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LTM Out Indefinitely

So I’ve been getting overwhelmed with other projects and LTM’s fallen by the wayside. It’s a shame, especially to me, but I’ve decided to focus my attention and simply put LTM on hiatus. Will it come back? If I get time, or if I need to write something that can’t quite go anywhere else.

Please follow my fiction work at, catch me on twitter at my depraved & longwinded personal account or my much more bearable and far less posty “business” account @_nearzone. I’ve got a new wrestling project coming up so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading!
(Obinna) J Onwuka

Styles vs Okada

Review » Styles vs Okada at NJPW Dominion

Hey wrestling heads. I’ve been away a bit, focusing on getting more stuff on my fiction blog in order. Now I’ve got those ducks in a row, I hope to be posting here much more often. Let’s get it going.

Early in the American morning on that most American of days, an American was in Japan doing what Americans are most known for: being obnoxious and lording their greatness over everyone else. The man in question? AJ Styles, the reigning and defending IWGP Heavyweight Champion. As the holder of one of the (if not the definite) most prestigious championships in the world, Styles has a lot to brag about. This is his second run with the belt which proves to everyone who didn’t know that he’s not just a TV-boosted fluke, he is real as far as New Japan’s concerned and he’s looking ready to continue his dominance. He’s skilled in all manners of the game from mat wrestling to high flying, and he has one of the best counter weapons in the game, namely his Pele Kick. He has never expressed doubt about his ability to beat his opponent going into Dominion, a man he first got to know when the tables were turned as far as native and foreigner.

That man, the challenger, is none other than “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada. He cut his teeth in New Japan but then spent a long period in TNA, the American league which AJ Styles arguably built from the ground up. Unlike Styles, Okada went to TNA as an unknown and he left much the same, but on his return he was picked up by Gedo and refashioned, pushed into becoming the wrestling marvel he is today. Okada has had a long road back to this point after losing the title to Styles two years ago but he stands ready to reclaim what he feels is his. Where Styles is a king of all trades Okada is just a jack, but what puts Okada over the edge is his precision and fluidity, his absolute professional quality. His dropkick is perhaps the most feared in the sport for stopping power and versatility, and he’s used the tombstone piledriver to great effect as well. The question to be answered, of course, is will all that be enough to defeat “The Phenomenal One”?

NJPW Dominion • 5 July 2015
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
AJ Styles© vs Kazuchika Okada

From the word go we can see that not only are these two very confident competitors, they also know each other extremely well, a thread that runs throughout the match. They struggle for grappling advantage at the beginning before AJ, with the help of his Bullet Club buddies at ringside, manages to pull ahead. Okada stays competitive but it’s clear that AJ’s in full control of things. Things start to turn around when the referee Red Shoes (Hiroyoki Unno) finally gets fed up with the shenanigans and tells Bullet Club to “SUCK IT!”, which is Japanese for “You have to leave.” The change isn’t immediate as Styles immediately gets vicious in his frustration. However, a few choice dropkick counters — catching Styles coming off the top, then crotching him on the ropes and sending him to the floor — brought Okada right back into competitiveness. Both guys started to bring out their big guns, Styles landing a springboard 450 splash and Okada finally securing the tombstone piledriver, but both got near falls. Throughout the match Okada had been successful in defending against the dreaded Styles Clash, but now Styles went for it with gusto. A blistering sequence ensued as both men tried to score their finish while avoiding the other’s. Only after it seemed like every angle had been exhausted did Okada score a modified Rainmaker, and then another, earning his three count and the heavyweight title.

It is really difficult to overstate how good AJ Styles is. Throughout his career he’s managed to shine in whatever role given to him and in New Japan he seems to be relishing the chance to do what he perhaps wasn’t able to back stateside. Here in this match he was able to play the role of Bullet Club patriarch to its full, not only in how he reacted to the Biz Cliz but also in his handling of Okada. Of course, that relationship of veteran/youngster has been well established but, especially in matches of this magnitude with a star of Okada’s caliber, these aspects of the story can often get lost. Here it seemed very clear to me that AJ was the one working on wits and Okada was working on desperation and guts. Okada played his part perfectly, confident of course but always a half-step behind, always needing to invent a new trick in order to have one not in Styles’s bag.

The story arc was strong but, as per my usual drumbeat, I would have liked to see more of a sense of exploiting and working on weaknesses. Neither guy really made an effort to focus on an area that they’d hurt before or really seemed set on building up to a certain finish. The Styles Clash was definitely put over as the thing-you-avoid-at-all-costs (for good reason) but I never felt like Styles was doing anything really to try and get Okada weakened for it. Perhaps there’s some of this that would be sort of patched over if I could understand the commentary. I feel like if we’d had Styles gradually work on Okada’s leg, for example, it could have heightened the tension further; even if Okada is fairly good for most of the match, at the very end that weakness can flare up, making every little bit that Okada has to fight for that much more dangerous. However, as attrition matches go, this is certainly the way to execute it. Good work from everybody involved here and I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep running Styles/Okada on top.

Bottom Line: A great “new heavyweight” title match between two of the best going. Short on strategy but long on drama and extended on action.

Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks

Review » Banks vs Lynch at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable

It is unusual to see a thriving women’s division under a WWE banner but on their triple-A league NXT you’ll find some of the best women wrestling today. Since the beginning the division has been hot, first of all ruled by Charlotte Flair and then, after a strong ascendancy, by “The Boss” Sasha Banks. More than any other title in NXT, the NXT Women’s Championship comes close to equalling the prestige of its main show cousin. At NXT Takeover: Unstoppable, that quality of competition was proven again when Banks met the challenge of Becky Lynch.

As I’ve mentioned before (and will continue to as long as it’s true), I haven’t really watched the show in a while and that includes NXT. I know they’ve been lighting it up, and I know Sasha Banks, but Lynch got going after I stopped following closely. I know she worked SHIMMER and comes from Ireland but that’s about it. Seeing her come out, appearance-wise she seems like a modern-age “punk rock chick,” thrown in elements of sci-fi dorkiness on top of the usual aggressive distortion-pedal vibe. Not sure of how she works from that but she looks confident, not rattled by how much the crowd loves the champion.

Sasha Banks I have seen before and I always thought she was good. This was maybe a year back. The word on the street these days is that she got great. Definitely she’s oozing overconfidence, to a level that’s almost overcompensating, though you’d never know it by the crowd reaction. She’s got an incredibly nasty presence, like you’d want to ask for an autograph but you’d be afraid she’d get her entourage to beat you up… or, given it’s Banks, just do it herself. How the NXT crowd doesn’t hate her is a bit crazy to me. On the other hand, what people pay to see is good wrestling. If you’re the person who delivers that week in and week out then maybe the crowd doesn’t care what you’re like.

parva on sashaprobably the best ever summary of sasha banks, courtesy of parv

NXT Women’s Championship Match
Sasha Banks© vs Becky Lynch

We start things off with a fierce lockup. Banks sends Lynch into the corner, but after an exchange Lynch hooks Banks into a pin. Banks showed plenty of ring intuition in the opening portion but Lynch seemed to have enough tricks to keep Banks guessing. Banks gets Lynch into the corner and takes a cheap shot. They fight their way to the apron and Banks finally turns things 180 degrees by snapping Lynch down into the apron onto her shoulder. Before this, Becky Lynch had done some arm work to help set up her seated armbar finish, but it was Sasha Banks who upped the ante on limbwork. An extended series of ground holds pretty nearly ruined Lynch’s arm. Against all odds, Lynch fought to her feet despite an armlock and lifted Banks overhead into a suplex. Lynch rallied, putting pressure onto Banks’s arm and even managing to lock the seated armbar in, only for Banks to get the ropes. Banks played a ref screen to distract Lynch and sent her out to the floor. Her dive only half-worked as Lynch caught her and sent her into the steps. Lynch gets Banks back in the ring, then tries for a top rope dive to finish it but it’s countered into the Bank Statement hold. Lynch can’t hold on and she taps out.

To me one of the hallmarks of NXT is really solid execution and this was right in that echelon. Both Banks and Lynch displayed good knowledge of escapes and counters, to the point that they were basically even on that score. Banks played up her evil side a hell of a lot and to great effect persona-wise. I liked that it played into her attack; the cheap shot which seems to just be out of spite is actually what sets up her comeback. Plus, she wasn’t fazed by the crowd loving her: she didn’t reject them but didn’t become a fan favorite, either. Strategically it was very basic — both tried to set up their finishing maneuvers, which were arm holds — but they worked the formula very well.

The major issue I have with the match is really in its solid-ness, though that sounds contradictory. Both women have their quirks — Banks tends to use more of a ground and speed moveset, while Lynch likes to hit and throw — but largely they work a very similar style: active, mobile, technical, with a good bit of artillery. Both of them simply want to wear down their opponent enough to win the match. No one’s trying for a massive offensive onslaught, no one’s trying to slow the match so far down that their opponent can’t build momentum. They were both looking for the same finish, it’s true, but why? Banks didn’t really try and disrupt what she had to know was Lynch’s target. It’s true she did get more offense on the arm, but really she was just the winning ram in a headbutting contest. Plus, if Banks had really worked the arm that badly, how could Lynch have hit that series of suplexes? As they always say, wrestling is a game of chess. You can have an exciting game between two masters but that doesn’t make them grandmasters. Skill does.

Bottom Line: A very fun limb-work match, great attitude from Banks and a great gutsy performance from Lynch. Not top level but these two can certainly get to a higher rung.

Alexander vs Okada

Review » Okada vs Alexander at ROH Global Wars

One year ago at the 2014 NJPW/ROH Global Wars shows, Cedric Alexander was booked to face Kazuchika Okada in what could have been his long-awaited breakout match. Instead, he was taken out by The Decade and had to sit out those shows. His biggest shot since he got into Ring of Honor, gone just like that. Just a couple weeks ago, New Japan returned to pit its best against Ring of Honor once again. This time, Alexander was healthy, Alexander was ready, and Alexander would get his chance to prove his mettle against the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, “The Rainmaker” Okada. That years’ delay definitely built up anticipation for this bout and, especially now, Cedric was craving a big win to break his rut.

Okato is the name I knew Okada under first, having watched him in TNA. Not extensively, of course; seeing how good he’s been and how dominant he’s been since returning to Japan, you might not guess that he was never higher than the bottom of the card on Impact. Style-wise, I respect Okada but he’s not my favorite. He reminds me a lot of Randy Orton: when you need a great match he will give you a great match, but his style is characterized more by perfection and fluidity than nuance or edge. Okada can do it all and do it well, versatile enough to face any opponent and skilled enough to conquer. Also he’s the first top guy I can remember who is still being touted for their great dropkick; usually the Maven curse keeps the great dropkickers down. Whatever Okada’s gonna do, he’s gonna make sure it’s optimum quality.

I’ve been a fan of Cedric Alexander since he got to Ring of Honor, but not without reservations. What he’s good at are your general indy rising star staples: speed, acrobatic dives, power strikes, hard drops. You can put him in a match with anyone and he’ll show you he belongs. The one thing he’s been missing is that big win, but obviously that seems to point to some deeper flaw in his game. The need for aggression sticks out, but that can’t be all of it. Matt Sydal is not really an aggressive soul but he still manages to get it done. Against a wrestler as effortlessly solid as Kazuchika Okada, the fact that Alexander wants the win isn’t going to be quite enough. He’ll have to bring a new level of game.

Challenge Match
Kazuchika Okada vs Cedric Alexander

The match kicks off with an armlock exchange that Alexander gets the better of, but Okada gets him to the ropes and a clean break. Next there’s an armdrag exchange that Okada wins but he backs off rather than exploit it. They go into a few more exchanges, jockeying for advantage. Alexander lays into Okada with the same striking style he’s been using all match – measured and powerful – but Okada weathers them all, then unleashes a blitz which gets him a two count. The next skirmish ends with Okada on the outside and Alexander hitting a dive. Okada starts to pull ahead with a rush that ends with a sliding European, then a top rope elbow drop. Cedric ducks the Rainmaker and scores a tornado DDT, then later blocks the tombstone to hit his Kick to Kill Part 2. Okada tries to even things up with a dropkick but Alexander ducks it, only to fall prey to it following another exchange. Okada spikes him with the tombstone piledriver, then hits the Rainmaker lariat and scores the three.

Wasn’t so much an arc in this match as a line, but an angled line at least. Cedric basically threw all his offense at Okada who absorbed it and knocked him back with more. He starts off hot but, as Okada takes the fight to him, he loses steam. Rather than the arc dipping and Cedric then getting a second wind to bring it up, he fights his hardest at the beginning and his later flurries have the air of desperation rather than re-energization. It made sense on that score but that’s not really an exciting trajectory. Rather than anyone getting extended offense, the match was constructed around a series of fairly even exchanges where one person would eke out the upper hand, then the other would, and back again. No one established any superiority on any metric so there was no tension. So while athletically and technically the match was sound, story-wise it fell short. Unfortunately there is a lot of this that can be hung on Alexander.

One thing that came clear to me in watching this is that Cedric Alexander hasn’t got any hurry-up in his offense. He can move fast, there’s no doubt about that. But he doesn’t capitalize, he doesn’t put things together. I’m not talking about the blitzes/rush attacks that we see these days (a specialty of Roderick Strong and Okada). I mean, for instance, how Okada used his dropkick to set up the tombstone and the tombstone to set up the Rainmaker. Whenever Cedric gets his opponent down and it doesn’t put them away he takes a second to be frustrated. If he hits them hard, he sort of watches to see what they’re going to do. He takes his time as if he’s a calculating technical wrestler but that isn’t how he presents in the ring at all. He has the air of a fiery, high-tempo, high-impact wrestler but his matches tend to feel very sluggish. For instance, with his chop series on Okada, he never seemed to get annoyed that his chops weren’t working, never tried to hit harder or faster or change the attack. He just patiently hit Okada again. Okada is not a huge guy. The fact that he didn’t go down should have prompted Cedric to change something up. But that’s the major element missing from his matches: urgency. He’s perfected that “oh fuck what do I do now?” face for sure. He hasn’t perfected expressing that feeling by doing something about it.

Bottom Line: This probably isn’t the match Alexander wanted it to be. It’s fine but nothing you need to go out of your way to see.

Sheamus vs Ziggler

Review » Sheamus vs Ziggler at WWE Payback

Not quite sure where I read it but it was brought up recently that in the wake of Daniel Bryan vacating the WWE Intercontinental Championship, loud in the chatter on who might succeed him are Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus. The Intercontinental belt has got a lot more attention from a lot better competition since the WWE World Heavyweight title unification. What we got to open WWE Payback wasn’t a title match, but don’t be surprised if it is one in the next few months.

When I started following wrestling closely again, I was weaned on Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling NOAH (I’m sure you’re surprised). In those fan scenes there’s a strong notion of paying dues when people come on the scene. If you don’t you sort of don’t deserve respect. Not a totally justified attitude coming from a fan, I get that, but it’s how it was. I’m saying all this to say that when Sheamus came onto the scene I resented him. Hotshotted to the top, I said. Who’d he ever beat? I think it took about a year and then he was one of my favorite guys on the roster. What’s important are the performances, not how long you’ve spent in the spotlight. I’m a huge fan of solid, hard-hitting heavyweight wrestling and that’s what Sheamus will deliver every night. From the get go Sheamus showed that he could battle the best and come out on top.

The complete opposite was Dolph Ziggler. Of course I liked it when guys from the indies made it up (CM Punk, Bryan), but as far as you could get a been-in-the-wars wrestler from the WWE system, Ziggler is it. Stuck it through the laughable Spirit Squad, got saddled with a ridiculous name, worked his ass off to convince people that he was the man and succeeded. On top of that his body is apparently made of rubber so everything he gets hit with looks devastating, and he’s one of the most agile and athletic wrestlers on the roster. Dolph Ziggler’s been in a lot of things I’ve enjoyed but no real classics, and perhaps that’s because he’s never had the stakes behind him. Every big match I can remember him in was mitigated somehow; his first Real World title win was immediately stripped, second came off of Money in the Bank and he never successfully defended it. I think he can get there but perhaps there’s an element that he needs to get onto before he hits that next level. Perhaps he just needs the rocket.

I haven’t watched too much of the show recently so I’m not sure how far back the issue between Sheamus and Ziggler goes, but there’s definite heat walking into this one. The clip they showed of Ziggler ekeing out a win in the Kiss Me Arse match, only to be double-crossed and humiliated by Sheamus, is really all the set-up you’ll need.

Challenge Match
Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus

When you put Sheamus and Ziggler in the ring across from each other you know the basic story: the big bad bully’s going to try and squash the sneaky speedster. Dolph starts it off hot, though, trying to overwhelm Sheamus with offense. It doesn’t take long before Sheamus slows the pace right back down and we settle into a war of attrition. Sheamus’s wrenching headlock is a nice move, especially on someone who can be dragged around like Ziggler. Jerry Lawler suggests that Ziggler makes his fatal mistake later, but I think it was when he stops to make Sheamus kiss he arse. It’s not just that Sheamus gets crazy mad, it’s that Ziggler totally loses focus. He doesn’t try and hit Sheamus while he’s freaking out. He doesn’t do anything to capitalize. Dolph assumes at that point he’s got him beat. Sheamus then summons all his powers and hits Ziggler with a human blitzkrieg. Ziggler lands a desperate headbutt (King says the mistake’s here but Ziggler’s way done by this point) and a superkick for two. Sheamus just gets up — he just ∙ gets ∙ up — and levels Ziggler with a Brogue Kick to send him home.

Good athletic performances from both guys here and they definitely pulled out everything in their arsenals to rock their competition. However, like I said above, this was just attrition. When you strip away the differing movesets both guys had the exact same philosophy: keep on hitting him. Sheamus did a little bit of legwork early on but not enough to exploit or even really slow Ziggler down. For his part, Ziggler probably wasn’t going to have the leverage to worry a limb, but he didn’t try anything to keep Sheamus off-balance. There was no distancing, no especial dodges, no sense that he was working hard to Sheamus’s attack (like, if he knows the Brogue Kick is coming, maybe Ziggler still dodges the second one and Sheamus puts him down with something else). While the conflict between power and speed was there, it never really got built upon. Ultimately, from a strategic/tactical sense, Ziggler’s issue was that he tried to face a power guy with a frontal assault, which everything should tell you is a terrible idea. His hubris played a role and undid what might have ended up in a lucky win, but I think even without that Sheamus would have just battered him down. Should be telling that last month Ziggler just barely scratched out a win and even that got turned over.

Contrasting Dolph Ziggler against a guy like Daniel Bryan, a small guy who has achieved a lot, I think the sense of strategy is a key difference. Bryan won’t wrestle the same way against a guy who is three times his size as he would against a guy only twice his size. He’ll use his tools in order to break theirs down. I think that’s where his success as a performer comes from; he may be small but he doesn’t just fling himself wildly at his opponents. Ziggler wrestles Sheamus the exact same way he’d wrestle anyone else. He doesn’t adapt to the challenge as much as take it by the seat of his pants. That’ll give you a lot of great, gutsy performances, but it will never make you a top flight competitor. No one’s denying Ziggler’s athleticism, least of all me. However, to hit that next level I think Ziggler needs to figure out how a warrior like Sheamus can actually be defeated. As for Sheamus, I think he shows a lot of adaptability. If he needs to he can hit a high speed, but most of all, he constantly evolves his weaponry. I can’t lie that it’s a bit easier for a power wrestler who can usually count on having a strength advantage. That doesn’t mean Ziggler ought to slack in his thinking. Ziggler needs to show that he’s not just gutsy, he’s smart enough to overcome whatever he lacks in size.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a roller coaster, this will probably do you. However there’s no glue to hold it together and really make it strong.

Final Thought: Dolph Ziggler should give Mike Mondo a call. This is in no way a dig at Ziggler. Mondo’s legitimately one of the most inventive guys I’ve seen as far as changing his matches up.

War of the Worlds, Night 1

React » War of the Worlds Nights 1 & 2

Results courtesy of and

Spoilers ahead!

WAR OF THE WORLDS 2015 – Night 1
12 May 2015
2300 Arena, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

  • Gedo def Delirious
  • Roderick Strong def KUSHIDA
  • Jay Lethal def Watanabe
  • The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) def The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie KazarianX) vs The Kingdom (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven)
  • Tetsuya Naito def Michael Elgin
  • reDRagon (Bobby FishO & Kyle O’Reilly) def Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin “Thunder” LigerX
  • AJ Styles def Adam Cole
  • Kazuchika OkadaO & Shinsuke Nakamura def The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe and Mark BriscoeX)

WAR OF THE WORLDS 2015 – Night 2
13 May 2015
2300 Arena, Philadelphia

  • Adam Page def Watanabe
  • Michael Elgin def KUSHIDA
  • Tetsuya Naito def Kyle O’Reilly
  • Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Jushin Thunder LigerX, Mark Briscoe and Jay Lethal
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi def Roderick Strong
  • The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) defeated Kazuchika Okada & GedoX
  • ROH World Championship
    Jay Briscoe© def Bobby Fish
  • The Kingdom (Michael Bennett, Matt Taven, & Adam ColeO) def Bullet Club (AJ Styles, Matt JacksonX, & Nick Jackson)

Biggest change to the week’s happenings in my mind was the return of Adam Cole. I’d predicted Sabin as AJ Styles‘s mystery opponent but I suppose Cole was closer to being healthy than I’d thought. He managed to go 1 for 1 at War of the Worlds, taking a loss in that return to Styles but teaming with his Kingdom-mates to take down Bullet Club the next night. Losing to Styles is nothing to be ashamed of at all, though I’m sure Cole is going to have something to say about that.

As far as predictions go, the Naito/Elgin match went against my expectations but I think if I’d known Naito was going to have a title shot at Global Wars Night 1 when I made it I would have revised my opinion. That said, Elgin took a flash loss which I was happy to hear; points much more strongly to Naito needing the win than to a lack of regard for Elgin. Naito took next night’s match against Kyle O’Reilly as well. His upcoming opponent, the TV champion Jay Lethal, didn’t do quite so well as he went 1 and 1, but he wasn’t pinned as his loss came in that four-corner survival. Naito’s got the momentum going into Global Wars but I can’t see that it’s going to give him the win.

Bobby Fish has done a lot to sell his title match with Jay Briscoe in the short amount of time he had to do it. That plus reDRagon still being way over as ROH’s top (and now unabashedly beloved) tag team made for a long night for Jay at Night 2. Fish didn’t pull out the win but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more singles title matches in the future.

After the title match, Moose apparently hit the ring and gave Jay Briscoe a spear. Seems to set up a future title match between the two which I just hope is gonna be on TV rather than at an event. My feeling is that unfortunately Moose will leave soon (for GFW) so they’re wanting to get the title match for the monster out of the way. Could certainly be wrong, always a problem trying to speculate in these things. I’m just not that interested in a Moose title match at this juncture and I can’t see that he was really being built to take a strong run at it.

Nakamura and Okada apparently were booked to look flawless, especially in showcase matches on night 2. KUSHIDA‘s been the kicking boy with a name so far, so while I expect he’ll get at least 1 win this weekend I would be extremely surprised (and honestly, disappointed) if he beats Elgin on the iPPV. Gedo did his bit and I’m interested to see how he does against Delirious, esp as he’s in Best of the Super Juniors this year.

I find it interesting the level that The Kingdom tag team have been protected, mostly because I don’t feel like The Kingdom have been put in marquee positions. Obviously it could just be protecting the belts, but then I’d have to wonder why they gave them the straps in the first place. We’re apparently set to see a title rematch at NJPW’s Dominion show and at the moment I can’t really see Kingdom still holding onto them. I suppose really what I want to see is The Kingdom have a solid rivalry with someone. Probably won’t materialize soon, though.

All in all they sound like great shows and I’m excited to see them when they finally do come out. As for Global Wars, I can only imagine they’ll be doing their best to top what they put out on these shows.


Global Force Wrestling

Roundup » Week of 11 May

  • The most notable news of the week is undoubtedly Daniel Bryan vacating the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Bryan’s had a lot of injury troubles in his WWE tenure, which likely has a lot to do with him pushing himself so hard. I haven’t seen a ton of his latest matches so it’s possible he has toned his style down some. I remember this as a big critique of CM Punk week-to-week actually, people disappointed that he didn’t seem to “turn it on” for Raws. I’m also fairly sure that Punk addressed this directly by saying that he wanted to preserve his body for longer. With WWE’s schedule, not only in working dates but in travel, that sort of attitude might serve one well. That said, a lot of the appeal Daniel Bryan has is precisely in that he seems to give it his all every single night, and Bryan personally has always seemed like an overworker so I’m not sure that he’d even start to think that way.

    For the belt itself, who knows? As ever it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on in WWE’s title scene. It seems like John Cena is on the downturn as far as card position these days, I don’t think he’s been heavily in the title picture since he lost it last year. Could put him in range for the IC belt but I think with him holding the US title that makes it somewhat unlikely. The mainstays here are Wade Barrett and Dolph Ziggler, both of whom seem pretty well stuck around this level. Outside of them there is an array of plausible contenders. While this might seem pretty good from the perspective of having potential match-ups, I feel like it really shows the disorganization of the WWE system and their inability to build up credible challengers. The reason that WWE has a lot of plausible contenders for their titles is that everyone’s basically on the same level: losing and winning interchangeably with no one gaining real momentum.

    Tough for me to say who I’d like to see win the belt. The guys I like on the roster right now (and who aren’t injured) are… Dean Ambrose, I think, and that’s about it. But since Ambrose has already been the US champ for an extended reign, I’m really not sure what there is to see from an Ambrose Intercontinental reign. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll see soon enough how WWE decides to deal with the situation. Best of luck to Daniel Bryan and hopefully we’ll see him in the ring again before too long.

  • Point number two in the round-up is none other than Jeff Jarrett‘s Global Force Wrestling. Jarrett and his crew have been going around the American southwest throwing out pitches at minor league games and drumming up interest for their coming shows. Not living in the area and therefore not being able to see Jarrett’s fabulous pitching live, I can only read what’s been going on with it so far. And what’s been going on with it is not altogether inspiring. The main exhibit here is the fact that GFW has TV tapings scheduled and hasn’t yet announced a TV network (to my knowledge, maybe it’s hiding out there in some random spot). So we’ve got typical Jarrett-ian hubris and overreach just to kick things off.

    Right now, they have announced a few live events and then their TV tapings. And very recently they announced that these tapings will crown not one, not two, but four champions. Why are they gonna crown four champions? How will we know where everybody’s going to slot? No idea. What it puts me in mind of is not a serious promotion. This makes me think of like a hobby wrestling league. Jarrett has been pitching this as a big deal but this seems so slapdash that I can’t take it seriously. The only way this works is that if we’re supposed to already see these guys as stars, and unfortunately, that’s not how it goes in most places. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla can get away with it to an extent because they know their audience is predominantly indy fans who follow all the stuff, but even though tend to build their people a bit. GFW’s promotional work so far has definitely been geared towards a mainstream audience but they are not bringing the guns they need to if they want to make a splash in that area.

    We’ve got a roster including a wide variety of guys that have been on TV and didn’t really do a lot there, which is not that inspiring. For some of these, like The Young Bucks and DH Smith/Davey Boy Jr., their TV careers don’t really tell the full story. But for guys like Cassidy Riley, Chase Stevens, Jigsaw, etc., you sort of wonder where the meat is. It’s not that anybody they’ve drafted is bad, it’s more that GFW seemingly has not gone out of its way to grab notable names. This’d be a problem in general but especially for how GFW is being set-up, the lack of any guys who can clearly be pointed to as “the guy” makes it hard to get interested before the thing debuts. That said, I don’t really know that there’s a bigger name out there that they can really work with. Drew Galloway and John Morrison (he’s worked under a variety of names post-WWE) are both more-or-less active, and given that Tyrus/Brodus Clay is apparently still working TNA, there’s a chance that they might’ve been drafted in. At the same time, their name value wouldn’t boost things massively.

    As it stands, the GFW project still doesn’t interest me. I’m glad guys like Jamin Olivencia and Jigsaw will be getting a shot here, Olivencia in particular is a guy who at the very least hasn’t worked around to the level I always felt he should. Prediction is that despite all this TV show noise, Jarrett’s group will slot in around where Pro Wrestling Syndicate or AAW is: people are working there but if there’s somebody worth knowing 9 times out of 10 they’ll be working somewhere else as well and likely doing better there. If Jarrett can prove me wrong I’d be pleasantly surprised. I just don’t think the climate is there.

  • Chris Sabin actually had his first match back in Ring of Honor on this past episode of the TV show, one-on-one against Kyle O’Reilly. It wasn’t the grandest comeback of all time but that certainly wasn’t what Sabin was going for. He was a cheeky, sneaky bastard from even before the match and he played that shit up to the T. He does have a really good mischievous face and a pretty good head for creative tricks. That said, for my money, there was a little too much cheating going on for me to really enjoy the match. It didn’t seem so much that Sabin was trying to beat O’Reilly than that he wanted to show how sneaky and mean he was. I mean I’m sure that was the subtext of the match but I would have liked to see it play out a little more subtly, Sabin give a little more of a fuck about either badly hurting O’Reilly or about just defeating him. I don’t really have any doubt that Sabin will be able to hit the high gear of an ROH main event but I’m not sure how it’ll come off, and unfortunately this match didn’t really give a lot of insight there.
  • And to close this round-up off, we’ve got the released block listings for this year’s NJPW‘s Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Being an unabashed gaijin fanboy I can’t help but be a little bit miffed that Ring of Honor didn’t get to field more people — only reDRagon, already known to the New Japan audience, will be going over — but I’m glad that Chase Owens gets to go back. What I think Owens really wants is a spell either in the New Japan dojo and working for them regularly or just to work outside the confines of the NWA, cause NWA does not have the best people right now and that means there are less chances to progress. But hopefully he does well cause I have liked what he’s done in New Japan so far.

    – block A: Barbaro Cavernario • Baretta • Chase Owens • Gedo • Jushin Thunder Liger • Kyle O’Reilly • Ryusuke Taguchi • Yohei Komatsu
    – block B: Alex Shelley • Bobby Fish • David Finlay • KUSHIDA • Mascara Dorada • Nick Jackson • Rocky Romero • Tiger Mask IV

    Two things that stand out immediately is that the top four junior heavyweight tag teams — The Young Bucks, reDRagon, Time Splitters, and Roppongi Vice — are in the tournament, but only Shelley & KUSHIDA will actually be in the same block. What this means for the future of that team I’m not sure; it could be nothing, but as wrestling fans know, coincidence is rarely without consequence. I’m sure we’re going to see lots of action in the Jr. Tag situation as these guys all fight over slights they’ve got in the past and try to pin either of the Jacksons to earn a title match.Guys I’m not familiar with are Barbaro Cavernario, Gedo (who I know but mostly by reputation, not work), Yohei Komatsu, and David Finlay (son of Fit Finlay). Finlay’s name here is interesting because his dad is certainly not a junior heavy. It could be that David is still filling out and will bring a heavyweight style to proceedings. We’ll have to see. However, I don’t think any of these guys is very likely to actually take it. Sight unseen I would say that David Finlay will have an okay run but, beyond that, no idea.

    And who’ll win it all? That one’s even tougher. The prize this year is an exclipicit shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, currently held by one (wildly overacting) Kenny Omega. NJPW’s junior heavyweight field has actually been pretty dry recently as far as contenders, and Omega has already vanquished three: Taguchi, Dorada, and Shelley. I can see Taguchi, who’s been the veteran hand of the division, making a strong run at the finals but not quite make it. My money on the winner right now is KUSHIDA, using the Shelley fight as a major springboard. However, I wouldn’t put it past them to give someone else the nod, especially if they’re going to have Omega beat them. Right now I’m seeing KUSHIDA as the main native hope for this title (with Ibushi apparently working heavy now) and I’m not sure they want to squash that with a title loss. Lots of questions that’ll come out of this tournament. And, of course, a lot of excellent matches.

Killer Elite Squad

Review » Killer Elite Squad vs War Machine (ROH TV 2-May)

I feel like this sort of match is one that we don’t get often enough these days: two powerhouse tag teams going toe to toe and just slugging it out. A lot of it is because we really don’t have that many power teams, and probably because there’s such a premium on flying. But if people are watching matches like this one I can see a lot more interest for power guys coming up.

War Machine, made up of Raymond Rowe and Hanson, took Ring of Honor by storm in the 2014 Top Prospect Tournament, where they met in the finals for an excellent match. Later on Michael Elgin brought them together as a team and they were well on their way to a strong spot when Rowe got sidelined by a major injury. Now they’re back on on the path one again, but Elgin’s turned on them and brought in the Killer Elite Squad to take them out. In Ring of Honor, War Machine enjoys a huge power advantage over pretty much every other team. The Killer Elite Squad are bigger than them and they’ve been champions a long time. When they walk to the ring they’re bringing two tag titles (NOAH’s GHC straps and the NWA straps) and they have all the pedigree they need to make sure no one messes with them without thinking real hard about it first.

I have a high opinion of War Machine’s work in ROH so far but I feel like this is their first real test. Hanson singly has had a lot of standout matches while Rowe was out, even rising to an ROH World title shot. Since they’ve been back they’ve mostly rolled over weak competition, working out ring rust. Plus, the fact that their opponents here have such a developed power game is going to make this much different than any test they’re likely to face from the regular roster. Killer Elite Squad are a team I’m sort of iffy on. I don’t really know why. Davey Boy Smith Jr I’ve liked since WWE but my opinion of him has definitely increased since he’s been working New Japan. Lance Archer, I definitely think Steve Corino’s telling the truth when he says Archer’s one of the most slept on talents out there. I’ve seen Archer in a lot of things I liked. I just can’t get into him. Don’t know why, it’s never really clicked for me. That said, he’s definitely good and his viciousness definitely puts the Killer in the KES name.

Tag Team Challenge Match
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer) vs War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)

The best thing about this match was that War Machine was absolutely destroyed. Every single other time we’ve seen Hanson & Rowe they’re rolling right over their opponents. Now that War Machine is up against a team with at least as much power and a lot more experience, they are actually having trouble. Hanson, not Rowe, has been on a total tear through ROH in 2014. Yet here it’s Hanson, not Rowe, who is getting double-teamed, bodyslammed, tied up, and crushed by the Killer Elite Squad. Yet in all that War Machine never lose their steamroller attitude. They don’t become mewling wretches and they’re not gasping and pleading with the fans to help them. You see the KES pinning Hanson in the corner, hitting a series of attacks, and the vibe you’re getting is still “Once I can step out of this corner I’m gonna kick these motherfuckers’ heads in.”

Thought we had a very nice arc here with KES not taking War Machine seriously until War Machine had done some damage, then immediately turning the pressure on. The Killer Elites were brought in to take War Machine out and it seemed very much like that’s what they were intent on doing. Despite being a power team they are exceptionally crafty and did a lot of very effective rule bending. Hanson is actually really good at taking the heat despite being such a big hoss-type guy; was impressed by his tag selling at one point because he gets up looking at the far rope and then sells around rather than doing the regular dead fish crawling sell. I think when Rowe came back in and hit Archer he was supposed to take Archer down. The way Rowe fell back just makes me feel like it was unexpected. However, whatever way it was meant it helped sell the story better, and it didn’t slow Rowe down any. The finish made sense to me but I would have liked it better without having Elgin do the pull the ref spot. We’ve seen that spot a million times and it makes so little sense. In a title match I can see leeway but at some point shouldn’t Nigel be like “okay zero tolerance on this shit now stop fucking touching the ref.” Throwing the match out because it totally breaks down is legit, I would have bought that on its own.

I’m hoping that, given the no contest ending, we are going to get this match again on a pay-per-view. That’s something I’m all for. One criticism I have of War Machine is that they’re trying a bit too hard to be like the current teams ROH likes: Young Bucks, reDRagon, Forever Hooligans, etc. They want to get some cute poses together and do a lot of tag team moves and shit. For me, they should get on the model of teams like Bad Intentions and Killer Elite Squad. Get to be a fluid unit but don’t necessarily try and synchronize everything. Another match, or even a series, against KES could do a lot to help War Machine develop as a team.

Bottom Line: This is a totally savage heavyweight tag team match which is absolutely my style. I’d like to see this one again for sure.


Roppongi Vice

React » NJPW’s Wrestling Dontaku ’15

To begin with, a disclaimer: I have not seen Wrestling Dontaku 2015 yet and this is not a show review. These are my reactions to the results, speculation about what they might bring for the future, etc.

Results courtesy of Joe Lanza and

Obviously, spoilers abound.

3 May 2015
Fukuoka Convention Center, Fukuoka (Japan)

  • Jushin Liger, Mascara Dorada, Tiger Mask, & Yuji NagataO def Captain New JapanX, KUSHIDA, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi
  • Kota Ibushi & Yohei KomatsuO def Tetsuya Naito & Sho TanakaX
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, & Tomoaki HonmaO def Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Cody HallX, & Tama Tonga)
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
    Young Bucks (Matt JacksonO & Nick Jackson) def Roppongi Vice© (Rocky Romero & BarettaX) and reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)
    NEW CHAMPS! Young Bucks 42nd Champions!
  • IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
    Kenny Omega© def Alex Shelley
  • The Kingdom (Michael Bennett, Matt Taven, & Maria KanellisO) def Bullet Club (Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson, & Amber GallowsX)
  • Hiroshi TanahashiO, Katsyuori Shibata, & Togi Makabe def CHAOS (Kazushi Sakuraba, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru YanoX)
  • Bullet Club (A.J. StylesO & Yujiro) def CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHIX)
  • IWGP Intercontinental Championship
    Hirooki Goto def Shinsuke Nakamura©
    NEW CHAMP! Hirooki Goto 11th Champion!

The first three matches, for me, don’t show a lot of future importance. Lanza thinks that the Ibushi tag match may have been a set-up for a bit of attention on Komatsu and Tanaka. Bullet Club taking a fall in the first trios match seems to continue the theme of latter-day BizCliz not being quite as invincible as they once were.

The Jr. Tag title match which saw the Young Bucks regain the belts has some implications, not just in New Japan but also for the War of the Worlds/Global Wars shows that I’ve previewed earlier. The quick title reign seems to have established Roppongi Vice as a top team in the Jr. Tag scramble while the Bucks have just re-enforced their claim as the top of the Jr. Tag heap. As Lanza points out, reDRagon has been well protected even in their recent losses, and again they don’t take the fall here. Speaks a hell of a lot about reDRagon’s importance to the Jr. Tag scene at present. Title wise I don’t see this change being extremely significant; I expect someone else will wear those straps soon enough. However, going into the NJPW/ROH Wars shows, this makes Young Bucks the targets rather than the hunters, and gives Roppongi Vice a huge reason to impress in their efforts on that week.

As my following of New Japan has been sketchy, I can’t say how relevant Alex Shelley has been to the singles junior heavyweight scene; last I was watching he really seemed to not be on that side of things. So while I’m sure this was a great match, it feels more like building Kenny Omega than giving him a really strong contender. It’s interesting that foreigners have really been dominating the junior scenes recently; the strongest Japanese hopes here are Ibushi and KUSHIDA, and I’m not sure either are in a position to make a run at Omega right now.

Not expecting much out of The Kingdom/Bullet Club match here. They’ve been playing it for comedy it feels like, which is fine enough, but The Kingdom are currently the IWGP Tag Team Champions and are suffering from a huge lack of credibility. This isn’t the match to give it to them, especially as it’s Maria that got the pin on Amber, not any of the feuding tag guys managing to prove anything. On both sides of the water The Kingdom needs some more definitive wins if they’re going to come out of this title reign looking any better than they came in.

My knowledge of the issues between these guys in the Tanahashi trios is very limited, really limited to what I’ve gleaned from results skimming. Tanahashi getting his pin on Yano continues their resumed cheating rivalry (if I remember correctly they were doing this a few years ago with Yano stealing Tanahashi’s heavyweight belt). Makabe and Ishii were there to hit the hell out of each other. I’m not really sure why they hate each other so much but they’ve traded the NEVER belt and had some serious slugfests. Shibata and Sakuraba I think used to tag, I guess that broke up. Sorry I don’t really have more here but it doesn’t seem a match really designed to boost anybody’s level, just to keep these rivalries going.

Bullet Club beating CHAOS seems somewhat of a given; I think CHAOS has consistently been backfooted in this feud. Apparently they did an angle afterward where Okada lifted the IWGP strap but, judging just on hearsay, I can’t see how that’d be very effective considering he just lost. Still, that’s the obvious match being built to and Styles continues to look dominant going into it.

The night’s main event features what I consider to be a shock upset but what I suspect most New Japan diehards half-expected to happen. Mostly, I would have thought that Nakamura was safe to carry the Intercontinental title over to the United States for the Wars shows. It does seem like what the title was created for, given its genesis in NJPW’s American tour-nament. I like Goto fine but I don’t know much about his trajectory here. Nakamura’s stock won’t really drop here but I’m sure he’ll be looking to rebuild when he comes stateside.

Bottom Line: It seems like a show worth catching from Lanza’s review. Things are somewhat changed around title-wise for the upcoming NJPW/ROH shows but since those are fairly cold story-wise I don’t think it’ll affect much. For New Japan I’d prefer to wait and see; as I’ve admitted (about 90 times) that my NJPW story knowledge is weak I’d like to get more of a feel for it before speaking more.

Drew Galloway vs Low Ki

Match Review – Drew Galloway vs Low Ki, Impact (1 May)

Last night, Impact Wrestling aired it’s Hardcore Justice episode. The element of danger was present throughout the night. One match with the potential to be absolutely brutal pitted Drew Galloway against Low Ki, with a steel pipe suspended on a pole above the ring. Up until this point, Galloway’s The Rising and Low Ki’s Beat Down Clan have been trading shots and things have been getting extremely ugly. When Galloway made his debut for TNA, he used a steel pipe to clear the Beat Down Clan away from a beat down victim and in the process split Ki open. Now was Ki’s opportunity at revenge and, even better, a chance to put Galloway in his place.

Low Ki is a guy I have a bit of familiarity with but not near as much as your typical indy diehard. Mostly I think this is because I came onto the scene when Low Ki was in the wilderness, as it were, on bad terms with ROH and not working TNA, on and off in Japan for his most visibility. That said I’ve seen his stuff and always thought he was good, a vicious take-no-prisoners martial arts style. What I like about him is he takes the martial arts thing seriously, not simply as a bit of flash to add to his act. Drew Galloway is a guy that I feel like I’m waiting to be impressed by but it never happens. There are others, like Alberto Del Rio, who I think are great but haven’t put that into a classic that I’ve seen. Galloway, on the other hand, I feel is always just about to hit his next tier. Some guys have really reinvented after hitting the indies but I haven’t seen much of that from Galloway. That said, he’s always able to channel a lot of fire when needed and that’s always useful in a weapons match like this.

Steel Pipe on a Pole

Given their history it isn’t surprising that Low Ki started things off quickly. He found he’d bitten off more than he could chew when Galloway responded with strikes of his own and sent him over the top with a lariat. One of the main conflicts in this match revolveda round the size difference between Galloway and Low Ki but, perhaps because of time, it doesn’t get played with much more than the sort of attacks they use. Really, the match goes fairly back and forth, each guy escalating their assault, using a chair if the other guy just used one, and so on. The battle takes them from the floor back into the ring and they struggle over the pipe. Galloway gets it but Low Ki intercepts him and steals the pipe. Low Ki then tries to use it like a club (would have been nice to see something different with it given Ki’s style) but Galloway ducks, boots him, and hits the Futureshock DDT to get the pinfall.

An obvious problem here, from a slavering thrall of bloodlust’s point of view, is that they never actually use the steel pipe. In general I’m not bothered by not having weapon use, but in a match where the pipe is in the billing, I feel as though it should be decisive. Instead, it meant nothing. It didn’t even make Low Ki wary, which would be understandable given his history on the wrong end of it. But the bigger issue is really that they didn’t try to do much of anything. Drew Galloway came into the match with injured ribs but they never stopped Galloway short or gave Low Ki a real opportunity to get an advantage. The one time he does specifically attack the ribs as a counter doesn’t buy him any more time than if Galloway had been fine. There’s no sense that Low Ki is having trouble with Galloway’s strength or that Galloway can’t handle Low Ki’s speed or striking. It feels very much like a game of rock em sock em robots: you keep hitting until someone falls down finally.

Performance-wise, both guys were fine. I’ve seen better stuff from Low Ki so, not seeing him recently, I’d say this was more an off night from him. I think he could have given a little more to Drew in terms of selling but I don’t really feel that the match was built in such a way that it hurt things. Drew Galloway I feel needs to do a lot of studying. He wrestles basically the same as he did in WWE and the problem is that he did not have an eyecatching style there. TNA will stay behind him because he’s alright in the ring and he’s a former WWE Intercontinental Champion. However, just like TNA hasn’t really defined Ken Anderson or Jeff Hardy or Kurt Angle, it won’t do anything to increase Galloway’s stock. If Galloway’s intent on not being defined by his WWE career he’s going to need to start getting his game together.

An argument can be made that you can’t do a lot in seven minutes, which is about how long they ran (it’s possible that it was cut down for TV but I didn’t notice anything). However, I’d rather see a less cluttered match with more arc to take up that seven minutes than guys trying to cram 15-20 minutes worth of violence into half that time.

Bottom Line: This is a TV match. To some extent you lower your expectations for it. However, it was also the semi-main on a name episode of Impact. I mean, at least use the steel pipe.