2017 · Braun Strowman · Brock Lesnar · WWE

Brock Lesnar vs Braun Strowman-WWE No Mercy 24.9.2017.

This match was dumb. By far the most interesting about it coming in was how they were going to reconcile protecting Braun with the likely result of him not winning the title, and they ended up with a solution that accomplished nothing. Braun overpowered Lesnar early on, which was his one advantage over Lesnar (as is over everyone), but we’ve seen Lesnar in that position a bunch of times already. As soon as Lesnar grabbed the arm on the Double Wristlock and started spamming Germans the idea Strowman was just another challenge for him to overcome started clearing up, and that’s exactly what happened. Lesnar’s back being “injured” was dumb-an attempt to put over Strowman as causing damage only made the match look more ridiculous, as an injured Lesnar suplexed Strowman numerous times after not being able to do so forever, then did the same thing with the F5 (which he also couldn’t hit earlier on). Strowman got his finisher efficency ruined and lost clean in a match where the most memorable thing was Lesnar taking a bump to the outside through the ropes. Blarh. The exhaustion selling after the match is analogous to a cheating spuse promising change-“See! He’s tired! Look what it took for him to beat him! We know what we’re doing! This is fine! Wait to see where it leads to! It will get better!” **1/2

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2017 · John Cena · Roman Reigns · WWE

Roman Reigns vs John Cena-WWE No Mercy 24.9.2017.

This was a weird match. The beginning was worth like they were building a proper match with a narrative and proper control segments, with Reigns just dominating Cena, working at a slower pace while Cena was too focused on playing to the crowd and got cut off over and over again. Eventually it just turned into a WWE workrate wankfest, as predictable as ever. If you’ve seen Cena matches like this before you could basically call half the spots, the Diving Legdrop into the Powerbomb, the Five Knuckle Shuffle cut-off followed by a proper one later in the match where Cena does a Fist Drop straight away instead of running the ropes and a billion finishers. To met these Cena matches are in the same vein as the Omega/Okada matches that have been getting a bunch of buzz-I don’t really think the *wrestling* in them is very good, but they do offer something in the flash, big spots and buzz they generate. I did like the executions of many of the spots like the Shoulder Tackle>Punch counter and Reigns was really good at convincing you he was gonna hit a Clothesline, punch or whatever and was not just setting up for an AA or whatever. And I loved the finish, Reigns just hitting a quick 1-2 combo was masterful. Still, for a workrate match like this to be anything more than an itsy bitsy fun watch while you grab a snack you’d want it to not just be spamming big moves and sequences in predictable fashion (is there anyone who didn’t see Reigns hitting a Spear once Cena cleared both tables? or the AA counter to the Spear? or the last ten matches where the same “Big Match” structure has been beaten to death so much), that’s sub-1998 All Japan guys sleepwalking through a Korauken 6 man tag effort. ***

2017 · Hechicero · Lucha Memes · Satoshi Kojima

Hechicero vs Satoshi Kojima-Lucha Memes 3.9.2017.

I didn’t have any expectations coming into this but it was such a weird match-up I just had to watch it. I’m sure everyone remembers the well known story of Kobashi coming into ROH expecting nobody to know him and being ready to play a generic stereotypical heel-that’s kinda what happened with Kojima here. Some of his offence really did look more suited for lucha than traditional jwres-some of it due to the lack of stiffness, some of due to how cartoony his mannerisms were. Kojima did manage to get heat for whatever that’s worth, but watching him cosplay Dr.Wagner Jr. in playing to the crowd more than doing anything wasn’t interesting. Structurally the match wasn’t much-Kojima’s control segments consisted of doing stomps, yelling and occasionally doing a move, Hechicero would get on offence and do a couple of cool moves before a generic transition into more Kojima stuff, and this match really was a stark reminder of how bad a lot of Kojima’s stuff looks. Weak chops, generic stomps, lazy attempts of legwork, weak lariats, he may have the weakest rolling elbow of all time…..I mean it’s not like he’s bad or there haven’t been instances where he’s worked through it but he’s not exactly a guy whose lazier performances you’d crave for. I’m way bigger on Hechicero’s pain by the numbers stuff but he was not in a mood for a carry job. **1/2

 

2017 · CMLL · Hechicero · Titan

Hechicero vs Titan-CMLL 29.8.2017.

Really cool lightning match noteworthy for Hechicero clowning Titan. It all starts with Titan going for his headstand spot where Hechicero just shoves him off and kicks him in the arm, which starts a very good armwork segment where Hechicero got a chance to use some really cool offence, in particular he did a kneedrop using the guardrail on the ramp that came out of the blue. Titan got to get his dives in and they looked good, but really you want to see this for Titan going for one his flip-flops and Hechicero just leveling him with a chest slap. Not being to able to lock an armbar properly is more than I expected from Titan’s selling, which was otherwise limited to holding his injured arm inbetween spots. ***1/4

2017 · Braun Strowman · Brock Lesnar · Roman Reigns · Samoa joe · WWE

Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe vs Braun Strowman-WWE Summerslam 20.8.2017.

These kinds of matches are really WWE’s forte, the indy workers they bring in to have watered down 2010 ROH matches but with more wear and tear on their body resulting in less actually impressive athletic spots, less room for creativity (for better or worse) and the same stupidity in match building and transitioning as well as shitty basics (Phil Schneider should have his reviewing license revoken for praising Seth Rollins’ punches). They’ve struck gold by not having heavyweight title contenders under 250lbs. Unfortunately much of what makes matches like this work is what also limits how good they can be. It is said “matches like this are great because you can hit finishers but have saves instead of kick-outs!”. But what happens then is that you have a million finishers done, and that’s just not that interesting. You start feeling the repetition, and by the time Strowman hits the sixth Powerslam and Roman hits the fifeenth Superman Punch, the crowd reacts less than they did to a Joe Senton. And feeling the crowd is important in a match that is essentially built on star power and glamour. Joe may have been my favourite performer in this-for years I’ve thought he was just never going to hit his stride again, let alone reach his previous heigths, and I’m not going to expect him put on performances like he did in 2003 since he just doesn’t have the athleticism to do so anymore, but his cunning character has given him new life. Picking his spots, making sure the timing is right (the roll-up, flash chokes and elbow suicida were all based on this) and, you know, not doing the same move fifty times-I appreciated it.  Strowman’s amazing feats of strength made the match feel special, but they could’ve done a better job with the rest of the match. The stretches spot has been used so much it’s basically a waste of time, and Heyman’s terrible acting really just hammered the whole thing in. It’s not that against them being cartoony, but I think they’re undermining the intelligence of their audience a bit with assuming they are going to forget Lesnar got Powerslammed through two tables and got another one thrown on top of him if they don’t do a stretcher job. Offensively Lesnar didn’t offer much, but he was pretty great at pinballing for Braun, and a direction with more selling should provide more quality from him. ***3/4

2017 · Atsushi Kotoge · Katsuhiko Nakajima · NOAH

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Atsushi Kotoge-NOAH 25.6.2017.

Similar structure to some of the recent Nakajima title defences, a little chain wrestling, some brawling outside and then the match starts proper. The weight Nakajima puts behind his kicks never ceases to impress me-they’re so incredibly sharp, it really shows he is a black belt karateka. This match needed more focus-there weren’t really any control segments, and the only things setting it apart from just *getting stuff in* was them building stuff around countering each other’s signature maneuvers. And some of the counters were good (Nakajima’s particularly-Kotoge’s signature spots are very unique in their elaborateness, and the stark contrast of Nakajima just cutting them off with quick head kicks made for a nice visual), but they didn’t properly organize it so that moments when those moves were hit later on would feel special, they’d just try them for the second time and be successful. Kotoge’s move-set is still quite juniorish and he doesn’t have much heavyweight offence other than the headbutt, but that’s not necessarily an issue, and after thinking about it I realised even if some of NOAH’s heavyweights are smaller there’s no one really working like that now other than him. They got the crowd invested without forced nearfalls (in fact the finishing stretch was really minimalistic) so I reckon this is a continuation of positive crowd conditioning. ***1/4

2017 · Kota Ibushi · NJPW · Zack Sabre Jr.

Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr.-NJPW 21.7.2017.

A fun little match featuring some of their “best of” spots, but nothing great. Sabre’s matwork is too loose for him to leave a big impression in control and his pastiche of jiu jitsu and Johnny Saint spots has reached a point where, at least in this match, it wasn’t flashy enough to impress with style or legitimate enough to impress with sheer danger and pain. Almost every big spot here was recycled from a big match these two have had previously, and even when there was something new it lacked in execution (I loved the idea behind Ibushi’s palm strike, but he chest slapped Sabre and Sabre sold it like he hit him in the jaw, it looked ridiculous. You want to see that same spot done right, watch the first Misawa vs Kawada match, there’s a kick which at first glance actually looks like it hit the neck/jaw and Misawa’s selling is of course a thousand times better). Maybe the biggest problem of the match is that lacked the glue to connect everything. There wasn’t a strong dynamic-Sabre going toe to toe with Ibushi in stand up when his offence looks so much worse in that department was ridiculous, they were more focused on getting in counters than getting over a struggle and actually milking the holds, even the finish felt abrupt in that regard, Ibushi just picked Sabre up and slammed him. I still enjoyed Sabre putting on some wacky holds and the little input Ibushi actually got in, but this was disappointing. ***