August 17, 2018
The Great O-Kharn . . . channels the spirits of Killer Khan, Mr. Saito, and Tiger Chun-Li, and puts on an engaging match.
KUSHIDA . . . shows how much of a well-rounded worker he is by being able to work around the limitations of his opponent.
WALTER . . . gives everyone the insane stiffness that they want, but doesn’t forget to have a good match in the process.
JOSH BODOM vs. DAN MAGEE
The one positive thing that I took away from this was that Bodom showed some personality. He has a smirk on his face from the beginning, and he started the match with a dismissive slap to Magee. But, this was rough to watch beyond that. The one common factor to all of their ‘innovative’ spots is that the cooperation is obvious. Magee’s pumphandle knee strike, and Bodom’s escape of the uranage are the two most glaring examples. And, when they do come up with something nice, like Magee taking Bodom down into a Koji clutch, they ruin the moment right afterwards by having Bodom get to his feet first, rather than putting over the hold.
Of course, putting anything over doesn’t seem to be high on their priority list. The finish starts with Magee countering a Tombstone on the floor and giving Bodom an inverted pedigree. But, once he gets rolled in, Bodom jumps to his feet and gives Magee his piledriver for a near fall, and then a Shibata-style PK gets the pin. I wondered if the finishing kick was supposed to be an ode to Shibata, but the unnecessary bombs and ridiculous no-selling makes me think that it’s much more likely that the match is an ode to Kobashi.
THE GREAT O-KHARN vs. SHANE STRICKLAND
O-Kharn belongs in the Dallas Sportatorium being managed by Gary Hart. He’s every foreign heel that I watched while I was growing up, complete with the sinister facials, exaggerated chops, and the preponderance for choking. The only thing that he’s missing is mist or salt. But, it works here because Strickland puts everything over like a champ. Strickland lets his own stuff take a backseat, and it’s not until he blocks the jumping Mongolian chops and makes his comeback, that he starts showing his stuff. Strickland bringing out his flashy offense the way he does also works in the vein of him nearly losing the match, and trying do as much damage as he can as quickly as he can, before O-Kharn can finish the job. Like the last match, they go a bit too far with the near falls, but, only a little bit, instead of taking it to ridiculous lengths. O-Kharn stretching him out with the crossbow and then hitting the Iron Claw slam probably should have been the finish. But instead of Shane kicking out and then going right back to his own offense, he continues selling the damage and O-Kharn commences to finishing him off with a big reverse suplex. In a nutshell, this has everything the opening match was lacking: Good selling, telling a story, and a smart finish. I’ll take those three qualities over crazy spots any day of the week. ***
ADAM BROOKS vs. KUSHIDA
This is easily the best Adam Brooks match that I’ve seen, although Brooks doesn’t have a whole lot to do with that. He’s far from useless, but, his attitude and personality take center stage and helps make up for the fact that his work isn’t that good. But, considering that KUSHIDA’s arm work was a big factor in the finish, even if Brooks didn’t submit, it was great to see him consistently selling it, even in the first few minutes when KUSHIDA goes for the quick juji-gatame. There’s another nice moment when KUSHIDA winds up for the punch and Brooks quickly does an enzuigiri to prevent it, which pays off later on when KUSHIDA outsmarts Brooks to hit the punch.
For his part, KUSHIDA is great at picking up the slack in the one area Brooks was lacking in, that being meaningful work. KUSHIDA does a good job of selling while Brooks is in control, and between that and his attitude, it’s that much more fun to watch KUSHIDA make the comeback and go back to working over the arm. In what seems to be a running theme, they have a sequence that would have made a perfect finish, but isn’t the finish. After Brooks had been able to stay away from the Hoverboard Lock, KUSHIDA catches him on the top rope and suplexes him off, right into the hold. But, instead of being the finish, Brooks makes it to the ropes for the break. The finish they have is still very good, with KUSHIDA capitalizing on Brooks being vulnerable from the Hoverboard Lock and planting him Back to the Future and getting the pin. Even with Brooks’ work not being up to snuff, they found their own way to turn that negative into a positive and put on an engrossing match. ***1/4
KYLE FLETCHER/MARK DAVIS vs. CHRIS BROOKES/JONATHAN GRESHAM
All that one needs to do for this match is watch the first five minutes of the match, featuring Gresham and Fletcher chain wrestling, and then fast-forward to the end. The chain wrestling was fun, even though it was meaningless, but then the match descends into bullshit comedy over Gresham’s size, and the effectiveness of his strikes. Gresham wrenching on Fletcher’s leg in the right spot to take him right down was a nice way to put over Gresham’s wrestling knowledge, but that’s pretty much it. After Davis gets the hot tag, it’s more comedy with Gresham’s size, Fletcher selectively selling his leg, bombs galore, and at least three sequences that would have made decent finishes before they get around to ending the match. Although, this setting allows for the partner to make the save and somewhat protect the spots. If they toned down the home stretch and didn’t rely so much on the comedy, then this would have been a fun tag match.
TITAN vs. EL SOBERANO Jr.
Despite having a smart finish, with Titan outsmarting Soberano twice and tying him up and pinning him, this is more of an exhibition than it is a match. The only time it feels like something with a life of its own is when Titan suckers Soberano in with handshake and then lariats him down to take over the match. There are a couple of exposing moments where Titan has to put himself into position for Soberano’s spots, the first time is when Titan hangs himself in the tree of woe to allow Soberano to hit the running knee, and then later on Soberano misses a dropkick and has to hang himself between the ropes so that Soberano can do a quebrada.
Considering they’re in front of a crowd that’s probably not very familiar with them, or how they work, it’s not much of a surprise that they go the spotfest route. Their timing and athleticism are fully on display. But, it’s too bad that they didn’t do more to showcase personality as well. Titan’s cheap shot and mask ripping antics are all that’s really there, and that’s negated afterwards with the handshake and embrace between them.
LANCE ARCHER vs. JURN SIMMONS
If you’re a fan of roughneck brawling, then this isn’t something you’ll want to steer clear of, but there isn’t much else to see. The two biggest spots both come from Archer, the Black Hole Slam and the chokeslam, and they’re both throwaway near falls. Archer going for broke with a moonsault and wiping out was a good way to turn the match over to Jurn, but, he doesn’t do anything that makes it seem like he could beat Archer, other than the hanging DDT, and that comes right before Archer counters the piledriver and beats him. Jurn could be an amazing worker, for all I know, but this definitely isn’t the setting to show that.
DAVID STARR © vs. EL PHANTASMO (British Cruiserweight Title)
I appreciate their intensity, and, Starr’s heel character is fun to watch, but this is just another spotfest with almost nothing in the way of meaningful work. There are moments when it would make sense to give one of them a control segment to try to take the match somewhere, but they can’t seem to get out of their own way to get there. The first comes after Starr’s attempt to get deliberately counted out backfires and Phantasmo dives onto him, but, before Phantasmo can work him over and set up the chair for the running kicks, they feel the need to do a strike exchange that Phantasmo wins, before letting him take over. A little bit later, Starr hits a DDT on the stage and then tosses Phantasmo off the stage and into the crowd, in order to try to cause another count out, but Phantasmo crawls back to the ring and just beats the count. Instead of Starr taking advantage of him being woozy and working the head or neck over, Phantasmo literally walks it off, by doing a couple of laps around the ring and looks completely refreshed.
The only thing that happens that seems like it will have permanent ramifications is Starr taking out his leg and then wearing him down with the cloverleaf variation. Phantasmo does a passable job of selling it for quite a while, including a nice moment when he tries Starr’s brainbuster and his leg gives out on him. The leg is also, arguably, the reason for the ref bump that eventually leads to the finish. Of course, Phantasmo had hit a huge splash from the top just before then, so it doesn’t seem like he lost too much spring in his step. But, Phantasmo takes his time setting himself up on the top and Starr shoves him off and he goes into the ref. And, the only fitting way to finish a match full of meaningless work is by burning through a bunch of finishers, for no good reason. The foul not getting the pin is understandable. It shows that Starr needs to get the win himself. But, there’s no reason for the near falls in quick succession from the brainbuster, belt shot, and the final piledriver. Nothing that Starr does backfires on him, to give the idea that Phantasmo can turn things around, and the only thing Phantasmo does it barely lift his shoulder, so it’s not like he was on the verge of making a comeback.
WALTER vs. TOMOHIRO ISHII (#1 Contender’s Match for the British Heavyweight Title)
As soon as the match was announced, everyone knew what to expect, two absurdly tough wrestlers beating the tar out of one another. WALTER and Ishii give the people what they want, but, they also manage to put on a smart match in the process. Instead of going the Sasaki route and lighting up Ishii just to do it, WALTER outwrestles him and targets his midsection, with a big slam and a jumping knee drop to knock the wind out of him, which also soften up Ishii for the Gojira clucth. WALTER’s famous chops are that much more meaningful, and Ishii puts them over appropriately. The chop exchange was practically prerequisite for the match, but it doesn’t last that long, and they work other things into it as well, such as WALTER also trying for his lariat and running boot, and both of them try to be smart and avoid the bigger shots, instead of showing their toughness by sucking it up.
Aside from one moment of stupidity, when he pops up after a butterfly suplex from the top rope, Ishii also puts on a good performance. Besides his selling of WALTER’s chops, he also finds smart ways to work in his own offense. One of his first big spots was catching a charging WALTER with a powerslam, and letting WALTER’s momentum do the work for him, so he could keep selling the beating he’d taken. There’s another smart moment afterwards, where Ishii tries for too much by trying to hit the brainbuster, but, WALTER is too fresh, and Ishii too worn down, for that to work. The other really nice thing from Ishii is his realization that while WALTER is undoubtably a tough opponent, he’s human and he can be beaten. Ishii takes some of his biggest shots and is able to keep fighting. It makes Ishii’s pop up from the suplex that much more odd. The spot itself has meaning, with WALTER trying to keep the air out of Ishii’s lungs, so, there’s really no good reason for Ishii to blow it off like that.
On the surface, the finish looks like it comes a bit too easily for Ishii, considering what WALTER puts him through, but a second viewing shows that it’s not as bad as it seems. Ishii avoids a chop and stuns WALTER with a headbutt, and then starts wearing him down with his own big shots, like an enzuigiri (with WALTER stumbling around the show the effect), a lariat, and the Sliding D. When WALTER kicks out after the Sliding D, Ishii manages to hit the brainbuster for the pin. Because it all comes in such quick succession, it seems like Ishii dispatches him rather easily, but, between WALTER’s selling and the various near falls after each big move, it works fine. I’d have still liked to see this go a bit longer, so that the story of WALTER’s strategy and Ishii’s subsequent comeback could have been drawn out more, but, this is still a fine main event on it’s own, even if it’s more fun than it is great. ***½
Conclusion: From top to bottom, this is quite the nice show. The only black mark is the tag team match, but everything else is solid at worst, with at least something to like about it.