AF Diary #2 (New Japan is back, The Greatest Professional Wrestling Match ever, Statue Shaggers, Winny Churchill, beers, two HUSTLE shows reviewed, Da 5 Bloods)
NEW JAPAN RETURNS.
TOGETHER PROJECT SPECIAL (June 15, 2020)
- I was watching the Backlash show from the night before when this started so I jumped in late.
- SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI vs. TenKoji & Taguchi. I joined the feed halfway through but here’s where I joined. SANADA right? Ugh. SANADA atomic drop should fail because Taguchi has buns of steel. Poor psychology. Taguchi gets his revenge tapping out BUSHI. I love Taguchi. Deserved winner. **3/4. Hope he taps out SANADA in NJ Cup.
- Suzuki-gun vs. Tana, Ibushi, Nagata & Makabe. I missed Zacky Sabre. His work with Ibushi is pure magic here. I’m also very happy to see Tanahashi and Suzuki. Turns out I have missed this. King Kong Knee finishes DOUKI. ***1/4
- Kazuchika Okada & Roppongi 3K vs. Naito, Shingo & Hiromu. “Roppongi 3K, the Japanese Hot & Spicy” – Mike Kilby. T-Shirt Naito performance. Takes a while to get going but then all the pre-planned stuff is really fun. Destino puts YOH away after they fall over each other for a bit. This was a decent main event. ***1/2
I’ve not watched anything months so I thought I’d jump back into Backlash. How long have they been using the PC guys as a ‘crowd’? I appreciate the massive plastic screens, which in the future will keep the filthy mob away from the performers.
FOR THE BENEFIT OF ANY WRESTLERS READING; these are not facts. These are my opinions. Ones I have garnered by watching professional wrestling for a very, very long time.
- Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Iiconics vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross. Everyone seems to have a fully developed character in this apart from Bayley, who has been stripped of anything that made her unique. Billie Kay has actually deteriorated as a wrestler. Time to cut the losses there. Sasha & Bayley retain here after Alexa’s Sparkle Splash has it won only for Banks to roll her up. This was fine. **1/2
- Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy. The piss match! The build to this has been embarrassing. Dredging up Jeff’s alcoholism for an angle and capping it off with him throwing a cup of piss into Sheamus’ face. Sheamus yelling “I’m better than all of you” at the ‘crowd’ is elite work. Sheamus finishes with a Brogue Kick after Jeff gets all excited and attempts the railrunner. This was decent but I feel like the narrative was Jeff’s quest for revenge and the match was a bunch of Sheamus chinlocks and then he still won. ***1/4
- Asuka vs. Nia Jax. Oh, this old feud. Eesh. It was probably the peak of Nia’s in-ring so maybe it’s not a terrible idea but Asuka has potential to steal the show with someone better. The story here is Asuka’s technique vs. Nia’s power. The lesson Nia should have learned by now is to get better technique but no, she’s just as reliant on her power as she was in NXT. So we just get the same story years later with no development. If anything this is a storytelling criticism of Nia Jax as a wrestler. That she’s always been formidable but hasn’t progressed as a talent. This ends in a poor double count out. Match was fine but it’s the same thing I saw in NXT between them. **3/4
- Braun Strowman vs. Miz & Morrison. M&M’s “Hey, Hey, Hey” music video – more of this please. Braun is a difficult champion to book. Either you try and find someone to battle him on his footing, which you don’t have, or you double up on midcarders and hope for the best. Braun ends up winning comfortably after Morrison had peppered him with a bunch of springboard kicks. Where do you go with Strowman here? Legitimate question. **
- Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Lashley. Apparently MVP is Lashley’s mouthpiece now. Bob has always struggled with promos. Michael Cole calling Bob “animalistic” is Vince McMahon taking a direct shot at #BlackLivesMatter. Don’t @ me. This is a big old hoss fight. Two big lads doing big lad things. Lana gets in the way. Claymore finishes. ***. I liked the match but the finish puts the focus on the Lashley/Lana relationship, which has been bad.
- Street Profits vs. The Viking Raiders. They start fighting in the car park and accidentally break Braun’s windscreen. The fight then continues inside with DRAMATIC MUSIC. I’m begging this promotion to actually hire cameramen who can shoot action. They can’t even frame a fucking shot. The bowling sequences in this are just…embarrassing. Then they team up to fight Akira Tozawa’s motorcycle ninja gang. I can’t wait for the “oh, it’s supposed to be bad, that’s the joke” argument to come back at me for hating this. One of the worst things WWE have done in the name of creativity during the pandemic. -***
THE GREATEST WRESTLING MATCH, EVER.
Bold of them to proclaim this before it’s even happened. Although they pre-taped it so they could edit out any mistakes. However I’m pretty sure the Mania match was pre-taped and that fucking sucked.
There’s a lot of noise being pumped in here, which is not as bad as I thought it would be. If you look away it almost sounds like there’s a crowd there. There are some nice early touches like Orton dodging an arm drag, tripping Edge on a drop down. It’s clever because those are things that don’t usually work in wrestling but they do here because Edge hasn’t wrestled in 9 years. They also have Edge working the body part based on Orton’s historical injuries, which as his former tag team partner he’s aware of. The whole thing is a little sluggish but with their near 45 minute match plan they can’t go all out. The bigger problem is an insistence at putting a guy who hasn’t wrestled in a decade in long matches.
The match is fine until they suddenly decide to start doing other people’s moves. I don’t get it. They both do the Three Amigos. Edge had a feud with Eddie so maybe they’re saying that Orton didn’t deserve to do it because he didn’t know Eddie that well, whereas it’s then countered by Edge who was more familiar with the sequence? I also have an issue with how much everything drags after the first ten minutes or so. Normally this is the point where I’d gauge how invested the crowd is, as I’m not really feeling it, and there’s only wrestlers hanging around reacting.
Orton randomly hits the Angleslam and comms claim it’s because Angle picked Edge to win. Huh? I do enjoy Edge pulling out the Edgecution and Edgeomatic from his playbook. I also like him busting out the Unprettier, Christian’s finisher, as a deep dive into his history. Likewise Orton busting out the Pedigree. If they’re going to call this the “Greatest Match Ever” they need epic. I personally don’t like it when people chuck other people’s finishers into a match. It feels low rent. Like why is Edge doing the Rock Bottom? It’s like that fucking endless Al Snow vs. Steve Corino match from 1PW.
When it comes to constructing long matches some people are just not capable of doing it well. A lot of this match has a strong base but goes off the rails when they throw the flair in. The counter-argument is that if they’re having the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” then it should pay tribute to the greatest wrestling matches like Flair-Steamboat with the chop sequence earlier in the match but I’m not buying it. Orton goes low and punts Edge for the win. I liked a lot of this but it was far too long and didn’t come close to living up to the billing. ****
THE MARCH OF THE GAMMONS.
The Black Lives Matter movement is quite simple to understand and yet a lot of white people don’t seem to get it. Systemic racism is something that has existed for so long it’s hard to pinpoint where it all started. Black people have been looked down upon by the ruling white people for hundreds of years and now, as they’re trying to get a measure of equality (yanno, like the suffragettes) white people are crawling out of the wood work with their own bullshit and try and make it about them and their narrative.
The statue shaggers, so determined to hold on to “Britain’s History” (which btw, is not taught in schools and is truly horrifying once you start to delve into it), are out there trying to stop progress. Doing so with half truths and outright lies. They are on the wrong side of history. The “we can’t say anything anymore without being racist” brigade should probably realise that what they’ve been saying was, indeed, racist and they should probably reconsider it. Also, the “when do we get a chance to say something” brigade; that was forever and up to this point. You controlled the entire narrative forever and when someone else wants to contribute the toys come out of the pram. Well, fuck you. We tried it your way and look where it got us. Time for change.
While I have you here, and on the subject of Britain’s history, here is some information about Winston Churchill. I’d like to start out by saying I would not take down his statue. The man was responsible for Britain’s war effort against the evils of Hitler and that statue represents not only victory but how we stood up to fascism. It’s a wonderful glimpse of Britain at its best. However people should also be educated in the bad shit that Churchill was responsible for. Things that until recently I had no idea about. As a young man I always thought it was weird that people hated the English “for no reason” and it’s simply because we were not taught about these things. Let’s take a look at some of Winston’s less pleasant moments…
- Churchill believed in eugenics and thought white people were a “stronger race, a higher-grade race”. This was a common view at the time and is part of the reasoning for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and his master race beliefs.
- Churchill used chemical weapons. He was minster for war and air and was “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”. He was in favour of mustard gas during World War 1.
- Three million people died in a famine in India in 1943. As part of an agreement with India Churchill insisted the country continued to export rice to UK as part of the war effort. Furthermore wheat intended for India from Australia was then taken by the UK to feed Europe post-war leaving India, “an uncivilized nation”, starving.
- He hated Gandhi. “We should be rid of a bad man and an enemy of the Empire if he died.” His attitude towards India is it was the property of the British and they could do with it as they saw fit. He has a protectionist attitude towards the British Empire.
- He had some moderately terrible views about Jews and Islam. By modern standards anyway. He was apparently fascinated with Islam though and contributed money to a mosque.
- He was anti-union. There was a mining strike in Wales and Churchill sent in the army. During another strike in Liverpool he sent the troops in again and two people were shot dead. There’s a decent chance he blamed all this on communist agitators, who he hated.
- The Black and Tans. In 1919 the Irish were fighting for independence. Churchill, in his role as Secretary of State for War and Air, sent the Black and Tans to fight the IRA. He refused to stand them down and even suggested bombing Ireland from the air. Those who defend him suggest he wanted a quick resolution to the crisis.
So yeah, this is why someone scribbled “was a racist” on his statue. Is that the full story? No, it isn’t and Boris Johnson hero worships the man so that statue is probably staying put. On an unrelated note I can’t say “Black and Tans” without hearing “Come Out Ye Black and Tans”. Cracking tune.
THE PREM IS BACK.
I’ve not really paid a lot of attention to football recently but the return of the Premier League is quite exciting. Unfortunately I’ve been in a Football Manager simulated version of football for so long I can’t remember what the league looks like. Other than Liverpool are top by a country mile. On Wednesday the league returns with Aston Villa vs. Sheffield Utd and Man City vs. Arsenal. Here’s the table;
Arsenal are way off the pace. I also forgot how much trouble Villa are in. Big game against Sheff Utd. I’ll be checking in on Wednesday with more football related thoughts.
HUSTLE HOUSE VOL 2.
Hey, I watched some wrestling! HUSTLE House Vol. 2 took place in September 2004. Highlights and match thoughts below.
- The opening video features what can only be described as a Japanese Shauna the Grinch doing the booing thing and the thumbs down. Wonderful.
- Shimada is magically healed of his many injuries (eye, leg, neck) by Generalissimo Takada. Is there anything the Generalissimo’s powers can’t do?
- GM Sasihara now has a sparkly red suit. He may be a pimp.
- Baseball Nakamura is now licenced by the NWA.
- Jinsei Shinzaki has joined the Monster Army. I like how Takada keeps wheeling dudes out as surprises who then never appear in the ring at all.
- Minoru Fujita & Ikuto Hidaka vs. Spanky & Kaz Hayashi. The handsome thirst trap duo of Kaz & Spanky looking to put away another set of challengers. Spanky is getting more graceful by the match and he looks effortlessly good here. Kaz is even better. I thought they’d stole the show until another match rolled around later. Basically the opener is always Spanky & Kaz and it’s always good. This was no exception. The new challengers counter the Mega Sliced Bread #2 though and Spanky taps out! ***1/2
- Riki Choshu squashes Psycho the Death. LARIATOOOOOOO.
- Hustle Kamen Red & Hustle Kamen Blue vs. Devil Pierroth I & II. Oh holy shit, this fucking ruled. When it started out I thought it would be fun, as the clowns are both Mexican or lucha trained, and they had a lot of fun double teams and nutty dives. But as the match progressed it got better and better and I reckon it’s the best match HUSTLE have put on so far. SUGI and Rasse are the Kamen lads and SUGI, obviously, fucking rules. ****
- An Jo, Mark Coleman & Himalayan Bigfoot vs. Yokoi, Yuasa & Fuji. Himalayan Bigfoot is the professional wrestler is the wrestler I never knew I wanted. He’s so good. He doesn’t sell anything until he’s overwhelmed and then he sells like a wounded animal with the appropriate vocal accompaniment. I adore him. He’s not the most graceful of beasts and falls over doing the big boot on the finish but who cares about that. Vince should have signed him. World title material all day long. **3/4
- Toshiaki Kawada & Taichi vs. HIZAKARI & Monster C. C is Corino in a mask doing a Shadow Kawada gimmick. HIZAKARI is a savage who, when he stomps his feet, provokes island rhythms that play over the tannoy and I love him to bits. Gabriel Gallo, who played HIZAKARI, uploaded this whole show to YouTube god bless him. **3/4
- Dan Bobish & Yuji Shimada vs. Wataru Sakata & Ryoui Sai. Shimada is out here as Monster Bobish’s cheerleader and rarely tags in. Insisting that Bobish wears Sakata down to nothing beforehand. He’s a great act and I enjoyed his performance. Bobish was much better here, giving very little and living up to the monster army name. Sai is out there to take the fall. **1/2
HUSTLE House Vol. 2 is a really fun show and breezed by at 2h35m. The lucha tag and the opening tag were both legitimately good and I had a laugh watching Himalayan Bigfoot, Yuji Shimada and HIZAKARI. A much better standard of wrestling and the skits were decent. HUSTLE, HUSTLE, HUSTLE!
THIS WEEK’S BEERS.
I took a week off the ales because I’m old now and falling apart. But I did manage a few on Saturday evening.
- Timmy Tompkins (Timothy Taylor) Boltmaker is a malty motherfucker. Having not had a beer all week I thought it tasted great but it was merely ok. My reviews reads “every beer is good beer compared to no beer” but Mike Kilby was quick to remind me about Paderborn, the beer so bad it makes me hate their football team. **1/2
- Pauwel Kwak. KWAK! It sounds like the noise a duck makes. I like that. It’s a thick, rich caramel flavoured Belgian beer. It’s pleasing to the eyes with its reddish hue and the nose with a subtle aroma. ***1/2
- Bearded Lady Dessert Barrel Aged Bourbon Edition. Oh my. This is tremendous. It has notes of chocolate and vanilla but not the coffee that often accompanies those flavours. Instead opting for cinnamon. It’s tremendously balanced and a top, top beer. Really strong too. ****3/4
- Hatherwood Red Rye Captain. An Aldi own label special. Should have stopped at the Magic Rock. **3/4
- Kustosz Mocne. I generally enjoy Polish beer and I’ve had a few. Kutosz didn’t live up to the general standard however. It has an unpleasant aroma and doubled down with a god awful after taste. *1/4
- Utenos Kriek. Finally desert. A cherry beer from Lithuania. I have a Lithuanian shop/off licence that I go into. It’s great for weird beers. This was solid. ***
- Rinktinis! I had this in a thunderstorm. I’m still wet from it right now. Got absolutely fucking drenched and some twat in a BMW splashed me too. Rinktinis brought me back to my happy place. ***1/4
Here are some thoughts on the HUSTLE-5 show from the same month.
- The entranceway is designed to look like the spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I dig it.
- Captain Hustle is Naoya Ogawa pretending to Mr America. You love to see it.
- Kawada beats up Taichi again. This time for warming up in the shape of a C, reminding Kawada of his hated enemy; Monster C.
- Japanese Shauna gets given a balloon by a clown but is then kidnapped by Shimada and abducted! Beware clowns with balloons.
- Joe Son dances in a thong, again. I’m once again reminded that he’s in jail for life because he was involved in a gang rape.
- Ogawa sings! He gets a full on music video.
- The pre-match Kanemaru Offspring dance has now incorporated his tag team partners and a squad of dancing girls. Respect.
- Big Rikishi is given a presser and promises to “take care of bidniz” for his old mate Riki Choshu. He appears to be wearing the Arsenal away kit from 1988.
- Yoji Anjo is turned into a savage islander by the magical powers of Generalissimo Takada. Is there nothing he can’t magically turn into something else?
- Kaz Hayashi & Spanky vs. Flying Vampires. I’m told the Vampires may be the Brahman Brothers. The Vampires spend a little too long doing the knock-off Brood gimmick and biting Spanky. Is he going to turn now? The crowd is asleep during this. Titanic has gone off the boil. ***
- Mark Coleman & Monster C vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Hirotaka Yokoi. Kawada looks tired but occasionally turns it on and it’s a thing of beauty. Who knew I’d be into a Kawada vs. Corino feud? **3/4
- Hustle Kamen Red & Blue vs. Devil Pierroth I & 2. This is a less good version of the Korakuen Hall match. There are quite a few botches. SUGI’s 619 is a disaster. I’m pleased with the Pierroth lads making what I can only describe as “clown noises” during this. ***1/2
- Giant Silva vs. Great Sasuke. This might be the greatest match in HUSTLE history. There is more than a foot in height difference. At one point Silva doesn’t notice the set up for an Asai moonsault and simply isn’t there to catch Sasuke, who flies shins first into the rail. I was pretty sure he’d broken his leg. Sasuke then takes a bump into a table for no reason. Silva comes off the top through the same table. Jinsei Shinzaki runs in! So, so good. ***3/4 I guess. I don’t know. Watch it.
- Kanemaru, M Tanaka & Sakata vs. Super Crazy, Psycho the Death & Piranha Monster Z. This is a different, and betterer, Piranha Monster Z I’m happy to announce. They’ll have to find another one because this one gets absolutely killed with a powerbomb out of the ring through a stack of tables. He’s dead, Jim. ***1/4
- Riki Choshu & Hustle Rikishi vs. Dan Bobish & Yoji Anjo. The latter is sporting the HIZAKARI gimmick and renamed O-YA-JI-GA-RI. Nothing happens. Rikishi wins. Shimada gets the stinkface. *1/2
- Russian 54 vs. Judo-O. Ogawa playing Hulk Hogan on one side. Jack Bull on the other, yelling “FIFTY FOUR” throughout the match. Not even masked. Very low effort. Shimada is the heel ref in this. It doesn’t work. STO finishes. Hogan’s Guillotine legdrop does not. *
I loved a lot of this show. The set was great, the video packages were fun and different. Hashimoto’s involvement was nice to see. The wrestling was mostly good and in Silva vs. Sasuke they did something completely off-the-wall. More of that!
DA 5 BLOODS.
Spike Lee is one of America’s most important filmmakers. He’s not scared of turning the lens on American history and especially the darkest days of it. In his epic Vietnam re-visitation Lee uses archive footage of Ali, MLK and others to make his points. Meanwhile his assembled cast of talented black men lead the way in the dramatic stakes. Clarke Peters and Isiah Whitlock Jr were superb in the Wire and there’s more of the same from them here.
Then there’s Delroy Lindo. I was not prepared for Delroy Lindo ladies and gentlemen. He has a couple of monologues to camera that have the same sense of crazy energy in a jungle that Bill Duke has in Predator. It got to the point where I thought I was about to see the Predator’s 3 little red dots appearing on his head. Every scene he’s in is just amplified. Whether he’s getting mad locals for staring at him, or trying to sell him a chicken, or going completely off the deep end every scene he’s in is special.
Da 5 Bloods does have a few flaws. One is brevity, of which there is none. The film is 30 minutes too long and drags in the second half. It does eventually find a happy resolution but the pacing could have been better. I generally can’t deal with films that go over the 2h30m mark. This was no different. Every time I started to drift Lindo pulled me back in though. What a performance. ****
Another season completed. We’re now in the summer of 2031. The attempt to win every trophy going has progressed slightly as Ajax manager Brian Hates-Liverpool scored a domestic double. It was a tap in, basically. I took over a team on top of the table and coasted to the title. The cup on the other hand was tricky. Struggled past Feyenoord on penalties, then barely got past ADO Den Haag and finally played PSV in the final. We were ahead for most of the game and in cruise control. Then a dude I sold to PSV in the January window scored in the 89th minute. Horrified I started mentally preparing for extra time. Only for the Argentine winger I bought to replace this player I sold in January to pop up with a sensational 93rd minute winner. One of those gaming moments where I literally jumped out of my seat.
Anderlecht boss Jimmy Football also secured a league and cup double. Although things didn’t go as smoothly as they did the year before. Club Brugge decided to ‘have a go’ this season and a 3-0 reverse at their gaff down the stretch caused my assistant manager to proclaim the title race as over. I promptly fired him. We were two points behind with a game in hand. The game in hand was won, we beat Club Brugge and won the title with a game to spare.
This puts Jimmy Football at #6 in the Belgian Hall of Fame. Do I stay at Anderlecht and make a run for Hugo Broos? BHL is probably done with Ajax but I’m not moving unless something interesting comes up. Meanwhile there is the distraction of the summer and Canada, Football’s international team, has not one but two tournaments. I’ll try and sneak those in this week.