Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ultima Lucha Dos Part 3 Review

We get treated to a really good opening video package that recaps pretty much the entire season. We see what led us to the matches tonight, including the Trios Title, Mysterio/Puma, Azteca/Lotus, Taya/Ivelisse and the Lucha Underground Title contests.

Vampiro and Pentagon speak outside of a cave and Vampiro tells Pentagon that he says he has no fear, but fear was all he saw when Pentagon took on Matanza. He sends him into a cave where he fights against PHANTOM LUCHADORS! When that ends (complete with wonky light show), Pentagon fights Vampiro (in a Pentagon mask). Vampiro says that now he’s ready. The light must be extinguished by Pentagon Jr. so that Pentagon Dark can take his place.

Though he left at the end of part two, Vampiro is back for commentary here with Matt Striker.

Trios Championship: Aerostar, Drago and Fenix def. the Worldwide Underground (Jack Evans, Johnny Mundo and PJ Black) (c) in 11:47
The Worldwide Underground all getting the Mundo hair flying entrance treatment is great. This was the perfect choice for an opener. These guys all work at such a fast pace and that was abundant right at the start. Following a flurry of high impact aerial stuff from almost everyone, a strange subplot was thrown in about the referee being upset with not being taken seriously. He stopped the faces from diving outside and the heels mockingly overdid their tagging in and out. I thought this was going to end early as Aerostar hit a super destroyer on Mundo, dove out onto everyone outside and then Fenix hit a splash. There was another close call after a 450 splash but Evans pulled the referee out of the ring. After the champions all hit Fenix with their belts, Evans hilarious asked “RICK ARE YOU OKAY?” as he helped the official up. As the cheating champions neared a win, Angelico returned and whacked Mundo with his crutch. The challengers hit some insane dives, including a ridiculous springboard imploding somersault by Aerostar, before Angelico hit more crutch shots. Fenix scored with the Fenix Driver to win the titles. A really fun match. It featured non-stop action and a welcome return by Angelico, who has been missed. Historic moment too as Fenix becomes the first Triple Crown winner in Lucha Underground history. Plus, titles for Aerostar and Drago is really cool. ***½

Black Lotus and Dragon Azteca Jr. wrestled to a no contest in 4:03
It is the Lucha Underground debut for Black Lotus. She showed off some pretty cool offense in the short time given here. Azteca tried an awesome somersault dive and managed to mostly land on his feet despite missing. Lotus scored on a basement dropkick and fired off some kicks before running into a roaring elbow. As Azteca went for a top rope move, Pentagon Dark ran out and crotched him, leading to the no contest. Fine for the time it got, but the finish showed that this wasn’t really important. Azteca is a star though. **¼

Pentagon Jr. broke Lotus’ arm and hit Azteca with a package piledriver. Vampiro had a wide smile and did the Cero Miedo signal with his hand as Pentagon also broke Dragon’s arm. Vampiro formally introduced him on commentary as Pentagon Dark. After the break, Pentagon cut a promo about becoming more powerful than ever. By the way, I was never a huge fan of the name Pentagon Jr., but Pentagon Dark is just lame. This led to the title match going down right now and there must be a winner.

Lucha Underground Championship: Matanza Cueto (c) w/ Dario Cueto def. Pentagon Dark in 11:31
Pentagon immediately dove over and out onto Matanza before hitting choking him with a cable. Pentagon Dark has learned from Pentagon Jr.’s failure against Matanza because he just kept the offense coming, not giving Matanza any time to muster any momentum. Matanza’s attempts at offense saw him mostly flail at Pentagon. It was easily the most dominant performance against Matanza so far. Dario was great at ringside showing his desperation as he pleaded with Matanza to wake up. Finally, Pentagon went headfirst into a wedged steel chair to turn the tide. Matanza’s effortless standing moonsault and standing shooting star press are so impressive. Pentagon hit a Mexican destroyer on Matanza, which was insane to see. Vampiro brought out a barbed wire baseball bat for Pentagon. Dario ran in and shoved Pentagon, so he almost had his arm broken for that. The distraction allowed Matanza to hit Pentagon with the bat and retain with Wrath of the Gods. Good match that told exactly the story it needed to. Pentagon had gone where he needed to in order to beat the monster. However, I didn’t like the finish. It felt cheap and super anti-climactic. Plus, the title needs to be on Pentagon. He’s their most popular star and this was the perfect time to pull the trigger. ***½

The fans rightfully chanted bullshit. Vampiro got in the ring to check on Pentagon, who wanted no part of it and shoved Vampiro away. After a commercial break, Vampiro went back on his meds.

Taya def. Ivelisse in 6:46
According to Matt Striker, this was about being the official “baddest bitch in the building.” The ovation and chants for Ivelisse during her entrance were lovely. Off topic, but Ivelisse looked amazing here. They did a good job showcasing their hatred. Ivelisse went after her viciously and Taya hit a DDT onto an open chair outside. Ivelisse nailed a cross body off of the high guardrails around ringside. While fighting on the steps, both girls took a nasty spill to the floor below. Ivelisse hit a sick looking German and then a sunset flip bomb. As the referee counted, the lights went out. When they came up, he was gone and Catrina was behind Ivelisse. Catrina had a bit of a different look and planted Ivelisse with a Barbie crusher. The lights went out and back on and the referee was back. Taya hit a northern lights suplex into a double stomp to win. The match was good but we’re four for four in matches ending with some kind of shenanigans. I like that it sets up next season and I really liked the big step forward of the Ivelisse/Catrina feud that has been brewing for a very long time, but it still took away from this, while also making Taya out to be an afterthought. ***

The lights went out again and Taya’s gone and Catrina was back in the ring. She said that death comes for everyone, even Ivelisse before giving her the lick of death for the second straight Ultima Lucha in a row.

Rey Mysterio Jr. def. Prince Puma in 16:37
The dream match. The past vs. the future. It delivered. Puma and Rey shook hands before testing each other. Is Puma as good as the legend? Could Rey keep up with the benchmark of Lucha Underground? The crowd was split, chanting 323 and 619 (each guy’s home area code). They knew each other’s offense well from their time as a team as well Puma idolizing Rey and Rey knowing about Puma from Konnan. Puma hit some really big moves, including a sweet blue thunder bomb for two, but Rey always found a way to kick out. In a moment similar to Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair at WrestleMania 24 (Strike hammered the point home way too much though) Puma looked down on his idol and showed him love before attempting a 630. That allowed Rey to move and try the 619. Puma countered it only for Rey to counter back. The veteran hit the 619 and an awesome diving rana to score the win. This was a wonderfully told story and a great match to boot. They worked well together and everything they did made sense. I loved that Puma was kind of the better man, but Rey was wily enough to beat him. The fact that I don’t see many great Rey performances left made this all the more special. ****¼

After the match, Rey left Puma in the ring to be with his hometown fans and that was going to be the final image of season two. BUT WAIT! An angry Pentagon Dark attacked Vampiro with the barbed wire bat. He superkicked Matt Striker to take him out before grinding the bat on Vampiro’s bloodied forehead several times. As Vampiro sat there in in a pool of blood, Pentagon took to the microphone to say that he was now the master. He also took to wiping Vampiro’s blood and licking it off his hand, which was gross. I’m curious about where this goes, but not at all stoked about Pentagon’s booking.

The last shot we saw was Dario Cueto being arrested. He’s presumably in the back of a police car with the sirens and lights all around him. He then looks up at the camera and smiles.

Overall: 8/10. I think it’s nearly impossible for Lucha Underground to have a bad show. That being said, I’ll get the stuff I didn’t like out of the way. Lotus/Azteca was fine for what it was, but really just got thrown out to advance another angle. I’m unsure about the Pentagon Dark stuff as well as him losing. The biggest gripe with the show though was all of the interference and shenanigans. Still, four of the five matches are good to great and the show breezes by while being highly entertaining. I don't think Ultima Lucha Dos was quite as good as the original Ultima Lucha, but it still managed to be a strong set of shows with a solid ending.

NJPW Super J-Cup Night One Review

NJPW Super J-Cup 2016 Night One
July 20th, 2016 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

Unlike the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament, the Super J-Cup features junior heavyweights from around the world and not just NJPW. It has only happened in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2004 and 2009 before this year. Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoit), Jushin Thunder Liger and Naomichi Marufuji won the previous entries. Representatives from NJPW, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Dragon Gate, AJPW, CMLL, K-Dojo, Ryukyu Dragon and ROH will participate. I wasn’t a fan of them giving spots to LIDJ and Chaos as if they were separate companies but it got BUSHI and Will Ospreay, which I’m not mad about. Also unlike the BOTSJ, this isn’t round robin and is done in the more traditional tournament format.

Super J-Cup First Round: Matt Sydal (ROH) def. Kaji Tomato (K-Dojo) in 7:56
I’ll admit this is my first look at a lot of guys and Tomato is one of them. He is pretty out there and dances with tomato pom-poms in his entrance. I wasn’t a fan of Sydal as the ROH representative since he wrestles for NJPW a lot. I would have rather had ACH in this spot. Sydal got in the typical offense we’ve come to expect from him. Since he was new, I was more interested in Tomato, who seems like a fair amount of fun. He hit a weak tiger suplex so I liked that he picked Sydal back up to nail a better looking one at one point. Tomato did one of the quickest small packages I’ve ever seen but only got two. Sydal won with the Shooting Sydal Press shortly after. A fun little opener, but nothing to write home about. Tomato was enjoyable and so incredibly fast that he made this a blast. ***

Super J-Cup First Round: Kenoh (NOAH) def. Gurukun Mask (Ryukyu Dragon) in 11:33
Gurukun seemed pretty over as there was a sign for him and more than a few of his masks in the crowd. I read that he’s in his 40’s but you wouldn’t have been able to tell here. There was a spring to his step as he did some impressive things. Kenoh had someone at ringside that got involved, making it clear that he was the heel in this. Despite his age, Gurukun nailed a great looking dive to the outside. Kenoh went after the leg following that, continually trying for an ankle lock. After an exchange of stiff kicks, Gurukun came close to winning with a moonsault. Kenoh would not be denied though, hitting a flurry of offense including a dragon suplex, penalty kick and then finally the Ragou to advance. An improvement on the opener, but I would have liked more leg selling from Gurukun. ***¼

Super J-Cup First Round: Taichi (Suzuki-Gun/NOAH) def. Yuma Aoyagi (AJPW) in 11:47
I’ve never seen Aoyagi but have seen Taichi before. Taichi got a long entrance featuring a half-dressed woman, microphone stand and coming out through the crowd. He also stopped to make sure the commentary team could take photos of them. Tons of stalling from Taichi before and after the match began. Not in the entertaining Tetsuya Naito way either. Honestly, I got the feeling that Taichi didn’t seem to care much, while Aoyagi looked motivated. I read that he’s pretty new so I’m sure he wanted to make an impact. Taichi busted out all of the cheap heel stuff, while Aoyagi did a good job fighting from behind and picking up some close flash pins. Taichi put him away with a last ride in a match that felt longer than it actually was and that was all Taichi’s fault. I’d like to see more of Aoyagi down the line. *½ 

Super J-Cup First Round: Jushin Thunder Liger (NJPW) def. Eita (Dragon Gate) in 9:13
Former two-time winner Jushin Thunder Liger got the biggest pop of the show so far. Eita looked to make an early statement, dropkicking Liger during his entrance and then diving out onto him. Eita cut his eye early and it honestly added a great visual to the match. Liger got in all of his trademark stuff including a Brainbuster outside and Romero special, while Eita hit a spectacular looking dropkick. Eita put Liger into a Fujiwara arm bar and then a Numero-Uno but Liger was able to escape both. He rallied with Shotei and won after a second Brainbuster. I really wish this got more time, especially when Taichi got almost twelve minutes. I was kind of sad that Eita lost because he impressed me the most of anybody on the card so far. To be fair, this is Liger’s tournament and, despite being 51, he can still flat out go. Liger was motivated and had a really strong match here. With more time, it would have probably reached another level. Liger shook Eita’s hand after the bell and the fans gave him a nice hand. Dude deserved it. ***½

Super J-Cup First Round: Will Ospreay (NJPW/Chaos) def. Titan (CMLL) in 9:14
I still don’t get why Chaos and Los Ingobernables be Japon have their own representatives like they aren’t just from NJPW. Will Ospreay kissed the hand of a fan at ringside, who blushed uncontrollably. Outside of watching Tomato be a blur earlier, this was probably the quickest paced match on the show. Both guys impressed with their speed and athleticism. Ospreay nailed a shooting star press off the apron, while Titan hit a big top rope moonsault to the outside. Kudos to Ospreay for using the Sasuke Special, since Sasuke was in the original Super J-Cup. He went into a big flurry that included a phoenix splash before advancing with the Oscutter. Fun match here but nothing special. It was an aerial display from two badass high flyers. After the match, Ospreay brought Titan his country’s flag (much smaller than his own flag cape) and they showed each other respect. ***

Super J-Cup First Round: Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Suzuki-Gun/NOAH) def. BUSHI (LIDJ/NJPW) in 10:25
Both guys represented heel stables, making this an interesting matchup. Along with KUSHIDA, Kyle O’Reilly and Ospreay, I find BUSHI to be in the top tier of NJPW juniors, though his booking during the Best of the Super Juniors was way suspect. BUSHI attacked before the bell, but it backfired when he ran into a chair shot from Kanemaru. They fought into the crowd where we got suplexes and dives. It was certainly something different from the rest of the card. Unfortunately, that was where the match peaked. The stuff back in the ring never quite reached the interest level of the stuff outside of it. Despite BUSHI consistently giving top effort and being one of the most over guys in the tournament, he lost to a spinning Brainbuster. Disappointing result, but about what I expected from a performance standpoint. BUSHI deserves better. **¾

Super J-Cup First Round: Ryusuke Taguchi (NJPW) def. Daisuke Harada (NOAH) in 14:56
Oh man. Daisuke Harada, along with Atushi Kotoge and Taiji Ishimori, is one of my favorite guys in NOAH. Ryusuke Taguchi is among my least favorite guys in NJPW. During the BOTSJ, Taguchi was hit or miss, having some really good matches and some really Taguchi level matches. Here, I’d say he was in the middle. I love that Harada is a junior, but he’s a thick dude and he wrestles like one. He looked extremely motivated here. Taguchi went for ankle locks and ass based offense. Harada dropkicked him in the ass to stop it at one point. He also hit a double stomp on the apron, followed by a Death Valley driver on it leading to both men barely beating the count back in at nineteen. Once back inside, they traded ankle locks and Harada ended up kicking out of Dodon. That gave me hope but alas, he couldn’t kick out of Dodon Throne. Really solid match, though too much typical Taguchi at points. I just want Harada booked in NJPW more frequently. Dude is awesome. Not a fan of this result at all. Harada against anyone in the next round would be better. ***½ 

Super J-Cup First Round: KUSHIDA (NJPW) def. Taiji Ishimori (NOAH) in 16:25
I really wish Taiji Ishimori was booked against someone else. Dude deserved to advance. He and Harada are way more interesting than the likes of Taguchi and Taichi. KUSHIDA is the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion for those unaware and he has been for over seven months, making him the longest current reigning champion in NJPW. They started by grappling, which is a really underrated but very strong part of KUSHIDA’s game. It really felt like Ishimori brought his best for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion and KUSHIDA was his usual great self. I just have to say that KUSHIDA’s trademark somersault spot always scares me. I worry someone might not catch him correctly. He should never wrestle the Miz. Ishimori picked up a big near fall after a vicious lariat. He also had the best highlight with a sick moonsault powerslam off the top. Alas, NJPW sweeps their matches (outside of BUSHI) when KUSHIDA made Ishimori tap to the Hoverboard Lock. My favorite match of the night and further proof that NJPW needs more Ishimori. Hell, they need to swap out some of their guys for NOAH guys. KUSHIDA, O’Reilly, Fish, Ishimori, Kotoge, Harada, Ospreay, Ricochet, Kenoh and BUSHI sounds good to me. Really good back and forth from both guys. ***¾

Overall: 6.5/10. Considering the history of this tournament and the hype surrounding it, I think the first night was a bit of a disappointment. Granted, only one match is something I’d call bad (Taichi/Aoyagi), but nothing really sticks out. You get some strong matches (KUSHIDA/Ishimori, Taguchi/Harada and Liger/Eita) though none ever reach great territory. Add in the booking decisions that I disliked (BUSHI and Harada not advancing and the NJPW dominance) and you’ve got a middle of the pack start for the tournament.