FLYIN’ SOLO #3
RICK RUDE © vs. HIROSHI HASE (WCW International Heavyweight Title) - New Japan 3/16/94
Although this isn’t the epic that Hase’s first (and only) singles heavyweight title win deserves, this is still a rather good match. Rude was more about the spectacle side of wrestling than the technical side of it, which is both good and bad here. Rude’s trademark “What I’d like to have right now . . . ” promo and the designs his tights are good reasons to explain why Hase is so fired up when the bell rings. Rude’s disrespect to Hase in the form of the sweat flicking and posing over him is also easy to explain Hase’s second wind, and why he obliterates Rude with Uranages before the Northern Lights Suplex.
Rude’s tendency to lean more towards showmanship and less towards wrestling also hold this back at times. Rude has some good ideas when he’s putting the hurt on, but nothing that lasts long term. Rude’s early work surrounded Hase’s midsection, including a stomach claw, front suplex to the guardrail, and a flapjack. But as soon as Hase mounted a comeback, it was forgotten about by both of them. Rude never went back to the midsection, and Hase didn’t continue to sell the effects of it, despite Rude already setting a precedent by failing to bodyslam Hase after having his back worn down a bit. They’re also a little too liberal about just dropping whatever they were doing in favor of trading chops and slaps, but at least that works in the vein of the disrespect Rude is showing to Hase and NJPW, and Rude wanting to hurt Hase as opposed to simply beating him.
Luckily, there is plenty of good stuff here as well. Hase wears down Rude’s back early on, and Rude’s over-the-top selling is perfect, and the aforementioned spot where he picks up Hase for a slam, but his back gives out is also great. Rude and Hase are both good in how they give control to each other, instead of blowing something off or simply taking it when one of them feels like it, they wait until there’s a good opening. Hase’s missed splash, Rude’s missed knee drop, and Rude’s Uranage counter. I could have done without Hase kicking out of the Rude Awakening, but it wasn’t a huge deal. Rude didn’t do it the way he normally does, it was a bit more rushed, so it makes sense that he might not have hit it all the way and that’s why Hase kicked out. Rude smartly stays on the neck after the kick out and gets some good near falls after a DDT, piledriver, and Russian Legsweep. In fact, if Rude hadn’t stopped to pose after the Russian Legsweep, Hase probably wouldn’t have gotten the second wind. Hase doesn’t make the same mistake and after several Uranages, including one off the second rope, Hase finishes off Rude with the Northern Lights, complete with Rude struggling to kick out, to show how tight Hase had him locked up. It’s too bad that Hase only got a few days with the title. It’d have been interesting to see Hase get a couple of months with the title and seen how he’d have fared against some other WCW wrestlers. ***1/4
RIC FLAIR © vs. THE GIANT (WCW World Heavyweight Title) - WCW 4/29/96
Here’s a good example of Flair’s broomstick ability to get something at least watchable out of anyone. I like Giant/Big Show just fine, but all the good stuff here is from Flair. Flair knows that he can’t do much of anything to him, so he’s as entertaining as he can be while helping the Giant look like a monster. Flair fires off some chops and forearm shots that don’t have any effect. The Giant just stands there and looks menacing while Flair starts going nuts. Giant plants Flair with a vertical suplex, and Flair’s selling and reaction is perfect. Flair throws in a few smart touches like going to the eyes to stun him, and blocking the chokeslam by grabbing the ropes.
They probably should have found another way to go to the finish than disrespecting the figure four. Flair has him in the hold, and Giant just wakes up, grabs Flair by the throat, gets to his feet, and plants him with the chokeslam to win the title (to a surprisingly big pop). It’s weird that Flair even went to it in the first place. His only offense was cheap shots and unsold strikes, and he’d only gotten to the figure four by using knucks to seemingly KO him. Flair had gotten pins using the Figure Four before (Barry Windham in ‘93, and he beat Eddie Guerrero later in the year that way), but those were cases of them passing out from the pain. And when you consider how big his legs are, it’s obvious that Flair would have needed to take one of them out for the hold to work. There’s nothing wrong with the title change here, the Flair/Savage program was winding down, and the Flair/Mongo one was getting started. Scott Hall was a month away from showing up and starting up the nWo, so the win here gave Giant three months to be a dominating champion, and look like a threat to Hogan.
TATSUHITO TAKAIWA © vs. TSUYOSHI KIKUCHI (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title) - NOAH 11/25/01
Wow. This totally and utterly kills the Takaiwa/Kanemaru title change from October. The main reason is that Kikuchi can’t/won’t play the overkill game of throwing out bombs that Takaiwa and Kanemaru love so much, instead Kikuchi opts to actually *gasp* work a match. Takaiwa at first seems almost stunned that he’s wrestling someone more grumpy than he is, and someone who’s got the grapefruits to no-sell his chops. However, once they seem to reach a sort of understanding as to what’s going to happen, this flows quite nicely.
The match itself is mostly the Kikuchi show, Takaiwa doesn’t totally come empty handed, he’s not the master of selling, but he does a decent job of putting over his knee when Kikuchi is ripping and tearing at it, even selling it hugely after he takes a German suplex and flips all the way over. Takaiwa isn’t even responsible for the stiffest moment of the match, which comes when Kikuchi unleashes a hugely audible headbutt, without the aid of the microphone. That’s followed up by Kikuchi going to get the microphone for the crowd pop, and Takaiwa snatches it away and blasts him several times in the head. Kikuchi doesn’t sell it at first, just for the crowd laughter, but Takaiwa shows his own mean streak and starts to pound him incessantly in the head and Kikuchi finally falls. Kikuchi also reigns in Takaiwa a bit at the finish, and keeps it from going to total overkill, Kikuchi barely survives the DVB and Takaiwa levels it up by coming off the top to get the win. Kikuchi wasn’t showing the same sort of fire here that he’d have when he and Lyger would lock up for the NJ/NOAH tag matches the next year, but if nothing else this is a nice glimpse of what Kikuchi, past his prime or not, could still bring to the table. ***
KEIJI MUTOH/GOLDBERG vs. BRIAN ADAMS/BRYAN CLARK - WRESTLE-1 1/11/03
Yes, someone actually booked this match. . . . on purpose. This wouldn’t have been so bad if anything decent had happened. Kronik aren’t good for anything other than generic brawling, Goldberg didn’t understand the concept of selling, and Mutoh couldn’t carry all four and make it watchable. Adams can’t take a Dragon screw properly and the figure four that Mutoh follows up with looks positively timid. Goldberg tries to wrestle, sort of, with a couple of armbars to Clark, but the armbars look terrible, and Clark, much like Goldberg, doesn’t know how to sell. Goldberg yells at the camera man to move, on camera, before Adams lariats him from behind over the top. Kronik actually manage to do something more exposing, by setting up Goldberg for the High Times, and then stopping and re-positioning him so that Mutoh can hit the dropkick and make the save. The crowd only wakes up twice, once for Mutoh’s Shining Wizard to Adams, and when Goldberg spears Clark through the table in the corner (which was sweet when he did it to Rocco Rock in 1998, but was overdone to death by 2003). Goldberg finishes off Clark with the Jackhammer after seventeen minutes of less than thrilling action. Aside from Mutoh getting revenge for Kronik bailing on All Japan while they were the World Tag Team Champions, I don’t know what this was supposed to accomplish.
NAOMICHI MARUFUJI/KENTA © vs. TSUYOSHI KIKUCHI/MITSUO MOMOTA (GHC Jr. Tag Team Titles) - NOAH 12/11/03
Only in Korauken Hall could this match take place. Because in any other arena, this same match, move for move, would get the heat of your run of the mill Masao Inoue match. This is the first match where the champs take a sort of backseat to their opponents in the way of offense. The Korauken fans want to see the two grumpy vets pull off the upset of the decade and take the titles, and much like in the trios match from December featuring the teams, KENTA and Marufuji do what they can to help make it seem more likely than it really has any right to be that they’ll pull it off. This is also the first instance I’ve seen of KENTA and Marufuji playing heels, and they’re up for the task, KENTA much more than Marufuji. This worked mostly like a southern tag, and KENTA really lays in the stiff shots to the fifty-five-year-old Momota, and Kikuchi keeps making the save. It’s akin to watching a Misawa/Kikuchi tag match from the early 90's, with Kikuchi playing Misawa. Marufuji is pretty good at the heel bit as well, baiting Kikuchi several times, and doing a nice job of giving off the impression that he’s too for above the challengers to take them seriously.
When the veteran team finally gets an edge, all four make the most of it. Both KENTA and Marufuji make Momota’s Baba chops look to be on the same level as KENTA’s kicks and Kikuchi’s elbows. KENTA makes Momota’s near fall off the backdrop look plausible, and gives his powerbomb similar respect. Kikuchi and Momota also roll out a few double teams, because even though this is worked far from a typical NOAH match, it’s still NOAH and it’s going to take something big to end the match and it works for getting some nice heat for the near fall. Marufuji is the only person who really doesn’t step up his game very much at all. He was good for selling the Momota chops, and took a hell of a nice bump for Momota’s German suplex, but other than that he pretty much stayed out of the way and let KENTA carry the load, which is fine because KENTA is better at that sort of thing. KENTA is even giving to Momota as he finishes him off, doing his trademark attempt to kick his head in the fifth row, and then finish him off with the Busaiku, only KENTA isn’t sure if that can keep him down, so he picks him back up and hits yet another Busaiku to put him down for the count. While this isn’t nearly as flashy and NOAH-like as the champions’ other title defense, it’s their best one from a storytelling standpoint, which is something that’s often lacking when it comes to NOAH. ***