Grab Bag Reviews #2 ~ Too Many Dragons

And now the awkward second album! Response to the first edition was positive, mostly from bakers who’ve reported booming sales figures following a positive review for Ohka vs. Kikuchi, although a potential sponsorship deal really depends on whether I can find any other bread deathmatches. While I look for them, here’s some bread-free bouts.


Ultimo Dragon, BUSHI & Makoto vs. Dark Dragon, MAZADA & Cheerleader Melissa

PROMOTION: All Japan Pro Wrestling
DATE: 5 November 2011
LOCATION: Taipei National Taiwan University Gymnasium, Taipei, Taiwan

All Japan comes to Taiwan! This match is just weird to look at on paper so it obviously had to be watched, a real mishmash of human beings. I feel that BUSHI’s pre-heel turn run in New Japan is not something a lot of people remember, never mind his run in All Japan before that. The real curiousity here is Dark Dragon, a man wearing the full Darkness Dragon costume. This character previously appeared against Ultimo in matches for Italy’s New Wrestling Entertainment (of Orlando Jordan vs. Ultimate Warrior fame) where I’m pretty sure he was played by Hajime Ohara in his run as Ultimo’s travelling trainee. Ultimo flaunting his ownership of the Toryumon gimmicks always struck me as really petty but it’s the kind of pettiness that makes wrestling politics so good. Whoever was playing Dark Dragon here did a decent job. He wasn’t as jacked as ya boy K-ness was back in the day but he more than made up for it in menacing cackles. I’m not quite sure how Melissa ended up on these Taiwan shows but you can’t really complain when she’s on your card. She spent most of this beating the hell out of Makoto to build a singles match on the tour’s next show. Overall this was just a house show style six person tag designed to get everyone bloody excited about live wrestling and it achieved that goal, although it did go on for a very long time (seventeen whole earth minutes!) and isn’t much more than a peculiar lineup. MAZADA seemed to fall right on his silly little head when BUSHI gave him a huracanrana on the floor, that was probably as dangerous as it got. MAZADA’s whole aesthetic in this was pretty great as he channeled all aging luchadores taking advantage of lax athletic commission regulation outside of Mexico by wearing a mask for the entire match for no reason. Ultimo pinned his dragon kin with the Asai DDT as fate would dictate. **


AJ Styles, Chris Sabin & Christopher Daniels vs. Austin Aries, Roderick Strong & Alex Shelley

PROMOTION: Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
DATE: 25 October 2005 (aired 29 October 2005)
LOCATION: Impact Zone, Orlando, Florida

This was a pretty interesting time for TNA and probably the time where I had the most interest in them, partly because of matches like this which were essentially little ROH offer matches. To that end this was presented as the X-Division old guard vs. the new faces, almost some sort of “next generation” if you like, with Aries, Strong and Shelley taking on three of the company’s gatekeepers in order to earn bigger opportunities. The commentary dates this spectacularly as Mike Tenay notes that AJ Styles’ big upcoming match is against Hiroshi Tanahashi, although that was just a couple of shows to say hi. Tanahashi returned on excursion a few years later, giving TNA the opportunity they needed to fuck it up magnificently. Alex Shelley was in the middle of a low key great undercard run in this period of TNA that should have lead to bigger and better things for him, filming matches on his own camcorder (leading to the incredible Paparazzi Productions pairing with the one and only Big Sexy), but his wrestling at this point in time was just as good as his character stuff, if not better. I’ve always loved Shelley because he’s clearly a huge wrestling nerd (unabashedly so) and you know he was watching some pretty wild shit before this going by his use of “brother” YASSHI’s signature catch-as-catch-can Gotch-style testicle claw on Sabin. He also nearly got Don West to call “the Skullfuck” by that name on national television so it was a very successful night all round. This was a short match, under 10 minutes, but they didn’t waste any of it and it’s easily one of my favourite TNA television matches because of this pace. It seemed like they were trying to make a statement with what time they had. It was wild that TNA teamed Styles, Daniels and Sabin – all arguably the X-Division’s main eventers of the time along with Samoa Joe – and they took a complete backseat to the Aries/Strong/Shelley trio. It was a competitive match throughout but there was so much emphasis on those three as a unit, both their individual strengths and their teamwork (something that not even ROH really did as much with as they could). Further to that point, they won this match when Shelley pinned Sabin with a really neat Shiranui variation, using the ropes instead of the turnbuckles to complete his backflip. It’s a shame that this never worked out for one reason or another because they did a tremendous job of making three new stars here while not really damaging the stars they already had because the match was so enthralling. This was fast and furious and reminiscent of a time where TNA was startlingly good and we, the wrestling fans, were optimistic for a brighter future. The follies of youth. ***3/4


Jack Evans vs. Bryan Danielson

PROMOTION: Ring of Honor
DATE: 24 June 2004
LOCATION: Ramada Inn, Essington, Pennsylvania

This was a qualifying match in ROH’s first ever Survival of the Fittest tournament and came about a month after Jack formed Generation Next with the winners in the previous match: Shelley, Aries and Strong. Jack questioned whether he was facing American Dragon or “The Dagger”, a man with a startling resemblance to Danielson aside from his beanie hat. This was Danielson in his pre-Final Countdown days (fresh off a tour in New Japan, in fact) but I don’t think you could ever find an era of Danielson where he couldn’t unleash a truly magnificent ass kicking. The match began with a dance-off which Danielson won by gyrating his pelvis and sending the crowd understandably wild. Jack Evans was one of the most entertaining characters on the ROH roster at this point in time and it was really shown here as Danielson switched between comedy spots and bending Jack’s body into entirely unnatural positions. Jack’s indestructible and infinitely flexible body has always made him one of the most exciting high flying wrestlers around but it works the other way too. Nobody takes a beating quite like him. This was more or less an extended squash, with Danielson shrugging off a lot of Jack’s offence and the big hits really coming when Jack managed to combo some strikes and hit one of his flips, but otherwise it was Danielson stretching the hell out of Jack and being amazing while doing it. Danielson broke Evans to win and advance in the tournament by putting Jack in a crab but instead of holding the legs it was way more of a bearhug. It was disgusting, anyway. Loved it. ***


Tommy End vs. Jonathan Gresham

PROMOTION: Westside Xtreme Wrestling
DATE: 15 March 2014
LOCATION: Steffy, Oberhausen, Germany

Tommy was the wXw Unified World Wrestling champion at this point and was defending his title in non-tournament action here over the annual 16 Carat weekend. Gresham was a regular in wXw at this point, both as a singles and as part of the Calamari Catch Club/Calamari Catch Kings with Chris Brookes (dunno what happened to that guy), and yes, he was just as underrated then as he is now. He spent a few years over in Europe in the early 2010s, just a bit before that was a cooler thing for American wrestlers to do, and it’s a shame he doesn’t do it as much nowadays because he really fit in and excelled in some of the promotions he worked. This match main evented the night and got a lot of time, almost a full twenty minutes, and as a result it was wrestled at a slower pace but even with that description I don’t think these two would be capable of an uninteresting match; this was tremendous. Gresham’s one of the more interesting wrestlers around solely for his technical stuff solely because he clearly studied a lot of different technical styles, fuses these in his own matches and switches it up regularly. Mixing in a lot of high flying like he did here also adds a hell of a lot of variety. He also does a lot of little things that might not get individual attention but, taken as a whole, really make him one of the best around for my money. One of my favourites here was a reverse frankensteiner, which is a very overplayed move in 2017. Gresham tried an O’Connor roll and Tommy blocked it. Gresham tried a half nelson suplex and Tommy blocked it. Only then did Gresham hit the frankensteiner. This didn’t look like a heavily rehearsed spot, it looked like something a person would do if plans A and B had failed in a battle and this was their third choice. After starting as a relatively even mat battle (more notable for one particularly vocal Tommy supporter being unanimously told to shut up, at one point by Tommy himself) this evolved into a style battle with Gresham frustrating Tommy with his aforementioned hybrid arsenal, focusing heavily on his knees. It was a fine strategy on two fronts: one, you can submit the scary tattoo man to some wacky hold you picked up watching a Negro Navarro match. Two, you can stop the scary tattoo man from kicking the heck out of you. Ultimately Tommy’s legs proved too strong and he kicked and stomped Gresham to death before submitting him to the dragon sleeper, but Tommy actually let Gresham dominate a hell of a lot of this match. End’s big hits were the obvious ones to remind you that, yes, he is still a threat (a mad roundhousing one), but a lot of it was the challenger frustrating him, often outsmarting him, only to find himself unable to land the killer blow. This is a high recommendation. ****1/2


Shayna Baszler vs. Britt Baker

PROMOTION: Absolute Intense Wrestling
DATE: 5 November 2016
LOCATION: Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel School, Cleveland, Ohio

This was my first time seeing Shayna actually wrestle. Apparently she has a famous friend or something, no clue. Anyway, she’s apparently really caught on with the whole wrestling thing over the last year with AIW being one of the main places she’s appearing for, winning their women’s title and defending it in this very match. She’s also been running through the competition and this was very much a continuation of that, as she showed off all her best suplexes and slams before catching Britt in the rear naked choke for the win. Britt’s a very good wrestler in her own right, her best moment being a dive off the rail into the crowd, but that only delayed the inevitable. In terms of an actual match this wasn’t much to write home about, it was absolutely fine, but the purpose was to make the champion look dominant and it sure did that. I will say that I did enjoy some of Shayna’s banter with the fans because there wasn’t a lot of it but there was just enough to make you root against her. She doesn’t wrestle like a complete heel or a complete face, she’s just extremely dominant and stoic so even the smallest thing will turn you against her. There’s something of the Samoa Joe about her style and the way she’s being booked, and the “out of nowhere” chokes probably help with that. **


The Gladiator & Horace Boulder vs. Katsutoshi Niiyama & Masato Tanaka

PROMOTION: Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling
DATE: 5 May 1995
LOCATION: Kawasaki Stadium, Kawasaki, Japan

This match was taking place at a rare point in time where Kawasaki Stadium wasn’t being blown up. They were saving that for the main event. Gladiator (or Mike Awesome, if you like) was really in his element in FMW at this point in time, just running around with his mullet and his facepaint throwing everyone around with the biggest powerbombs possible. Bringing in Horace may have been a step too far though. That’s a tad harsh; Horace in FMW was actually weirdly fun and this was a perfect example of that. It was just a big dumb brawl and I kinda loved it. It also provided us with an early taste of some hot Masato Tanaka on Mike Awesome action, right before they decided to go hard as a motherfucker on each other each time every time. There’s an incredible sight as Tanaka and Awesome are fighting on a gigantic scaffolding while Horace and Niiyama attempt to have a somewhat competent singles match in the ring, and thank God the fans were definitely all watching that hot scaffold action instead. Awesome’s method of getting off the scaffolding was classic “I wanna make this look good but I ain’t falling off this thing”, grabbing every single rung on the way down but having a hell of a time doing it. The undisputed highlight of this was Awesome attempting a superbomb on Tanaka through the table, only someone fucked up massively and Tanaka ended up falling on his head. He then succeeded with the move which I’m sure Tanaka was delighted with. Somehow Tanaka and Niiyama ended up winning this when Horace got hit with a broken Japanese table (still a badass piece of hardware) and a German suplex. Sometimes I think that if you’re doing a wild brawl the imperfections can enhance it and this was exactly that. It was rough, it had mistakes, it was incredibly sloppy, but most importantly it was goddamn entertaining. ***1/2

Send all your wrestling matches to be reviewed here by sliding into the DMs on Twitter @GolazoDan. No filth please.


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