The match starts out looking promising, with Tanahashi and Olimpico keeping things on the mat for a minute and then degenerating into a nice little brawl. That’s as good as it gets. The champions take over and more or less squash the Mexicans in short order to win the fall. That’s not bad in itself. In fact, it’s rather common for these sorts of matches, but Tanahashi and Nakamura don’t look like the dick rudos that they need to in order for this to work as well it could have. They just roll out double team after double team until Rey stays down and then make Olimpico submit. But they don’t have the attitude or personality that Averno, Ultimo Guerrero, or even Gedo and Jado would have brought to the mix.

The champs try to make the second fall look like a repeat of the first, but Bucanero and Olimpico make sure that doesn’t happen. The only real highlight is Bucanero giving Nakamura a blockbuster across Olimpico’s knees, and then doing a corkscrew senton while Nakamura still across the knees. Bucanero counters Tanahashi’s wheelbarrow and gets a pin, and Nakamura (still reeling from the senton) quickly gives it up to an STF from Olimpico.

To no real surprise, the deciding fall goes longer than both falls combined and it has most of the good work. There’s a fun near fall early on where Bucanero and Olimpico do stereo flash cradles. There’s only one altogether odd moment to the match, when the champions whip the challengers into each other, so that they stand back to back, and then hit charging lariats. It seemed like they move should have backfired, so that they’d have hit each other.. They make up for that later with a nice pair of dives from the Mexican team, followed by a good run of offense from them. But, just when it seems like they’ve got things well at hand, Nakamura KO’s Bucanero on the floor (off camera) and then takes down Olimpico into an armbar for the submission. With Bucanero still out, the champions decide to showboat, and Bucanero cradles Nakamura to even the score. Bucanero gets control and seems to have Tanahashi where he wants him, but Nakamura intervenes, first to break up a pin, and a minute later he kicks Bucanero in the back of the head to set up the Dragon suplex to save the titles. Like so many other tags and trios from Mexico, this is a fun little match, but it suffered thanks to Nakamura and Tanahashi’s issues being rudos as well as the usual problems that I have with so many tag and trio matches from Mexico, virtually all the good work and things that mattered were saved for the third fall.


This is not the winning pair for going nearly an hour. For as good as he can be, Cena is rather limited, and Shawn is a good eleven years past his prime. Also, matches that go longer than thirty minutes tend to suck for one reason or another, there are always exceptions like Misawa/Kobashi, Funk/Tsuruta, and Flair/Steamboat, but the non-exceptions tend to be more about killing time than making the most out of having so much of it to work with (such as Fuyuki/Hayabusa). This tends to be one of those cases. They spend the early part of the match trading half assed punches and chops. It’s like the worst matches from the Shawn/HHH feud, without the perceived hate. They spend most of the last half of the match laying on the mat like they’re completely spent. That wouldn’t be so bad itself (especially after spots like Cena’s powerbomb), but it gets tiresome when they do it after almost every spot.

They do have their good points though. Cena’s early teasing of the STFU (which he’d beat Shawn with at WrestleMania) and taunting him about being *that* close was a very nice touch from him. One of the pluses of these long matches is that they wrestlers are usually good with using limb work to keep the match moving. This isn’t an exception on that end, it’s a half exception, because Cena is just as bad as Shawn is great at it. Cena has never been much for working holds anyway. Otherwise, his finishing submission wouldn’t still look so bad nearly five years later, and Shawn has always been a big bumper even when he came back. So why Cena felt the need to use a five minute bearhug is beyond me (except for the fact that it eats up five minutes). Shawn is great for making the hold look excruciating though. It’s the polar opposite when Shawn is working over Cena’s shoulder. Shawn also wasn’t really one to work a lot of holds, so he forgoes it and just throws Cena into the stairs or the post. But Cena doesn’t want to go all the way with selling it. Not long after Shawn had singled it out, Shawn did a dive to the floor and Cena caught him and lifted him up for a slam only for Shawn to slip out the back and throw him into the stairs. It’d have been just as easy to let Shawn land on him and then throw him into the stairs, and it doesn’t shit on Shawn working the arm over before. It only gets worse when Cena starts throwing lariats and shoulder tackles.

There is a handful of surprisingly good spots, such as Cena dodging the superkick and getting a backslide near fall. There was also a good bump from Shawn where he went over the top turnbuckle and then hit his back on the apron on the way down. Which is more than a little gutsy for someone that spent four years on the shelf thanks to a bad back injury. But, when it comes down to it, the match is just a long stall tactic before the finish. The back and arm work don’t really mean anything in the long run because Shawn has it in him to kick out of the FU and he makes the ropes on the STFU this time, and Cena’s arm being hurt is long forgotten about. The FU counter to the superkick is a good finish, and the superkick itself looks great (unlike the earlier one that got a near fall), but this is just like so many other hour-long matches that get a lot of praise. The main reason it gets praised is because it goes for an hour.

SAMOA JOE vs. TYLER BLACK (ROH - 11/22/08)

I’ll fully admit to not seeing any of Black’s matches with Danielson or McGuiness prior to this, which were, apparently, breakout matches that showed he had it in him to be main event player. But, I can safely say that this match doesn’t do much to show that Tyler is the heir apparent. It certainly doesn’t help that this is a typical Samoa Joe match with Joe’s typical offense. It makes sense since this is Joe’s ROH return, and being a Joe match means that it’s a good match, but a match like this does precious little for Black.

Just look at the various ways that Tyler takes control of the match. The first is a cheap shot when Joe breaks in the ropes. But Tyler’s run of control only lasts a minute or so and it ends when Joe errantly sidesteps a cross body press. The second time Tyler gets in control is when Allison Wonderland throws herself in front of Joe to save Black from the ole kick. This ones lasts a bit longer, but its made up entirely of Black punching, kicking, eye gouging, choking, etc. The only wrestling move to be found is a snap mare. It also ends with Joe outsmarting Black and making him atomic drop himself.

Black finally starts looking good as the match starts winding down, when he blocks the Muscle Buster and starts showing some real offense. But it’s way too late in the match to give the impression that Black will pull off the upset. Some might take issue with Tyler kicking out of the Island driver so quickly, but it’s not too big a deal. It’s a move Joe rarely trots out in the first place, and it wasn’t like Tyler did the full NOAH-style pop up. Black does that later when they have a strike exchange and he blows off Joe’s rolling elbow. The finish doesn’t help Tyler, he charges into Joe’s STO and Joe hits the Muscle Buster and chokes him out. This is clearly a good match, but this isn’t much more than just a novelty act for Samoa Joe back being in ROH, when ROH had another chance to elevate Black, even with a loss. ***

GO SHIOZAKI vs. TAKESHI RIKIO (Decision Match for the vacant GHC Heavyweight Title - NOAH 6/14/09)

Well, it had to happen eventually. No, Shiozaki didn’t have to win the GHC Title, NOAH had to elevate the next generation up to the main event and stick with it. A process that should have been started in 2002 and steadily continued so that they’d be firmly established after seven years. But instead NOAH saw fit to dilly dally around with Marufuji, Morishima, Rikio, and others, when it was easier to bring in outsiders and foreigners and push them into the main event spots. Now, Misawa is gone after a tragic accident and Kobashi and Akiyama are both on the shelf with serious injuries, which leaves NOAH without the three pillars of the main event scene and roster that the fans don’t buy as top guys because NOAH never showed a genuine interest in making them into top guys.

The lack of crowd reaction should be enough to show that something isn’t right. With only a few exceptions, they don’t make a peep, it’s so quiet that the fans could have played a game of Marco Polo during the match and it’d have been perfectly audible. They really only wake up when Go wins the title and when he survives something that they don’t expect him to, such as the Muso and a top rope splash from Rikio. There are problems with this match that go beyond crowd heat and perception though. Shiozaki isn’t very good. His offense is 98% spunky young lion stuff that doesn’t look all that impressive against Rikio, and most of his attempts at other spots get badly blown. He tries for a DDT early and takes a flat back bump, while Rikio barely touches the mat. He tried to do a rana reversal off the apron and couldn’t take Rikio over, later on he tries a top rope rana and it looks more like a rocker dropper off the top. Shiozaki is even screwing up simple things like a sunset flip counter to the Muso. The only nice things out of Shiozaki are a tope to the floor and a moonsault toward the end. Shiozaki winds up running out of things to do and starts doing Misawa-style elbows, which some may find touching, but it didn’t do much for me. After dropping Rikio with a one-two combo and a running elbow, Shiozaki hits the Go Flasher and wins the title.

Rikio isn’t anything great in this, but he’s passable more often than not. He’s good at knocking Shiozaki around when he’s in control of things, and it does look hopeless for Shiozaki at the few points where the crowd wakes up when Shiozaki actually kicks out. He’s never been great at putting over his opponents, but he does what he can to make Shiozaki look like he’s actually hanging with him, especially when Shiozaki throws lariats that make Kojima look like Stan Hansen. Shiozaki also has the bright idea of taking a rail ride and just blowing it off, so Rikio plants with him a big chokeslam to keep him down. Fan interest in Rikio as GHC Champion fizzled out after a month, and he’s never shown anything to make a second title run seem like a worthwhile idea, but he looks miles better, and more credible, as champion than Shiozaki.

JEREMY WYATT vs. MARK STERLING (Iron Man Match - 3XW 1/7/11)

I’m not sure who should get more credit here, Wyatt and Sterling for going for seventy minutes and not losing the crowd at all, or the person who actually booked the match, for risking losing the fans with the iron man rules and then the sudden death overtime, and having it pay off. They’re especially good at making the falls come off well and playing off the falls throughout the match. A good example of this is the first fall, Wyatt gets stuck in a sharpshooter and quickly gets the ropes, only for Sterling to just pull him back, taking advantage of the no DQ rules, and Wyatt quickly gives it up. A little bit later, Sterling tries again, and Wyatt crawls right to the floor to make sure he doesn’t get stuck.. Wyatt gets two falls of his own from his lightning spiral move, so he naturally tries for it when the match starts getting close to ending, and this time Sterling is ready for it and even turns the tables on Wyatt with one of his own.

As far as overall work goes, Wyatt clearly looks to be the better of the two. I can’t say that Sterling is bad, being that this is the first time I’ve seen him work, but he seemed to rely a little too much on dropkicks and forearms, along with a few overly flashy spots like dives to the floor. Wyatt is quite good at sharking in on Sterling’s arm, and there’s a smart moment when he drops Sterling with a knee to the gut and keeps working over the midsection. Wyatt is also good with coming up logical moves that fit a situation, such as a swinging neckbreaker when Sterling drops his head too early. The biggest individual spot of the match was Wyatt’s piledriver on the apron, which Sterling sold perfectly. It wasn’t overdone with Wyatt being unable to roll him in because Sterling was “legit” KO’d. Wyatt rolls him in for the easy pin, and then waits for the ref to finish the count (twenty second rest period after each fall) and then tries again for a near fall. When Sterling won’t stay down again, Wyatt switches gears and goes back to the arm with a crossface for the submission.

The workers are also smart to not bust out the furniture right away, and they also make it matter by only using it when nothing else seems to work. That leads to another good moment from Wyatt when he slides a chair to Sterling and then rushes for a DDT on the chair. It also leads to a nice fall for Sterling when Wyatt wedges a chair in the corner and then sets up a table, he takes too long though and he’s the one who feels the brunt of them and also gives Sterling a fall. As smart as most of the work here is, there are a few times they get a bit goofy. The attempted interference that winds up with both of them running them off was a bit odd, you’d think that Wyatt would be happy to get a breath and pick up an easy fall. Sterling’s second fall coming from the spear was also strange, given that Wyatt was sharking in on his arm pretty good, and Sterling had been putting it over rather well, even after hitting something of his own like the Finlay roll. But he just hits the spear and gets the fall, without any selling at all.

The final fall, sudden death, after they go to the time limit, also has some nice work and good drama to it. Both Wyatt and Sterling try some things that had worked for them before, and even steal each other’s moves. Wyatt seems to have it in the bag with a superplex and then rolling through to do a fisherman buster. The tombstone on the chair is the perfect way to cap things off. They’d been relatively smart about making prop shots matter already, so when Sterling countered Wyatt and hit the tombstone there was pretty much zero doubt that it would be enough to keep him down. I’ve said before, that the main problem matches like these have is that they rely too much on killing time rather than making the most of it, but this is a good example of two wrestlers doing the latter. Again, Sterling’s work and some of the goofiness drag this down at points, but it’s remarkable that this winds up being even this good, considering the stigma that most indy feds not named “ROH” seem to have. ***1/4