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    The 'No Bullshit' Review - Part Two

    Welcome back to the second instalment of the “No Bullshit” Review, the column where we rate wrestling matches by the simple method of ‘do they have enough crap in them that I can’t help but yell ‘bullshit’ at the screen three times?’ There’s a lot more to the methodology than that, but I’ve got five matches to get through today, so if you want to read more about it or check out the first three matches on our scale, you can do that here:

    The "No Bullshit" Review - Part One

    But if you're still with me, without further ado, let’s get things underway for this edition.

    Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega – Wrestle Kingdom 11, January 4th, 2017
    For the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
    Tokyo Dome, Tokyo


    I’m going to start out this column with the first big meeting between Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega, the one that started off the flurry off ratings over five stars when Dave Meltzer threw six of the things at this Tokyo Dome bout.

    Things start out, and as is often the case with NJPW I’m really into the first few minutes. There are some very nice touches and it’s got a strong, mat-based focus that is all very decent. If there was even half a chance the match could end in those few minutes it’d be great, but as you know it’s going a long time, I’d say you’ve probably got to say it’s just ‘really good’, instead. But coming close to the five-minute mark one spot already gets them in trouble, as Omega rolls through off a springboard into the sunset flip, pushed Okada out so he can get momentum, and sits there visibly waiting for his opponent to hit the jack-knife pin. When I catch myself, I’m actually hissing at it like some sort ridiculous snake, but I don’t actually say bullshit or an equivalent, and given the leniency I’m offering to the newer matches (as outlined in column 1), I’m going to let it go for the time being. The rest of the sequence isn’t great either as Omega just looks so willing to be arm-dragged, but thankfully before the accumulation gets too much Okada takes control on the mat again.

    Shortly afterwards, though, they hit a wall for the first time. I can just about live with Omega’s escape from the corner as a kind of inventive and athletic twist, but following that with a dive into Okada’s arms, so he can place you onto the top rope, and attempt a dropkick? It all gets too much for me and a loud ‘horseshit’ fills the air. One strike down, and we’re only about six minutes in – given NJPW’s propensity for long main events, it’s not looking good for this match.

    But in the immediate aftermath things are better. Omega works some old-school tactics by getting out of the ring to slow things down and frustrates Okada, and there’s a bit of running around the ring, back inside and he eats a big boot to the face, which was all very well done – and it feels like we’re back on track. As they move to outside the ring there’s an awful lot of eye-rolling from me, but that’s more to do with the fact that this stuff is so overdone nowadays that it means very little as opposed to there being anything particularly bad. I’d be tempted, if I had more freedom, for the treatment of a DDT on the floor as little more than a transition move, but that’d be breaking my own rules so the degradation of that once great finisher will have to be uncorrected for the time being.

    There’s a bit of a stretch after this where Okada takes control, before Kenny comes back with something that has a hint of ‘miracle recovery’ about it, but he does at least keep acting throughout with mitigates most of the damage for me. The match is able to survive for quite a long time without further damage, because there seems to be a mix of very good stuff and often something to take the edge off the things that are more jarring.

    They are, however, pushing their luck, and around nineteen minutes in they rack up a second strike, where after a period of working quite sensibly they decide to raise the pace, which is fine in itself but is manifest here by them both just deciding to ignore selling for a sequence. They’re both at fault, but Omega takes more of the blame as he takes more of the punishment, jumping back up to his feet each time. The match is on the verge of failing and it could run for another 30 minutes or more. But as with the previous strike, Okada takes control again and things settle. There’s a weird bit where, having hit a nasty looking move to Omega’s neck, rather than going for a cover he heads to the top rope – I can feel my lips twisting into an unnatural shape at the lack of a clear strategy, and think this is where you want Steve Corino to be emulating a Bobby Heenan, asking what he’s doing and suggesting it’s a big gamble he’s taking. But that’s an aside – the match still has one mark to spare.

    Around 22 minutes there is a big spot where Omega leaps over the barricade from the ropes, and this is kinda far-fetched at the best of times and it’s not helped by the fact that Omega overshoots him a little. He does, though, make just enough contact for it not to be terminal this time. Seven minutes or so then pass without another incident but when the time comes, it’s all she wrote, and it’s a combination of disjointed thinking and going to the well once too often. Following quickly on from his hand hitting the mat and looking out on his feet, Okada begins a comeback which is cut off by a big move, a springboard moonsault from the second rope. Rather than this putting him back to square one, or even ending the match, the two go back to a more even basis when they’re up on their feet, and then miraculously he has enough strength to repeat the spot from earlier in the bout, where he lifts Omega and places him on the top rope for a dropkick. It’s a bullshit on the strength of Omega’s obvious dive into his arms by itself, but on top of the preceding couple of minutes it’s all nonsense of the highest order. The main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 has the dubious distinction of being the first match to fail under this system.

    Result: TOTAL BULLSHIT after 29:54


    If I was going to offer consolation here, I’d say that it actually goes on a long time – longer than any other match I’ve looked at so far – before it fails. It’s not like this fell within the first five minutes and it was just spot after spot with no meaning. Still, a fail is a fail, and it’s not my place to try and spin that.



    Nick Bockwinkel vs Curt Hennig, Superclash II, May 2nd, 1987
    For the AWA World Heavyweight Championship
    Cow Palace, San Francisco


    Next up we’re heading to a different time and place, to the AWA and their Superclash II in 1987, making it the oldest match that I’ve taken a look at so far – this match is between their world champion, Nick Bockwinkel, and a young up-and-comer called Curt Hennig – I wonder whatever happened to him?

    Looking back on this one, I’m mainly interested in whether Bockwinkel, who obviously has a reputation as a prodigious talent, could still back that up as he was now 52 years of age. And to be honest, things start well with some great mat wrestling once the pre-bell shenanigans with Larry Zbyszko are out of the way. This looks competitive from the off and there’s really no hint of co-operation between the two men. The closest thing that you get to a problem in the early going comes when Bockwinkel takes a bodyslam and then pops up and gives one of his own right away, though to be honest I’m not sure I’d even consider that an issue this early in the match and against a smaller competitor.

    Things carry on well from there, and I could imagine someone potentially raising an eyebrow a couple of minutes later at Hennig taking a quick flurry of arm drags, though to be honest I’ve always seen it as a transitional move far more than a damaging one, so again, it takes no flak from me. Shortly after there’s a ring post spot where Hennig hits the post and bounces to the outside that’s very, very well-executed and it’s got me so well I can literally feel my pulse quicken.

    There’s nothing to trouble me at all until around 17 minutes in, when the referee kicks Bockwinkel’s hand from the bottom rope twice, before – when he grabs it with both hands – finally calling the break. I don’t speak up, though, because I’m more confused than anything. Do the AWA have some sort of rule where simply getting the rope isn’t enough, and there needs to be something more solid for the referee to call break? Or are they simply surviving here because of my relative unfamiliarity with the promotion? It’s hard to be sure, but the announcers are praising the refereeing at this point, so it doesn’t seem like it’s too wild an event. Again, the next couple of minutes pass without incident, though Hennig does at one point leap suddenly through the air like the previous beatdown had been nothing to him – though after Bockwinkel kicks out from the sunset flip he continues to sell, so it does at the very least look as if it were a sudden burst of energy rather than a miraculous recovery.

    There’s a similar situation in the run-in, as Hennig gains momentum and shot into the turnbuckle, Bockwinkel fires out with a clothesline which floors the challenger. Again, though, Bock in turn falls down and sells it, so the whole thing looks like a desperation move – played up by former partner “Crippler” Ray Stevens on commentary – rather than reminding us that he’s fine and it’s something he could have done at any time.

    The rest of the match passes without even getting close to a strike, with the cheap finish handled well. The match takes its place amongst the Gold Standard, and frankly it didn’t even ever look like taking a strike.


    Result: Pass – Gold Standard



    El Hijo del Santo vs Negro Casas, CMLL 64th Anniversary Show, September 19th, 1997
    Mask vs Hair Match
    Arena Mexico, Mexico City


    The next match I’m watching is from the storied Negro Casas vs El Hijo Del Santo rivalry. This is the first match I’m watching in a language other than English, so they are a bit of a disadvantage in as much as they can’t really be rescued by any interventions from commentary but will have to do it all themselves. As an older match, it’s also going to have my ‘any verbal criticism counts as bullshit’ rule applied to it, so it’s working at a double disadvantage here. So maybe bear that in mind when thinking about the final decision.

    This one starts out with a fair bit of decent, crisp, believable mat wrestling, though we do get an early eyebrow raise when Casas, despite having control, basically lets Santo back to his feet. It’s perhaps in character (this is something where I’d need to know more about the two combatants) but does feel out of step with the gimmick of a heated grudge match where someone is going to lose their hair or their mask.

    About three minutes in I’m noticing that despite his obvious talent, Casas tends to bring his opponent off the mat, when in complete control and with no real prompt, only to bring him back to the mat in a different position. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense and could – in a particularly bad example – end up really irritating me and costing them a strike. For now, though, it’s all within reasonable limits, and before too much longer Santo has control and is sat on his back.

    They move to a sequence where Casas starts working the leg that Santo has been selling really from the first minute of the match, and after roughing him up with a few elbows to the head, Santo gets to his feet, starts moving towards Casas throwing kicks with his injured leg, lands a blow which Casas sells a knockdown on pretty unconvincingly. The crowd erupt but I catch myself saying ‘crap’, which under old-match rules counts as strike one after seven minutes.

    As much time passes again before I’m next worried by anything, which is just in the midst of a brawl Casas taking a shot and not really selling it very much, but to be honest this is kind of something-and-nothing, easily explained enough by the look of it as it didn’t land all that well, and I don’t really react in real time.

    And to be honest, the rest of the match passes without a great deal for me to complain about. There’s a great little spot that could have looked a lot worse, where after taking a beating Santo leaps from the top turnbuckle. They make a virtue of this, though, as he’s hung up there to begin with and so it looks more like good thinking and core strength than as if he’s had to suddenly recover in order to leap up there. A few minutes later he hits a suicide dive that, judging by the way Casas is standing when he hits it, could have been a contender for a bullshit had the camera angle been less kind. But the angle is what it is, and this match has enough working against it for me to worry too much if it gets away with one.

    I can’t say that I loved every minute of it but ultimately there was only the moment early on that really bothered me here, and in a 24-minute match that’s nothing to complain about.

    Result – Pass with one strike


    Batista vs The Undertaker, Wrestlemania 23, April 1st, 2007
    For the World Heavyweight Championship
    Ford Field, Detroit


    We come now to a match that is probably more familiar to more people than any we’ve looked at so far in the column, and I thank ‘Plan for the suggestion. It also raises an interesting proposition, given that one of the things I mentioned was the ‘real world consequences’ – how on earth is this system going to process a gimmick like The Undertaker?

    I think the truth is that, cards on the table, Undertaker pre-exists this ratings system by so much that he almost pre-exists my fandom. It’s impossible for me to sit here and say that I can judge an Undertaker match without at some level accepting the gimmick as it is. But it’s also fair to say that my interpretation of The Undertaker is framed by that early version, where he is human – albeit it with a remarkable endurance – and that you can find a way through him because he is, at the end of the day, just a man. I tend to believe that some of the biggest mystical excesses of the New Generation period were only accepted because, by that point, he was already incredibly over.

    Anyway, to the match. For the first time this is two big dudes squaring off, and they go at it from the start, ‘Taker adopting a kind of boxing stance before Batista hits him with a sudden takedown. This is a high octane beginning and with guys of this size, I’d suggest it’s going to have to be short in order to survive. Size matters when it comes to believability, in more ways than one.

    But do you know what? They don’t really trouble me for the first nine minutes or so. There’s a brief moment outside the ring early on where I’d like a bit more explanation about why slinging someone into the steps isn’t a DQ – and to be honest I could do without it in my wrestling – but it’s no deal-breaker by itself. Then there’s a slightly ugly move off the ropes by ‘Taker which causes a little giggle, but that’s not enough to hurt a post-WMXX match. Finally, there’s a big dive by Undertaker, but Batista does a decent enough job of making his positioning look natural. Those were the only things that even registered as a concern for the first nine minutes.

    Then, they are back outside the ring again, and here we’re entering some darker territory. Batista is really battering Undertaker outside, and the refereeing is so passive that it starts to crack the illusion, bit my bit. Then, just over ten minutes into the match, Batista uses a running powerslam to put Undertaker through a table, in a standard singles match, and the referee does nothing. The commentators don’t even address the fact. A single, stuttering bullshit escapes my lips at the inexplicability of what I’ve just seen. First strike.

    But nothing else really bothers me in the rest of the match, and it progresses to the finish without any further incident. Even Undertaker doesn’t go in for the miracle recovery at any point here, and he’s always acting fatigued, and as if the match has really taken its toll throughout. In the end, one moment of excess has cost them a clean sheet – and even with that, had there been better support from Michael Cole and JBL they might still have escaped unscathed. Just a little bit of explanation about the size of the match and the referee not wanting to call a DQ in such conditions could have gone a long way. But even so, I don’t mind admitting that fared better than I had feared.

    Result: Pass with One Strike


    AJ Styles vs Kurt Angle, Slammiversary XI, June 2nd, 2013
    Agganis Arena, Boston


    Last up, I’m heading to TNA for one of their most famous rivalries of all time, and a match that Dave Meltzer gave four stars to back in 2013. This match between Angle and AJ is also the first match I’ve looked at that is just a straight singles match, with no title or other raised stakes.

    There’s a little concern early on when, after a couple of minutes, Angle hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to turn the momentum, but instead of following it up he walks methodically around the ring. He saves this, though, with a couple of flicks of his leg, as if he is strategically more concerned with undoing some of the damage AJ has inflicted on him than pressing the advantage and potentially getting caught again. A very decent little touch from the veteran and one that should probably be more emphasised by the commentators, who are instead talking about the likelihood of a title change in the main event.

    Generally, though, the first five minutes go well, with AJ largely working the knee that he’s already injured in storyline. And then, Angle sends him into the ropes and momentarily forgets to sell the knee as he concentrates on the move. It doesn’t register as a bullshit, but all that good work is undone. I’m very aware, suddenly, that I’m watching a performance and not a contest – and that is dangerous ground to be on because it makes all the little mistakes so much more visible. All because Angle forgot to sell for a few seconds. With trepidation, we continue.

    There’s a lot of striking in this match which isn’t to my taste and doesn’t really count as wrestling, because all of this should be against the rules – and young Hebner isn’t even acknowledging that by remonstrating with either participant or doing the little hand gesture that traditionally was a signal that the strike was with an open hand rather than a clenched fist. However, my taste doesn’t come into this, and without something additional to exaggerate the effect it’s unlikely that a fist is going to get a bullshit by itself. We’re about halfway through now and continuing OK.

    Around eight minutes in the pace quickens and it starts to feel like things might turn. Angle returns to dodgy selling of that knee, running around like a toddler, and AJ goes from being down to springboarding in the space of a couple of seconds. And then, coming up on 11 minutes, Angle finally pushes his luck. He’s been selling his knee virtually from the beginning and then, with Styles on the top rope, he springs into action, runs like he’s never had a moment’s discomfort in his life, leaps up to the corner and hits a suplex. It’s the most nailed-on, guaranteed ‘horseshit’ you’ve ever seen in your life.

    The rest of the match is fraught, but again the only real downside throughout is Angle’s inconsistent selling of the knee – AJ, despite being the ‘flippy’ guy, never really gets them into any difficulty. The match is able to survive the final few minutes without further damage, until Angle finally wins with a reversal and then stacking AJ up for what essentially amounts to a roll-up. Can I say I enjoyed it? Not really. Angle abandoned the story far too many times in the name of spectacle and needed to concentrate on selling the leg far better than he did for my own taste. But did they overdo it? Judging by the way it has performed on my ratings system, I must conclude that no, they didn’t.

    Result: Pass with One Strike



    That’s another five matches in the book. What’s interesting is that this is already throwing up some anomalies, as matches that I’d personally prefer are sometimes doing worse than those that I don’t have that much time for, on the whole. Now that we’ve got a few things in there to fill it out, we can finish this off by having a look at the first table. A quick note first of all that if a match passes, the time column refers to the total match time, while if it fails, this is the time after which it failed and the review ended.

    Code:
    
    Match				Date		Promotion	S/R	Time	
    --------------------------------------------------
    
    Nick Bockwinkel vs Curt Hennig	02/05/87	AWA		0	23:34
    Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat	20/02/89	WCW		0	23:18
    Hijo Del Santo vs Negro Casas	19/09/97	CMLL		1	24:01
    Razor Ramon vs Shawn Michaels	20/03/94	WWF		1	18:47
    Batista vs Undertaker		01/04/07	WWE		1	15:51
    AJ Styles vs Kurt Angle		02/06/13	TNA		1	15:45
    John Cena vs Daniel Bryan	18/08/13	WWE		2	26:55
    Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega	04/01/17	NJPW		3	29:54
    

    As yet, nothing from later than the 1980s has hit the Gold Standard, but the vast majority of the matches are actually passing, with only the Tokyo Dome bout – which is actually pretty good in all the non-bullshit moments – falling foul of the system. In fact, as many matches have only one strike as have all other results combined. Join me next time, when we’ll take a look at another five matches, and see what passes, fails, and see if something more contemporary can hit the elusive ‘gold standard’.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  2. #2
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    I think newer matches that are longer stand an extremely high risk of being total bullshit due to the number of moves they manage to fit in. And what with the Indy style of somewhat underselling and hitting move after move, if more matches such as these are reviewed then I sense a few more total bullshits coming. At least you're rating these matches on a psychological factor though. Therefore commentary can play a huge factor by explaining something in a logical way that didn't logically work in the match.

    I'm liking this series so far Prime.

  3. #3
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    I wasn't shocked to see the Omega v Okada match dq'd was actually surprised just how long it lasted before getting its third and final.

    I'll agree with Don here, the current style seems to be that you sell an injury most of the time when not in contact or on ghr ground but when it comes to doing a move you ignore the selling unless you want to make a dramatic moment of it. I guess it could be put down to an 'adrenaline surge' but it is certainly something I've noticed. I also think it will probs my attract a BS call if you were to go for a Johnny Gargano, Will Ospreay or Kota Ibushi match.

    I would say I think my bullshit meter would be set a lot more leniently than yours PT but I do think you are being quite fair with things regardless. Ratings are ultimately a personal reflection so there is no harm in that.
    Last edited by SirSam; 07-10-2019 at 10:15 AM.

  4. #4
    The Brain
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    God, subjective or not you are really speaking my language with these Pete! Particularly pleased at how well Bock and Curt did, and surprised but also very happy that a lucha match not only made the list but also excelled under your criteria. I've long been of the opinion that Omega does what he does incredibly well but is not really for me, and the selling is a big part of it. The funny part is there are some wrestlers I can tolerate it more from, though whether that's a result of bias on my part or execution on the part of the wrestler is a different story. Hope to see a lot more of this... and if you do honor Plan's request to slag the XXV match, I hope you take on the whole dang quadrilogy that he loves so much!

  5. #5
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    Thanks to all three of you for the feedback.

    Don - it's probably less the amount of moves they try to fit in and more that the pace at which those moves are executed is now considered more important than sense, or in getting people invested in the match - but generally speaking I think you are right. Most modern wrestling does try to appeal more to the senses than the head and that isn't going to play well in this system, I don't think. Still, AJ and Angle prove that you can get by if you don't overdo it too much.

    Sam - Funny thing is I probably like a lot more of the match than I don't like about it, but those bits that keep recurring are what stop me really getting into it. I'd have lost my mind for NJPW if those moments just didn't exist - if you had the rest of the match and they just held back a little to stop turning fans like me off. As it is, I like NJPW, but I can't ever love it. It's interesting to see if those guys will get a higher level of BS calls, or whether some (or all) will be able to have the little touches that mean you get away with it. My belief is that actually you earn your moments of bullshit by doing good little things elsewhere that help to keep the illusion intact. We'll see if that's borne out.

    Mizfan - Yeah, it's still subjective, but there's no way that AJ/Angle match would be getting a pass from me if this were wholly subjective, so I will stick to my line that this halfway house has something in it. That lucha match isn't that bad y'know, though the bullshit moment in that one is bad enough that I'd have doubled it up if I could have! Still, pleased to see it do well. More lucha (of a sort, anyway) coming up in the next column if you want to keep your eyes peeled. And that Bockwinkel vs Hennig match is just great. Anyone who thinks wrestling needs to 'move with the times' away from being like that can get all the fuck away from me! I may take on all those big Wrestlemania matches but it'll have to be over the course of time, as they won't be in the next one I have lined up.

    Alright - thanks again to everyone who has read and especially those leaving thoughts.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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