The Inevitability of Zack Sabre Jr.

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There’s been a march taking place in March over in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Zack Sabre Jr won the New Japan Cup by submitting a good portion of the NJPW main event scene. Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Sanada, and Hiroshi Tanahashi all fell to Sabre in their quest to win the tournament. Because he won that tournament he now has his sights set on Kazuchika Okada and the IWGP heavyweight championship, but he faces some pretty long odds. Okada is in the middle of an all-time run as the champ. You can make the argument that it seems like Okada ALWAYS WINS, but when you’re the Ace of the company that’s how it’s supposed to be. Losses feel unique and if an Ace loses, they need to pick themselves back up and redeem themselves. The match itself should be interesting because Okada has only faced one opponent similar to Sabre and that would be Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki is the leader of Suzuki-Gun and a mentor to Sabre. Both men wrestle a submission based style and while Suzuki is much older and possibly more sadistic, Sabre is younger and inevitable.

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What do I mean by inevitable you ask? Sabre has won gold in just about every promotion he’s wrestled in: Evolve, Rev-Pro, PWG, just to name a few. His submission style isn’t necessarily to work on a limb until you’re forced to tap out. It’s to work on ALL of them and this causes opponents to wonder where he’s going to strike next. He’s composed and calculating and he WILL win eventually. If Okada is able to survive, which seems to be the popular consensus, NJPW has a new star to contend with and he will not stop until he gets gold. It may not be in the form of the heavyweight championship, but it will happen.

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I’d love to see Sabre win, if for no other reason than to just put one over on everyone who thinks that Okada always wins. However, I’m fine with Okada winning as well because I think he’s on a run that will be talked about for many years. Both potential outcomes could lead to interesting things as well. If Sabre wins, he’ll find himself at the top of the company and his mentor as the gatekeeper to get to him. Suzuki is also the current Intercontinental champion. The Intercontinental championship is the second biggest title in the heavyweight division. It could also lead to internal strife within Suzuki-Gun since Sabre would have surpassed his mentor. How long before Suzuki-Gun becomes Sabre-Gun? If Okada wins he’ll find himself closer to having broken another broken. He will be tied with longtime rival Hiroshi Tanahashi for successful title defenses in a single title reign at 11 defenses. If Okada wins, I think Tanahashi will come out and be the next challenger for IWGP heavyweight championship.  Either way I think the match is going to be a great one and will set the pace for what is already a jam-packed week of wrestling.

My Favorite Matches: January 2018

I thought I’d start keeping a log of my favorite matches throughout the year.  However, because I don’t watch EVERYTHING and sometimes end up watching things late due to only getting them on blu-ray (looking at you PWG) or just not knowing about it until later there will probably be additions throughout the year.  There will also be spoilers since these are matches that have already happened.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 01/04/18 – Junior Heavyweight Title Match:  Marty Scurll © v Will Osprey v KUSHIDA v Hiromu Takahashi

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Screencap from NJPWWorld.com

This match was a great showcase for some of the best Junior Heavyweights in the world right now.  Each man had opportunities to shine.  It’s pretty clear to me that Hiromu is SUPER over at the moment since he got a huge pop when he went on offense.  KUSHIDA was pretty great too, but I’m almost at the point where I’d like to see him try out the Heavyweight division.  I thought the ending was perfect because Osprey always loses to Marty so it was nice for him to finally get a victory over him on such a large stage.

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 01/04/18 – United States Heavyweight Title Match (No Disqualification): Kenny Omega © v Chris Jericho

I’ve already written at length about the build and the match and it was a great way to kick off 2018.  A much different match than what I’m used to seeing from Kenny and a very ruthless Jericho made for a very fun match.

NWA Empty Arena Match 01/15/18 – Tim Storm v Jocephus

I wasn’t sure what to make of this one when it was announced.  I’ve been reeled in by the NWA relaunch and how low key it has been so far.  This was a fun brawl in the empty Impact Zone and I think it helped re-establish a good gimmick match type the NWA can use going forward.  The bump that Storm takes at the end is very painful to watch.  I’m hoping that more talent gets brought on board since it’s largely just been Storm, Jocephus, and current champion Nick Aldis.

New Japan Pro Wrestling New Beginning in Sapporo Night 1 01/27/18 – Intercontinental Title Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi © v Minoru Suzuki

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Screencap from NJPWWorld.com

Tanahashi came into this match pretty banged up and accepting the challenge of a sadist like Suzuki was probably a bad idea.  The match told the story of a champion that would not quit even though he probably should have.  Suzuki worked on Tanahashi’s bandaged arm and battered knee to the point where the referee had to stop the match because Tanahashi couldn’t break free of the submission hold he was in.  Suzuki cut a chilling promo while the Forever Ace of New Japan was stretchered out of the ring made for a very powerful image.

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia 01/27/18 – Extreme Rules: Adam Cole v Aleister Black

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Photo courtesy of WWE.com

In my opinion this match told two stories:  Adam Cole can take a beating and Aleister Black doesn’t need weapons since he is one.  This was a pretty good “hardcore” match and Cole and Black meshed together well.  It had some pretty decent spots that seemed to make the notoriously blood thirsty Philly crowd happy (see above photo).  I’m not going to lie, but I popped when Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish showed up and hit Black with the Total Elimination finisher that The Eliminators used to do.  A very small ECW chant may have broken out in my apartment.

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia 01/27/18 – NXT Championship Title Match: Andrade Almas © v Johnny Gargano

This is another that I’ve written more about, but I loved this match.  It followed the Cole/Black match, which was going to be a tough act to follow, and surpassed it.  I think Gargano is the best babyface that the WWE has right now and I loved how Almas has been salvaged after a very rocky start in his NXT run.

WWE Monday Night Raw 01/30/18 – Sasha Banks v Asuka

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Photo courtesy of WWE.Com

This felt like it could be an opening chapter of their rivalry.  Sasha struggling to remain relevant even though Asuka won the first women’s Royal Rumble and the appearance of Ronda Rousey could make for a compelling story.  Sasha wrestled this match with a chip on her shoulder and wanted to prove more to herself that she is still relevant.  This was my favorite Asuka main roster match and I thought their chemistry was good.  If WWE decides to call an audible and put the Raw Women’s title on Sasha and we get a rematch at Wrestlemania I would definitely be on board.  You’d have the story of Sasha Banks, who has never successfully defended the Women’s title after winning it, against the unstoppable inevitability of Asuka.  I can’t think of a bigger stage to tell that story.

Keep It Simple

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Sometimes it’s the simple things in wrestling that make a match great.  Emotional investment in wrestling is so crucial to a successful match.  You might be invested in one of the competitors because you’ve been following their career for years.  The storyline building up to the match might also hook you and you want to see where things go.  The athleticism or brutality of a match will also keep you interested.  Last night Andrade “Cien” Almas and Johnny Gargano had one of the best main event matches in a WWE ring I’ve ever seen at NXT TakeOver:  Philadelphia because they adhered to keeping things simple.

Just within the framework of NXT the story was a pretty simple one to follow.  Both men had a rough 2017, but for totally different reasons.  Almas started it with a career that seemed to not be going anywhere.  He was well received in NXT, but didn’t take advantage of the opportunities to showcase his abilities.  This all turned around when Zelina Vega became his manager.  He developed more of a focus and with Vega’s help he set his sights on the NXT championship.  Almas would eventually get his opportunity and wrest the title from Drew McIntyre.  Johnny Gargano started his 2017 off as one half of the NXT tag team champions known as DIY with Tommaso Ciampa.  They would drop the titles early in the year to The Authors of Pain.  DIY would challenge for the titles a few more times and come up short.  After losing on their final attempt to recapture the tag team titles, Ciampa violently attacked Gargano effectively ending their partnership.  Ciampa was gone dealing with a knee injury for the rest of the year while Gargano attempted to carve out his own path.  Gargano would face Almas two other times prior to their championship encounter and came up short both times.

So the story for both men going into this match was a pretty simple one.  Almas’ story is that he needed to beat Gargano to show that his championship win wasn’t a fluke and to show doubters that he was a legitimate champion.  Gargano’s story was that could he beat Almas and recapture championship glory without a partner.

Now full disclosure from your author:  I’ve followed Gargano’s career for a while but was never that big of a fan.  I always enjoyed his work, but never fully invested in it.  I also haven’t seen Almas’ work in Mexico as La Sombra.  However, after watching their match last night I can safely say I may be a fan of theirs for life because this match completely hooked me.  The build was incredibly simple and well done.  The ringwork was top-notch with some great technical work from both men.  Their chemistry was off the charts as they strung together counter move after counter move.  I was on the edge of my seat and I bit on damn near every near-fall.  Toward the end when Almas’ assault shifted to slamming Gargano’s head into the ring apron repeatedly I just wanted it to end because he was selling the damage so well.  When the match was finally over, it wasn’t a completely clean victory for Almas since Zelina Vega did interject herself at numerous opportunities.  Even when Gargano’s wife, fellow wrestler Candice LaRae, ran Vega off it still wasn’t enough.  And to make matters worse, Ciampa showed up after the match to pour salt on the wounded Gargano by cracking him in the back with a crutch.

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Both men have interesting stories going forward as well.  Gargano has to sort out his business with Ciampa before he can move forward and capture the NXT championship.  Almas has now legitimized his title reign and will look to defend it by any means necessary with the assistance of Zelina Vega.  I could make the statement that’s been made so many times damning WWE for being overproduced and under-delivering on any emotional content, but I won’t (even though I sort of just did).  NXT, and pretty much all wrestling for that matter, excel when they keep things simple (but not stupid).

All images taken from WWE.com

Alpha Vs Omega

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Like most wrestling fans, I am eagerly looking forward to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 taking place on January 4th.  The card is stacked with a main event several years in the making with the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada taking on longtime rival Tetsuya Naito.  While that match is the main event, one of the semi-main events has started to really heat up.  I am talking, of course, about Kenny Omega defending his United States championship against Chris Jericho.  Now this match definitely falls in the category of a dream match, but this all seemed very unlikely just a few short months ago.  Jericho has been perceived as a WWE guy for almost twenty years.  Just to have him step away from that and appear somewhere else is a big deal regardless of whom his opponent is.

Omega and Jericho had some interaction on Twitter.  The general feeling that it was to possibly hype a match that would be taking place on Jericho’s Rock ‘N Wrestling cruise that would be happening in late 2018.  This was their final interaction on Twitter before Jericho shocked the wrestling world.

After defending his United States championship against Baretta at Power Struggle on 11/05/17, Omega was interrupted while cutting a promo by a video from Jericho.  In the video Jericho challenged Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom and billed it as Alpha Vs Omega.  The reason for Jericho’s challenge is that Omega claims to be the best in the world, but so does Jericho since he claimed it first.  He used a similar reason to challenge CM Punk at Wrestlemania 28.  I think Jericho is one of the few wrestlers who remembers his own story so when he does something, it’s usually consistent with his character.  He also works much better as a heel and while the match was going to be something special, Jericho added something to it recently.

At a recent NJPW event Jericho ran another video after Omega’s matches, but this time when the lights came up he was standing behind Omega.  I figured Jericho wouldn’t actually be in Japan until Wrestle Kingdom, but I was mistaken like so many others.  Jericho laid a beat down on Omega that went on for several minutes.  Omega was bloody at the end of it and Jericho had even laid out one of his friends, Don Callis, who was an announcer who went into the ring to check on Omega.  The image of a bloodied and battered Omega changed the dynamic of the match.

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Photo Courtesy of WhatCulture.Com

It will no longer be a simple match of who the better person is, but a personal one.  Jericho being the clear heel and Omega being the scrappy face couldn’t be clearer than in the press conference that followed.  I strongly suggest watching the whole thing if you have time, but I have Jericho’s bit ready to go.

I love how the build of this is sort of a reversal of a similar angle Jericho was involved in 15 years ago.  In the build up to Wrestlemania 19 Jericho had called out a recently returning Shawn Michaels.  The two were very similar with their characters and in-ring style and it felt like Jericho was calling out the old man so he could put him down.  Ultimately Jericho lost that match and Michaels stayed around for several more years.  This time Jericho is the old man and he’s picking a fight with the younger version of himself, not someone who’s just making their comeback.  While Jericho is billed as the “Alpha” of the match, since he did all of the things Omega claims to do first, he’s really the “Omega”.  Jericho is probably nearing the end of his in-ring career while Omega hopefully has several years left in him.  I’m most curious if this will be a one-off for Jericho or will it lead to more appearances.  It’s also great to see Kenny Omega get rewarded with a marquee match that will help get more American eyes on the product.  He’s not the only person to help elevate NJPW, but he’s the one that most American audiences may know about.

The Future Is Now (Bay-Bay)

Adam Cole recently made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III flanked by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly.  He made his intentions clear by laying a beat down on newly crowned champion, Drew McIntyre.  I recently wrote about Cole’s connection with O’Reilly for the PWSA.  I wasn’t always a fan of Cole though.  His first run in Ring of Honor was kind of bland following that match with his ex-Future Shock partner.  Don’t get me wrong it was decent, but he was just a standard babyface.  They gave him the ROH TV title, but nothing about that reign really stood out.  It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 when he posted a promo about being in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s prestigious Battle of Los Angeles tournament that I started to change my mind.  I was moderately aware that Cole wrestled heel in Combat Zone Wrestling earlier in his career, but this was the first time I saw the smug, arrogant prick that he’s so good at portraying.

Cole had been wrestling in PWG since the end of 2011, but never as a singles competitor.  He was always in tag-team matches with his Future Shock partner, Kyle O’Reilly.  This tournament would be the first time he wrestled solo in front of a PWG crowd and they can be notoriously smarky.  His first round opponent, El Generico, wasn’t going to make things any easier for him either.

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BOLA Night One: Adam Cole Vs El Generico

The match is a great showcase of how different Cole is as a heel.  He’s not above breaking the rules and he’s incredibly cocky.  He jumps Generico while he’s being introduced and any time that he goes for his standard offense, Cole is able to shut him down.  This is how Cole ultimately wins the match. When Generico goes into his finishing sequence Cole is able catch him in a small package and kept him down for the three-count.

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BOLA Night Two: Adam Cole Vs Eddie Edwards

After what many would consider an upset against the generic luchador Cole advanced to Night 2 of the tournament to take on a former tag partner, Eddie Edwards.  This one starts off with Cole getting in some stretches before locking up with Eddie.  Cole even gets the crowd to clap “We Will Rock You” before changing it to “Suck My Dick”.  Cole absorbs a decent amount of punishment in the match before he’s able to hit one of his finishers, Florida Key (it’s a German-Suplex where the opponent’s arms are crossed).

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BOLA Night Two: Adam Cole Vs Sami Callihan

Cole’s next opponent would be someone he had a lengthy and bitter rivalry with in Combat Zone Wrestling, Sami Callihan.  The match starts with the two of them yelling insults at each other before Sami charges Cole and starts kicking the hell out of him in the corner.  Cole takes more punishment from Sami’s lightning quick, high impact offense.  Eventually Sami makes a mistake and Cole works on Sami’s leg for a bit before locking in a figure-four leglock.  It’s too much for Sami and he taps out.

 

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BOLA Night Two: Adam Cole Vs Michael Elgin

For Cole’s last opponent he would have to break the unbreakable by going head to head with Michael Elgin.  Cole doesn’t seem to be as cocky as the contest starts since he knows Elgin won’t be an easy win.  The match quickly makes its way outside and they fight through the crowd.  Both men use every move that brought them to the final, but Cole is able to get the win by hitting a Destroyer, a pair of superkicks, and Florida Key in rapid succession.

After being presented with the trophy Cole calls out PWG champion, Kevin Steen.  Cole eventually kicks Steen low and clocks him with the PWG belt.  He takes his trophy and Steen’s belt and leaves.  This would set up the main event of the las PWG show 2012, Mystery Vortex.

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Bye Steen Bye

Steen and Cole would collide in a Guerrilla Warfare match, which means that there are no rules.  Both men made creative use of the stipulation.  Once Cole hits the ring he tries to lay out Steen again with the championship belt.  Steen avoids it and mauls Cole at ringside and crotches him on all four corners of the ring.  He follows this up by powerbombing Cole on all four sides of the ring apron.  Amazingly Cole would battle back from this onslaught.  Trash cans, ladders, chairs, and thumbtacks would all be introduced.  Somehow Cole would withstand Steen’s onslaught and win the PWG title.

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Mystery Vortex: Adam Cole Vs Kevin Steen (I’m not sure how anyone survived this either)

With Cole capturing the PWG championship he would start a reign of terror that lasted over a year.  He turned away challenges from Sami Callihan, Drake Younger, Kevin Steen, Johnny Gargano, and many others.  He would eventually start a faction with The Young Bucks and, surprisingly, Kevin Steen.  They would refer to themselves as the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling.  Cole would eventually be dethroned by his shadow, Kyle O’Reilly.

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He’s Been Through A Lot

I personally love this run a lot.  The matches are generally really good and you want to see someone eventually dethrone Cole the longer the title reign lasted.  It’s not that it was boring; it’s just that he was a little shit.  The crowd was always excited to see him, but they also hated his actions which is a tough thing for modern day heels to do.  They’re either boring (see Corbin, Baron) or they pander to the crowd too much and they may as well be faces at that point (see Owens, Kevin).  This run went a long way in cementing his credibility with fans  It also helped start a heel run in Ring of Honor that led to him being the only person to win ROH’s World title on three occasions.  During this time he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club.  His NXT debut may not have been much of a surprise, but the way they did it was.  He’s immediately looked at as a major player and there isn’t that awkward face run when indie guys first show up.  He’s way better as a heel and it’ll be fun to see how a new audience reacts to him, bay-bay.

Did It Deliver?

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I wrote a little about dream matches and my expectations of Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire a few weeks ago.  Now that the match has actually happened did it meet my expectations?  Initially I wanted to say it just fell a little bit short, but now that it’s been about 24 hours I would say that it did.  The match actually did a few things that surprised me.

Obviously spoilers are incoming.

The first thing that surprised me was how even in defeat Joe looked like a monster.  It’s not often that people come out looking strong after a loss to Brock, but Joe took him to his limit.  The crowd even got behind Joe to the point of chanting “Joe’s gonna kill you” at Brock.  While that chant is infectious, they bought into the fact Joe could beat Brock.  Not many people have had that honor since he’s come back.

The match itself was short and violent.  It started with Joe jumping Brock before the opening bell and putting him through an announce table.  The rest of the match was high impact moves from both men and ended with Joe being pinned after a single F-5 from Lesnar.  At first I was a bit peeved about this, but I think this was actually a good call.  We’re in an era where a lot of matches end with multiple kick-outs after finishers so it was a breath of fresh air to see one finisher put someone away.  Not every match can be Omega/Okada and sometimes a violent sprint can be satisfying.

Even though it was just one finisher that put Joe down, he didn’t seem to stay down.  As Brock and Paul Heyman left Paul kept looking back at the ring to make sure Joe didn’t attack again.  It really felt like Brock wasn’t trying to win the match as it was to escape getting choked out by Joe.   For the first time since his return it seemed like Brock was desperate.  That desperation wasn’t there in the Undertaker or Goldberg feud.  His primary goal was to conquer, but with Joe it was just survival.  Brock looked beat up as he looked back in the ring and Joe looked like he wasn’t finished yet.

The build-up was amazing and Joe stepped up his game big time.  Heyman was on point as usual and Brock seemed to be pretty motivated.  In my opinion the match delivered.  I didn’t get the feeling that things were over, especially from the murder stare that Joe was directing at Brock.  Even if it’s not at Summerslam I’m hoping these two cross paths again.

Pipebomb Thoughts

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6 years ago CM Punk grabbed the brass ring he had been chasing since he first came to the WWE.  I caught most of the famous “Pipebomb” promo as it was airing.  I decided not to watch Raw that night since it was just easier to do something else and follow the results online.  That way if something cool happened I could still check it out.  Punk with a mic and wearing a Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt sort of grabbed my attention on the message board I was following.  The promo really resonated with me since I had been pretty frustrated at my job at the time and you could tell Punk was too.  He knew he was better than everyone else and had to deal with the self-defeating actions of management.  It was his moment and he probably didn’t know if he’d ever get another one so he did what he does best and that was run his mouth.

In a way you could almost predict how Punk’s story would end with the WWE.  WWE was still firmly attached to John Cena and really failed to capitalize on the mainstream exposure that Punk brought them after the promo.  The promo was so effective because it blurred the line of work and shoot, real or fake, and generated a lot of buzz because of this.  It got a mention on ESPN and other sport sites were covering it.  It   You can still do a Google search on “Pipebomb Promo” and there are articles that wonder how much of it was scripted and how much of it wasn’t that are still written whenever the anniversary comes up.  Punk’s momentum was diverted within a few months and would ultimately be one of the many reasons he left the company on bad terms 3 years later.

It’s hard to believe that it was 6 years ago because so much has changed.  He’s been gone from WWE for about 3 years now and I’m doubtful he’ll ever come back.  If he returns to a wrestling ring I think it’ll be to help a promotion get more exposure.  I could see him going to New Japan, possibly joining the Bullet Club.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he popped up at a local promotion like AAW either.  I’d love to see him come back in a way that would bring back the fire from this promo.  I think no matter what he does with regard to wrestling he’ll do it on his terms.

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Choices

As a child of the 80s it’s incredibly difficult to be upset about the current state of wrestling.  I know that WWE is a lot more kid friendly now, but it’s not just them that I’m talking about.  Right now I can go online and stream any number of promotions that I might want to check out.  Years ago if I wanted to watch any Japanese wrestling I’d have to know a guy who knew a guy and hope that the tape I got wasn’t complete shit.  Now all I have to do is have a device and internet connection and I can pretty much watch anything that’s out there.

I can also guarantee you that no matter where you live, there’s probably a local promotion that runs shows within a short distance of you.  I’m admittedly really bad about trying to find out when my local promotions are running shows, but they generally run out of a bar that’s a short walk from my apartment.  If you can manage to make the separation from WWE and understand that not all wrestling is run out of arenas and there are all sorts of different experiences out there you can definitely have fun.  I’m hoping to get to one of our local shows this summer, but the next show they run is on a day that I’m moving so we’ll see if the wife and I have any energy to make it.

It’s also pretty intimidating since you have so many options right now.  Most promotions utilize social media pretty well so you can always check to see if they post any clips or matches.  A lot of the ones that have streaming services also have a free or discounted trial so you can see what they have.  The ones that aren’t in English like New Japan, DDT, or Stardom can be a bit daunting to sign up for since it’s in Japanese.  Google translate is your friend for any non-English promotions.  I’ve heard that NJPW World is a bit difficult to unsubscribe from, but I haven’t had a need to unsubscribe yet.  I would suggest trying to follow one or two promotions to start if you haven’t really gone outside of WWE before.  If you have ventured outside of WWE I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir.  So have fun living in the current golden age of wrestling because I know I am.

Day One

BrisBro

#DemBoys

Most wrestling promotions have a person that you associate with it.  WWE has had people like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steven Austin, The Rock, and John Cena.  WCW had Ric Flair and Sting.  Over the years Ring of Honor has had many faces represent them as well.  Low-Ki, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuiness, Tyler Black, Jay Lethal, Adam Cole all come immediately to mind.  All of these men have left at one time or another or have come back after wrestling for other promotions.  There are only two men that can confidently say they’ve been there since day one and are pretty interesting representatives for Ring of Honor:  Jay and Mark Briscoe.

The two chicken farmers from Sandy Fork, Delaware don’t immediately strike you as the faces you’d want your promotion to have.  They are incredibly rough around the edges and, in the eyes of others, are not cosmetically pleasing.  But they have been a part of ROH since the very first show The Era of Honor Begins that took place on 2/23/02.  Jay was on the card wrestling The Amazing Red and Mark was in his corner.  Mark couldn’t compete because he wasn’t of age, he was only a little over 17 at the time of the event.  The two of them would have a brief rivalry before teaming up in 2003 and winning the first of their 8 tag team championships in ROH.

They would take a few years away from ROH due to an injury that mark suffered in a motorcycle accident.  Dem Boys would come back at the 4th Anniversary show in 2006 and they are still a part of the roster now.  Throughout the years they’ve been used to reset the tag-team division.  By “reset”, I mean that they would become the champs and be the team to beat for a little while and then drop it to an up and coming team.  I think it’s a little different from being a transitional champ since there usually isn’t a “chosen team” that seems destined to win the title.  Their success isn’t just limited to the tag-team division though.

For years a lot of ROH World champs would take the “Jay Briscoe Challenge”.  Jay had quite a few opportunities to win the ROH World title and he would almost always take the champ to their limit, but he always came up short.  This would change when Jay ended Kevin Steen’s epic title run in 2013.  He also dethroned Michael Elgin in 2014 and this made Jay one of only three men to capture the World title on more than one occasion.  Mark hasn’t had any singles gold yet, but I don’t think he seems to mind.

Throughout the years they’ve also been involved in some of the more memorable moments in ROH’s history.  Two memorable moments happened in the same match.  They were a part of very first ladder match in ROH when they defended the titles against Kevin Steen and El Generico.  They were able to turn back the challengers, but the debuting faction The Age of the Fall which consisted of Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black, and the Necro Butcher took out Mark.  After Mark was out of the way the hoisted a bloody Jay on the apparatus that held the tag titles and strung him up.  Jimmy Jacobs cut a promo while the blood of Jay Briscoe gave him an unholy baptism.  They’d go to war with The Age of the Fall and eventually lose their titles to them.

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Ladder War 1 Aftermath

I got the chance to see Dem Boys in action in Milwaukee, WI in the summer of 2012.  They had a hell of match with Kevin Steen and Jimmy Jacobs that originally ended in a no contest.  Jim Cornette then came out and made it a No-DQ match and the fight was back on.  Mark and Jimmy Jacobs disappeared for a little while and Steen and Jay brawled in the ring.  A table was eventually brought into the ring and Mark and Jimmy reappeared in the balcony that Turner Hall has.  Mark was able to beat Jimmy down while Jay was able to set Steen on the table.  Now, if you’re a wrestling fan, you pretty much know what comes next and it’s still the craziest thing I’ve seen in person.  Mark jumped from the balcony on to a prone Kevin Steen and drove him through the table.  This was ROH’s first time back in Wisconsin in quite a few years and it seemed they wanted to reward the crowd with something cool.  I still talk about it any time I’m with fellow wrestling nerds because it was that memorable.

They’ve had some matches against each other, but they’ve never split up.  Their promos are memorable and their matches are hard-hitting.  Most importantly both brothers hold your interest.  They are the most decorated tag team in the history of ROH and they’ve been loyal.  They weren’t always the face of the company, but because of their tenure it’s hard to deny that they are now.  If ROH ever has a hall of fame Dem Boys get inducted on Day One.

Dream Matches

Dream matches are a rare thing.  They’re the ultimate “what-if” because rarely do we ever get a match where the competitors are in their prime.  WWE had a chance to give us Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 8, but by all accounts they got cold feet when a Madison Square Garden crowd was rather ambivalent to a match they had at a house show.  We got Macho Man and Flair instead, which I think was the better option anyway.  WCW eventually got the Hogan and Flair match and it was too late.  ECW gave audiences Sabu vs Cactus Jack and that wasn’t as good as it could’ve been.  This would be rectified later, but considering Cactus Jack was still under contract with WCW they didn’t get as…extreme as they could have.  We’re a few short weeks away from another dream match.

Currently WWE is building up their, ugh,  Great Balls of Fire PPV with the main event being Samoa Joe taking on Brock Lesnar.  After years of languishing in TNA, Samoa Joe showed up in NXT revitalized.  If you followed Joe’s career, it was liking WWE had gone back to 2004 and somehow plucked him from time.  He was in better shape; he moved faster, his promos had fire.  On the Raw from 6/5 he had a tremendous promo with Paul Heyman and both men did a great job selling the match.  I don’t doubt that Joe will bring his best.  Heyman will also bring his best to help the selling of the match.  The wildcard in all of this is Brock Lesnar.

Since showing up in the WWE again, Brock has been pretty hit or miss.  The man is being touted as a “must see” attraction and early on in his return he was.  Then “Suplex City” happened and all of Brock’s matches have been formulaic.  None of his matches from 2016 really stand out and I though his feud with Goldberg was mostly forgettable.  If Lesnar actually gives a damn this match could be one of the all-time greats.  If Lesnar shows up not caring, then it’ll just be Joe getting tossed around for about 10-15 minutes and the crowd will shit all over the match.

However, Joe is no stranger to dream matches.  His first major one was in Ring of Honor against the legendary Kenta Kobashi and it was an incredibly hard hitting match.  In fact, it’s that match that might serve as a template for his match with Lesnar.  It featured a lot of suplex variations and strikes, which is likely what the match with Lesnar will have.  Later on in TNA he would go on to have a great series of matches with Kurt Angle when the Olympic Gold Medalist first appeared there.  These matches also featured a lot of suplexes, but also had a strong focus on submission wrestling.

The story for the match is a no-brainer.  Brock is the guy who’s had opportunities given to him by WWE and doesn’t put in a whole lot of work.  Joe is the guy who has spent the last 15 years kicking and clawing for his place.  Brock has something Joe wants and Joe will come to take it, as he has done in his short WWE career.  For the in-ring work I’m hoping we get a nice mix of old school King’s Road style All-Japan wrestling with some cool submissions thrown in.  In any event it’s the most I’ve looked forward to a (main roster) WWE main event this year.