Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hungry Like The White Wolf

Ricochet VS A-Kid - White Wolf Wrestling 1/28/2017

CJD: After watching a bit more of A-Kid, I may have given him a little too much credit for having a "less is more" approach. He definitely moved in that direction over time but he also likes to get his shit in. And this is 2017 but what he lacks in maturity Ricochet more than makes up for with a young veteran presence. This match is more of a Ricochet touring attraction contest and even having seen plenty of Ricochet it's a damn good attraction. His selling, his facials, his presence, plus yeah they do some spectacular stuff. This is the type of match that made me rewind 5 minute chunks of action to let it sink in. I enjoyed every moment of it, including the post match stuff, and I think you will too.

JJZ: These White Wolf crowds are into it man. Jesus. Ricochet physically looks like a million bucks in this match. Kid looks like Ricochet when Ricochet started out. Kid definitely got his shit in in this match. I would've loved to have been in the building for this one. This was a great showcase match for everyone involved. If A-Kid didn't get signed to NXT UK he would've been in the position Ricochet was in during this match. Being a big indy draw and the featured match on every card. I enjoyed this match on a few different levels but mostly just as a fan.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Forever Forward Champions #1-10

While I'm not happy with the dumpster fire that is 2020, I am glad it made us take a hard look at our pro wrestling fandom. Forever Forward Fridays are a small step on a long journey. The first stretch has already brought us some great discoveries as well as a few outstanding matches between some familiar faces. Let's take a look at the first 10 Forever Forward Champions!

1. Faye Jackson
Most of the time John and I share matches that are new to both of us. But now and then we get to cross something off our books we've been waiting to play for each other in person. I was so glad to get a chance to play this match from my AIW DVD for John ahead of schedule of my next trip to Philly, and so glad he picked Faye as our inaugural Champion. And thanks to AIW for having it uploaded!

2. Mia Yim
The biggest name we featured the first few weeks and she really showed her versatility as such. Maybe my first overall pick if I was building a women's division in the USA this very moment.

3. Marti Belle
Babyface 101 class was in session during Marti's FF title run and she taught it well!

4. Dani Jordyn
5. Kenzie Paige
Two of the young talents who neither of us were familiar with going into Forever Forward Fridays and we left very impressed with. We'll certainly being keeping an eye out for their names from now on.

6. Jordynne Grace
7. Mercedes Martinez

A few more of the bigger names in our first 10 weeks of Forever Forward Fridays and they coincidentally had one of the best matches we featured against each other. Two bad ass women right here.

8. Athena
9. Heidi Lovelace

And even though they were the biggest stars yet, for both Ember Moon and Ruby Riott we focused on their indy days and found some really terrific matches in the process.

10. Arik Cannon
One of these things is not like the others!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

Kris Statlander VS AR Fox - Beyond Wrestling Uncharted Territory 3/4/2019

JJZ: So we are going to maybe my favorite indy promotion currently in Beyond Wrestling. Beyond has so many little independent wrestling touches. A ceiling that's far too low. A standing overcrowded room that in 2020 looks so ridiculous to me, and announcers that seem like they are always screaming into their mics. It also has an independent stalwart in AR Fox versus a white hot up and comer in Kris Statlander. I didn't realize her size until this match. She matches up great with Fox. I loved the "look what I can do!" approach to this match from her. And AR Fox really channels his independent veteran swag. Loved the finish and as always the Beyond crowd was excellent.

CJD: It's funny how you build an idea of a wrestler in your head before you see them in action for the first time. This is my first Statlander match and she's not what I expected. Not at all in a bad way. This is couldn't be a more night and day example but I remember after reading the name Jumbo Tsuruta for such a long time I had such a clear mental image even without ever seeing a picture before I got my first 80s RWTL VHS in the mail. This match reminded me of an opener for an ECW PPV. The Beyond match, not my first Jumbo match. Big goofy personalities, hot action, a lot going on in a short amount of time. Beyond's renegade vibe contributes to that but you could seriously put Fox, his valet, and Kris Stat on a Living Dangerously in the late 90s after a cold open or after a Blue Meanie & Jasmine St Clair on the beach vignette and the crowd would be hooked. And I would be too. This was a fun watch.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

My Mother Worked Sixteen Hours Six Days A Week

A-Kid (c) VS Zack Sabre Jr - White Wolf Wrestling Campeonato Absoluto 4/14/2018

JJZ: I picked this match for one reason. I want your opinion of it. It got a 5 star rating and put A-Kid on the map. This is my second viewing so I'm watching with different eyes than you. I'm almost positive this is our first match from White Wolf. Which is a promotion from Spain. Also a first for us that I can recall. Local star champion VS independent super star. White hot crowd. Stiff and tight as can be. I don't need to say anything else. E n j o y.

CJD: Damn, what a dope match. ZSJ coming out to "Mother" by IDLES is my favorite thing ever right off the bat and the entrance really sets the tone. Apparently A-Kid comes out to Papa Roach which is considerably less cool unless you're a backyard wrestler with frosted tips wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and JNCOs. Then you'd be the Pope of Chili Town. He should stick with this generic royalty free theme they used for this video, it's actually pretty tight. Better than his NXT UK theme. But I digress.

Circa 2015 you and I had a very underrated wrestling podcast with our good friend Mr PB, which unfortunately I'm realizing has vanished from the ether of the internet. And I remember we discussed pretty often how the new crop of indy talent of guys like ZSJ, Thatcher, Busick, and Gulak were exactly what we had been craving. That we were burnt out on the Richards-itis as we called it that had plagued indy wrestling for the previous 5 years or so, and that a return to fundamentals and actual grappling is something we hoped would continue to gain popularity. Fast forward to this match and not only has that hope been fulfilled, but a younger crop of talent influenced by that generation is starting to create their own buzz. And while A-Kid had no buzz that we heard about going into this match, I have to think that ZSJ is the exact type of wrestler he'd been studying as he was cutting his teeth. And it creates such a sublime match with this once in a lifetime opportunity and boy what a buzz did he create for himself as a result.

I hate to sound like a broken record about star ratings but whether or not this is 5 stars is meaningless to me. This is so much of what's great about pro wrestling captured in a beautiful moment in time. I'm glad Meltzer gave it 5 stars to get eyes on it, but if I'm going to take out my red pen yeah there's probably some criticisms I'd have. But I'd rather not waste my time on them, because the positives here are enormous. The grappling feels like such a struggle. The big moments are huge but never outstay their welcome. The small moments make it so you can't turn away or even blink. ZSJ carries himself with such a presence that I don't even mind his ridiculous basketball shorts. I actually find them kind of endearing. I'm so glad you finally got me to make time for this one, and I'm so glad it exists. It's matches like this that make you feel like all the time you invest as a fan is worth it.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

AR Fox VS Arik Cannon - Dragon Gate USA Mercury Rising 3/31/2012

CJD: You picked Cannon for Forever Forward Fridays as an indy lifer who's helped build the scene over his career. And I dove deep into some of that indy indy material to try to find my match in response. But at the end of the day I couldn't find anything that popped quite like this so instead I'm going to go back to the well of another former MDTSOCWWKD Champion in AR Fox. Cannon makes sense to me as an indy lifer, Fox is kind of a curious case in what an indy guy he's been (outside of Lucha Underground). He seemed poised to break out big around the time of this match. I've been surprised going back to DGUSA how well it's aged. I think if the promotion had started 3-5 years later it'd still be going strong. This match is part of a bigger feud between DUF and Sabu, Fox, and I think maybe Jon Davis too, and that stuff comes into play. But the main thing that sticks out to me is what a tight veteran VS rising star dynamic these two have. I'd love to see more from the two of them, but I guess that's the gift and the curse of being married to the indies. You're always left with a little mystique of "what if?"

JJZ: So I remember being at a DGUSA/Evolve show that had an angle during this feud. DUF was tapping beer bottles together and I remember Sami cutting a great promo. I always wanted to see more but never dove in. SO! This is a welcome treat. I think your comments are spot fucking on about this match. I can't believe Fox didn't get seriously hurt on that 450 to the outside. This match tells a great story in a short amount of time. They have the crowd on the edge of their seats by the end and I found myself saying "oh shit!" out loud a few times. Cannon is someone who I'm really falling in love with for our Friday title run. His ability to get himself and his opponents over at the same time is a true skill. Great match my friend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Enough Kinetic Energy To Knockout A Herald

Zack Sabre Jr (c) VS Mike Bailey - Defiant Wrestling Internet Championship  1/26/2018

CJD: So we now have 4 pillars of 2x MDTSOCWWKD Champions and I'm going to add a thumb to turn that structure into a fist. Bringing things back full circle to our flagship competitor, the man I think of first when I think of Play It Forward, Zack Sabre Jr. These are two of the wrestlers who have the most distinct styles of their generation. And I love when contrasting styles make the story for a match and that's exactly what we get here. I saw some comments criticizing the selling and I disagree. I think for what they were doing there was just enough attention to detail. This was a very efficient, to the point match and I respected that about it. I know this is one that'll jump right off the screen when you see the names so I'm curious how that expectation is met. I thought it was a great use of the time they had while still leaving something on the table.

JJZ: Independent ZSJ is my favorite ZSJ. I love him in New Japan but on the indies he can do whatever he wants and I believe he does. The start of this match plays out like a MMA fight. Catch wrestling vs Taekwondo. It turns quickly into a battle of kicks that I don't think will fare well for Zack in the end. Bailey is such a great white meat baby face. I don't think there was a real heel or face in this match but both guys wrestled their natural style so it still developed into a good vs bad kinda match. Bailey has such explosive kicks that he can even the match at any moment. And what can anyone say about Sabre that hasn't been said before? So I will verbalize how I felt watching him during this match. I can't take my eyes off him because even his little movements are so smart and purposeful. I loved this match so much. Great base. Great build. Great finish.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

Heidi Lovelace VS Arik Cannon - FEST WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP FINALE 10/30/2016

JJZ: Alright. I know you're not the biggest fan of intergender wrestling but I really think you'll be into this match. So at the time Arik and Heidi are in a relationship and that adds to the whole storyline which made the match. Cannon's struggle to go all in on his girlfriend evened the strength gap for Lovelace so she could really take control. The build to Cannon letting loose was timed really well with the crowd buying in the whole time. And this match had a strong finish that the fans lost their shit for. Enjoy.

CJD: Arik Cannon joins Ruby Riot as holders of both of our imaginary titles here. He doesn't exactly fit the evening the playing field theme of Forever Forward Fridays, however we are trying to stay indy wrestling focused as well and his career and this match certainly fit that bill. And I like when we cover some matches now and then with a bit more historical significance and this has that going for it. This is the second match we've featured at PIF between two wrestlers romantically involved at the time who split up down the line. Perhaps this should serve as a cautionary tale? But it made for great performance, both wrestlers told so much of the story with their facials and body language. Cannon was a great base which I feel like is a relationship metaphor waiting to happen. You're right that if I'm going to watch an intergender match then I'd prefer it to be story driven like this one, and this was really well done at that. Good pick my partner in crime.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Y'all Be Racing To The Cash, That's A Grand Prix

Kazusada Higuchi VS Mike Bailey - DNA Grand Prix Finals 10/21/2016

JJZ: So on the same day I mentioned that seeing Mike Bailey VS Nakajima would be a dream match, I see Mike Bailey wrestled the man who took the coveted MDTSOCWWKD championship off of Nakajima! So I figured what the hell. Let's crown our fourth ever two-time champion. I think Higuchi is a fantastic dance partner for babyface Bailey. Higuchi's size and strength are on full display while on offense. And for Mike it looks like he is trying to chop down a redwood tree with these kicks. The crowd is pretty weak to be honest but the work rate starts bring them to life as the match progresses. This is the finals of a tournament so the length isn't what I wanted but I feel like I got a ton out of the match.

CJD: They got a ton out of this for certain. And to be fair attendance was listed at 200 and I think that was generous. Hot crowds are not exactly DNA's MO but I'm still digging this little run we have going from them. You mentioned to me recently how you love seeing bodyslams used effectively and Higuchi did just that early on in this one. It was cool seeing him a bit more in the driver's seat this week throwing his weight around. But Bailey is never one to back down and I thought he struck just the right balance fighting his way back into this one. Just a packed match for what it was that did everything you could ask for and then some. And I'll take Speedball as our fourth pillar alongside Kasai, KENTA, and Nakajima any day of the week!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

Athena (c) VS Heidi Lovelace - AIW Women's Championship 7/26/2014

CJD: Heidi Lovelace becomes the first person to ever hold both of our imaginary titles, and she's good in this. Her and her heater are really effective setting the tone for Athena's babyface champ performance. But I picked this match much more because of Athena. I haven't seen a lot of matches where she totally clicks for me. Some wrestlers, even if they're good, are just like that for you as a fan I think. But here it clicks. She's awesome and efficient and smart at keeping the match moving when things slip up a little here and there. If I was there live that night I'd have left expecting big things from both ladies. Add in the old school AIW setting and I was sold.

JJZ: First thought. Who is the woman drinking an Artic Splash? I thought that was a pure Phila thing? I always loved the short/pant tights that Heidi rocked. I'm going to disagree with you though. I think Heidi was the one that shined here. Her transitions and the finish of her kicks and punches came across much more polished. Athena was good in this match but it felt like a match where one wrestler was obviously ready for the next level of their career and the other was still figuring a few things out. Personally I would have loved a longer match but for the match they were trying to give the crowd it came across really well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Certified Genius At The Age Of 5

Katsuhiko Nakajima VS Kazusada Higuchi - DNA 8/22/2015

CJD: You've had some Tuesday guilty pleasure picks lately. Well now it's my turn. You know I've been on a DDT kick for a while. One of their many great homegrown talents who's been breaking out the past few years is Kazusada Higuchi. So when I saw Nakajima wrestled him in DDT's minor league promotion less than a year into the business after transitioning from sumo I got a little giddy. Then I watched this match and I got a lot giddy. So Nakajima joins illustrious company in Kasai and KENTA as x2 MDTSOCWWKD Champs (freshly rebranded the Misawa Dick Togo Santo Outercontinental WWKD title!) and here's what I like about him in this match at the tail end of his hammer pants phase. Nakajima at this point in his career badly needed to shed the young underdog role he mastered many years back. And not only did he need to move on past it, he needed to start leading, eating guys up at times, he needed to start teaching instead of learning. And that is exactly the type of performance he gives here. Higuchi takes a hellacious beating on his end, sells his ass off, and perseveres to take advantage of some really great chances. I'd love to see this match today, but I'm more than happy with what we got in 2015.

JJZ: So right off the bat this Higuchi guy is brand new to me! And I Iike it! I've been stuck in my own little bubble of familiarity as of late so this is a nice change of pace. The crowd seems eager at the start. On the edge of their seats waiting for something to happen. Reading your review I would've thought Naks was the larger wrestler but Kazusada has a bit of size over Jima. Higuchi starts strong but Nakajima quickly takes the control which shows me your statement is true. 2015 must've  an interesting year for Nakajima since it was right before he put himself officially under the NOAH flag. I like Kazusada's size and energy. He's staring Naks right in the eyes and saying I can take all that you can give. Also his neck crank is sick. He does a good job of imposing his size while on offense but Nakajima's strikes even the playing field very quickly. I dare you or anyone to say he doesn't have the best kicks in the game. Really good match baby. Kazusada came across like a future heavyweight champion while Nakajima proved why he's been one of the best going for years.