Tuesday, December 29, 2020

It's Tuesday. You Know What That Means.

CJD: The reason we started Play It Forward was to help recreate the dialogue of match sharing you and I have had going in person for decades. And if I was sitting next to you right now with a beverage in one hand and a bag of Herr's potato chips in the other you bet your sweet ass we'd be watching a Brodie Lee match in remembrance. And I'd say "I don't know if you remember but back in 2010 I played a match between these guys in EVOLVE for you." And you'd say "fuck your memory is ridiculous I can't remember what I had for lunch last week." And we'd help each other process these emotions of losing such a talented performer, one of "our guys," so young and so unexpectedly. So here's the match I'd play. It has elements of that EVOLVE match but it's for the CZW title so they're catering to that audience. I've seen people say Terry Funk was Brodie's favorite wrestler and it makes sense because the way these guys fight each other reminds me of Funk VS Hansen. But with Moxley playing Brodie's own personal Terry. And that is not a comparison I use lightly. Out of control, violent, when things aren't pretty they seamlessly work it into the psychology of the match. And what a finish!! I could watch these two wrestle each other over and over again. Fuck. I know we'll both be catching up on their AEW match soon enough too. But let's dig back into this lesser known match first. Let's do what we do and remember a great man by all accounts by watching him do what he loved and let's say one final FUCK YOU to 2020 with our last post of the year.

JJZ: Your comments really made me smile because that is exactly what would be happening if it was possible. Our group of wrestling friends would always talk about how much WWE wasted the talents of Brodie during his time there. He had some very bright spots between not being on TV for months at a time. His feud with Dolph, him and Rowan VS the Usos. Most of the Wyatt stuff just to name a few. But he was a monster that we knew should've been a main eventer. I was so happy he got that time in AEW because it showed the wrestling world what we already knew. This match showcased just how impressive he was. His right hand dictated the pace and his offense was mean and brutish. Loved loved loved that this was in the ECW Arena because he would've been an ECW all-timer if wrestled during that era. I really look forward to watching many more Brodie Lee matches with you in the future baby cakes.

CJD: RIP Big Rig. You'll never be forgotten. To quote one of your favorite bands...

"Take a different track, it's time to see what you are made of
Can you expose yourself? Can you peel off another layer?
And will you make the time? The time to take control
Because only you can save yourself, only you can save your soul

Self-inherence, freedom, comes from within

And once you save yourself, insecurities will die
Genuine abilities and true character will shine"

Snapcase "Caboose"

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

Louis Lyndon (c) VS ACH - AIW Intense Championship 3/14/2014

CJD: A little holiday delay there. But let's just pretend it's Friday, and on Forever Forward Fridays we love celebrating wrestlers of color and we love celebrating the indies. This match is quite the combo of both. ACH has had some big opportunities but has been more of a journeyman throughout his career as you covered, and Louis Lyndon is such an indy stalwart that AIW uses him as the measuring stick for outside talent when they first come in. This is a continuation of a feud that had been put on the backburner due to injury. A title defense in what feels like a significant Intense title run in AIW history. Another great classic babyface VS heel match up with some real twists and turns. And another appearance of FFF color commentary specialist BJ Whitmer!! What's not to love??

JJZ: This match went above my expectations. I've only seen a handful of Lyndon's matches so I was looking forward to diving into a few more. I think AIW is a great indy promotion that stays loyal to their local talent so I Iove that ACH and Louis had such a bust ass match for them. As the match progressed I kept on saying to myself "damn that look at that!" They kept it stiff but not too stiff with some holy fuck highspot moments. The way Louis locked in the Dragon Sleeper mid way in really popped me. I actually took it back to see it again. I thought both guys shined and left good impressions on the viewers with this match. Nice pick baby!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Iceman Cometh

Dean Malenko (c) VS Yuji Nagata - WCW Saturday Night United States Championship 5/24/1997

CJD: I have a confession to make. Even though now he's a personal favorite, in the 90s watching him in WCW I hated Yuji Nagata. I'm sure it was the presentation because watching him here he's very, very good. I remember him being "Token Japanese Wrestler #5" but he really gets a chance to shine here on Saturday Night. And man is Dean game defending the US title. This is one of those rare matches too where Schiavone and Dusty balance nWo and Kevin Greene (RIP) talk with giving the action its due. Schiavone talked about this on AOW, how it was totally up to them to tie the Saturday Night stuff into regular WCW continuity, because everyone else in the company basically ignored it. So kudos to them and to Jimmy Hart who I'm pretty sure booked it most of the way through. Also it's interesting hearing Dusty lay back on his gimmick so much. I cannot wait to see what you come back with from Blue Justice!

JJZ: I wasn't a fan of Nagata's WCW run  at the time either. I don't even remember why to be honest. Based off this match alone I was dumb. I definitely don't remember him ever wrestling in red pants before. I expected a tight mat based match and that's what I got. Watching these guys go back and forth was great. Matches like this are what made WCW Saturday Night special and turned me around on a bunch of guys in wrestling. I think both Dean and Yuji are wrestlers that everyone talks about being great but neither are in the forefront of a wrestling fan's mind when thinking about top guys. After watching this match I wonder why? This was almost a perfect TV match. When given big chances these guys always delivered. I guess some are just missing an it factor? I dunno I feel like I'm rambling. Loved the pick. Excited to showcase Nagata next week.

CJD: With Dean I think it's a relatively short peak. With Nagata I really don't know. The black mark of his failed MMA crossover haunting him as they tried to make him the ace? He has done nothing but climb my all-time rankings as I explore more footage over the years

JJZ: Solid points. The MMA thing always hurt Nagata. Thinking more about the Dean stuff I guess it's pretty simple about his size and lack of mic skills.

CJD: I'm not the first person to say this but imagine if Dean had physically been able to have a Jamie Noble type mid 2000s indy run.

JJZ: JESUS! That would've been spectacular.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Forever Forward Fridays

ACH VS Prince Mustafa Ali - AAW Heritage Title Tournament 1/25/2013

JJZ: This is definitely the earliest match of Ali's that I have ever seen. You can really see he had greatness in him even at a young age. I know at the time I'm writing this Ali is a heel in WWE but for me this is the first time I've seen him wrestling as a bad guy. I guess I shouldn't be surprised how natural he seems as a heel considering he is able to play such a sympathetic babyface. ACH is someone that I have always been a big fan of. So much talent and not that many companies really went in on him. Except AAW of course. He was a top guy there for a large part of his career. Now this match was the first round of a tournament but honestly felt like a title match with all the risk taking and big bumps. I loved how well these two worked with each other. ACH's wow moments mixed with Ali's psychology made for a fun ride.

CJD: Ali has talked about how he's wanted to avoid playing a stereotypical ethnic heel his entire career. You can sense it here from a young age even as Prince Ali, he's working heel in a much more fundamental sense than looking for cheap heat. And like you said he's really good at it. Both guys are still a bit rough around the edges but they really put a lot of substance into this match. If I was a promoter and saw this potential I'd immediately run a longterm feud between them. Their chemistry jumps off the screen. Instead it seems like this is the only time they wrestled. The Chicago area scene fascinates me, it's always been one of the hottest territories for wrestling but their indies often fly under the radar. Glad to take a closer look the last two weeks.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Forever Forward Champions #11-20

Now past the launch phase, Forever Forward Fridays started to find a real groove during this run of featured wrestlers. We've been focused on the ladies so far and have no complaints about it, as John and I have found some revelations and revisited some favorites. Let's take a look at the wrestlers who have graced us with their presence on some fateful Fridays over the course of the past few months.

11. AR Fox
At this point AR Fox has been in more intergender matches here at PIF than any other wrestler. That speaks to his versatility, and he is most worthy as our third double crown champion indeed.

12. Kris Statlander
13. Ashley Vox
Statlander was new to me, Vox was new to John, and we both left with new names to keep an eye out for. The match these two had against each other in particular is among my favorites we've featured this year.

14. Jordan Steelz
Steelz was totally new to both of us, and I got to watch a lot of her work. She has a lot of presence if not a ton of variety in the matches I've seen. She definitely knows how to make the most of an opportunity and if she keeps rounding out her game she has huge potential.

15. LuFisto
A trailblazer, a fantastic wrestler, a woman I'm so glad to see still in the game and still competing at the highest level.

16. Shotzi Blackheart
17. Solo Darling
These two were an interesting pair, both loud colorful personalities, one blowing up in 2020, one still on the rise. I wasn't expecting to feature either lady any time soon but I'm very glad we did.

18. Kelly Klein
19. Deonna Purrazzo

20. Karen Q
There was a nice little story told between these three champs. A bitter feud gave way to a friendship betrayed and some wild high stakes matches went down in the process. For me personally Kelly Klein really made an impression during this run of FFFs. Which is saying something considering the talent that was featured.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Whoomp! There It Is

Dean Malenko (c) VS 2 Cold Scorpio - ECW TV Championship 3/21/1995

JJZ: Please forgive me for the playing a match forward that has the Long Island Ice Z introducing and interrupting these great wrestlers. I started watching this match because how the hell could I not watch a Dean Malenko versus 2 Cold Scorpio ECW TV Title match. But while I was watching I saw a match unfold that was 180 different than your Sabu 2 Cold match, and I knew that this was my pick. Whenever I can get a match that showcases the depth of wrestler I always lean towards it. Watching Dean being Dean and 2 Cold selling very well while building to the highspots was just plain fun to watch in an ECW ring. I probably have seen this before but I don't recall off the top of my head and who cares. I had a blast watching this.

CJD: I'll say this. I'd much rather see Ryder in this capacity than see him wrestle. It suits the superfan in him. Scorpio did sell really well in this and Dean did too. He had a great ability to seem like a world beater while still showing vulnerability. This is our third straight Misawa Dick Togo Santo OuterContinental Championship match commentated exclusively by Joey Styles, so let me take a minute to sing his praises. Joey had cliches he'd fall into at times. He knew what he did well and he milked that. But his positives really can't be taught. He knew when to let a match breathe. He knew when to slide into analysis and when to call the action. He knew how to make me question the outcome of a match. And most of all, he knew how to sound sincere in his reactions even when he's seen the same stuff over, and over, and over. Back to the action, I was going to joke after the headlock held out of and back into the ring that Kobashi and MiSu clearly were inspired by this match. But by the end I really did get a little bit of a Kobashi babyface vibe from Scorpio. Way less fire but still a very determined, sympathetic performance here. And man am I happy to dig back into some Malenko next week.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

Lio Rush VS Mustafa Ali - Freelance Walk Among Us 10/27/2016

CJD: Back to back dream opponents for Lio as far as our tastes go. Normally the audio being off on a match is a deal breaker for me, and it gets progressively worse as this one goes on, but I'll make an exception. Because these guys really busted them asses in Chicago that summer night. I don't think I've ever actually watched any Freelance before but I'm happy to feature them knowing the talent that has passed through. I could do without the commentator doing his best hardcore band vocal audition by the finishing stretch but what are you going to do. Both Rush and Ali are silky smooth in this but are also working for the W from beginning to end. Very focused, exciting, fun match here. Watching this makes me want to check back in on the Retribution stuff to see if Ali is actually salvaging it.

JJZ: This match is exactly what you said, silky smooth. Watching wrestlers performing at the top of their game is special. Special because you know when they started they were the shits wrestling in dollar store gear dreaming about main eventing for a packed crowd. I've actually watched this whole show and this match was head and shoulders above anything else that night. You can see in this match that Rush and Ali are entering that independent elite status. So I'd definitely call this an indy dream match. The only negative is that I wanted more. I liked everything besides that. Even the finish was wonderful. Hopefully we'll get to more matches of their's one day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Double-Pump Finish In Traffic

Sabu VS 2 Cold Scorpio - ECW Hardcore Heaven 8/13/1994

CJD: You may have played this match for me decades ago. I'd be shocked if you haven't seen it. But I have no memory of it and I was thoroughly entertained. A clear step down from their Cyberslam match but this is when ECW is still finding their identity. The crowd is really tame by the mutants' standards for example. Identity is that exact word I think of watching ECW in this mid 90s era. They had such a clear one that they cultivated over these years while building their fanbase. It feels like looking back ECW just exploded onto the scene but growing up in the area we know better. This match is a great example of that, of creating a style, of establishing talent, and of training your audience to appreciate something new. Oh yeah and Sabu is batshit crazy in it and Scorpio is as good as he ever was. I know you're going to have thoughts on this one. Lay them on me.

JJZ: We could turn this blog into a rewatching ECW match review project and I'd love every moment of it. I've definitely seen this before and maybe have shown it to you but I'm not 100% on that. There is just something about ECW man. The unpredictability of it all. The split second change of directions. The way they even do certain moves would be different a lot of the time. 2 Cold doing the piledriver by pulling the tights and then grabbing Sabu around the waist. The sloppiness of it made it feel so real at times. And what the fuck was the inside outside off the chair dive Sabu did. I remember going to ECW shows and the pure excitement of what the hell is Sabu gonna do this time made ECW must see for me. This match is phenomenal Chris. Thank you.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Forever Forward Friday

Lio Rush VS Jonathan Gresham - Legacy Wrestling Dangerous Encounters 12/5/2015

JJZ: Going into this match I thought it would be Gresham trying to ground Lio with Lio using his speed and flippy dips to gain offense. Instead we got a tit for tat kinda thing. I love love love the independent nature of this venue. Oversized gym with random people coming and going from a yoga class. I have no clue who else was on this show but I wouldn't have wanted to follow this. Both wrestlers showed more of their unnoticed talents and abilities. It's always a nice surprise when you expect one thing but get another and are still as satisfied as you were hoping you would be.

CJD: What I wouldn't give to see these guys go at it now. There's little touches that Rush would learn that give some of his spectacular offense more room to breathe. And Gresham is great here but as we know is almost without peer now. Still I'll gladly take what we get here, both men tell a story before the bell even rings walking to the ring just with their body language. The weird multilevel venue set up reminded me of the old video game Elevator Action. This was a standout match for certain, no downtime and a great finish. Very nice find, I doubt you and I would ever have known about it without Forever Forward Fridays.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

I Walk Around Like A Skeleton Last Night

La Parka VS Sabu - MLW 12/20/2002

JJZ: If I didn't know better and just put this on cold I would think this was a 1999 ECW fan cam. Besides the ECW alumni just the feel of the match and crowd would do it. Now I don't recall La Parka ever wrestling in ECW but he would have fit in just fine. I fucking loved this match. Chris you know me as well as anyone and you know my eternal love flame for the original ECW. I felt like I was sitting at the Arena one more time and just got totally lost in the action. I've never been crazy about La Parka so I wanted to find a match of his I liked but I found one I loved instead. Really hope you feel the same.

CJD: Damn that's a svelte La Parka. This match had serious ECW vibes indeed, which early MLW was clearly going for. So many promotions were. I'm surprised how successful they were here though and I have to credit La Parka for the majority of that. He came into this match like it was the chance of a lifetime. I don't know if it was respect for Sabu, faith in Court Bauer, or wanting to give the hundreds and hundreds in Fort Lauderdale their money's worth. But boy did he. Sabu is more than game as well and Joey is great on commentary. This really should feel like an ECW rehash but they captured some of that magic. This had that "what is going to happen next??" atmosphere that takes a dream match from a novelty to something special.