Top 3 Pro-Wrestling Matches – May 2019

3. AWESOME KONG vs BRITT BAKER vs KYLIE RAE vs NYLA ROSE – AEW DOUBLE OR NOTHING (MAY, 25)

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Yes, there were many matches this month better than this one, even on that show. However, I felt something special about this match. It was the same feeling I had with the All In girls match last year: it was perfectly put together. I know a lot of people are complaining about how Kong’s appearance hurt Rose, but I, personally, believe it was still a good move. Kong is a star. When she entered that arena, it felt like a really special moment. When the camera turned, and we saw her face, I was even more sure of that. And, although she was clearly not 100%, the structure of the match allowed her to still shine. I understand that it wasn’t supposed to be her moment, but let’s be honest here: it didn’t hurt the other girls and gave a real legend what was probably her last great moment. It was worth it.


2. MATT TAVEN vs PCO – NJPW/ROH WAR OF THE WORLDS (MAY, 9)

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The tale of PCO is unique. This career renaissance he’s still going true is epic. This time he faced Taven in a storytelling match that hid both men weakness at the same time it showcased their strengths. You had a classic heel/babyface dynamic that you seldom see in today’s professional wrestling, and, although nobody wanted to see PCO really winning the championship, everybody cheered for him. It happened simply because nobody was really thinking about the implications of the match. Everybody just dove deep into the story and let it take us into the journey. Also, it was one of the few times a dirty finish worked because it protected PCO and made Taven an even more compelling character.


1. CODY vs DUSTIN RHODES – AEW DOUBLE OR NOTHING (MAY, 25)

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This was not only the best match of this month, but it was also one of the best matches I have ever seen. It was simple, it was old school, and it was great. I remember when these two were still a team on WWE. I still regularly watched the show back then. The tag team division had a very interesting story, but it led nowhere. Now, years later, they come back to finish that story, and it was the perfect end. I won’t deny that the blood really made me sometimes worry, but it only added to the drama this match had to offer. Years from now we are going to look at this match as a classic. It will be a true 5-star special that will stand the test of time, I am sure of that.

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Shikat vs Lewis

Dick ShikatUntitled

Height: 1.85 cm (6′ 1″)
Weight: 100 kg (220 lbs)
Debut: ???
Trainers: ???

NWA World Heavyweight Champion – Association Version
World Heavyweight Champion


Ed “The Strangler” LewisUntitled

Height: 1.78 cm (5′ 10″)
Weight: 120 kg (264 lbs)
Debut: 1905
Trainers: ???

AWA World Heavyweight Champion – Boston Version (2x)
World Heavyweight Champion (4x)


This footage is a real treasure. First of all, the fact that this match takes place in Madison Square Garden gives a big feel to it. It’s a spectacle with two all-time greats. We can see some hints of storytelling here. Shikat looks heelish. I believe he’s younger too and his offense looks quicker-paced than Lewis’. The Strangler, by the way, bases his offense on the move that made him famous. One of the funniest things is listening to the commentator calling headlocks high-spots. No doubt, pro-wrestling changed a lot since.

DeGlane vs Don George

Henri DeGlaneUntitled

Height: ???
Weight: ???
Debut: ???
Trainers: ???

AWA World Heavyweight Champion – Boston Version


UntitledEd Don George

Height: ???
Weight: ???
Debut: 1929
Trainers: ???

AWA World Heavyweight Champion – Boston Version (3x)
World Heavyweight Champion


Because the video was short and my French is limited, I could only get so much from this match. An interesting thing I noticed, though, was one of the falls happening despite a rope break. I wonder when that rule was implemented in wrestling. We’re still in sport-based wrestling here so little time for storytelling. I hope I can get more from future matches.

Londos vs Steele

Jim LondosUntitled

Height: 1.73 cm (5′ 8″)
Weight: 98 kg (216 lbs)
Debut: 1917
Trainers: ???

NWA World Heavyweight Champion – Association Version
World Heavyweight Champion


UntitledRay Steele

Height: ???
Weight: ???
Debut: ???
Trainers: ???

NWA World Heavyweight Champion – Association Version


I have a weird story I tell myself: Ray Steele was obsessed with the world title. I don’t think I have ever read or heard such a thing. It came to my mind and I stuck to it. Maybe it’s his face, I don’t know. The funny thing is: watching him wrestling Londos in this short footage I believe even more in that. There is a sense of urgency to it and an unparalleled violence to the moves. Maybe Steele WAS obsessed after all. Maybe it’s a story I tell myself to make things more interesting. Maybe it’s pro-wrestling, and both things are true.

Shikat vs Londos

Dick ShikatUntitled

Height: 1.85 cm (6′ 1″)
Weight: 100 kg (220 lbs)
Debut: ???
Trainers: ???

NWA World Heavyweight Champion – Association Version
World Heavyweight Champion


UntitledJim Londos

Height: 1.73 cm (5′ 8″)
Weight: 98 kg (216 lbs)
Debut: 1917
Trainers: ???

NWA World Heavyweight Champion – Association Version
World Heavyweight Champion


Londos is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. That’s because, even though he was short in stature, he had a huge personality visible through his matches. In this encounter against Shikat, the size difference is clear. Still, it gives a sense of drama to the match. Londos never looks out place. The way he approaches the match has an inexplicable sense of realism to it. When I watch a modern day wrestling match with a classic David vs Goliath story, I still look for that Londos feeling. I personally believe every wrestler about to face a taller opponent should watch this match. You can hear the crowd going crazy for the underdog. You know, I was never a fan of this dynamic but I think it’s part of human psychology. We always tend to cheer the underdog. What happens when the underdog is a champion, though? I mean that because Londos himself was a star. What is it to the human mind that we cheer the small guy even if the small guy is actually a favorite? Maybe we all identify to him. We never see ourselves as the dominant brute heel. We’re always the brave tiny babyface, and, even when we win, we feel like we had to go through all the odds.

Lewis vs Sonnenberg

Ed “The Strangler” LewisUntitled

Height: 1.78 cm (5′ 10″)
Weight: 120 kg (264 lbs)
Debut: 1905
Trainers: ???

AWA World Heavyweight Champion – Boston Version (2x)
World Heavyweight Champion (4x)


UntitledGus Sonnenberg

Height: 1.70 cm (5′ 7″)
Weight: 91 kg (200 lbs)
Debut: 1928
Trainers: ???

AWA World Heavyweight Champion – Boston Version (2x)
World Heavyweight Champion


Here we can witness a whole different business. Wrestling by this time was still very legit-looking. This short footage only allows us to see so much, but it’s possible to notice how professional wrestling changed since then. Even the presentation is closer to modern day boxing than to proper wrestling. Although it’s not possible to run a deep analysis of the match, it is still good to have the chance to watch two of the greatest icons of the business squaring off.

Dream Wrestlers, Dream Matches – Lewis vs Stecher

I am still trying to figure it out what’s the best model for this series. I think I will try to share as much information about both athletes as I can. I will comment on the matches if they are available as well.


Ed “The Strangler” LewisUntitled

Height: 1.78 cm (5′ 10″)
Weight: 120 kg (264 lbs)
Debut: 1905
Trainers: ???

AWA World Heavyweight Champion – Boston Version (2x)
World Heavyweight Champion (4x)


UntitledJoe Stecher

Height: 1.85 cm (6′ 1″)
Weight: 100 kg (220 lbs)
Debut: 1912
Trainers: Tony Stecher

World Heavyweight Champion (3x)


The Feud

Total Matches: 10

Record: Lewis (6) X (2) Stecher + 2 draws


Links

Ed Lewis Wikipedia Profile

Joe Stecher Wikipedia Profile

Facts within a Myth

Lewis vs Stecher

Lewis vs Stecher 2

Dream Wrestlers, Dream Matches – Gotch vs Hackenschmidt

matchprogram

Chicago, 1908. Everything begins here. The two greatest wrestlers on the planet finally face off in the first dream match of professional wrestling’s history. It’s true that before there were stars. Martin “Farmer” Burns and William Muldoon were recognized legends. However, never before in the history of the business so much buzz was caused by a single encounter. And it would be the first time someone would walk out with the right to be claimed the Wrestling Heavyweight Champion of the World.

By the time they faced each other, both competitors were already well-known in the wrestling world. Hacken was the European champion while Gotch held the belt in American soil.

The match itself lasted more than two hours and was filled with controversy. Hacken would complain that Gotch used a series of underhanded tactics. It didn’t matter. At the end of the day, the American would leave as the winner and be crowned the World Heavyweight Champion.

It’s sad that we have no footage from this match. Otherwise, we would be analyzing the most important 120 minutes of wrestling history. This was, after all, the match that set in stone what professional wrestling would become: a true spectacle for the masses.


Frank GotchUntitled

Height: 1.80 cm (5′ 11″)
Weight: 95 kg (209 lbs)
Debut: 1899
Trainers: Farmer Burns

World Heavyweight Champion


UntitledGeorge Hackenschmidt

Height: 1.83 cm (6′ 0″)
Weight: 105 kg (231 lbs)
Debut: 1896
Trainers: Georg Lurich

World Heavyweight Champion


The Feud

Total Matches: 2

Record: Gotch (2) X (0) Hackenschmidt

Dream Wrestlers, Dream Matches – Verne Gagne

 

ProfileUntitled

Height: 1.80 cm (5′ 11″)
Weight: 98 kg (216 lbs)
Debut: 1949
Trainers: Joe Pazandak

AWA World Heavyweight Champion (10x)


AWA COMISKEY PARK (CHICAGO, 1974)

VERNE GAGNE vs BILLY ROBINSON

This match has a special presentation to it. Verne and Billy are presented as real deals, what they truly are.  You have more of a technical match here with a nice selling from both men. It’s fair to say that Verne is the man responsible for bringing legitimacy to the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. The man was legit. Robinson, as we’ve seen before, is another wrestler who does things in a more realistic way. Therefore, we have a nice old school realist bout. The great thing about Billy is that he’s also an awesome athlete, so the matches are not boring at all. I think it’s all about that British style. It’s fascinating to listen to the commentary here. Billy goes for a leg lock transitioning into a half Boston crab. Gagne starts hitting Robinson in the head. The British champion gets annoyed.  Verne plays with Billy’s nerves. Kick to the face by Verne. They trade slaps to the face and Billy gets the best of it. Meanwhile, Verne puts Robinson over in the commentary by saying he was his toughest opponent ever. Backbreaker by Robinson. Billy hits a modified piledriver. He goes outside the ring, and we have a count out victory by Verne. This was a weird match. Not bad all, and it allows us to see both men showcase their skills. However, I would say the most interesting thing is listening to Verne on commentary telling some very fascinating stories.


AJPW EXCITE SERIES – DAY 16 (TOKYO, 1976)

VERNE GAGNE vs JUMBO TSURUTA

This is definitely the kind of match I would fantasy book. We have previously taken a look at how Jumbo was booked against these legends at the beginning of his career, and I strongly believe this was what allowed him to become the great wrestler he was. I think I will stop calling the action here since I decided to leave the videos of the matches. I want to point out, by the way, I do not own any rights to these and I only found them already on the internet. Coming back to my point, though, I will try to stick to how the action works from a metaphorical physical storytelling standpoint. We can see Jumbo controlling Verne’s arm here as this can be seen as a way of telling how the young star is now on top of the business in a superior position as of that held by the legend. A very technical style also says a lot about both men. By this point, we can see how the 70s All Japan meshed well with both the NWA and the AWA since it presented a more traditional product, at least according to the matches we’ve followed so far. It’s important to remember that both men came from a legitimate background so the style of the match itself is influenced by that. It’s interesting to look how, after losing the first fall by submission with a sleeper hold, Tsuruta needs to be “awaken” by both Gagne and the referee. We can see how realism was viewed as very important. Verne won the first fall without controlling most of the match. It looked like he threw a veteran move to get that win. These small details are things we need to pay attention to when it comes to these matches. Gagne slaps Tsuruta on the face, and we see another great piece of storytelling in a small gesture. The camera shows Jumbo’s face, and he looks angry and scared at the same time. It’s the face of a man in front of a lion. He knows he can try to fight, but he doesn’t know if he can win. At the same time, Gagne walks like a man no longer in his prime. He can still go, and he is probably better than most. Still, he is not the great world champion anymore. Tsuruta wins the second fall, and he celebrates. He looks tired, though. This match is taking a lot of him. This is a tale of two men trying to find out who is the best. It’s a common one in this series we have been following. Still, it’s different because each wrestler has his own story to tell. This is not Inoki/Thesz, although there are some similarities. This is Tsuruta/Gagne, a real treasure to any real pro-wrestling fan. The match ends in a draw with none of the wrestlers answering to the ten count. That shows how, at this point in his career, Tsuruta is already on Verne’s level.


  We’re not done with Verne yet. What is happening is that I decided to change the dynamic of these series. I think I will cover feuds, instead of focusing on one man’s career. I’ll probably start running some numbers while still analyzing some matches. So, soon we’ll have some new posts around.

 

Top 3 Pro-Wrestling Matches – April 2019

It was Wrestlemania month, so you can only imagine the number of great matches we had. Still, only three made the final cut.


3. JOSH BARNETT vs MINORU SUZUKI – GCW JOSH BARNETT’S BLOODSPORT (APRIL, 4)

josh

I love the Bloodsport concept. It’s that one night of the year when you are taken back to the UWF years. Also, there were no better choices for the main event than these two dudes. Suzuki is the best active wrestler when it comes to the shoot style. Barnett showed here that he is not that far behind. They went after each other the whole match and, after a time limit draw, they demanded it to restart.  If you like violent physical poetry, this is your match.


2. DAVEY BOY SMITH JR. vs KILLER KROSS – GCW JOSH BARNETT’S BLOODSPORT (APRIL, 4)

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Earlier that night, two wrestlers won my absolute respect. Both Smith and Kross were never exactly my cup of tea. After this match, I will pay attention to everything they do. These guys are talented, and they showed exactly that in here. They were vicious and brutal. It looked like a real fight. When it comes to realism, this is probably a match of the year contender. If you missed this match, go and watch it right now.


1. ORTIZ & SANTANA vs RICKY MORTON & ROBERT GIBSON  – GCW JOEY JANELA’S SPRINGBREAK (APRIL, 6)

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We have to address some things here. First, GCW has been offering the best wrestling shows when it comes to Wrestlemania for a couple of years already. Second, no one puts a better show than Joey Janela. Third, the Rock N’ Roll Express is the best tag team ever.

This felt like one of those moments where you feel lucky to be alive. It was a true dream match when you had one of the best tag teams on the planet today going against a legendary one. And, boy, they delivered. I’d never expected to see a Canadian Destroyer by Ricky Morton in 2019. Hell, I wouldn’t expect such a thing to ever happen. Still, I did. This was magic. It was everything professional wrestling needs to be. It’s the past making way for the future leaving a mark in the process. The art of tag team wrestling came to life in this once in a lifetime masterpiece.