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    The 'No Bullshit' Review - Part Three

    Welcome back to the third instalment of the No Bullshit review. This is the final part of my initial run to try and fill out the league table with matches, so that there are some existing metrics with which we can compare things. I’m thinking in the future that we’ll either look at more contemporary stuff, bringing it up to the current day, or we’ll take a look at matches in special ‘themed’ columns, so I’m expecting that this will be the last of the real grab-bag of matches. But that’s all for the future. I’ve got five more matches for your enjoyment today, and it’s long enough, so let’s get right down to it, starting with a very famous affair from the glory days of All Japan.



    Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada, Super Power Series, June 3rd, 1994
    For the Triple Crown Title
    Nippon Budokan, Tokyo


    There’s a phrase that they use in Japanese wrestling called ‘fighting spirit’ – a pushing through pain to return an attack against your opponent. It’s obviously a part of their culture and it can be effective but carried to extremes it can also be a real issue for the believability of what you’re watching. I’m curious to see whether that’ll be the case in this highly acclaimed, fairly early match between two of the four pillars of All Japan.

    This will almost come across as a bit of a spoiler, but in the first half of the match there’s very little to complain about. They’ve worked some of these spots in, but they are generally well-executed, there’s a little bit of work mixed in to show that they are feeling the punishment, and they never put too much together in such a way that it really hurts the illusion all that much. In fact, we’re over twenty minutes before I am too troubled.

    When I am, though, it’s a bullshit, as Misawa has taken a lot of punishment but is acting no more damaged than he had been from fairly minor things earlier in the match, after hitting a knockout punch of his own. At this point Kawada – who’d been doing a good job of putting in lots of details earlier in the bout – leaps back to his feet and starts trading stiff shots again. It’s a bridge too far compared with earlier spots. 1st bullshit after an admittedly impressive 24 minutes.

    There’s a point shortly after this where Misawa rolls to the floor after a suplex, and once he’s back in the ring Kawada has the advantage. Things could descend into stupidity here, but again it’s small and subtle little things that just make the difference. Had Kawada hit another powerbomb after Misawa had just gotten out, and had that been a kickout, it would probably have landed another strike. Instead, the most plausible of all things to prevent that – a desperate stumble towards the ropes – keeps them alive.

    But anyone who knows this style knows that they’ll be particularly vulnerable in the finishing stages of a bout, and after around 34 minutes Kawada backs Misawa into the corner with a couple of headbutts and in the aftermath they elicit a second ‘bullshit’. Kawada hits Misawa with a couple of big round kicks to the head, but Misawa just stands through this and hits him with a forearm, which is sold waaay more than those kicks. Now, this may just be because I know a bit too much about kickboxing and the like, but I just don’t buy this – after all Misawa has taken, if you are going to use them that kind of kick should be a finish if anything. But to essentially ‘no-sell’ them, and for it not to even be a desperation forearm but one that singularly swings the match in his direction? I’m not having it. The match quickly moves to a finish thereafter and it’s all fine, but that transition has certainly left a sour taste in my mouth, and this bout getting two strikes makes me worry about the future of anymore ‘pillars’ matches using in my framework.

    Result: Pass with Two Strikes.




    Rey Mysterio vs Juventud Guerrera, Big Ass Extreme Bash, March 8th, 1996
    2 out of 3 Falls
    Lost Battalion Hall, New York


    This match is as fast paced as you might anticipate, and though there’s some decent mat wrestling in the first minute or so they hit a problem very early on, when Guerrera takes a move from the top rope, kicks out, but is back on his feet and attacking as if nothing had happened. This is a match from before WrestleMania XX, and so the extra scrutiny we put on it to balance out the surprise factor means that the derisive fart-noise that escapes my mouth at this point counts as a first strike. I have the feeling from the first couple of minutes that Guerrera may be the man who stops this match passing, and there’s a long way to go yet.

    The next sequence doesn’t look great either, as the sunset slip into a roll-up all looks just a bit too collaborative, though I don’t actually say anything. Thankfully, the quality of the wrestling picks up amazingly in the next minute and Mysterio gets a near-fall that’s very well done. It’s incredibly rapid and you must be willing to go along with the style, but I certainly don’t have any problems buying into what they are doing at this point.

    The next few minutes are going quite well, but again I can sense that Juvi has taken a lot of punishment and his selling is getting more and more distant. He was doing well enough earlier in the sequence but as time goes on, it’s like he’s not only recovering, but forgetting to show any signs of fatigue. The one thing keeping this on the level is that it wasn’t instant, but more gradual, and that the execution of the high-risk moves has been very crisp so far. In the midst of all this Guerrera takes the first fall with an excellent looking dragon suplex.

    The second fall doesn’t start brilliantly, Mysterio wandering off when you’d think that being a fall down you’d want him to stay on top of his opponent, and then a hurricarana to the concrete is fine but it’s amongst the uglier examples I’ve seen. However, despite some more dubious selling by Guerrera that’s starting to verge on the miraculous recovery by the time of the second fall coming to an end – with Mysterio levelling it up – the match still only has one strike against it. The question, then, is can the third fall take place with no more than a single strike?

    One thing that you can see repeatedly in the third fall is the proper way to do the spot that I penalised twice in the Okada vs Omega match, with Mysterio and Guerrera both placing tired opponents on the top rope and making it look like they’ve been lifted from the floor, rather than a clear jump into their arms only to allow your opponent to do what they like with you. But after about thirteen minutes of the match and more big, big moves, Guerrera’s insistence on placing speed over selling is irritating me far too much and an involuntary ‘for God’s sake’ has to count as a second strike. Again, it’s not a ‘bullshit’ per se, but as an older match it must take the damage.

    You’d think the powerbomb on the hood of the car would be a third bullshit, but weirdly it’s not. I think it would be in any other environment, but this is ECW, and the way they set their stall out they get more leeway. This would have failed by this point under WWE or WCW rules anyway. I guess the car thing doesn’t register because I’m not sure I have enough context on which to judge it – should this hurt more, or less than the same move in the ring? I know that the bonnet of my car is pretty thing and if I had to fall on it, I’d be more worried about damaging the car than myself. Either way, it didn’t cause the match to fail here, possibly because of that confusion and possibly because of the backdrop of general insanity against which it takes place.

    The finish comes damn close to taking the fail when Guerrera, with Mysterio on the top rope, starts to take the advantage by backing into him. I guess I just about think it’s plausible enough if Mysterio doesn’t see him because I stay quiet, even though as I type this in the cold light of day it does seem more likely that you’d just attack him or take his leg or something. But seconds later Mysterio reverses and scores the win, so maybe we can call it bad strategy on the part of Guerrera. Not my favourite match, but it’s sneaked through – just. And there’s some amazing high spots for fans of that style.

    Result: Pass with Two Strikes.





    Bret Hart vs Steve Austin, Wrestlemania XIII, March 23rd, 1997
    Submission Match
    Rosemont Horizon, Chicago


    As you might recall, this match is so heated it gets underway with Austin jumping Bret before the bell with a takedown, and the two are exchanging fists from the off. They start off mixing up some big selling with some blows that are not sold so much, so the effect is that some – especially from Bret – are really landing, while others are not doing so much damage. The sense is that Bret can match Austin in a brawl, which suggests that given his clear lead in the submission game that Austin could be in trouble.

    The match quickly descends to the point where it’s a brawl out in the crowd and the cameras have trouble following them with the handhelds, a nice little trick that increases the sense of chaos by being out amongst the raucous fans but that also means you’re not shooting everything quite so pristinely, meaning that it’s much easier to fool your eyes and let things through unnoticed. One thing that contemporary fans don’t always understand is the advantage of what is not seen. Austin’s in control for a lot of this early on but he is showboating a little and letting his contempt cloud his judgement, giving Bret the chance to fight back and turn the momentum.

    There’s a lot of back and forth brawling but no one hits anything big, which makes the constant turns in momentum, and the grind down in both men, much more interesting. Most of the things that would be decisive are reversed or cut off in the process. After around five minutes of brawling through the crowd and the ringside area, they are both back in the ring. The match enters another phase, with Bret taking the advantage and starting to work on the injured knee of Austin, targeting the brace that he wears, and this is turning very much to Bret’s advantage. One missed move is enough to buy Austin enough time to hit a Stunner, which gives him a chance to buy some time. He’s still probably in second place because you can’t pin your opponent here, but it’s kept him alive. Bret tries to ‘Pillmanize’ Austin’s ankle when he next gets control, but Austin can get his leg out of the chair, take control of it, and use it to take the initiative. It’s at this point that his selling gets to be quite inconsistent, which is the only real dark spot on the match so far – in a weaker bout this could be enough to gain a strike but as it is only eats into the credit that they’ve built up. It probably doesn’t hurt that Austin generally ambles around like someone who could have a bad knee all the time, anyway, though the second rope elbow spot is probably a bit implausible on an injured knee.

    After around 14 minutes, Bret reverses Austin into the guardrail, sending people in the timekeeper’s area flying, and when they come up from the melee Stone Cold is bleeding from the head. It’s an innocuous little thing, just a reversal, but it signifies the beginning of the end – or so you might think. A few minutes of sadism from Bret lead to a sharpshooter attempt which is reversed, and before long Austin is back up. You could accuse him of no-selling the leg again but this time McMahon and JR jump in to talk about how amazing he is, and that combines to make him look better rather than the match look worse. Good teamwork from the WWE evident, and it’s a good job too because without that I suspect his ‘stomping a mudhole’ spot at this stage would have been a bullshit candidate.

    Austin continues to dial up the intensity by choking Bret with an extension cord, but Bret had left the ring bell on the apron when he was bringing the chair into the ring earlier on, and he’s able to grab it and use it on Austin’s head, to a huge cheer from the Chicago crowd. That shot with the bell is enough for Bret to get the sharpshooter. After a couple of minutes in the hold, with that moment where it looks like he’d reversed it, the match is over with Austin refusing to give up and passing out instead. There’s obviously some aftermath here but the review ends at the bell with the match unblemished. I can’t say that it didn’t flirt with a strike, but it never came that close – and I think the lesson here is building up enough of an investment in the audience that when you do shift into things that stretch believability, they are more willing to go with you.

    Result: Pass – Gold Standard






    Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Johnny Gargano, Takeover: Philadelphia, January 27th, 2018
    For the NXT Championship
    Wells Fargo Centre, Philadelphia


    I’ve got an interesting relationship with Johnny Gargano. In some ways I like what he does more than almost anyone else and think his mat wrestling has some excellent aspects to it. But I also find that he overdoes it, more often than not, and undoes a lot of that good work. I can’t say I enjoyed any of the matches he had with Ciampa as much as I enjoyed the idea of the feud and its execution outside of the ring. But I’m going back to his match I liked best, the Almas match from Takeover, to see how well that holds up under this method – and really to give a match featuring a major modern performer it’s best chance of passing.

    The first few minutes of the match are absurdly good, and I’m reminded immediately of why I thought so much of this the first time. Most of the good acting work is in truth coming from Andrade, but as a general display of mat wrestling that is fast paced but never looks like anything less than a contest, you’d be hard pushed to find something better than these first few exchanges.

    After a few minutes of this we move from mat wrestling to more of a mixed style with more strikes and aerial assaults and we have our first action outside the ring, but none of this really looks bad yet. There’s a long way to go in this one but they are protecting the image of what they are doing well in the early going. We’re around ten minutes in when the first moment of discomfort comes. There’s a ‘tree of woe’ spot in the corner that is actually quite well done, but I wonder if there’s not just a hint of miracle recovery in Gargano’s suplex on Andrade shortly afterwards. He’s back to selling quite quickly afterwards and the moment passes without doing damage, but you wonder if it’s a portent of what is to come. Still, ten minutes in and the match still has a clean sheet, which I imagine is better than some thought when they saw who was in the match.

    Gargano’s recovery continues as he builds up some momentum, and he’s covered by Mauro Ranallo who demonstrates why he’s the only actual wrestling announcer the WWE has on their books in this section, telegraphing that the recovery in strength comes as his confidence builds. There’s a well-executed spot where Andrade lands on his feet from a moonsault, only to perform another standing version that eliminates Gargano’s roll out of the way. It’s the sort of thing that could look stupid, but Andrade does it well enough, with a little glance at the mat, so instead he just looks obscenely good. You wonder how someone is going to be able to beat him if he can pull that off, and then he gives you the answer – by looking exasperated when Gargano kicks out.

    It can’t last forever though, and a miracle recovery from Gargano brings about the first strike after around 14 minutes. A minute or so earlier he’d been dead on his feet with the referee encouraging him to defend himself, fought back a little but taken a big blow which should turn things back to Andrade, but instead he leaps up and executes a kick of his own. I simply don’t believe it. Bullshit number one for being too blatant, and a lot of that early good work will need rebuilding if we’re going to get through the next 15+ minutes unscathed. Fortunately, it’s presented as if it were a desperation move and so both are on the mat for a spell following the kick-out, so there’s no danger of two strikes in quick succession.

    Soon after there’s a counter with them on the top ropes that allows Gargano to take control, but he spends just enough time to allow Andrade to recover – which, in turn, makes it just about believable when he throws everything into a sudden volley to try and beat Johnny. That doesn’t work and the two men fall to the mat again.

    They start pushing their luck again after twenty odd minutes – Gargano’s recovery itself is quite well hidden but he then grabs Andrade, the bigger man, on his shoulder and carries him across the ring, and it doesn’t quite ring true. It’s not a bullshit moment but combined with the quick-fire stuff that follows, it feels like we’re moving into some very dangerous ground. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this strike out in the last ten minutes.

    The neck stuff makes a lot of people quite uncomfortable, but it’s well done here. The problem is that Gargano is selling it so much that unless it’s going to feature in the finish, or there’s going to be a really elaborate way of getting him back into it, it’s hard to see how he’ll be able to put any attack together without incurring another bullshit. By rights, this should be easy pickings for Andrade here.

    Actually, when the time comes it’s not that bad, though it does make it look as if Andrade isn’t as tough as Gargano. He might have the edge in several departments, but Gargano has the kind of grit to fight back with a few rights to build momentum and Almas just doesn’t have what it takes to cut him off. There’s a move that flirts with silliness at this stage in the aftermath, but he doesn’t go straight into it, throwing in a superkick before leaping to Almas’ shoulders for the inverted rana. This kind of describes the next few minutes – the match is constantly flirting with the line but never actually crosses it. There are still two strikes left when Candace LeRae jumps the barrier to take out Zelina Vega, and we’re entering the home stretch.


    There’s a lengthy delay, but Gargano pushes his luck just a bit too much once again. He takes an eternity getting back to the ring apron and then moves like he’s never hurt a day in his life once the attack starts, and it’s not only desperation but he moves from a pin attempt into a submission attempt without a second’s thought. It’s a stone-cold bullshit and we’re now into sudden death territory with a couple of minutes to go. But there’s only really time for one last spot that jars Gargano’s neck again, he’s barely able to defend himself for the remainder of the bout, and with the next big move – a draping hammerlock DDT – it’s all she wrote. The match survives by the skin of its teeth.

    In truth there’s probably enough in here that if I was looking at it forensically, I’d be able to fail it. Here, though, I think we have a textbook case of earning your bullshit, and how if you build up enough credit with the audience you can get away with those moments when the time comes, and that's probably the only thing it has in common with the Bret and Austin bout above. It’s why you shouldn’t do them in a short match or do them too often on the rest of the card. I’m also not sure looking at this again that Gargano can get by without someone like Andrade to put in a lot of those touches. But still, nevertheless, for the moment the result is a pass.

    Result – Pass with Two Strikes





    Samoa Joe vs Nigel McGuinness, ROH, Dragon Gate Invasion, August 27th, 2005
    For the ROH Pure Championship
    Amherst Pepsi Center, Williamsville


    I must admit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pure Title match before now. They rattle off a bunch of stipulations at the beginning and I think I’ve got the gist – there’s some rules about a limited number of rope breaks and other than that it’s mainly about striking, so I guess we’re trying to privilege ‘wrestling’ with this title. Anyway, either the stipulations or the performers create a believable ambience that I’m quite into for the first few minutes and this is settling down very nicely.

    We’re coming up on around seven minutes before that really starts to change. During that time you can see the gimmick working well, as McGuinness moves the referee around so that he can’t see him use the fists on Joe, which gets the fans to boo him, and also baits Joe into returning fire at which point he gets himself a warning. The first thing that really stands out is McGuinness doing that bounce back from between the ropes that was used by Les Kellett and popularised by Jon Moxley in his WWE spell. He gets hit with a powerslam out of it, and it’s not that badly done, but it’s a very difficult thing to do well and make it look believable, and it doesn’t quite work here and I’m just taken out of it for a minute. No strike, but dodgy ground.

    A few minutes later we’re hit with something that I just don’t understand. In a match where closed fists are illegal, McGuinness uses a chair in front of the referee, and rather than calling this a DQ the referee chooses to… take one of his rope breaks from him? I don’t really get that in the least. My confusion may save them as I’m not verbalising it, just sitting there with the left side of my face scrunched up. I think they may have gotten away with one just because I’m not familiar with the title and whether this would be considered normal. It’s taken me out of the moment again though, and the dodgy ground continues.

    These issues might cost them a couple of minutes later because I’m not sure if I’d have spotted this if I was still in the earlier frame of mind, but there’s a fairly intricate fake-out sequence after around ten and a half minutes, where McGuinness again sends himself into the ropes in that rebound fashion, and we’re now into ‘going to the well once to often’ territory. It gets a horseshit, and the match has a strike against it for the first time. I believe we’re entering the final third of the bout at this point.

    The match keeps flirting with the line from this point and just about survives a balletic looking sequence, but loses another when Nigel leaves Joe, despite having the advantage, to go and inexplicably do a headstand using the top rope. Joe charges in and he leaps over the top and the announcers try and protect them by claiming he had ‘baited’ him in, but this just makes no sense looked at with anything like clear eyes, and you can’t protect things that are just this nonsensical. Second bullshit despite the commentator’s efforts, mainly because they are making this far too complicated.

    There are some minor offences in the last couple of minutes but nothing terminal, and the match can squeak through to the decision in which Joe, without any rope breaks remaining, has his foot on the rope as he is pinned by McGuinness. Some good stuff in the earlier phases but – in what might be a theme for Ring of Honor generally – too willing to compromise its sports-presentation for the balletic or the silly in the latter stages. Still, it just about survived.

    Result: Pass with Two Strikes.


    There were a lot of matches with two strikes in this column, but crucially none that we actually wound up having to fail - and it's always pleasing to put another match into the 'Gold Standard' section. I'll put the full table below which you can look at after I've signed off, which I'm going to do.... right now. So long, everybody!

    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
    Bret Hart vs Steve Austin	23/03/97	WWF		0	22:05
    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
    Misawa vs Kawada		03/06/94	AJPW		2	35:50
    Cien Almas vs Johnny Gargano	27/01/18	WWENXT		2	32:19
    John Cena vs Daniel Bryan	18/08/13	WWE		2	26:55
    Rey Mysterio vs Juvi Guerrera	08/03/96	ECW		2	16:09
    Samoa Joe vs Nigel McGuinness	27/08/05	RoH		2	14:46
    Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega	04/01/17	NJPW		3	29:54
    

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

  2. #2
    The Brain
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    The fact that the always awful rebound clothesline didn't get an instant bullshit makes me question the entire premise of this system!!! But once again, a fun and quite organized way to look at some famous matches. I admit I thought AJPW and ROH would do a bit better than they did, but it does feel like with only a very slightly different view of what a wrestler can and can't credibly absorb the ratings might change quite a bit. No surprise that Austin and Bret hit the gold standard though! I'd actually wager Bret Hart may be the patron saint of this kind of ranking. Fun stuff Pete, really digging the series!

  3. #3
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    Ha, I think it could well be an instant bullshit if they hadn't put in the work to get you onside, which they do early in that bout in fairness. I have seen it done really well, though, and also very badly where it'd be an instant strike regardless of how well the match was going to that point.

    I think what the wrestler can absorb has more to do with how much they've been selling, than anything else. Go from looking dead to healthy with no explanation, and you're going to struggle.

    Yeah, I think Bret might do quite well out of this, too. I'd suggest this would be one of the more likely matches of his to struggle and it came through clean. I'm interested in taking a look at the Ironman match at Wrestlemania XII at some point, because if that passed I think you'd have to call it some achievement.

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

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