Thursday, November 5, 2015

Top Ten Thursday: Survivor Series Elimination Matches

Starting today, I will be bringing you a weekly top ten list based on various different topics. These will be personal top ten lists and not at all what some would call "definitive". If you disagree and have your own lists, please share in the comments section. Down the line, I will be taking requests as well. For starters, with the Survivor Series coming up, I'm going with the ten best traditional Survivor Series matches in the history of the PPV. That would mean that matches like the one from this past Monday on Raw is excluded.

10. The Bodydonnas vs. The Underdogs - 1995

Kicking things off is a match that is honestly overlooked. On a really good Survivor Series event, the show opened with a match that severely lacked star power. On the Bodydonnas team, you had Skip, Zip, Rad freaking Radford and the recently heel turned 1-2-3 Kid, while the Underdogs consisted of Marty Jannetty, Hakushi, Barry Horowitz and Bob Holly. That's not exactly a recipe for a great match. However, they managed to do their best to wow the audience and busted out some pretty impressive high flying moves. The highlight being a top rope powerbomb spot that honestly made me jump out of my seat. Considering the guys involved, it was obvious that the Kid would be the survivor in the end, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment. This is worth a look as a fun way to spend about 20 minutes.

9. The Dream Team vs. The Million Dollar Team - 1990

Not only was this a really good traditional Survivor Series match, but it also happens to be one of the most historic. Ted Dibiase's Million Dollar Team featured himself, Rhythm and Blues and a mystery partner that turned out to be the debuting Undertaker. Having him in this match made it more special because right from the start, he had a presence about him that was unmatched. You could see the reactions of some of the speechless audience members, while Undertaker was nailing each and every mannerism that he had to. The Dream Team was captained by Dusty Rhodes and featured the Hart Foundation and Koko B. Ware. Koko was eliminated quickly by the Undertaker, showing his dominance. Undertaker was gone via countout while attacking Dusty which protected him. The real gem of this match is the final few minutes when it comes down to Bret Hart and Ted Dibiase. Their exchange is pretty fantastic and was my favorite part of the entire Pay-Per-View in 1990.

8. Team Michaels vs. Team Yokozuna - 1995

We go back to 1995 for a match concept that was only executed one time. This was a "Wild Card" match, which meant that the faces and heels were mixed up. Shawn Michaels was partnered with Ahmed Johnson, British Bulldog and Sycho Sid with the latter two being heels. On Team Yokozuna, he had his partner Owen Hart, Dean Douglas and Razor Ramon, who was a face. That certainly made for an intriguing dynamic that we don't see often. Guys that were in feuds, like Razor and Dean, were on teams. It came into play when Dean got eliminated and something similar went down between Michaels and Sid. Sid ate Sweet Chin Music by mistake and Shawn kind of just shrugged. He would be the only guy eliminated from his team as well. There was a funny moment near the end as Bulldog broke up a pin for his team, seemingly forgetting that he was with them and then just celebrated with the win anyway. This was a unique match that turned out to be highly entertaining.

7. Team Foley vs. Team Ziggler - 2012

This match changed more than a few times during the build up and it was even originally set to be Team Foley vs. Team Punk. In the end, Team Ziggler featured Dolph himself, Damien Sandow, David Otunga (replacing an injured Cody Rhodes), Alberto Del Rio and Wade Barrett, while Team Foley had Randy Orton, Miz, Kofi Kingston and Team Hell No. Despite the strange build up and changes, the guys managed to deliver a really good match. The action was fast paced and it all worked well due to their chemistry with each other. In the end, Randy Orton was the last guy remaining for his team, down 2-1. He eliminated Del Rio and it came down to him against Ziggler. Ziggler picked up a big win by pinning Orton, which was the right call since he was Mr. Money in the Bank. The match had a fair amount of talent, everything made sense and it was pretty damn good.

6. Strike Force, the Young Stallions, the Fabulous Rougeaus, the Killer Bees and the British Bulldogs vs. The Hart Foundation, the Islanders, Demolition, the Bolsheviks and the Dream Team - 1987

1987 was the year of the inaugural Survivor Series Pay-Per-View event. The night was headlined by a massive match pitting Team Hulk Hogan against Team Andre the Giant. However, it was an absurdly large 20 man tag earlier in the evening that stole the show. It says something about the state of tag team wrestling in the era that there were ten legit teams that could all compete in one huge match. These weren't just any teams either as a few of these are Hall of Fame caliber. You would expect a match with so many moving parts to be a bit of a clusterfuck but that wasn't the case here. They managed to work a crisp match that went about 37 minutes, but seemed to move along quickly. The surviving teams in the end were the Killer Bees and the Young Stallions. If there is anything that you are going to watch from the first Survivor Series, I'd suggest this (though the entire show is good).

5. Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown - 2005

Following the brand split in 2002, we would go on to see plenty of incarnations of Raw vs. Smackdown tag matches. Not all took place at the Survivor Series (some being at the short lived Bragging Rights event), but this one did and it may be my favorite. Representing Raw was Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Kane, Chris Masters and Carlito while Smackdown was led by Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Bobby Lashley, JBL and World Champion Batista. Similar to the Wild Card match in 1995, this allowed for heels and faces to partner up, making for some interesting moments. The match was well executed where teams like Kane and Big Show worked together, we got a face to face between Masters and Lashley and it all came down to HBK. This made sense considering Michaels had a heroic comeback like performance two years earlier being down 3-1. This wasn't on the level of that night, but it followed a similar trend where Michaels eliminated two men and was left with Orton. A distraction from the already eliminated JBL allowed Orton to hit the RKO and win it for Smackdown. The most memorable thing is the Undertaker's return after the match, which is a shame because the match was really goo.

4. British Bulldog, Owen Hart and the New Rockers vs. Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon and the Godwins - 1996

Honestly, I can't recall many people talking about this when they mention the best traditional Survivor Series matches but I love this. Survivor Series 1996 is my second favorite Survivor Series event, behind only 2002. It starts with this match that I didn't have high expectations for. Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon were good but were void of personality, while Owen Hart and the British Bulldog were great. The other four guys were definite question marks. The Godwins might have had their best performance here, Leif Cassidy played his role of starting to heel it up well and Marty Jannetty did a goo job of selling and doing his part. After their efforts, the match really gets going. Furnas and Lafon go head to head with the Tag Team Champions and come out looking like stars. They busted out moves that wowed the New York crowd and survived against the champions. It never amounted to a Tag Team Title run for them, but for one night at least, a team was put over huge in the world's most famous arena.

3. Team Authority vs. Team Cena - 2014

The stakes were very high coming into this main event match. The Survivor Series 2014 card seemed to lack and didn't have many matches booked. Part of the reasons was that the company was missing some top guys. Randy Orton, Roman Reigns and Sheamus were all on the shelf, while Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose had a singles match. That set up some strange teams. The Authority were led by Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins, Kane, Mark Henry, the US Champion Rusev and a late addition, Luke Harper. John Cena struggled to find teammates because he's a terrible friend in kayfabe terms. However, he managed to get Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and late addition Erick Rowan. Going in, I didn't expect the match to be great but dammit it was. This was overbooking done incredibly well. Big Show turned heel for the hundredth time and knocked out Cena, leading to him getting eliminated. Show then walked out, leaving Ziggler of all people in a three on one deficit. Ziggler channeled his inner Shawn Michaels in a heroic rally that saw him eliminate two men, leaving him with Seth Rollins. Triple H and J&J Security got involved, only for Sting to make his WWE debut and save the day. That was something I never expected to see, which made this match all the more special. Ziggler would pin Seth and vanquish the Authority...for about a month.

2. Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff - 2003

On Team Bischoff, you have Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Christian, Scott Steiner and Mark Henry. On Team Austin, it's Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Booker T and the Dudley Boyz. Early on, this match followed the formula that we've come to expect from a traditional Survivor Series match most of the time. The guys that were getting eliminated early, (Scott Steiner, Mark Henry, Booker T and RVD) were given a chance to get in their stuff before going home. When it gets down to a three on on three match, the heels used shady tactics to send the Dudley Boyz home and leave Michaels alone. What happened next is how you expertly book the heroic comeback. Shawn takes a beating and does one of the better blade jobs I can remember. When he makes his comeback, it's not done in superhuman fashion. He doesn't just shrug off the damage and start taking people out. He hits Sweet Chin Music from out of nowhere and takes out Christian before using a fluke pin to get rid of Jericho. It's a desperate man on his last legs. The finish involves all kinds of shenanigans from Bischoff, Austin and then an appearance by Batista who ends up costing Shawn the match. The crowd was 100% into this and when Shawn finally can't get up in the end, the air is basically let out of the building. Extra props to Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for their performance during all of this. It's all so well done and is one of the best Survivor Series matches of all-time.

1. Team WCW vs. Team WWF - 2001

Considering how the entire Invasion angle was booked, I didn't expect this to be as great as it was. Granted, the talent was there. You had The Rock, Chris Jericho, Kane, Undertaker and Big Show on Team WWF, while Team WCW had Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam and Shane McMahon. Okay, so not everyone there is among the best workers, but they all lent something to the match that made almost every part of it feel unique. From the finisher barrage that sent Big Show home, to Undertaker and Kane being complete badasses to Jericho attacking the Rock after he was eliminated because he's selfish to Angle turning back on WCW, this had a lot of cool moments. It was tough for me to remember this fondly due to the booking before and after, but as a standalone match, it's fantastic. The final battle between Rock and Austin was great to see and was the last we'd really get until WrestleMania XIX. Team WWF would win, obviously, in a match that made 45 minutes fly by.

G1 Climax 24 Day Seven Review

G1 Climax 24 Day Seven
August 1st, 2014 | Tokyo, Japan

Man, this tournament has been phenomenal. Looking at the card, I see a match that was picked as the 2014 Match of the Year by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Despite my excitement for that, it looks like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada both have the night off, which is surprising considering the venue. This will be the first show that I watch using NJPW World, which I have to use on my PC. Therefore I won’t be writing the review as I watch and instead jotting down notes during it and writing up something after. Should be interesting.

Block A
Satoshi Kojima (4) vs. Shelton X Benjamin (8)

They started with a fun little back and forth. It featured both guys trying out wrestle each other, out power each other and then when they both got the upper hand, they taunted to the crowd. It was a fun game of one upping each other. Instead of doing the typical guardrail spot, Shelton back suplexed Kojima on it, which looked brutal. Shelton took on control until Satoshi busted out the big chop sequence. However, Shelton was able to cut off his big offense. They fought outside again, where Kojima hit a DDT out there. I preferred that much more to the apron DDT. It looked so much better. Back inside, Kojima hit a lariat to the back and went for another but ran into a superkick, which was cool. The finish comes from a lariat by Kojima.

Winner: Satoshi Kojima (6) in 10:11
I felt like this was a solid choice to open the show. The crowd was really hot, which would be the trend for the show. Their back and forth was fun throughout. My biggest gripe was that the finish kind of came out of nowhere and felt a bit anti-climactic. ***¼

Block B
Lance Archer (4) vs. Toru Yano (6)

Right from the start, Toru Yano and his trademark antics were in full effect. He ran around the ring and Archer gave chase, but it backfired on the big man and he was nearly counted out. Yano’s exposed buckle spot actually led to both guys getting hit by it. Archer stole Yano’s “RVD” taunt and the crowd was so into everything that they even chanted “LANCE AR-CHER” with it. Yano did his best Eddie Guerrero when he threw a chair to Archer to make it seem like he was going to cheat. It fails when Archer punched it into his face and hit his finisher.

Winner: Lance Archer (6) in 4:38
They kept this short, which really helped it. It was the usual Toru Yano fun and nothing more. Enjoyable but not what I would consider a top notch match. It was as good as I expected.**¼

Block B
Karl Anderson (4) vs. Yujiro Takahashi (4)

With both guys being in the Bullet Club, they “too sweet” each other. After an exchange, they go for it again but Takahashi heels it up by getting in a cheap shot. He wants another one but this time it was Anderson who got in a cheap shot. Fun stuff. The fans got behind Anderson partially because he’s really good, but probably also because Takahashi hasn’t been. They ended up in the corner and had a decent series of counters before Anderson ended up winning with the Gun Stun.

Winner: Karl Anderson (6) in 7:45
Decent little match here. It wasn’t as fun as the Yano fun, but still had its moments. Despite the match not being great, I got hints that there is a potentially good face somewhere in Karl Anderson. **½

Block A
Davey Boy Smith (4) vs. Doc Gallows (4)

IT’S DAVID HART SMITH VS. LUKE GALLOWS! Lots of matchups featuring people close to or tied in points. Throughout this tournament so far, Davey Boy Smith has been consistently solid while Doc Gallows has been consistently one of the lesser performers so far. They tried to battle power before Smith busted out an excellent stalling vertical suplex, complete with a flex. That is impressive considering the size of Gallows. When Gallows took over, it moved to a slower pace. The Gallows Pole only earned Doc a two count, before Smith picked up the win with the Sharpshooter.

Winner: Davey Boy Smith (6) in 10:08
As I noted, this was a slow paced match so it wasn’t very excited. It was smartly worked though, as they played into the strength of both guys. Gallows was allowed to be in control until Smith picked up the win. I do think it was cool to win with the Sharpshooter too. **½

Block B
Hirooki Goto (6) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4)

While he hasn’t been bad, I don’t think Hiroyoshi Tenzan has been great outside of the AJ Styles match. This started with just both guys hitting each other hard as they built towards the bigger offense. Tenzan nailed his wheel kick, which looked better than it would in 2015, but still came off weak. It wasn’t Viscera bad but it wasn’t very impressive. As they moved into countering each other, the fans get more into this. In a cool moment, Goto knocked him down and tried to pick him up but he was dead weight. Instead of continuing to try and lift him, Goto tried to pin him, which, while it didn’t work, I thought it was smart. They moved into a fun finishing sequence that surprised me when Tenzan won with the Anaconda Vice.

Winner: Hiroyoshi Tenzan (6) in 11:46
Best match of the night so far. Hiroyoshi Tenzan shut me up and went out and had another really good match. Their counters were well done, the action was hard hitting and they worked to have the crowd way into it. A thoroughly enjoyable match. ***¾

Block A
Bad Luck Fale (6) vs. Tomoaki Honma (0)

As usual, the fans were MOLTEN hot for Tomoaki Honma. This pairing worked well because Bad Lucky Fale got to be his destructive self and Tomoaki Honma had to make the comeback, which played into his strength. At one point, Honma knocked Fale outside and did his headbutt to a standing Fale, which was pretty great. The crowd pretty much bit on every single thing that Honma did, including each near fall. Honma even kicked out of the grenade, which gave the crowd hope, but he fell to the Bad Luck Fall.

Winner: Bad Luck Fale (8) in 6:40
The heat during this match was fantastic and, despite only going under seven minutes, it was damn good. They did a lot in the time and having the crowd be ungodly hot for Tomoaki Honma added to this. Their styles worked very well together. This is one of those matches that was short but didn’t need more time. ***½

Block B
Tetsuya Naito (8) vs. Togi Makabe (4)

I feel like this was an interesting matchup. You had the speed game of Tetsuya Naito against the vicious style of Togi Makabe. After a brief back and forth to start, this turned into Makabe taking control. He just pounded away on Naito, not allowing him to go into the high octane offense that he’s known for. He had Naito well scouted, countering some of his signature moves during his rallies. His corner dropkick and rebound attack were both stopped by Makabe, which I appreciated. Naito was resilient throughout, even trying to fight off the spider suplex. However, Makabe smashed his face into the ring post, which gave a sickening sound. The suplex and knee drop finished Naito off.

Winner: Togi Makabe (6) in 12:02
Honestly, I didn’t expect this to be as good as it ended up being. I wasn’t sure if they would click but they really did. Babyface Naito was so good at being resilient, but I think it would have worked a bit better if the crowd was more into him. They seemed to be behind Togi for the most part, making his comeback attempts kind of fall flat. Still, great work from both guys. ****

Block B
AJ Styles (6) vs. Minoru Suzuki (6)

Going into this, I had high expectations due to the high praise I had heard for this. They started with a face to face stare down that was pretty awesome in itself. They got right into it with AJ hitting his signature dropkick quickly. When they fought outside, I expected the typical guardrail spot, but instead, AJ leapt over and came back with his springboard punch which I appreciate. Suzuki, being the bad dude that he is, took the fight to the crowd and applied an armbar in a chair on AJ. The work he continually does throughout this match on the arm is fantastic and brutal in the best kind of way. When we got a ref bump, I was weary, especially when Taka Michinoku ran in. A few members of the Bullet Club and Suzuki Gun ran in, but they fought to the back, keeping that short. Suzuki is such a badass, that even when he takes AJ’s finger and works it, it looks vicious. Towards the end, they have a fantastic series of counters and strikes. During the strike battle, AJ more than holds his own despite only using his left hand. That is the kind of selling I wanted to see. The match comes to an end after a second Styles Clash.

Winner: AJ Styles (8) in 16:20
This is now officially my favorite match of the tournament. Everything about this was so good. Yea, there was interference but this was a match featuring the two leaders of two heel stables so it playing a factor made sense and at least it was kept short. The arm work is smart, brutal and they go back to it, with AJ’s selling being top notch. This is just fantastic, top notch pro wrestling. ****¾

Block A
Katsuyori Shibata (8) vs. Yuji Nagata (4)

Both of these guys have been having really good matches and Shibata has been one of my favorite people to watch during this entire thing. As you would expect, this was hard hitting from both guys. They fought outside and did the countout tease, but put a twist on it that other matches didn’t do. They traded massive shots outside until 19 and both barely got back in. Despite his age, Nagata laid into Shibata as hard as he got hit, making for some absolutely brutal exchanges. When Nagata applies the armbar, Shibata broke out and sold the effects well. They ended up in an exchange where Shibata just pounded on Nagata with a bunch of shots, but once Nagata hit him back, he fell instantly. Nagata would pull it out after two back suplexes.

Winner: Yuji Nagata (6) in 13:31
This show just continued to deliver. This was two hard hitting dudes just beating the hell out of each other. It was stiff and violent in the best possible way. Nagata playing the old man who doesn’t back down is great. Another fantastic performance from both guys. ****¼ 

Block A
Shinsuke Nakamura (8) vs. Tomohiro Ishii (6)

They went into a fun exchange early on the in match. When Nakamura gave a clean break, he offered a handshake but ate a slap instead. Both men missed their finishers early and had a bit of a stare down. Nakamura took control and kind of toyed with Ishii, which is obviously a mistake. When Ishii fired back at him, he hit him so hard that Nakamura was coughing like he had the flu. Nakamura went for the Boma Ye a while after but Ishii was ready and stopped it with a dropkick. The near falls that Ishii picked up were all heavily bought into by the fans, including one on a huge lariat. He had one lariat countered into an armbar, which was cool. The finish came when they went into a string of vicious strikes before Nakamura hit Boma Ye, only for Ishii to kick out at 1. That got a huge pop. Nakamura hit another one that ended things.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura (10) in 15:14
Another great match on this show, this one fitting as a main event. The hard hitting strikes, the counters, the near falls and the atmosphere all made this a great match. Both guys have consistently been delivering in the tournament and did so again here. Nakamura wins another one and is probably in contention for the MVP of the tournament so far. ****¼ 

Overall: 9/10. The first half of this show was solid but had nothing to go out of you way and see. The second half changed things completely. Everything after intermission was a blast as even the lowest post intermission score went to a really fun, short match. The fact that this show was as excellent as it was without two of the top stars in the company on it is a testament to the talent level in NJPW. There are four must see matches on this show, including the match of the tournament so far. Amazing show.

Block A Standings
Shinsuke Nakamura 10
Katsuyori Shibata 8
Shelton X Benjamin 8
Hiroshi Tanahashi 8
Bad Luck Fale 8
Tomohiro Ishii 6
Satoshi Kojima 6
Yuji Nagata 6
Davey Boy Smith Jr. 6
Doc Gallows 4
Tomoaki Honma 0

Block B Standings
Tetsuya Naito 8
Kazuchika Okada 8
AJ Styles 8
Minoru Suzuki 6
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 6
Hirooki Goto 6
Togi Makabe 6
Lance Archer 6
Toru Yano 6
Karl Anderson 6
Yujiro Takahashi 4