyway, as shown when Kenny attempted a dragonrana to the floor and nearly cracked his head on the concrete floor. Kenny didn’t have a great deal of finesse to go alongside his exciting wrestling moves but that made him more fun to watch in a way. It added an element of chaos to everything he did, a bit like Ricochet matches from when he was all hair and double moonsaults. This cat-and-mouse game is something that’s always seemed to work with Steen, even at this early stage of his career, and they told an entertaining story before the inevitable head drop finale. Steen eventually put Kenny out of his misery in under ten minutes with the Steenalizer into the middle turnbuckle, which is easily one of the most violent executions of the move I’ve ever seen. Not that there’s anything close to a non-violent way of executing it. **3/4

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Jun Akiyama vs. LEONA

PROMOTION: Fortune Dream
DATE: 14 June 2016
LOCATION: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
SOURCE: RealHero Archive

This is the kind of suggestion I like. Left to my own devices I would probably tend away from something like this because my hopes… my hopes were not high. Straight up, I don’t think LEONA is any good. He’s the son of Tatsumi Fujinami and isn’t one of those wonderkid second generation wrestlers by any means. He does have his age going for him (he’s only in his early twenties but looks like his paper round was very rough) and I’ve heard he’s got better since working for the DNA promotion, with some significant beatings/learning experiences from Kohei Sato and Masato Tanaka on the horizon, but he was pretty bad at this point. If Uncle Jun wasn’t aware of this before he definitely was once this match began. LEONA started encouragingly, attacking at the bell, but a series of forearms were of such a poor standard that Jun took over and just beat the hell out of the kid. One suplex on the floor definitely dropped LEONA on his head. This actually somehow wound up being a fun little match because of the meta element to it all. LEONA couldn’t be left to his own devices because he’d probably mess up anything he attempted (one figure four leg lock in this match was incredible) so Akiyama just took it all. Even when LEONA was technically hitting moves nobody was doubting who was running the show. It was a veteran making the most of a bad situation and actually creating something kind of compelling. Akiyama made LEONA bleed with a lariat, pelted him with knee strikes, dropped him with the exploder and finally made him tap to the Boston crab like the goddamn rookie he is. What this lacked in terms of actual quality it more than made up for in spectacle so it’s completely worth watching on that level. ***

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Bread Eating Deathmatch: Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Ken Ohka

PROMOTION: Union Pro
DATE: 3 January 2011
LOCATION: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
SOURCE: YouTube

There can be little doubt that one of the hottest topics of discussion among wrestling fans these days is bread. It’s a subject that divides us, as a people, but the emergence of Satoshi Kojima’s Bread Club has lead to something of a boom period. This match is the clickbait that you simply couldn’t resist. The stipulations of this match were extremely simple, so simple they shouldn’t need explaining. A variety of delicious breads were hung above the ring. Two warriors would fight, one would emerge victorious, the other would leave extremely hungry. One of the very few rules is that Ohka and Kikuchi weren’t allowed to use their hands to eat the bread for some reason. Let me tell you, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi attempting to eat a piece of bread off a string (and doing a terrible job of it) is the most disturbing sight I’ve seen since Matt Hardy attempted to bond on a molecular level with a slice of pizza on live WWE pay-per-view. Ohka showed some tremendous psychology in this, using duct tape on Kikuchi’s mouth to prevent him from getting any further with his carnage, but he couldn’t be stopped. The veteran Kikuchi was ravenous. The ending of this match was incredible. With a time limit rapidly approaching, whereas in a normal match you’d get rapid fire pins and last minute finishers, you had the sight of two men crawling around the ring stuffing their faces with bread. Kikuchi ended up winning although I’m not sure how that was determined, most likely evaluating bread-eating technique using Robot Wars rules: points for style, control, damage and aggression. It’s hard to rate this match too highly because I think that now, knowing what we know as fans with the science to back it up, we shouldn’t be glorifying or encouraging such destructive behaviour, but these two guys made the decision to consume all these carbohydrates and, on some level, deserve respect for their masochism. 🍞

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British Strong Style (Trent Seven, Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate) vs. Angel Cruz, B Cool & Tyler Bate

PROMOTION: Over The Top Wrestling
DATE: 4 June 2017
LOCATION: Tivoli Theatre, Dublin, Ireland
SOURCE: YouTube

No mistakes were made in that match lineup. Cruz is a former reality TV star turned psychopath who has pulled knives out during matches and threatened to murder Trent Seven prior to this one if he dared to interfere in his friendship with Tyler. He might believe his close friend is actually Tyler Breeze but don’t get so fixated on the details, alright. I’m not sure how his wrestling is but he’s bloody entertaining and that’s all that really matters, right? The running theme of this match was Cruz attempting to follow through on that threat, with Tyler unsure just who the hell he was meant to side with, a man caught between two friendship groups. He then made his decision. Looking to recover after a prolonged spell in the ring, he tagged in Trent. Then Angel snapped. He grabbed an axe and prepared to go full Torrance on Trent’s beautiful mustachioed face. Before he could complete the act and create a terrible mess Tyler stepped in and decided that he’d changed his mind. Trent Seven? Yesterday’s news, mate. It’s over. History. Done. Angel was the man for him. I’ve not seen many matches that show off techniques for hostage negotiation so, in that regard, this was unique. Things only got stupider from there, as everybody in the match formed alliances with each other before destroying those alliances shortly thereafter. Tyler ultimately pinned Cruz with the Tyler Driver 97, earning the winner’s purse that he was leaving with either way. This was complete comedic chaos that I wasn’t completely tuned into because I’m not super familiar with OTT’s storylines and characters. However, it did also tap into the side of me that loves wrestling that embraces the absurdity and fully commits to it. It knew how silly it was and didn’t slow down. They didn’t really try and dress this up as anything other than what it was: the battle for Tyler Bate’s soul. **1/2

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High Speed Match: Kaho Kobayashi & Tsukasa Fujimoto vs. Tsukushi & Leon

PROMOTION: SEAdLINNNG
DATE: 28 September 2016
LOCATION: Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
SOURCE: RealHero Archive

The rules of SEAdLINNNG’s high speed matches are… unorthodox. To win you have to go fast. Not some of the time. You have to go fast all of the time. You can only pin an opponent if you’ve just hit the ropes. The referee will count those pins at an insanely fast speed. Lucha tag rules apply. This is like you started a money mark promotion and, after being kept in the dark about the true identity of your mysterious benefactor, the big chair swung round and sat there, smoking the finest cigar that all them rings can buy, it’s goddamn Sonic the Hedgehog. With those rules in mind, it would be hard for this to not be a lot of fun, and fun it was. The manner in which the match kicked into an even higher gear than normal was insane, as referee Natsuki Taiyo (the only person fast enough to referee these matches and one of the quickest human beings around) got involved, causing a ridiculous criss-cross spot and an impromptu beep test. Tsukushi eventually used the ropes to swing Kobayashi around into a prawn hold for the pin. This reminded me of the best MEN’s World tag matches from Big Japan in that it didn’t really matter who was in the match, you knew that if you saw a match under that banner it was gonna be completely insane and that would make up for any lack of familiarity with the individual participants. The difference here is that the match seemed to be in fast forward. No one wrestler really made an impression on me and it was all a blur but what a wonderful blur. I will be watching more of these matches for sure. ***

If you have any good/funny/interesting/appalling matches you’d like to see featured here please send them on Twitter to @GolazoDan. No Masao Inoue, for the love of God.

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