Sunday, July 17, 2011

WWE Money in the Bank 2011

WWE Money in the Bank 2011
July 17th, 2011
Allstate Arena, Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 12,000 (Sellout)*

To say that there's a lot of hype and expectations going into tonight would be a gross understatement. After Punk lit the wrestling world on fire with several worked shoot promos on RAW, everyone and their mother with any interest in wrestling has suddenly perked up and started paying close attention to the future of one Phil Brooks. Throw in two Money in the Bank ladder matches, and we've got ourselves a very highly anticipated show. So without any further ado, let's get this bitch started.

We start with a very well done video package highlighting the Punk/Cena feud over the last few weeks and Punk's threat to take the title with him as he leaves the company, set to the sound of an ominous ticking clock. We open live from Chicago with a very nicely sized crowd, the arena looks nearly sold out.

Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett vs. Sin Cara vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater

Good idea to open the show with one of the MITB matches so you can have a good amount of time pass between the two matches so as not to burn out the crowd. This is the first ladder match for 6 out of the 8 guys here, most notably Sin Cara (aka the former Mistico). Oh my lord...Justin Gabriel comes out with some new music that sounds like a bad 90s boy band. Never fear, Heath Slater has equally atrocious new music. Good lord where do the WWE find these terrible bands to produce their theme songs? The bell rings and it's a total clusterfuck of chaos of course because there's eight guys in the ring. Kane clears the ring and goes for a ladder, but Daniel Bryan dropkicks it into him. Slater and Gabriel double dropkick the ladder into Bryan and fight over who's going to hit the ring. Slater sets up the ladder and boos reign down on him. I think that might be what they call "X-Pac heat". Gabriel tries climbing the ladder, but Bryan dropkicks him off it. Kane just goes off from here, tossing everyone around the ring like rag dolls and tossing ladders around everywhere. Cara (who's sporting traditional all-white Mistico colors) knocks Kane out while Daniel Bryan hits a crazy tope suicida on Barrett. Not to be outdone, here comes Gabriel with a somersault plancha! Slater hits a twisting pescado over the top next and then Cara flies off the top with a cross-body into Sheamus. Holy SHIT, that could have just been the craziest 20 seconds of a match I've ever seen in my entire life. Seriously, that was absolutely insane. Cara delivers the C4 suplex (Spanish Fly) off the top rope on Bryan and the crowd is giving all of these guys a standing ovation already. Cara goes for a ladder but Sheamus takes his head off with the Brogue Kick. A ladder gets set up between the ring and commentary table, and Sheamus powerbombs Cara right through the ladder! Crazy spot and the crowd goes ballistic for Sheamus as this crowd is practically frothing from the mouth it's so hot already. Medical personnel come out to escort Cara to the back on a stretcher, similar to what happened to Edge in the MITB match at Wrestlemania 23. Smart booking move there to take Cara out without having him look bad. Rhodes and Bryan, bitter rivals, team up to take on Kane momentarily before turning on each other. The former Corre members team up as well on Bryan and Rhodes tries to sneak up the ladder behind their backs, but get's caught. Bryan tries the same trick and pays for it as well. Slater and Gabriel climb up the ladder and trade blows before Rhodes knocks them both off and delivers the Cross Rhodes to Slater. Barrett yanks Cody down, so Rhodes gives him a Cross Rhodes as well. Sheamus finally puts Cody down with a Roderick Strong-like backbreaker. Sheamus lifts Bryan up on his shoulders and Kane clotheslines him from the top rope with a crazy Doomsday Device! Kane chokeslams Rhodes with one hand and then catches Gabriel off the top rope with another chokeslam. He sets a ladder up between the bottom rungs of the ladder in the middle of the ring and the corner turnbuckle as Bryan climbs up next to Kane on the ladder as a huge "Daniel Bryan!" chant breaks out. Bryan manages to take Kane out so he and Slater climb to the top and Slater takes him down with a sickening neckbreaker from the top of the ladder! This is just one absolutely insane spot after another, and I'm loving it. Sheamus and Barrett manage to propel Slater on top of the ladder from the corner and they launch Slater a good 15 feet in mid-air to the outside onto Kane! Sheamus cleans house, sets a ladder up on the top turnbuckle and launches Gabriel onto it before giving him the Brogue Kick. Sheamus nearly grabs the briefcase at the top of the ladder but Kane chokeslams him off the ladder onto the other ladder propped up in the corner! Gabriel hits Kane with a 450 splash from another ladder but he gets back up so Rhodes hits his sick leaping knee off the ladder onto him and Barrett gives Kane the WasteLand. Barrett delivers a pumphandle slam to Rhodes, but he fights back and sends him out of the ring as Bryan tries climbing the ladder now. Rhodes and Bryan fight to the top where Bryan locks a guillotine choke on Rhodes before sending him off the ladder as Barrett tries to steal the briefcase. He tries for the Waste Land on Bryan at the top of the ladder, but he fights it off with sick elbows and kicks Barrett off. Bryan climbs to the top....and PULLS THE FUCKING BRIEFCASE DOWN! BRYAN WINS! Massive pop for that one from this smark-heavy audience, I mean massive as Bryan is nearly in tears. Oh, official match time is 24:33. This was the craziest damned car-crash spotfest ladder match I think I've ever seen, I mean this was comparable to the original infamous trilogy of TLC matches ten years ago. I can't even do this match justice, and I'm already drained completely after this match. How can anything follow that? Bryan's win was incredibly shocking and hugely emotional, and that crowd popped for it like he was Shawn Michaels or something. The best ladder match in a long, long time and likely a serious contender for Match of the Year. ****¾

Backstage we see Vince McMahon arrive to the arena in a limo.

WWE Divas Title Match
Kelly Kelly
© vs. Brie Bella

Good choice to follow up that last match, give the fans a chance to catch their breath. Kelly quickly sends Brie to the floor and then jumps off the apron on both of the twins. Pardon me if I don't pay the most attention to this match, but I'm still recovering from the opener. This is the usual forgettable action you expect from the Diva's division, but it does atleast look like Kelly and Brie are putting forth some effort. Kelly finishes Brie off with a variation of the old Rocker Dropper at 4:59. Not awful and both women looked like they were putting forth some actual effort, so I won't be too harsh on them. **

Promo for Summerslam set to a Cee-Lo song.

Big Show vs. Mark Henry

This is being labeled the "Battle of the Behomoths", which is a nice way of saying it's likely to suck. This whole feud started when Big Show, enraged by being hit by a car from Alberto Del Rio, attacked Henry for no reason on Smackdown. This lit a fire under his Henry's ass as I guess it's time for Henry's annual failed main event push attempt. Slugfest to start with both men and the action quickly spills to the floor. Both men tease slamming the other through the Spanish announcer's table to no avail and Henry dropkicks the steps into Show's leg. Back in the ring Henry dominates with big boots. He applies a half Boston crab but Show gets to the ropes. Show is selling the knee very well again (he's really a great seller despite his average workrate) and he shockingly hits a flying shoulder block off the second rope. Henry answers by giving him the World's Strongest Slam, but Show kicks out, so he gives him another one and a pair of running splashes to get the win at 5:59. After the match Henry wraps a chair around Big Show's leg and then hits the biggest damn top-rope Vader Bomb I've ever seen as Show screams like his leg is broken as they have to stretcher him out. Much better than expected as a match, and Show's selling was top-notch again. A solid win for Henry if they're serious about giving him another shot in the main event picture. **

Backstage Vince McMahon is speaking with John Laurinaitis
when Josh Matthews walks up and asks McMahon if he re-signed CM Punk. McMahon says no and calls Punk the biggest ingrate he's ever met, as he claims to have offered him the most lucrative contract ever and Punk still shot him down. Before any feeble-minded people start getting crazy ideas, this is clearly all a part of the angle.

RAW Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Alberto Del Rio vs. Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz vs. R-Truth vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Jack Swagger vs. Evan Bourne

I suspect the placing of this second MITB match so early in the show may just lead to a cash-in attempt later tonight. Riley and gets a nice pop. Everyone grabs a ladder on their way to the ring. Everybody gangs up on Del Rio at the opening bell and everyone starts tossing ladders around all over the place. Del Rio and Mysterio get ladders thrown on them on the outside. Kofi and Bourne struggle over a ladder and Mysterio uses it as a launching pad to take Swagger to the floor with a hurricanrana. Everyone fights to the outside again and Kofi dives onto them from the top. Bourne one-ups him by coming off the top with a Shooting Star Press to wipe out everyone. Miz and Bourne get knocked off the top of the ladder by Del Rio and Miz starts screaming in pain, grabbing his knee. Del Rio and Truth scale the ladder and Mysterio and Bourne just climb right over them to the top before hitting a pair of beautiful simultaneous hurricanrans on both men off the ladder! Kofi springboards and leaps right over Swagger's head onto the ladder in a nifty spot, but Swagger pulls him down with the ankle lock. Swagger and Riley fight at the top until Truth knocks the ladder over and they go flying. Kofi uses a ladder set up in the corner almost like a trampoline to get more hangtime on the Boom Drop in another creative spot. Del Rio gets launched by Riley through the ropes and ladder like he was giving a tope to the Invisible Man as Truth uses a ladder on the apron to climb up back into the ring. Mysterio and Riley battle at the top of the ladder as Del Rio gives Truth an anziguri, and there must be four different ladders set up in the middle of the ring at this point asevery single man tries to grab the briefcase at the top of the ladders now. Del Rio is the first one sent off, face-first into a ladder. Bourne gets pushed over and flies onto the thinly padded ringside mats. Everyone else gets shoved off and Kingston is the last man standing and almost pulls down the briefcase, but Swagger sprints up the ladder to stop him and both men fold underneath a ladder with an absolutely sickening spot. Suddenly the Miz comes limping out to the ring, climbs with one leg up the ladder, but Mysterio takes him out with a sunset flip powerbomb off the ladder! Interesting to note that the crowd popped big for Miz's return, and booed Rey pretty heavily when he tried to stop him. He fights Miz off at the top but Del Rio meets him at the top and both men trade blows. Del Rio suddenly rips Mysterio's mask off! Mysterio crumbles to the mat, hiding his face as Del Rio falls over with his ladder because of the momentum in a slight botch of what clearly was supposed to be the finish, so a pissed off Del Rio sets up the ladder again and climbs it to pull down the briefcase and win at 15:54. Despite the shaky ending this was still another really fun MITB match that while definitely not on the same level as the opener, still delivered your standard high-spot ladder match goodness with a few creative spots thrown in to boot as well.

Backstage Josh Matthews asks Alberto Del Rio how he feels to have won the Money in the Bank briefcase. Del Rio says it doesn't matter because he already won a triple threat number one contender's match for the World title on RAW a few weeks back, but that tonight he just proved again how good he is.

World Heavyweight Title Match
Randy Orton © vs. Christian

Ah, the feud that never ends. Unlike other hyper-booked feuds in the past though this one actually has delivered a good-to-great match every time out. The big stipulation here is that the title can change hands on a disqualification. Pretty big pop for the heel Christian, which I guess you can just chalk up to the smark-heavy crowd. Cole actually sounds like a decent play-by-play man here going over the title histories and resumes of both men involved. Christian tries to bring a chair into the ring to start but Orton snatches it from him as Christian is already trying to get Orton DQed. Orton starts firing away forearms on Christian and gives him a big back-drop. The action spills to the floor and Orton sends Christian into the stairs. Back inside a second rope elbow smash gets Christian a near fall. They trade blows and Orton nearly wins with a roll-up, but Christian responds with a big spinebuster. Orton fights off the Killswitch and Orton takes Christian out to the floor with the Cactus clothesline. Christian escapes a quick RKO attempt and tries a missile dropkick, but Orton catches him with a jacknife cover for two. Christian counters out of the second-rope DDT attempt and tries for his leaping cross-body off the second rope, but is met with a dropkick by Orton. A beautiful diving headbutt from the top rope gets Christian another close near fall and this match is starting to find a nice groove by this point. They tease trying their finishers again and Orton tries for his usual comeback sequence, but Christian hits him with the Killswitch! Orton kicks out as the last possible moment however to Christian and the crowd's disbelief. Orton leap-frogs over Christian as he tries for the spear and then delivers his awesome signature gutwrench into a neckbreaker move. Orton teases the punt, but hits Christian with the second-rope DDT instead. Orton starts to do his Viper routine when Christian spits right in his face! That incenses Orton as he goes crazy with closed fists and then just nails Christian right in the nuts right in front of the ref, who calls for the bell to DQ Randy and give Christian his second World Heavyweight title at 12:20! After the match Orton goes on an angry rampage, giving Christian an RKO on the Spanish announcer's table (which doesn't break). He teases leaving but decides to return, make goofy faces like he's a mental patient, and give another RKO to Christian on the table that still won't break. Orton smashes his own head into the table as well just to put over that this guy is batshit crazy if you couldn't tell. Crowd popped big for Christian's title win, and I'm glad he's getting another reign with the title, even under auspicious circumstances. This was their usual excellent little match with all kinds of great counter sequences, but the icing on the cake was the well-booked finish which made Christian come off perfectly as the conniving, cowardly heel and puts Orton over even more as a badass (not to mention a nutcase). ***½

Skittles commercial, followed by another Summerslam promo. When we return to ringside a loud CM Punk chant has started up again for the 9000th time tonight. The fans have basically been intermittently chanting for Punk since the show started. We get another very well done video package highlighting Punk's incredible series of promos leading up to this match. To be perfectly honest, I'd consider both of the promos that Punk cut to be among the best that the WWE has ever seen. Those were up there in Piper/Rock territory.

WWE Title Match
John Cena
© vs. CM Punk

Here we go, the match that everyone has been waiting for and the culmination of one of the best angles that the WWE creative team has come up with in many years. There are literally thousands upon thousands of people chanting for Punk as the roof practically flies off the building. Punk even works in the "Clobberin' Time!" line on his way to the ring as he's sporting a nifty new custom shirt proclaiming him the "Best in the World". We literally wait probably a good 5 minutes here as the crowd just continues to give Punk an insane standing ovation, the likes of which you just simply do not see anymore in this day and age in the wrestling business. Cena gets massive heat too as you'd expect, the likes of which he probably hasn't seen since One Night Stand 2006, and that was in a much smaller venue. For once Cole is again actually doing a decent job as PBP man to put over how big and important of a match this is. The crowd chants "You can't wrestle!" at Cena early as he fights off a quick Anaconda Vice attempt and applies a side headlock. Both men tease hitting their finisher's on the other man early but both escape. A bulldog gets Cena only a one count and he goes right back to the headlock with a front chancery. Cena hits a powerslam and gets another quick near fall. Cena goes for the Attitude Adjustment, but Punk counters into a beautiful DDT. He wraps his legs around Cena's neck with a vicegrip. He tosses Cena to the floor and slaps a few fans hands at ringside. Punk hits a big knee drop off the top onto Cena on the ring apron as the crowd starts a loud "Colt Cabana!" chant (seriously Vince, fans have been chanting for Cabana all week on WWE TV, I hope you take notice of that). Back in the ring Cena moves out of Punk's way and Punk flies shoulder-first into the corner post. Punk applies a chinlock as dueling chants start up as many of the women and children in the crowd begin chanting for Cena against the massive army of smarks that make up most of the audience tonight. Punk hits a cross-body off the top on Cena and they fight to the apron, where Cena manages to suplex him over the top rope and to the floor in a fun spot. Back in the ring Cena hits a snap suplex and elbow drop for another near fall. Cena teases the AA again but settles for a big powerslam variation instead. The crowd does the cheer/boo with every punch thing for a bit until Cena applies an abdominal stretch of all things to Punk until Punk counters with a hip-toss and they clothesline each other at the same time. Both men trade close roll-ups and Cena hits his pumphandle slam and tries for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Punk kicks him in the face as he tries it and sends Cena to the floor, where Punk then wipes him out again with a huge tope suicida! Have I mentioned the crowd is red-hot? Blazing hot. We're in the molten magma stage almost. Punk misses a springboard cross-body back in the ring and Cena tries for the Attitude Adjustment, but Punk sort-of lands on his feet (more like his ass) and sweeps Cena's legs out from under him. Cena counters a GTS attempt with a gutwrench powerbomb, but Punk kicks out. Punk hits a pair of stiff running knees on Cena and then plants him with a bulldog. He hits a springboard clothesline when Punk gets back up, but it's Cena's turn to kick out at the last second. Cena locks Punk into the STF, but Punk manages to struggle to the bottom rope for the break. Punk hits a stiff kick right to the back of Cena's head, but again Cena kicks out. Punk tries a double axe-handle and Cena tries for the AA, but Punk escapes THAT and tries for the GTS, but Cena grabs onto his leg before he can finish the move and applies the STF again. He drags Punk back into the center of the ring and Punk is so close to tapping now, until he counters out into the Anaconda Vice! Cena stands up though and delivers the Attitude Adjustment, but Punk again kicks out! Massive, massive, massive pop for all of these near-falls because they all seem like they could end the match and win it for Cena at any second. This building is so electric it could supply power to a small continent. Cena goes to the top rope for his leg drop but Punk catches him and sort-of counters with a powerbomb, but yet AGAIN Cena kicks out! Punk tries for the GTS, but Cena escapes it and hangs Punk up on the top rope. This time he hits the big leg drop off the top rope, but guess what happens? Yep, Punk kicks out, again. These nearfalls are nearly giving me a heart attack at this point. Cena hits another Attitude Adjustment, but yet again Punk kicks out! The man just won't stay down! Cena tries for a top rope AA, but Punk counters with huge elbows and a frankensteiner from the top (for a moment the crowd and myself thought he was going for the Pepsi Plunge, and we all almost shit ourselves). Punk hits Cena with the GTS, but it sends Cena right out of the ring unfortuantely. Punk tosses Cena back into the ring when both Vince McMahon and John Laurinatis walk down the aisle to watch the match. Cena locks on the STF and Vince starts calling for the time keeper to ring the bell (Montreal referenece? Groundbreaking!) but Cena doesn't want to win that way. He goes back into the ring and eats another GTS from Punk and Punk gets the pin and the title at 33:37. To put it simply, this was incredible. Both guys seriously busted their asses off to deliver an epic action-packed match for over 30 minutes and I think it's safe to say that this is the best damned singles match Cena has ever had and maybe the best match that CM Punk has had during his entire WWE career. Add in the amazing atmosphere, the great booking, and the finish that's about to follow, and this is another easy Match of the Year candidate and the kind of wrestling match that will be remembered for many, many years to come.

After the match Punk briefly celebrates with the title before McMahon comandeers the King's headset and calls for Alberto Del Rio to come out and cash his MITB contract in on Punk. Del Rio runs down to the ring, but Punk lays him out with a right hand. Punk hops the guard rail and runs into the crowd as everyone in the crowd goes ballistic and Punk leaves the WWE with it's biggest and most prestigious title. We go off the air with Punk celebrating with fans in the crowd as Vince looks on from the ring in disbelief.

You know, as "smart marks" and as wrestling fans we're unfortunately prone to over-analyze things and be overly negative and pessimistic too often, but if you didn't have goosebumps tonight watching the way that crowd reacted to the main event, then you seriously need to re-analyze why exactly you're a wrestling fan to begin with. I've been a wrestling fan for nearly fifteen years and I've seen more wrestling than most people would ever need or want to, so I think you can trust me somewhat when I tell you that moments and angles like these just don't come around too often, so enjoy it everyone. Savor it. Because at some point, we'll be let down again, it's inevitable in this industry. But it's the moments, angles, and matches like those that took place on tonight's show that remind me why I love this damned form of entertainment so much to begin with. Until next time, take care (spike your hair).

Bottom Line: This, ladies and gentlemen, is your show of the year so far and will be damn near impossible to top as the year goes on I believe. We have not one, but TWO serious match of the year candidates on this card (both were nearly five star affairs), along with a few other very good midcard matches and the atmosphere tonight was absolutely electric even from just watching the show from home on PPV. This is your show of the year so far folks, and an obvious and enthusiastic Thumbs Up.

Rating: 10/10

*Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter September 12th, 2011 by Dave Meltzer

Sunday, July 10, 2011

TNA Destination X 2011

Another month, another TNA PPV. This time out however TNA has a lot of us actually very excited for one of their PPV offerings, with the all X-Division themed Destination X this year. Lots of good stuff on the card tonight including Styles/Daniels, RVD/Lynn, an Ultimate X match and several other excellent match-ups featuring good workers for once. Let's see if TNA can deliver what on paper looks like a slam-dunk show, shall we? Two things worth mentioning before we get started; first that tonight the six-sided ring makes it's return for one night only. Second, Taz couldn't make the show for some reason, so Jeremy Borash is replacing him on commentary (no complaints here!).

TNA Destination X 2011
July 10th, 2011
Impact Wrestling Zone, Orlando, Florida
Attendance: 1,400 +/-

We open the show with Abyss and Kendrick reciting their personal philosophies on life and combat in the opening hype video package. Just how I like to start my wrasslin' show, with Nietzsche quotes.

Your hosts are Mike Tenay and Jeremy Borash

Samoa Joe vs. Kazarian

Not a bad choice for the opener here, though many expected Joe to be thrown into the main event with AJ and Daniels. Kaz quickly hits the floor after Joe tries for the rear naked choke and Joe nails him with a forearm. Kaz tries a leaping kick off the apron but Joe nonchalantly walks out of the way and tosses him back inside. Joe hits a big boot and a senton back splash for two. Kaz blocks a Muscle Buster attempt by Joe and nails him with a huge springboard dropkick. He hits a springboard tornado DDT for a two count as the crowd starts to rally behind Joe (though I get the feeling they're "supposed" to be cheering Kaz here). He slingshots into the ring and plants Joe with another DDT, but again Joe gets the shoulder up. Kaz gets sent to the floor by a kick and Joe wipes him out with a tope suicida. Back inside Joe blocks the Fade to Black with a powerbomb and transitions right into the STF. Kaz gets the rope break so Joe tries for the Coquina Clutch and manages to sink it in this time, but again Kaz gets to the ropes. Joe tries for the Clutch again but Kaz rolls him up for the win at 11:21!

Winner: Kazarian @ 11:21
Rating: **3/4
- This was a solid opening contest, but I'm really not a fan of that finish, especially after Joe dominated so much of the match. Joe can't seem to buy a win these days in TNA, but I suppose it's better to do the J-O-B to someone talented like Kaz instead of to guys like Devon like Joe has been doing on Impact recently. Solid but unspectacular opener.

Backstage we see Christopher Daniels arriving to the building before cutting to footage from earlier today of Eric Young looking for a tag partner. Curry Man, Suicide, and Sangriento are all signing autographs. Shark Boy walks up and agrees to be Young's partner tonight. He's still rocking the Austin vest, by the way.

Doug Williams vs. Mark Haskins

Williams is out next to face his mystery opponent...who is announced as British indy star Mark Haskins. Well that was certainly a let down (the crowd chants "Who are you?" at him). Haskins apparently got this spot after impressing on the last TNA UK tour. Both men trade pinning cradle attempts and Williams escapes to the outside for a breather. Back inside Haskins leapfrogs over Williams and sends him outside again. He tries for a moonsault but Williams sweeps his legs out from under him, sending him crashing to the floor. Snap suplex on the floor by Williams. Back in the ring Haskins hits a sloppy missile dropkick. He nearly pins Williams with a backslide and then springboards off the second rope with a sloppy flying forearm. Williams tries for the Chaos Theory, but Haskins counters out and nails him with an ace crusher for another two count. Haskins misses a shooting star press off the top and Williams rolls him up for the pin at 7:43. After the match Williams shakes Haskins hand.

Winner: Doug Williams @ 7:43
Rating: **1/4
- Solid little debut for Haskins here, even though he was noticeably sloppy during a few points and the crowd was on his case for it from the get-go. Bit of a letdown as a "mystery opponent", but a solid little contest while it lasted despite the sloppiness.

Backstage So Cal Val is with The Greatest Man to Ever Live, Austin Aries. She asks him his strategy tonight and Aries flirts with her a bit. Aries says to all of the "true wrestling fans" (and also to the dastardly fans watching via illegal stream) that he's not just some spot monkey or guy who can do a bunch of flips, but that what he is is one of the most complete wrestlers in the industry tonight. He promises tonight will be a big night for both him and TNA.

Generation Me (Max Buck/Jeremy Buck) vs. Eric Young/Shark Boy

Quite the odd tag match here, but any chance we get to see Shark Boy Austin back on PPV is a good one in my book. Shark Boy and Jeremy start us off with Shark Boy dominating early with some Austin-esque right hands and elbows. Young tags in and eats an elbow from Jeremy, who quickly tags Max in. Max and Eric do some nice counter sequences and Shark Boy tags back in and literally bites a chunk out of Max's ass. The Bucks double-team Shark Boy behind the refs back. Standard heel double-team tactics from Gen Me as they isolate Shark Boy and take out Young on the apron before he can tag in. Young eventually gets the lukewarm tag and hands out belly-to-belly suplexes to the Brothers Buck. Slingshot facebuster from Jeremy on Young and he moonsaults out of the ring onto Shark Boy while Max nearly gets the 3 count in the ring on Eric. Shark Boy hits the Chummer on Max and Young finishes him off with a wheelbarrow suplex at 7:23.

Winners: Eric Young/Shark Boy @ 7:23
Rating: ** - Not much of a "bonus match" here and I'm shocked to see Generation Me job cleanly to Eric Young and Shark Boy of all people. Just a filler match really, and it came off like one.

Jeremy Borash reminds us of Daniels and Styles tag team title history together as we cut to the back where So Cal Val is with Zema Ion (better known as Shiima Xion to those that follow the US indy circuit). He says tonight is the biggest night of his career.

X-Division Title Number One Contender's Ultimate X Match
Alex Shelley vs. Shannon Moore vs. Amazing Red vs. Robbie E

Strange choice of match to use the Ultimate X gimmick on, as you'd think they'd use this for the contract match later tonight, but no complaints here as this should still be pretty good. Typical chaos to start with all four men quickly scrambling to climb the rafters before attacking one another. Moore cleans house on Shelley and Robbie quickly and then eats a headscissors from Red. Red pulls Robbie off the ropes and nails him with a spin kick. Robbie gets sent into the second turnbuckle with an STO by Shelley, who then dropkicks Shannon Moore on top of Robbie in the tree of woe position in the corner. Shelley tries scurrying across the cable, but Robbie drops him down quickly as Cookie screams on from ringside. Moore hits an Asai moonsault to Shelley on the floor as Red tries to grab the big red X. Moore pulls him down and sends Red into Shelley's mid-section in the corner. He uses Red as a launching pad to hit Shelley with a leg lariat in the corner, but Red turns it right around on him by using Moore as a launching pad to hit a shooting star press on Shelley. Robbie tries to climb the rafters but gets taken down by a flurry of stiff kicks from Red, who then goes flying over the top rope to the floor, wiping out Moore and Shelley with a corkscrew pescado! Robbie scurries across the cable again to try and grab the X, but Red sends him crashing to the mat with a springboard dropkick. Moore climbs all the way to the very top of the metal X structure as the crowd chants "Please don't die!" because of the height. Moore slowly makes his way to the middle of the structure while Red scurries on the ccables to the middle to meet him. Moore kicks Red's hands and sends him crashing to the mat, and a scurrying Shelley does the very same to him before unhooking the X to win the match at 10:40!

Winner: Alex Shelley @ 10:40
Rating: ***1/4
- This one ended rather abruptly and really should have been given another five to ten minutes to give it a chance to deliver a "classic" match, but the ten minutes we did get were very good and a big step up from the last Ultimate X match a few months back. Shelley deservedly gets the title shot and Chris Sabin comes out on the ramp to meet him after the match to celebrate.

Backstage So Cal Val gets a few words with Low Ki, looking quite dapper in a cheesy new jumpsuit, who promises to win the TNA contract tonight. We go to a video package highlighting how the latest Rob Van Dam/Jerry Lynn contest came to be booked tonight.

Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn

These two had one of the best rivalries in wrestling ten years ago in ECW, and it's been nearly ten years according to my admittedly brief research since they've faced one another, going back to a hardcore title match in the WWF in 2001. TNA tried to book this match for the ECW reunion show last year, but unfortunately Lynn injured himself the week before and had to pull out. Thank God we've got another excuse to book this match. Dueling chants to start as both men go into their trademark opening exchange, evading each other's lightning fast kicks and hold attempts. Lynn ducks a moonsault attempt from RVD who then sweeps his legs out from under him and works an armbar as JB references his famous Forever Hardcore documentary. Spinning heel kick from RVD and he tries to superplex Lynn but gets dropped onto the apron. He blocks a DDT attempt from Lynn and clotheslines him back into the ring. Both men miss elbow and leg drop attempts and they nip up again, so evenly matched yet again. I think it's safe to say the incredible chemistry between these two is still alive and well. Lynn is sent to the floor with a spinkick, and RVD holds the second rope down for Lynn to return to the ring in a sign of sportsmanship. RVD extends his hand, but Lynn tosses him out of the ring instead. Lynn seems to be playing the heel here, surprisingly. Somersault senton off the ring apron from Lynn wipes out Van Dam. Back inside Lynn gets a near fall as the crowd comes alive. RVD blocks a tornado DDT and tries a reverse DDT, but Lynn counters out of that and hits a big bridging German suplex for another near fall. Lynn complains about Earl Hebner's count and tries a hip-toss, but RVD counters and hits the Rolling Thunder. Lynn is sent to the floor again and he gets hung waist-first over the guardrail as RVD lands his signature spinning leg-drop off the ring apron and over the guardrail. He tosses Lynn back into the ring and takes too long to set up for the frog splash as Lynn sends him flying off the top rope and into the steel guardrail on the outside. Lynn tosses RVD back in and grabs a steel chair. Lynn ducks a Van Daminator attempt and Lynn drops the chair and plants RVD's face into it with a legdrop counter! RVD is busted open with a nasty cut above his right eye, but he fights off Lynn with the chair again. Lynn counters with a top rope sunset flip power-bomb that sends Van Dam halfway across the ring onto the steel chair again, but somehow Rob kicks out at two! Van Dam nails Lynn in the face with a spin-kick into the chair and then hits the Five Star Frog Splash to pin Lynn at 16:54!

Winner: Rob Van Dam @ 16:54
Rating: ***3/4
- This was just a small step below some of their better work in the past, but it was still an excellent contest that delivered everything you could have asked for from these two longtime rivals. Great counter-wrestling at a frenetic pace mixed with a few brutal spots elevated this to match of the night so far and easily Rob's best match in TNA in 2011.

Backstage So Cal Val talks to Jack Evans about the contract match later on tonight. He talks about how nervous he is to face his three opponents tonight and then quotes Eminem's "Lose Yourself" to pump himself up a bit.

Four Way Match for a TNA Contract
Austin Aries vs. Low Ki vs. Jack Evans vs. Zema Ion

Just to put over how much everyone is looking forward to this match and the return/debut of all of this great talent, the crowd starts a big "Everybody!" chant as the match starts, unable to only cheer for just one participant. Evans hits a big hurricanrana and spinkick for a quick nearfall before Low Ki takes out Ion for a quick near fall of his own. Aries tries to jump into the mix but eats a triple dropkick from all three of his opponents. Aries hops back in, escapes a backslide attempt and dropkicks Ion. Evans springboards back in the ring but eats a boot from Low Ki. Ki works a dragon sleeper on Evans while Aries works a Muta Lock on Ion in a neat moment, but Aries breaks up Low Ki's submission quickly. Both men trade stiff chops and Ki tries a bridging roll-up, but Evans breaks it up with a springboard senton! Ion hits the Hostile Takeover (Ion flips his opponent face-first onto his knee) but then takes a kneebreaker/discus elbow drop combo from Aries for a near fall that Ki breaks up. A hurricanrana from Evans sends Ki to the floor but Ion low-bridges him before he can dive out after him. Ion gets cut off on his dive attempt by an elbow from Aries too and finally Aries tries to dive out on Ki but gets met with a spinning kick instead from the man formerly known as Senshi/Kaval. Springboard spinning heel kick from Evans takes out Ki, but Aries takes him out with a spinning elbow as he tries to celebrate with a bit of dancing. The fans chant "Sign them all!" and I agree completely with the Impact Zone for once. Guillotine neckbreaker over the second rope on Ion from Aries, but he gets met with a handspring jumping pele kick from Low Ki before he can follow up! Evans springboards into the ring with a top-rope frankensteiner on Low Ki, but Ki kicks out so Evans calls for the 630, but Ion tosses him off and hits Ki with a 450 splash for a two count. Aries takes Ion out with an elbow drop and Evans goes for the 630 on Ki, who gets his knees up at the last second! Aries nails Ki with the brainbuster and pins him clean to win the TNA contract at 13:31!

Winner: Austin Aries @ 13:31
Rating: ***3/4
- This was balls-to-the-wall crazy non-stop action from bell to bell, which is exactly the concept that the X-Division and TNA itself originally sold itself on. There wasn't a moment to catch your breath here and while I'm excited that Aries won the contract, all of these men proved tonight they would be great additions to the roster. Excellent, signature X-Division action, which is exactly what was promised.

After the match So Cal Val comes down to ringside with a mic and asks Austin Aries how he feels about winning the contract, to which Aries responds "Were your surprised? I told you I was the greatest man that ever lived!". TNA made a great decision in giving Aries the contract win here, but TNA should absolutely look into signing the other three men in that match anyways if they're serious about rebuilding the X-Division.

TNA X-Division Title Match
© vs. Brian Kendrick

Abyss squashed Kendrick clean in less than five minutes a few weeks back so on the surface this wouldn't exactly seem like a blockbuster title match, but I'm a big fan of Kendrick's so him getting a title shot is never an issue in my book. Kendrick tries to utilize his speed advantage from the get-go, launching his body violently into Abyss with a cross-body that doesn't even startle the big man. Abyss tries for a choke-slam but Kendrick bites his fingers instead. Abyss grabs his copy of Sun Tzu's Art of War for some inspiration while Kendrick struggles to his feet in the corner. Kendrick responds with a big right hand and Abyss is busted open already. Big dropkick from Kendrick sends Abyss to the floor and he follows him out with a tope suicida into the guardrail. Kendrick hits a missile dropkick back in the ring for a two count. Abyss hits the Shock Treatment, but Kendrick kicks out. Kendrick gets sent into the ref as we have our first ref bump of the night and Eric Bischoff comes down to the ring to get in Kendrick's face. Kendrick nails him with a right hand which brings out Bully Ray, Gunner, and Scott Steiner to beat down Kendrick, which then prompts members of the X-Division to hit the ring to try and defend Kendrick (Amazing Red and Shark Boy among others). Nearly the entire X-Division hits the ring and it's a total Pier 6 brawl (I've always wanted to say that). Finally the ring is cleared and Kendrick counters a chokeslam into a victory roll and Hebner counts the 3 count from outside the ring to give Kendrick the title at 10:18! The whole X-Division hits the ring to celebrate with Kendrick as red confetti drops from the ceiling.

Winner: Brian Kendrick @ 10:18
Rating: **1/2
- They tried to have this come off as epic, but all it came off as was slightly above average at best. The huge brawl with half the roster towards the end of the match really killed any flow or momentum this match had going for it and the results made Kendrick's win look like a total fluke. Pretty disappointing, not that I was expecting a classic or anything.

AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels

We've got nearly 40 minutes left until the top of the hour, so this should get plenty of time to be the classic we're all hoping for (though many of us are still struggling to understand why Joe wasn't thrown into the mix to make this a three way). Daniels appears to have new music, so hopefully that means he won't disappear from TNA again after the PPV. Both men are respectful of one another's abilities to start, cautiously exchanging wrist and headlocks. They trade armdrags and hip-tosses, showing off how evenly matched they are. Both men show off their knowledge of one another's movesets by countering out of everything the other one tries. The only things that seems to work for either man are armdrags and dropkicks. Seriously, they just go back and forth with armdrags and armbars for probably the first ten minutes of the contest before Daniels takes out AJ on the floor with a dive off the apron, followed by a second big tope, this time over the top rope. A trio of backdrop suplexes back in the ring from Daniels nets him a two count. AJ sends Daniels to the floor next and wipes him out with a pescado on the floor again. Back in the ring AJ tries a Fujiwara armbar to little success. AJ hits a nasty snap suplex on Daniels onto the ring apron, nearly losing his footing in the process. He tries to springboard back in but Daniels knocks him off the ropes back to the floor. They trade cradle attempts back in the ring and Daniels rolls through into a deep crossface submission. Both men trade chops and AJ nails him with an enziguri. AJ slips off the top rope in a springboard attempt in a nasty spot and Daniels gets a two count off of it. AJ grabs Daniels off the top and delivers a huge Blue Thunder bomb, but Daniels kicks out and applies the Koji Clutch! AJ powers out of the hold but gets slammed off the top rope anyways and again manages to kick out. Daniels tried a quebrada but Styles moves and hits his trademark springboard backflip into a reverse DDT spot. Both men trade attempts at the Angel's Wings to no avail. AJ blocks the Best Moonsault Ever with his knees and then hits the Styles Clash on Daniels, but the Fallen Angel kicks out at the last second! Daniels blocks a springboard 450 splash and then hits AJ with the Angel's Wings, but it's Styles turn to kick out of a finisher this time. Daniels tries for the Angel's Wings from the top rope, but AJ back drops him instead. AJ hits the Spiral Tap off the top to pin Daniels at 28:24! After the match Daniels seems upset, but he still shakes AJ's hand as we go off the air.

Winner: AJ Styles @ 28:24
Rating: **** - Although not quite the classic I was hoping for, this was still an outstanding match up that built logically to bigger and bigger moves as the match progressed and was without a doubt the match of the evening. The fans calling out for the Spiral Tap before AJ was even close to hitting it was a bit depressing, but otherwise this was another excellent addition to archive of great matches these two have had with one another over the years.

That does it for the show as Tenay and JB plug the Mr. Anderson vs. Sting title match on Impact later this week as we go off the air.

Bottom Line: Probably the best and most consistent offering on PPV from TNA so far this year, and a potential candidate for PPV of the year for the company most likely by the time the end of the year rolls around. Almost everyone delivered here and while a few matches were a tad bit underwhelming based on pre-show expectations, the overall bulk of the show consisted of highly entertaining, hard fought contests showing off some of the best "X-Division" style talent in the world today. An easy and enthusiastic thumbs up here for Destination X.

Score: 8/10

PWG Card Subject to Change III 2011 (4/9/11)

PWG Card Subject to Change III 2011
April 9th, 2011
American Legion Post #308, Reseda, California
Attendance: Unknown

We're one month removed from the excellent DDT4 tag team tournament in the land of PWG, and tonight we've got several big matches booked. Claudio Castagnoli defends the PWG World title against Joey Ryan, Low Ki faces Akira Tozawa in a dream match of sorts, while the Young Bucks get a shot at the tag team titles against El Generico and Ricochet (replacing Paul London). Looks like another winner from PWG, so let's get to it.

We start out with Joey Ryan in the ring cutting a promo. He explains how he was a real World champion for PWG by defending the PWG title all over the globe, Ryan promises to win the title again tonight from Claudio Castagnoli and then joins Excalibur at the commentary table as we start the show.

Your hosts are Excalibur, Joey Ryan, and an assorted host of other color commentators though out the evening.

Johnny Yuma vs. Peter Avalon

Kevin Steen apparently couldn't make the show tonight, so there have been several change-ups in the card, this being one of them. This is an interesting match-up of two guys with two of the most grimy and perverted looks in pro wrestling today. Mostly fun comedy match stuff here with both men having a faux test of strength to start off before Yuma literally shoves Avalon's face into his ass several times with big blows. A sloppy superkick sends Avalon to the floor where Yuma meets him with a leg lariat and tosses him back inside. Avalon sends Yuma to the floor next and fakes a pescado beffore taking out Yuma with a moonsault off the apron. A double-underhook suplex back in the ring gets Avalon a two count. Doctor Bomb from Yuma gets him the same. Avalon hits a pair of shotgun knees on Yuma while he's hung up on the second rope and delivers a Tiger Driver, but again Yuma kicks out. Avalon counters into a sweet pumphandle suplex, but Yuma hits him off the ropes with the Sex Factor for the pin at 12:01. Very solid opener here from two relative newcomers to PWG. Avalon in particular really looked impressive in the closing stretch and Yuma's win seemed to come out of nowhere, but this was still fairly solid stuff. **¾

Candice LeRae vs. Portia Perez

Interesting women's match up here as LeRae faces off again a member of the same sex in singles action for once. Both women trade several arm-drags early on. Portia really plays up the Canadian heel role, jawing with the fans in-between beating down LeRae. Both women trade some very nice pin cradle attempts before wiping each other out with simultaneous clotheslines. Perez gets sent to the floor and LeRae meets her with a big tope suicida! Double axe-handle off the top back in the ring nets LeRae another two count. Another armdrag from LeRae and she rolls through into a back-slide cradle for the 3 count at 7:09. This was a quick, energetic, and really fun little women's match here between two very talented ladies. I wish they could have gotten a bit more time to build a better match, but this just flew by. **½

Roderick Strong vs. Willie Mack

This has got to be the biggest match of Mack's career to this point, and it says alot about how quickly he's impressed PWG officials in his short time with the company. Originally he was meant to face Brian Cage-Taylor, but plans fell through. Strong works a basic wristlock in the opening stages but it doesn't get him very far. Mack gets in some offense with a running spin kick and a Stinger splash in the corner. A dropkick sends Strong to the floor and Mack follows him out only to be shoved into the steel ring post. Strong jaws with some of the fans and this allows Mack to get in some big right hands while Strong fires away with his signature chops. Mack gets a backbreaker onto some chairs and Strong returns to the ring. Mack stumbles back in and manages to counter a suplex attempt into a huge snap suiplex of his own. Strong responds with more chops and a dropkick. Mack stuns Strong with a big exploder suplex and follows up with a slingshot dropkick in the corner for a two count. Both men trade forearms and Mack hits a creative northern lights suplex variation for another near fall. Both men trade forearms again and then Strong delivers a sickeningly stiff knee strike into Mack's face that nearly put him away. Strong brings Mack to the top rope and then delivers a crazy backbreaker onto the top turnbuckle, sending Mack crashing to the floor like yesterday's trash. Somehow Mack kicks out when Strong manages to drag him back in the ring. Mack escapes a Gibson driver attempt with a big Samoan drop and a crazy standing moonsault, but Strong kicks out. Roddy delivers a gutbuster and then transitions right into the Strong Hold, but Mack counters with a roll-up near fall. Finally a superkick and the Sick Kick put Mack away at 18:57. This was an excellent little match and a possible break-through performance by the young Willie Mack. He stood toe-to-toe with a former ROH World champ and 3-time PWG tag champ and didn't look out of place for a moment. One hell of a stiff and fun match. ***½

Low Ki vs. Akira Tozawa

So this is a hell of an intriguing match up on paper and I'm so glad Ki has become a PWG regular again since leaving the WWE. Tozawa's incredible US excursion should come to an end sometime soon by the time this review gets published, but this is another hell of a test in front of him here with the former PWG and ROH World champ Low Ki. Ki tries a legscissors to start but Tozawa quickly throws on a side headlock and goes into a fun back-and-forth with the crowd. Ki and Tozawa are evenly matched early on with each man able to scout and counter out of each other's signature moves. Low Ki asks for a microphone and says "You know damn well you ain't going to see that on WWE TV" to a round of applause and a PWG chant breaks out. Back to the match as Low Ki hands out some trademark chops and a twisting elbow drop. Ki keeps dishing out the ultra-stiff punishment with kicks and chops and Tozawa takes it all with a straight face, seemingly starting to earn Ki's respect. Tozawa sends Ki to the floor with a forearm and tries for a tope, but Ki cuts him off with a stiff kick to the side of his head. Ki goes back to the grinding mat-work but the crowd continues to rally behind Tozawa. Ki lays in more chops but Tozawa fights back with spirited elbows and forearms. Ki gets knocked out of the ring and Tozawa wipes him out with a big tope suicida before rolling him back into the ring for a near fall. Ki flips out of a German suplex attempt and double-stomps Tozawa, but Akira kicks out! Tozawa tries for a superplex but settles for a German suplex, which Ki yet again kicks out of. Ki misses a handspring back elbow but nails Tozawa with a dropkick, but instead of pinning him he gives him the huge double stomp off the top rope and then pins Tozawa at 20:40. Maybe not quite the MOTYC you might have hoped for, but still an excellent little match with all kinds of great counters, near falls, intensity and fluidity. Hot finish too. ***¾

Johnny Goodtime vs. Ryan Taylor

Goodtime starts things off dangerously with a huge somersault plancha out of the ring as Taylor makes his entrance to the ring. Portia Perez has joined commentary much to my delight. Back in the ring Goodtme sends Taylor to the floor again with a suplex, but gets cut off in a tope attempt with a scissors kick by Ryan. Taylor locks on a Muta lock and tosses his shirt off. Goodtime responds with a slingshot dropkick and attempts to German suplex Taylor off the ring apron to no avail. Taylor hits him with a tope suicida and flexes for the camera as Excalibur and Portia discuss comics on commentary. Back inside both men trade leg kicks. An enziguri and a falcon arrow get Goodtime a two count. Taylor counters with a lung-blower and saito suplex, but Goodtime kicks out at two this time. Taylor tries a crossface, but Goodtime escapes and plants him with a leg-hook DDT for the win at 15:54. This was about five minutes too long for these two guys honestly. This wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't very interesting or engaging either though. **

PWG World Title Match
Claudio Castagnoli
© vs. Joey Ryan

Yes, Joey Ryan is getting his twelve billionth title shot here, but this time it's deserved considering Ryan defeated Claudio in last year's Battle of Los Angeles tournament. Roderick Strong chats with Excalibur on commentary about medical marijuana while Claudio quickly overpowers Ryan in the opening stages of the match. Ryan tries some technical stuff but Claudio counters everything he hands out easily in the early going, stretching Ryan out in a modified surfboard that sends him out of the ring to catch his breath. Ryan goes back on his earlier promise to wrestle a clean match fairly quickly, poking Claudio in the eye and resorting to his usual cheap heel tactics after being initially frustrated by his inability to get anywhere with a technical, hold-based offensive approach. Ryan goes to work on Claudio's arm, slamming it into the ring apron but Claudio responds with a half Boston crab that sends Ryan into the fetal position wrapped around the bottom rope. Claudio tumbles to the floor from a low-bridge and Joey meets him with a tornado DDT off the ring apron onto the hardwood floor. Ryan counters a suplex attempt with a pedigree and then tries working a Fujiwara armbar on the big man briefly. Pop-up European uppercut from Claudio followed by the UFO and a stretch muffler submission attempt as Claudio really pours it on, but Ryan gets to the ropes again. Claudio goes for a bicycle kick, but Ryan moves out of the way and Claudio wipes out the referee instead. Ryan hits Claudio with the PWG title belt as another ref heads to the ring, but Claudio kicks out at two! Ryan sets a chair up in the corner and tries to send Claudio into it, but Castagnoli counters with another uppercut. Claudio hits a superkick and tries for the Ricola Bomb, but Ryan sends him shoulder-first into the chair in the corner and tries to lock on the Kimura submission Ryan has been using to submit people in recent months. Claudio won't go down though and he manages to power himself up to the top rope and then send Ryan flying across the ring with a top-rope fallaway slam! Claudio tries for another Ricola Bomb attempt, but Ryan counters and meets a springboarding Claudio with a stiff superkick for another near fall. Claudio ducks another superkick attempt and rolls through, locking on the stretch muffler submission yet again on Ryan, and this time he taps immediately at 24:04. Joey Ryan is a hit-or-miss kind of wrestler and most people realize this, but tonight was most definitely a hit for him as this was probably his best singles match in PWG in atleast a year's time. He quickly resorted to his trademark heel tactics and he and Claudio worked a very fun face/heel dynamic while still working hard and delivering a fun, up-tempo title match. ***¼

PWG World Tag Team Title Match
El Generico/Ricochet
© vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson)

Generico and Paul London are actually the champs, but London couldn't make the show for some reason and Ricochet is replacing him (Excalibur tells us that London is off doing "space business"). Good enough for me, Ricochet is amazing. The Bucks keep being introduced as the Bucks before correcting the ring announcer and proclaiming themselves "TNA's hottest tag team, Generation Me". The Bucks earned this title shot by winning the DDT4 tag team tournament last month (their second DDT4 trophy). Generico and Matt start off and Matt quickly is sent to the floor to re-group with his brother. Back in the ring Generico tosses him around with armdrags like a ragdoll and tags Ricochet in. Nick tags in as well and becomes the quick victim of some double-teaming by Generico and Ricochet. The Bucks respond with some double team tactics of their own, isolating Generico in their corner. Ricochet gets the hot tag and cleans house with hurricanranas and a cannonball senton. Ricochet's arm nearly gets taken off with a double-stomp off the top and he manages to kick out of everything Nick and Matt give to him. Back handspring back-rake from Matt nets the ultra-hip ironic "Holy shit!" chant from the fans in attendance. Ricochet plays babyface in peril for a good hot while until fighting off the Bucks with a pele kick and getting the hot tag to Generico. A lariat and a swinging DDT from Generico sends the Bucks to the floor and he fakes out a dive on them only for Ricochet to leap out from behind him with a crazy somersault plancha over the top rope and to the floor! Back in the ring Generico nearly wins it with a Michinoku Driver on Matt. Matt blocks a Yakuza kick allowing Nick to nail Generico with a superkick and take out Ricochet on the floor with a moonsault while Matt gets a close near fall on Generico. Generico gets power-bombed onto Nick's knees but the Bucks miss the Risky Business double-team in their follow up attempt and Ricochet tags back in. He takes out both Bucks with kicks but gets tossed to the floor. Generico tries for the top-rope brainbuster but gets dropped as well and Ricochet finally takes Matt down with a top rope frankensteiner. A Yakuza kick and a reverse hurricanrana on Matt from Ricochet and Generico followed by a 450 splash and a pin attempt that Nick is somehow able to break up. Nick low blows Generico behind the ref's back and nearly steals the titles, but Generico kicks out.Ricochet hits a huge shooting star press on Nick, but Matt places his brother's leg on the bottom rope and avoids a pescado from Generico. We hit the usual superkick overdrive PWG spot with the Bucks and they finish Ricochet off with More Bang For Your Buck to win the tag titles for the second time at 21:13. This was typically excellent tag team action from PWG, a company that prides itself on it's ability to throw together matches like these on the fly that always wind up delivering great action. Nearly as good as anything from last month's DDT4 tournament. ***¾

Bottom Line: This was probably the weakest PWG show I've seen on DVD in quite some time, and still there were several excellent contests to be found on this disc and nothing here was actively bad at all. There's nothing on this DVD that I think you need to go out of your way to check out, but at the same time I can't see anyone being upset with their purchase if they picked this DVD up anyways. Another Thumbs Up.

Score: 7/10

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pro Wrestling ZERO1 10 Years & A Rebirth (10th Anniversary Show) 3/6/11

Pro Wrestling ZERO1 10 Years & A Rebirth (10th Anniversary Show)
March 6th, 2011
"Sumo Hall" Ryogoku Kokugikan, Ryogoku, Japan
Attendance: 8,000-13,000 +/-

So here's something new in my review canon, a ZERO-1 show. I've been a fan of this promotion for several years now and was more than happy to take a look at their 10th anniversary show this year, featuring the wrestling debut of the late Shinya Hashimoto's son, Daichi Hashimoto.

We open the show with Shinjiro Ohtani coming out to welcome everyone to the ten year anniversary show for Zero-1. Afterwards we see an excellent video package highlighting the history of the promotion and the contributions by stars such as Shinya Hashimoto, Masato Tanaka, Shinjiro Ohtani, and Ryouji Sai.

NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
Craig Classic
© vs. Munenori Sawa

Classic is a longtime staple of the Florida independent scene in the United States before getting booked by Zero-1, while Sawa is one of the very best junior heavyweight freelancers in Japan today, usually to be found in the BattlArts promotion. Both guys start off in pure shoot style, slapping and striking away at one another with fists and kicks in the corner. They trade leg-holds on the mat and Sawa get's a rope break. Back on the mat they trade forearms briefly. Sawa sends Craig to the floor with a forearm, but Classic cuts off his tope attempt with a forearm and then delivers a tope suicida of his own to Sawa on the thinly padded floor. Sawa nails him with a spinning enziguri for a two count, and a leg lariat nets him the same result. Classic applies the Brock Lock briefly but Sawa gets the rope break. A pair of German suplexes get Classic another near fall before Sawa starts getting fired up and nails him with a Shining Wizard. They spend a lot of time trying to apply an octopus lock on one another, but in the end Classic simply pins Sawa with a roll-up at 11:47. This was a fun opening contest here between two very talented junior heavyweights just getting to do their thing to get the show started. Lots of great mat and counter submission wrestling between these two. ***

Fujita "Jr." Hayato/Shota Takanashi/Kenta Kakinuma/Diamond Konley/Nick Primo vs. Shiro Koshinaka/Shito Ueda/Yoshikazu Yokoyama/Zuffa/Buffa

For those unfamiliar with Fujita Hayato, you're in for a treat if you're watching this show. Which you totally should be. This is a pretty crazy random eight man tag here and I have to admit I'm not familiar with Yokoyama, Ueda, Takanashi, and Kakinuma. Everyone else I recognize from reading or sight. Yes, there's really a wrestler named idea if it's a rib on the UFC or not. As you might expect it's utter chaos from the bell with all eight men brawling in and out of the ring immediately. Hayato and Koshinkaka exchange strikes in the spotlight momentarily before brawling to the floor. Things settle down into a regular tag match eventually, but not a particularly memorable one. Hayato comes back in eventually to kick all kinds of ass before Koshinaka gets the hot tag and goes all Dusty Rhodes on them with ass bumps off the top rope and into the corner. The whole team gets a chance beating up on Hayato in the corner briefly. Zuffa and Buffa do some nifty double team work that leads them into a wacky eight man suplex spot that they nearly botch. As if we hadn't filled our quota of tower of doom spots, they do another one out of the corner of the powerbomb/superplex variety while a few spare bodies take out whoever's left standing with planchas on the floor. Buffa hits a 450 splash for a two count and everyone brawls to the floor again. Kakinuma grabs Buffa and delivers a German suplex for the win at 11:02. This was absolutely wild, I had low expectations for such a random gathering of workers on what looked like a filler spot on the card, but everybody worked really hard and they went above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a fast paced, high-flying and entertaining contest. ***

NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Title Match
Takuya Sugawara/Kaijin Habu Otoko
© vs. Minoru Fujita/Mineo Fujita

Zero-1, much like many lucha libre promotions, seem to suffer from the "way too many fucking titles to keep track of" syndrome. God bless the NWA, they're still trying aren't they. Lots of brawling to start before things settle down with Mineo and Otoko doing a nice leapfrog/leg lariat sequence. The Fujita boys team up on Otoko for a bit but wind up getting double-clotheslined. Mineo flips out of a German attempt and sends Otoko to the floor with a headscissors before leaping out after him with a somersault plancha on the outside. Back in the ring Mineo gets a near fall on Otoko. Otoko responds with some suplexes and an ankle lock, which Mineo breaks up with an enziguri. Sugawara and Minoru tag in and Sugawara hits an ace crusher for a two count. Sugawara hits a nice moonsault off the top rope for another close pin on Minoru. A refreshed Otoko tags back in but gets quickly put down by the Fujita boys again. Mineo nearly wins the titles with a senton off the top but the ref's pin count get's broken up. Sugawara grabs a metal box of some kind and threatens to use it but the ref takes it out of his hands....and then hits Minoru with the box! Otoko finishes Mineo off with a frog splash off the top at 15:26. This was a rather chaotic match and the finish seemed to come out of nowhere, but most of the action was fairly engaging. Nothing special though. **½

ZERO1 International Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
Ikuto Hidaka
© vs. Takafumi Ito

Hidaka is another longtime veteran and staple of Zero-1, and has helped solidify the promotion's junior heavyweight division as one of the best in Japan over the last decade. Ito is a veteran Pancrase shoot fighter, so this is an intriguing little match up. If you weren't aware, Japanese promotions love to book wrestlers against legit MMA guys in worked wrestling matches. Ito tries a quick headlock to start but it's broken up quickly. Ito has a crazy fighting stance going on right now, and each man trades a waistlock with each other. Ito grabs Hidaka into a clinch and then takes him to the mat. They wrestle into the ropes and then begin exchanging slaps on the outside floor. Hidaka hits a nice running knee strike but Ito grabs his leg and tries for a leg lock. He tries a rear naked choke but Hidaka grabs the rope. Ito delivers a sweet victory roll much to my surprise before grabbing Hidaka's arm and rolling into a cross armbreaker submission. Hidaka escapes and locks on a deadly figure four for an extended period before hopping right back up and walking into a rear naked choke from ito! Hidaka nearly gets choked out but manages to get a foot on the ropes. Tiger suplex from Hidaka doesn't manage to put Ito away so he tries to out-strike him as both men trade a seemingly neverending flurry of kicks and strikes. Hidaka clearly takes the upper hand from here, evading strike attempts from ito and then putting him out for good with a few deadly spinning kicks to retain his title at 11:18. This one started a bit slow and awkward and I was unsure of how Ito would mesh with Hidaka, but they quickly established a hectic pace and by the time we got to the ultra stiff strike exchanges at the end, I was sold. These kinds of MMA vs. pro wrestling matches are always fairly good if worked right, and this is a pretty good example of that. ***

NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Title Match
© vs. Atsushi Sawada/Steve Corino

Corino is supposed to be a surprise partner for Sawada, but the crowd doesn't seem very shocked to see him. Corino made a big name for himself in this promotion over the last ten years, so it's nice to see him return here before he decides to ultimately retire for good. Sato and KAMIKAZE are immediately attacked by Corino and Sawada before they can even get into the ring, and we're off. Sawada and Corino take the upper hand rather quickly, taunting the crowd while putting the boots to KAMIKAZE in the corner and tossing a chair in his face while the crowd boos them to the high heavens. Things settle down into a more standard match with Sawada and Corino trading quick tags and isolating KAMIKAZE in the midst of an epic beatdown. Huge DDT from Corino and he keeps playing to the crowd, which is surprising considering the style he works when he's in the States. Corino fights off a pissed off Sato and rolls KAMIKAZE up for a close near fall. A discus lariat won't put KAMIKAZE away either, so Sawada hops in to double-team him with Corino. Northern lights bomb won't do it either, so Sato jumps in and starts handing out German suplexes like candy. Delicious, neck-breaking candy. The referee in this match is apparently heel by the way because he refuses to count a clean three count for a rejuvenated KAMIKAZE at first, but after a few slams a moonsault from Sato he has no choice but to count the three so the champs can retain at 14:12. This was a strange match, half old-school Southern tag formula and half new-school Zero-1 trickery. Corino looked fired up and this flew by for the most part, but it was never terribly exciting. **½

Just to put over how big of a show this is and how big a deal the debut of young Daichi is tonight, the ring announcer next introduces none other than Keiji Mutoh himself to join the commentary booth for the big debut match. To hype Daichi's debut we get a heart-string pulling video package highlighting how important tonight is for Daichi and the connection he and his father had with one another. Pretty big shoes to fill for the kid, but it's hard not to like him as soon as you see him and what he's all about.

Daichi Hashimoto vs. Masahiro Chono

This is the big selling point to this whole show here as the 19 year old son of the late legendary Shinya Hashimoto makes his debut tonight in Zero1, the promotion his father founded ten years ago. And what a debut opponent he has in his un-official "uncle" Masahiro Chono, who along with Mutoh and Daichi's father were a legendary trio known fondly as the Three Musketeers. Big pop for Daichi and we've got a serious "big match" atmosphere going on right from the bell. Daichi is cautious to start and quickly gets taken down with a shoulder-block in his first real exchange with Chono. They exchange wristlocks and come to a dead-lock in the ropes, where Daichi suddenly slaps Chono in the face! Who does this punk kid think he is?! Daichi lays in some huge kicks into Chono in the corner and the referee has to break it up as the young Daichi has clearly found his confidence and lays another huge kick into Chono for a near fall. Chono responds with a spinning heel kick of his own and sends Daichi out of the ring, where he gives him a cradle piledriver on the thinly padded floor! Shinjiro Ohtai and Ikuto Hidaka among other Zero1 wrestlers are on the floor to support Daichi and are able to get him back in the ring before the count of twenty. Unfortunately Chono immediately meets him with another big cradle piledriver back in the ring, but miraculously he kicks out and fires off a few more spin kicks. Daichi applies a deep rear naked choke to little success so he goes back to a pair of spinning heel kicks again. Chono responds with a pair of Shining Wizards and a huge headbutt before locking on the STF hold! Daichi is able to withstand the pain briefly before Chono really cranks away at it and the young Hashimoto has to tap at 13:04! After the match Chono gets on the mic and calls Mutoh into the ring with them and they shake hands and pose for photos as a trio. This was one hell of a pro wrestling debut for the young Daichi as he was made to look like an elite wrestler from the get-go, though one that was still obviously raw and unsure of his strategy in the ring. The simple rookie mistakes put Daichi away against the veteran Chono, as it should be, but for a while he brought a ton of fire and intensity into the building the likes of which I haven't seen since his late father passed away. He's got the signature lightning-fast kicks just like his dad too. Great debut for Daichi and a hell of a little match in it's own right. ***½

After the match we get the full press conference post-match interview deal backstage with Daichi, Chono, and Mutoh. After a short Q&A we cut to the commentators, who run down the rest of the card.

Masato Tanaka vs. Yuji Nagata

If I had a nickel for every time these two have faced off over the last few years, I'd have quite a few nickels. Both of these guys are middle aged and still in better ring shape than half the wrestlers you'll ever meet. They start with some basic feeling-out holds in the early going (headlock, legscissors, wristlock, etc). The fight spills to the floor and Tanaka gets sent into the steel post and then knee-dropped onto a nearby table. Back in the ring both men begin trading forearms and knee strikes, an exchange which Nagata wins soundly. Nagata goes to work on Tanaka's leg now with a spinning leg-lock. Both men trade forearms again and Tanaka starts to find some momentum. He tosses Nagata face-first into a table at ringside and then sets Nagata up on it so that he can dive off the top rope with a huge splash on Nagata through the table! Tanaka brings him into the ring but Nagata is riught back up on his feet, meeting Tanaka at the top rope before Masato flips over him and plants him with a sunset flip powerbomb. He follows up with a frog splash, but Nagata kicks out at two. Spinning slingshot suplex from Nagata on Tanaka and Nagata is right back in it. Tanaka responds with a huge brainbuster, but Nagata fires right back with a brainbuster of his own! Both men trade boots and Nagata hits an exploders suplex for a near fall. Tanaka hits the Diamond Dust and follows up with a lariat and running elbow, but Nagata fires right back up. Exploder suplex off the top rope from Nagata followed by a running knee and a Saito suplex, but somehow Tanaka kicks out this time. Tanaka rolls through a suplex attempt but winds up in a nasty armbar from Nagata, who's so intense and insane that his eyes roll into the back of his fucking head while he rips away on Tanaka's arm like a Gracie. Nobody has better intense facial expressions in the business today than Yuji Nagata. Big lariat from Tanaka and a pair of sliding elbow shots is enough to finally put Nagata away at 18:22. Just another great little chapter in the neverending rivalry between these two men. These are two guys that just have intense chemistry together, so every time they go out there they wind up delivering the battle you expect from them. Good stuff. ***½

ZERO1 World Heavyweight Title Match
Daisuke Sekimoto
© vs. Ryouji Sai

Sekimoto is best known as the undisputed ace of Big Japan Pro Wrestling these days, but he works in so many other promotions that it's sometimes easy to forget that. He won the ZERO1 World title back in the fall of 2010. Sai immediately gets into my good graces by using the Offspring's "The Kids Aren't Alright" as his theme music (speaking of which, wouldn't "Americana" from that same album make a great theme song?), but he's already a former ZERO1 World champion and he's been a huge part of this promotion over the last decade so he's a serious threat to Sekimoto's title. Basic headlock and shoulder-block exchangers to start off and Sekimoto stretches Sai out early with the old bow and arrow submission. He slams him next and tries a half Boston crab briefly. They trade chops and kicks back on their feet but Sekimoto lifts Sai into a torture rack momentarily. Sai finally starts firing off some offense with a suplex and knee strikes, but he walks right into a running lariat and a towering German suplex from Sekimoto for a close two count. Pele kick from Sekimoto and a brainbuster get him another near fall. Sai manages to superplex Sekimoto, but he gets his shoulder up at two. A Blue Thunder bomb and a double-stomp off the top rope net Sai another close two count, but Sekimoto fires back with a deadly stiff lariat. An everest German suplex from Sekimoto nearly puts Sai away, but again Ryouji kicks out and fights back. Another double stomp results in another Sekimoto kick out. A third double-stomp however is enough to put Sekimoto away and give Sai the title at 14:50. While not quite the epic main event level match I was hoping for, this was still a hard fought and fun title match that sees one of the backbones of the company kick start a second World title reign to bring Zero1 into their second decade of existence. ***

Yoshihiro Takayama
vs. Shinjiro Otani

Oh yes, now this is how you cap off a supercard of sorts. I'm a massive mark for Takayama and Otani (or Ohtani, however the hell you want to spell it) is a legend in his own right (not to mention the acting president of the company). Lock-up to start and both men have a clean break. Takayama works a side headlock for a bit and then switches to forearm strikes, which Otani quickly breaks up. Takayama ties him up in the tree of woe position in the corner and then slams several knees into him. Takayama fires some kicks off into Otani but they only seem to energize him as he goes into Otani-Hulk mode. Spinning heel kick from Otani allows him enough time to deliver his infamous boot face-wash spot in the corner, complete with skipping and a missile dropkick to cap it all off. Giant back drop suplex from Takayama and he slaps on a sleeperhold. Takayama nearly pins him with a big German suplex, but Otani gets his foot on the ropes and fires back with big chops and a low spin-wheel kick. Palm strike and Otani manages to German suplex the huge Takayama three times in a row, but still the big man kicks out. Otani knees Takayama so hard in the face that it appears he may have possibly broken his nose as blood begins running down the face of Takayama. Both men trade straight up stiff jab punches and Takayama delivers another towering German suplex to a now bleeding Otani to win at 16:16! This one took a little while to get going, but once it did it kicked into just the kind of sick ultra-stiff contest you'd expect from these two in a big match situation. Takayama helps Otani up after the match and shakes his hand to cap off the contest. ***¼

After the match Otani gets a standing ovation and he grabs a microphone. I don't speak Japanese, but the basic gist of what he does is reflect quickly on the ten years of Zero1 so far and promise to continue to build Zero1 as the best promotion in Japan. Afterwards Daichi Hashimoto and the rest of the roster return to the ring for some photoshoots before we cut backstage to a brief post-show press conference/Q&A session with a tearful Otani. Finally we close out the show with a quick video package highlighting the late Shinya Hashimoto and his son Daichi one last time.

Bottom Line: This was simply an excellent show from start to finish in terms of consistent quality of wrestling through-out. Nothing ever dipped below the **1/2 star range and nearly every match seemed to hit into three star territory at some point or another. There were no blow-away match of the year candidates, but there were several engaging and entertaining undercard matches with some of the exceptional young talent in Zero1 alongside the incredible debut of what appears to be a new bonafide mega-star in modern Japanese wrestling in Daichi Hashimoto. As an anniversary show this worked excellently to highlight all of Zero1's strengths, highlight their storied past, and look forward to the future with very high hopes. An entertaining show and an easy Thumbs Up.

Score: 8/10