Monday, March 2, 2015

Fave Fave 2/23/15-3/1/15

1) reDRagon: I was able to catch Ring of Honor's 13th Anniversary show a bit late, but still found it relatively enjoyable. The best match, to me, on the card was the ROH World Tag Team Title match. reDRagon successfully retained their titles against the Young Bucks. I've always felt that the Young Bucks are a bit overrated but this match was a lot of fun. reDRagon seems to be an absolute tear and show no signs of slowing down. I remember seeing Bobby Fish back in 2007 and he didn't impress me at all. He seems to have improved greatly however. reDRagon has gone out and are possibly going to go down as the second most successful tag team in ROH history, behind only the Briscoes. They have become one of the hottest tag teams in all of pro wrestling, picking up titles over in NJPW as well. In a relatively slow week, reDRagon outshone everyone else to earn the top spot.

2) Jay Lethal: Remember when this guy kept hitting the glass ceiling in TNA? After leaving TNA and making a return to Ring of Honor, Lethal was rejuvenated. He has been on a massive roll and is the only two time Television Champion in company history. He's in the midst of a heel run that I didn't think he had in him. Granted, the Book of Truth stuff is a bit tired now, but Lethal continues to shine. It wasn't the cleanest of wins at the 13th Anniversary Show, but a win over someone like Alberto El Patron still means something. It was a pretty obvious outcome since El Patron has limited dates but it was still big for Lethal.

3) Akira Tozawa: I'll be the first to admit, I don't watch Dragon Gate as often as I probably should. However, when I do watch the occasional match or show, Akira Tozawa is kind of a constant. He's been hovering around the company for the better part of a decade. This week, he had what could be considered his proudest moment. After years in Dragon Gate, he captured his first singles title, winning the Open the Brave Gate Championship. It's a belt I first saw when Matt Sydal held it and since then, has been held by some very talented performers. Ricochet, PAC (currently Adrian Neville), and CIMA among others. It's pretty cool to see him having some solo success.

4) Jay Briscoe: When I first became a fan of ROH, the Briscoes were on a tear. I always saw Jay as the brother with higher potential. Fast forward some years and while others have left for greener pastures, Jay and Mark remained loyal. Jay would go on to not only win the ROH World Title, but join Austin Aries as the only two time winners. At the 13th Anniversary Show, he successfully retained his belt against three tough challengers. It wasn't a main event that I loved by any means, but it was still solid stuff. Jay has been THE constant in Ring of Honor and is always there to deliver for the company, which he did again on their 13th anniversary. Don't be surprised if you see Jay Briscoe make this list a lot more over the rest of the year as he looks to be a fixture and focal point for Ring of Honor for a long time coming.

5) AJ Styles: You see that picture on the left? That's a group of "TNA Originals" that have all left after being spurned by the company. This was taken before the 13th Anniversary Show last night. The focus here is on AJ Styles. The guy who used to bleed TNA more than anyone. Since leaving there, he has experienced a career resurgence, having good to great matches all over and becoming a two time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. As the current champion, he went to ROH last night and faced ACH in an interesting matchup. I haven't seen as much of ACH as I'd like but he impressed me here and more than held his own with one of the best in the world. He just slightly missed out on this list. That being said, the IWGP Champion wasn't about to take a pinfall loss and Styles came out as a winner. I look forward to what the rest of 2015 holds for the Phenomenal One.

Random Network Reviews: In Your House Canadian Stampede

In Your House: Canadian Stampede
July 6th, 1997 – Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Attendance: 12,151

1997 is an amazing year for the WWF. Bret Hart was in the midst of a heated rivalry with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and basically all of America. Bret during this time period is one of my favorite characters of all time as he was beloved when they traveled to Canada and booed in the United States. On this show, in his home town, the main event was a big ten men tag team match. I remember loving this Pay-Per-View and I’m excited to see if it holds up. Fun fact, this is the last two hour In Your House Pay-Per-View. 

The opening video package is tremendous because it perfectly captures the WWF’s changing ways. The clean cut good guys, like Bret Hart, became the one who gets booed, while an anti-hero like Steve Austin is loved. The WWF was in a moral state of gray and it worked beautifully. Commentary is Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross, dressed as cowboys.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ Chyna vs. Mankind
About a month ago, Hunter won the King of the Ring by beating Mankind in the Finals. This was the start of Mankind showing his personality and not just being a lunatic. Before the bell we get a slugfest as this is going to be a straight up fight. He drops a leg across Hunter’s giant nose and nails the double arm DDT early, but it’s not his finisher so he doesn’t cover. He steals Hunter’s taunt and back body drops him outside. Classic Cactus Jack apron elbow and Jim Ross actually calls it that. Helmsley wants no more of this and goes to walk out but is caught on the ramp. He connects with a suplex on the ramp and the crowd is hot for this. Hunter tries a sunset flip but Mankind puts on the Mandible Claw! Chyna breaks it by leveling Mankind out of the referee’s view. Hunter reverses a whip outside and Chyna catches Mankind with a hip toss, sending his calf into the steel steps. CLASSIC FOLEY! The future “Cerebral Assassin” strikes the leg with a chair and starts to target it in the ring. Being a HUGE Ric Flair fan, Hunter applies a Figure Four, using the ropes for leverage. The referee breaks it so he goes for a Pedigree and Mankind counters. He’s pushed into the corner and falls out, right onto Hunter’s junk. MRS. FOLEY’S BABY BOY fires away with right hands and Hunter does the Shawn bump in the corner, getting hung up in the tree of woe. Mankind follows in with an elbow and an excellently old school pulling piledriver for a near fall. Mankind goes to use a chair but is stopped by the official before Chyna clotheslines him hard. Vince talks about Mankind’s physique, which, let’s be honest, isn’t the best. Hunter climbs to the top, not a strong point of his game and Mankind crotches him. Mandible Claw is in but again, Chyna trips him up. She has played a pivotal role here. Things spill outside and into the crowd when the bell rings.

Match ends in a double countout after 13:14
That was damn good. Everyone played their role well, including Chyna. It was a physical match with some great psychology and showed that these two were future major stars. ****

The fight is still going on through the crowd, even with Chyna involved. They fight to the back and the cameras end up losing them.

After some clips of the WWF’s week in Canada, Dok Hendrix goes to interview the Hart Foundation. He questions what will happen if they lose, so Bret says “Don’t be stupid” before Steve Austin tries to attack them all in the locker room. He’s held back and Bret says they don’t want five on one, they want five on five later.

The Great Sasuke vs. Taka Michinoku
See, the WCW was destroying the WWF with the cruiserweight division, so the WWF was trying to bring in a Light Heavyweight division. Before the match, Mankind and Helmsley are still brawling and come back into the arena. They follow the action until they leave and then the bell rings. These polite Japanese wrestlers are so nice. It starts with a basic feeling out process while commentary does a good job putting over Sasuke being a legend and Taka being a rookie. Taka manages to win out and works the arm before running right into a big spin kick. Sasuke locks on a gross looking half Boston crab. He bent Taka funny. He charges at Sasuke and gets sent outside, so Sasuke follows with a top rope kick. Sasuke kicks the hell out of Taka in the corner and Taka is wobbly. Taka catches a kick and wrenches in a dragon screw before leaping into a springboard plancha to the outside for a big hand from the appreciative crowd. He goes to suplex Sasuke in but it’s countered and Taka lands on his feet on a German suplex attempt. He gets a near fall with a hurricanrana but runs into a cartwheel back elbow. Asai moonsault from Sasuke and this is going much faster than I can type. AND I TYPE 75 WORDS PER MINUTE! A belly to belly suplex inside gets Taka two and he hits a running knee/springboard dropkick combination. MICHINOKU DRIVER but Sasuke kicks out. The crowd is completely into this after not caring at the start. He jumps from the top right into a front dropkick. Sasuke nails another Asai moonsault for two and then powerbombs him, followed by a dragon suplex. The flurry is enough.

Winner: The Great Sasuke in 10:00
Fast paced and a ton of fun. Both guys wanted to go out and win over the crowd. They accomplished that feat. ***3/4

Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley are STILL fighting around the arena. Even Chyna is involved. There are so many officials trying to break this up that I’m surprised the previous match even had one. They’re really making this look personal and the Steel Cage match they would have the following month makes total sense. Dok Hendrix interviews Vader and Uncle Paul Bearer. Paul had recently brought up the whole “you killed your family” stuff with The Undertaker that would lead to Kane. They go back to Vader defeating The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. I appreciate callbacks like that.

WWF Championship
The Undertaker (c) vs. Vader w/ Paul Bearer

Undertaker, using his new strike based offense, just dominates right after the bell, taking down Vader and earning a near fall with a leg drop. He goes up top for some early Old School getting another two count. Vader finally gets him down but he sits up because he rises from the dead. Big running clothesline from Undertaker gets two once again. Vader slows things down and shoulder blocks Undertaker down, and he can’t sit up this time. Undertaker fights back with two big boots, the second taking Vader over and out. Jim Ross calls The Undertaker arguably the greatest big man ever and that’s true, but Vader is up there. He whips the Champion into the steps, allowing Paul Bearer to trash talk him. Snapmare on the top turns the tide and Undertaker goes up top for a pretty flying clothesline. A big uppercut sends Vader outside again so Undertaker stalks Bearer, who waddles away. Vader attacks from behind and pounds away back inside. Vader jumps off the second rope with some sort of attack that gets a near fall. I’m not really sure what it was. We move to a rest hold but Undertaker fights out with a flurry of right hands, only to walk into a clothesline. SOUPBONES in the corner and Vader is reeling. The Chokeslam attempt is stopped with a low blow that doesn’t draw a DQ. Undertaker still goes for a Tombstone but it fails also. Vader goes to the second rope and prepares for the Vader Bomb but Undertaker is up and pays him back for the low blow with one of his own. From the second rope he delivers a big Chokeslam but Vader somehow gets his shoulder up. Undertaker picks him up and hits a second Chokeslam, which also only gets two. The Champion is tired of the Chokeslam not working, so he goes with the Tombstone, which does the trick.

Winner and Still WWF Champion: The Undertaker in 12:39
This was the opposite of the last match but in a good way. It was slower but it was exactly what it needed to be with two badass big men. Great big man match and it goes to show again that The Undertaker’s 1997 WWF Title reign is criminally underrated. ****

More clips of the weekend in Calgary is shown, this one focusing on how popular the Hart Foundation is. After a short video package, Dok Hendrix interviews the strange group that is the American team. Austin says nothing and just heads out. The crowd pops HARD when it is announced that the Canadian National Anthem will be sung before the match.

Ten Man Tag Team Match
The Hart Foundation vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock and the Legion of Doom

Each person gets their own entrance, and Steve Austin seems to relish his negative response. He comes out trash talking and hype. The Hart Foundation’s separate intros are a thing of beauty, which each pop getting insanely louder building up to Bret Hart. The crowd is absolutely RABID to say the least. Everybody goes face to face but its Austin and Hart who start out and get right into a fist fight at the bell. Bret backs him into the corner and stomps a mudhole in him as the crowd is losing their minds. Austin switches to MASSIVE heat and ends up stomping a mudhole in Bret. Million Dollar Dream is applied and Bret does the Survivor Series ’96 spot to nearly win. Great callback. Anvil gets the tag but eats a LOU THEZ PRESS, RIGHT HANDS! RIGHT HANDS! THE RATTLESNAKE STRIKES! Ken Shamrock enters and goes for the Ankle Lock but Pillman breaks it, to a big pop. You know, I think I would have enjoyed a Shamrock/Neidhart feud. Pillman gets the tag and the Foundation can do no wrong in the crowd’s eyes. Biting and spitting both draw huge cheers. Shamrock hits a belly to belly and Owen gets the tag, as does Goldust. Austin talks trash to the Hart Family outside, drawing “Austin Sucks” chants. Hawk comes in and misses a dropkick, so Owen tries the Sharpshooter but it’s broken up. British Bulldog tags in and nails the stalling vertical suplex for two. Bret and Goldust do some solid work for a bit and Goldust gets put in the tree of woe, allowing the Foundation to just completely jump him. More tags lead to Owen coming in for a spinning heel kick and missile dropkick. He kicks up and the place continues to go ballistic. Animal rallies with power moves and panders to the fans like an idiot. Doomsday Device hits but Anvil breaks it up. Everyone starts going at it in the ring and Austin gets in some cheap shots on Owen. He goes to use a chair but Bruce Hart stops him from the crowd. Bret yells that Owen is hurt and he’s helped to the back. Austin becomes the legal man and takes the gang warfare beat down in the corner. Pillman, with half of his ass hanging out, takes the Stunner so Bret brings Austin over and works his leg on the post the same way that Austin did to Owen. He uses a fire extinguisher on it and the vicious RING POST FIGURE FOUR! That’s heel Bret at his finest and Austin has to be taken back too. Animal and Neidhart get into a test of strength as we’re down to four on four. Shamrock comes in with Bret and tries to play to the crowd like a complete buffoon. A brawl ensues outside while Bulldog and Shamrock go at it, complete with a double bird from Bulldog. Shamrock realizes they are the heels tonight and goes with the low blow. Goldust gets the tag and hits a bulldog on the Bulldog, signaling a Dusty Rhodes like “If you will” from JR. Pillman breaks up the pin attempt and Bulldog nails a superplex for two. Huge boos are heard as Austin limps back to ringside. He gets the tag and so des Bret and they are just going at it. Austin wins and we get the trademark Bret bump in the corner. He rallies and nails his awesome backbreaker and second rope elbow for two. Sleeper from Bret is countered with a jawbreaker for a near fall. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter but Animal saves Austin. Now Austin locks in the Sharpshooter as Owen Hart limps out and makes the save to a THUNDEROUS POP. Bret tags him in and he spills outside with Austin. As Austin stomps on him in front of the Hart Family, Bruce throws beer on him so he goes after Stu. This leads to some of the brothers coming over and attacking Austin. As Austin is rolled back in, Owen rolls him up and scores the win!

Winners: The Hart Foundation in 24:31
That was amazing. The crowd was molten hot, the in-ring action never wavered, and the right team won. Just everything about this match is fantastic. You could not ask for a better match. The first ever perfect score I’ve given a match. *****

The brawl continues as the entire Hart Family comes in and clears Team Austin out. After they leave, Austin, ever the badass, returns alone with a steel chair but gets destroyed by the Hart Family. He is taken out in handcuffs by police. Shouldn’t it be Mounties though? After he is taken out, Stu, Helen and the rest of the family comes in, including a very young future Divas Champion in Natalya. 

Overall: 10/10; Perfect. There is, literally, nothing wrong with this Pay-Per-View. You get a hot opener, a better than expected light heavyweight match, a badass big man brawl for the WWF Title and a five star main event. The crowd helped the show as they were rabid all night long. Easily a top five Pay-Per-View in wrestling history. If you’ve never seen this show, you should do so this instant. I don’t think my next “Random Network Review” will be able to top this but it’s worth a shot. No Way Out 2008, you have a tough task ahead of you.