Before They Were NXT Superstars Vol. One
Barbie vs Mercedes KV (Sasha Banks) Wrestlejam 8 5/5/12
I've not seen any of Sasha's pre-NXT work, so this should be interesting. This match starts with a lock up that goes to the floor. Sasha appears to be a face here, which is kind of weird after seeing how amazing she is as a heel as THE BOSS. Look at Sasha doing dives 2 minutes into the match like she's a Young Buck. Also assorted lucha arm drags. Barbie seems quite mean. She's got an interesting look, with a sleeve, chest tats, but kind of flowery girl gear. She's also a dick. I like her. She's also significantly bigger than Sasha, and that size difference is the main story of the match. Poor little Sasha is getting her ass kicked. To be honest, I find it hard to buy into her as a face in peril. Not because she's not good at it, but because she's so good as a heel that I have a hard time seeing her as a face. This kind of face, at least. Barbie does a lot of submissions and suplexes. Reverse torture rack/Samoan drop looked interesting. Strike battle! So far, my least favorite thing by far about this show has been random cat callers trying to be funny. Sasha finally starts to fire up. Lots of familiar looking things, including her double knees in the corner. Sasha gets the win with a head kick OUTTA NOWHERE. Solid little match. Sasha has improved so much. It's incredible. You can see flashes of what will become greatness. As of July 2015, I firmly believe she is the best wrestler working for WWE, so she's done something right. Not that she was bad here by any means, but seeing how much she's improved in three years is nothing short of incredible. Imagine if she keeps improving at this rate. She's on some Brock in 2002 shit right now.
Britani Knight (Paige) vs Shanna Pro Wrestling Eve 10/16/10
Paige definitely looks like a 16 year old. Some quality Euro chain wrasslin to start things. Shanna is a high flyer, but is coming into the match with an ankle injury. Paige is actually 18 in this. Shanna is 28, yet Paige has more in ring experience. Paige is basically...exactly the same, just without the skipping and screaming about her house. She looks so young, but the way she moves in the ring and the crispness to her moves and strikes is absolutely pro level. Shana has taken to more of an impact based strategy instead of the high flying, and it works since she is the bigger and more muscular wrestler here. After three attempts, Paige finally hits a tiltawhirl backbreaker. She does spend a bit too much time trying to get the fans to clap along with her. Paige gets the win with the Knight Light/Ram-Paige/cradle DDT. Besides different hair and some time lifting weights, Paige is basically exactly the same now as she was 4 years ago. She was basically as is in NXT and WWE. WTF, Paige started wrestling in 2005? Does Europe not have child labor laws?
Rebecca Knox (Becky Lynch) vs Daizee Haze 2/3 Falls SHIMMER 5/21/06
Lots of weird comedy stuff from Becky before the match. Super awkward. Glad she doesn't do any of that anymore. Full on dance contest to start the match. Here I thought I was going to be watching some legit lady wrestling. Not goofy indie comedy. Lots of submission work to start this. Neither seems to be focusing on any specific part or hold. Just lots of back and forth submissions and chain wrestling. General trying to wear each other down type stuff. Becky seems to start narrowing her focus to the arm. This is basically a grappling match. No strikes in 10 or more minutes. Becky is only 19 here. There has barely been anything except fighting for submissions. Becky tries to take a breather and gets hit with a suicide dive. Couldn't really see it due to the production. They get into a chop battle on the floor. Again, can't really see it. I did see Becky doing what looked like machine gun chops and a Mongolian chop. Once things hit the ring again, Becky misses a guillotine leg drop, and Daizee misses a missile dropkick. Daisy wins fall one with a heart punch and mafia kick.
Early into fall two, Becky does a weird cattle mutilation/stump puller thing..but with her legs. I don't know about that. Becky hits an extended combo of chops and kicks and picks up the second fall with a roll up while holding the ropes for leverage. HEEL.
Daizee is pissed from that cheating. Becky hits a pretty nifty run up dropkick that I feel like I've seen on NXT. I've definitely seen that rolling leg lock a few times. Becky wins fall three and the match with what appears to be a mixture of an Indian death lock and figure four after chop blocking the knee of Haze. For 19, Becky was ultra smooth. If you're into chain and mat wrestling, you'd probably love this. The chain wrestling is better than most of what any of the male indies were doing at the time. After close to a half an hour, it kind of got exhausting since most of it wasn't going anywhere, but it was still impressive. I'm glad that Becky dropped all the weird comedy and awful screaming. But this is definitely Becky Lynch. All the building blocks are clearly visible, and much like Paige, there really wasn't that much of a change from her in Shimmer at 19 and NXT at 28. She was pretty much "there" at 19. Which is crazy. She's now more comfortable and has a bit more poise, but to see that she's pretty much the same wrestler that young is impressive. I think it is kind of neat that once things finally started to click for her in NXT, she switched into pretty much the same gear she was wearing here. Although the orange steampunk look at least stands out from all of the other women today.
Samoa Joe vs Low Ki Fight Without Honor ROH 10/5/02
Kind of cheating since Joe isn't really an NXT "star", but I wanted to see if this match was as rad as I thought it was 13 years ago. No lock ups. Straight into SHOOT fighting. Christ, Ki basically just straight up punches Joe as stiffly as you can in mount. Joe sweeps and lays in a ton of elbows. Gabe lets us know that you can replay it in slow motion and see that they're really hitting each other, so this is totally real or something. Joe is working in and out of mount, going for leg submissions. Time to slap the dog shit out of each other. Ki is a little shit head, with all those chops to the back. Stiff as shit enzuguri and koppo kicks send Joe down. Joe kicks out at one. He flattens Ki with a lariato, which only keeps Ki down for one. Joe turns a cross arm breaker into a Nagata style armbar into the crossface. Ki climbs up Joe like a god damn monkey to do an AKI arm bar to a standing Joe. Tiger suplex from little Ki. Well...that's stupid. Joe is like, 5 inches and a solid 70 pounds or more heavier. Basically, we're pretending this is a SHOOT. They're being stupidly stiff as Gabe rails about that stupid "sports entertainment" crap. It's all sports entertainment, my man. It hasn't been wrestling in 100 years, if that. Sports entertainment doesn't mean cartoony gimmicks and stories. That's what the smarky dudes don't get. Even guys BOOKING the shows. Although, I'd like to give Gabe the benefit of the doubt and say he was probably saying that type of thing as a dog whistle for his audience that would lap it up. Ki locks on a triangle. Backdrop driver. Why is Low Ki dropping Joe with these big suplexes? That's silly. Joe should have said no to those. Dragon clutch! Joe is able to stand up and hit a gnarly DVD. Island Driver! Ki got his foot on the bottom rope. "That's/this is what it's all about" has been said at least 8 times. Low Ki no sells the headbutts of a Samoan. What kind of shit is that? This little shit killing 30 years of kayfabe. Both men decide to take off their knee pads and tape, because this is FOR REAL. They trade kicks and lariats and shit. I can see why I liked this at however old I was when I watched this. But now, I'm struck by how bizarrely backwards the booking is. Ki wins after about 300 Kawada kicks and some punches. So, the whole booking of this match was to show Joe, as the significantly bigger new guy, was legit by proving his scrappy toughness by hanging in a fight with the much smaller Low Ki. Most of the match was Ki wrecking Joe and Joe struggling to stay in the fight. Even though he had 70-100 pounds and 5 or more inches on Ki. And real fighting training. At the very least, there is no way Ki should have been dropping those huge suplexes with no effort. The whole idea was to do this shoot style kind of thing, with super stiff shots everywhere. Cool. Lots of great shootstyle matches. This ended up being the indie version of it. Kind of like when guys do 30 head drops and fighting spirit spots without any of the context in which they appear in puro. While it worked out for Joe in the end, this match was really about making sure Low Ki was still king bad ass instead of making Joe look good in his debut. Joe should not have been the scrappy underdog for most of this match. That's weird.
Devil Rocker/Machine Rocker/Soul Rocker vs Fenix/Freelance/Samuray Del Sol (Kalisto) AAA 10/13/12
I haven't seen a second of Kalisto outside of WWE programming. Heard a lot of hype, but he hasn't really had a real chance to shine. First off, his look here was way cooler. Also surprised to see the LUCHA LUCHA chant was something he brought with him to WWE. With that said, LET THE LUCHA FUCKERY BEGIN!
These rocker dudes have pseudo La Parka/Mad Max gear with pretty dope horns on their masks. Kalisto's mask is pretty dope, too. I like the mask and the loin cloth look more than the generic Sin Cara tights he wears now. He does a moonsault to the floor into an arm drag, because LUCHA. It makes no sense, but it looks cool. That's lucha in a nutshell, really. Freelance looks like a middle aged Deuce or Domino. I swear I heard "grandpa" from the announcers. Lots of arm drags and flips for no reason. Lucha is just...lucha. I just want to see Kalisto do stuff. Fenix is doing well on Lucha Underground, from what I hear. I've never been able to figure out anything about lucha. I can only assume everything is turned into an armdrag because the rings look brutally stiff. Kalisto comes back in and promptly gets powerbombed in to the ring post. Jeeezus. Looked brutal. The Rockers follow this by placing Fenix on a chair and one of them doing a reckless as fuck double stomp. These dudes are pretty cool, if you don't care about seeing dudes get injured. Why don't dudes ever just...punch in lucha? It's always those weird slaps. Is punching illegal in lucha? The Rockers are just WRECKING fools in this. This was supposed to be about Kalisto for me, but this match is clearly about the Rocker dudes and it's pretty rad. The technicos make a come back, with each getting to do what I assume is their signature dive. Kalisto lands right on this dude's head and neck. Fenix jumps about 10 feet from the ring. Oh shit. I think Grandpapa Freelancer just broke his neck on a Chaos Theory. The Inferno Rockers get the win. Very impressed with them. Might have to watch some more lucha to see them kill someone. Kalisto didn't really do much in this, but he seemed pretty much as is in NXT as well. He looked cooler in AAA, though. I will have to watch more Inferno Rockers matches if they're usually this rad.
KENTA (Hideo Itami) vs Kenta Kobashi NOAH 10/9/04
God damn do I love me student vs teacher matches in Japan. And when the teacher is Kobashi, that can mean only one thing: KENTA is about to get the ever loving shit chopped out of him. Kobashi gives a clean break to his protege, who responds by kicking him. Let me tell you how bad of a choice that was. These chops sound like someone dropping a cow from the roof of an apartment building while snapping bamboo and eating a carrot next to your ear. KENTA scores a boot right in the god damn face. Kobashi responds with a chop right in the god damn throat. And then KENTA hits another boot that sends Kobashi down. Kobashi appears to have busted his mouth open. No surprise. That kick was brutal. On the floor and in the crowd, KENTA continues to be a disrespectful little shit. He's going to pay for this. I can feel it in my bones. Repeated boots to the face. Kobashi is getting pissed. Shit is about to get real. He's just letting KENTA blast him. Charges that special meter up and unleashing disgusting chops. The announcers (including Jun Akiyama on commentary) started laughing when Kobashi stood up, completely pissed. They knew what was about to happen. These chops are SO HARSH. Jesus Christ. Now he's got this brutal looking abdominal stretch on poor KENTA. Dude shouldn't have gone in on his mentor like that. Kobashi is not to be fucked with. Everyone knows that. ESPECIALLY in NOAH. In one of the corner chops, you can actually see KENTA's soul leave his body. This is exactly what I had hoped for. Oh shit, powerslam OUTTA NOWHERE. Kick combo. Missile dropkick. KENTA is going for it. He's probably having trouble getting his heart and lungs to work after getting them puliverized about 80 times. Machine gun chops from KENTA is teased into Kawada kicks. German suplex! Kobashi kicks out. Unlike Low Ki, KENTA can't hit a tiger suplex on the much larger man. Why would you try a rana against Kobashi? Bucklebomb. Half nelson suplex. KENTA kicks out! Burning lariato is countered into a small package for the nearest of near falls. Busaiku Knee. Is KENTA attempting the burning hammer? Lol. He teases it, but ends up hitting an inverted GTS. KENTA kicks out of the powerbomb and spinning back chop. Dude should have stayed down. He then kicks out of a dragon suplex. He should have stayed down. Burning lariatoooooooooooo. KENTA finally stays down. This was wonderful. Loved it. A match and style that could only happen in puro. It's probably my favorite thing in puro. Grumpy old dudes and teacher vs student matches, which overlap frequently. KENTA gets a handshake after the match. I believe his face bounced up and hit Kobashi's knee on the lariat and I think it fucked him up. I hope when Itami heals up that he brings the swagger and dickness back to NXT.
Interesting collection. People still complain about WWE stripping everything that makes someone unique when they put them through their system, but all of these people were hired for what is unique about them, and what appears in NXT/WWE shows up in these matches even when they were teenagers in some cases. Really hoping to see Itami back to this level when he returns. He seemed like he was finally getting comfortable with the working style and getting stiffer and being more of a dick in the ring before he got hurt. Sasha's evolution is the most impressive of all these people. She's just incredible right now. It's also really amazing to see how very, very solid all three women were even as teenagers. That's crazy.
Volume Two coming soon.