We live in a world where Manami Toyota gave Cesaro the rolling cradle. Life is so weird.
Welcome back to another Dream Matches column! This time, I have a wild CHIKARA match- MANAMI TOYOTA vs. CESARO!! With Mike Quackenbush and Sara Del Rey as their partners! I’ve had my eyes on for a while but was avoiding because of the length, but it turns out it’s really goddamn awesome!
And we follow that up with a very “Before They Were Stars” showdown, as John Cena as the super-lean, roided to the gills “Prototype” takes on WCW reject Chase Tatum, who has to lead the match! Back to All Japan, as John Tenta’s “oddly-skinny rookie run” has him teaming with Yoshiaki Yatsu against… Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka!?! Then we cap it off with some WCW Saturday Night goodness, as Barry Darsow & John Nord take on Disorderly Conduct.
LUCHA RULES (leaving the ring counts as a tag):
MIKE QUACKENBUSH & MANAMI TOYOTA vs. CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI & SARA DEL REY:
* Okay, now THIS is an interest mix of characters- friggin’ CESARO vs. TOYOTA?!? I’m there, dude. This is CHIKARA owner Mike Quackenbush teaming up with Manami again, but in a tag team match, and their opponents are the future Cesaro as an indie darling under his real name- long, lean and already bald, in white trunks. His partner is Sara Del Rey, who… okay I don’t know jack shit about modern women’s wrestling, but I’ve heard she’s respected. She was big in Shimmer, a women’s promotion that I always found to have a very clutzy-looking style of wrestling (but I’m a puro snob when it comes to women’s stuff, and ’90s AJW casts a WIDE shadow over low-budget American indies). She also went to ROH, CHIKARA and has been a WWE trainer since 2012.
Quack’s in giant black & red Hardy Boy/Erik Watts in WCW pants with a… black leather shirt, while Manami’s dressed like Xena, as usual for the 2000s. SDR is in a white & blue thing- short trunks and a shirt with a diagonal cut.
Cesaro & Quack do some nice arm-stuff and reversals to start, ending in Quack’s run-up moonsault armdrag, which seems a BIT too much risk for the reward. Sara & Manami go, with Manami immediately hitting the Jumping Bomb Angels armdrag, but she takes a suplex and some kickpad-kicks before buggering up her slingshot (when she was younger, it was a springboard, but now it’s a slingshot) and covering with a flurry of kicks. Quackenbush comes in and does an inverted version of the Muta Lock, then Manami does her regular one, making sure to clap rhythmically to get the fans into the build-up- some things cross borders. Sara counts with THE CLAW~~! and some precise legdrops. Back to the boys for some good chain-wrestling (CHIKARA sure loves those standing armbars into tripping exchanges), Quack doing a flip-up and kip-up after an armdrag, but Claudio just beats him down, using his size. Quack escapes and does an asinine wide-armed martial arts stance, and Manami runs in and ties Sara in the ropes for her dropkick to the spine for two. And now Manami does some hair-pulling and nose-yanking- a joshi trademark when you’re pissed off. Claudio gets agitated, so she does a submission AT him, taunting him so he comes in again and it’s a brawl.
We clear it out and Manami hits a butterfly suplex- Sara tags out and Claudio catches Quack on a cross-body and spins him right into a backbreaker in mid-air! Claudio now tears at Quack’s face so MANAMI can see it- some good payback. Claudio yanks Quack right up into his deadlfit gutwrench suplex for two. The heels beat Quack down for a good while, cutting the ring in half, but finally they do the AJW “fake-out to a missile kick” as Manami flies in over her partner! Plancha to Claudio & Sara! Two missile dropkicks get two on Sara and Manami signals the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (cross-armed bridging electric chair drop)! But she can’t get Sara up, and so they stumble through Manami ducking Cesaro so he clotheslines Sara, and the babyfaces hit a double palm strike to send him over the top! Quack hits a Tope Con Hilo while Manami hits a Straightjacket German in the ring for two. Sara gets a powerbomb for two, and a Claudio European uppercut/Sara rolling kick combo gets two as the crowd gets into Manami’s comeback, but instead Quack just interferes and hits a bulldog after Manami is tossed, booting Sara as he goes by- that sets her up for the Black Tornado Slam (spinning across-the-back face-slam) for two.
Quack hits a spinning DDT on Claudio, but Sara boots him, sending in Manami… but she’s uppercutted by Claudio again, who hits his Giant Swing on the Flying Angel! Sixteen revolutions! But he charges in and eats the Rolling Cradle- Sara saves! Everyone fights, and Claudio jackknife powerbombs Quack when he tries a Manami Roll, only for Manami to do HERS, getting two! Sara charges in again and does ax-kicks for two. Roaring forearm to a piledriver… JB ANGELS BRIDGE-OUT from Manami! But Claudio runs in for a bicycle kick and GIANT SWINGS her into Sara’s dropkick! Oh shit that was epic- two! SPIKE PILEDRIVER! 1…2… Quack saves! He takes out both and hits a somersault flying rana on Claudio for two. I think that breaks the laws of momentum, but sure! CHIKARA Special (like a Delfin Clutch but it hurts), but Sara interferes, but he clobbers her and the boys hit the floor in a tangle. That leaves Manami, who’s finally regained consciousness- she hits a Moonsault on Sara for two! And then it’s the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex merged with a DOOMSDAY DEVICE… but Claudio breaks up the pin! Aw, that shoulda been it. But Quack dumps Claudio and the ladies are left alone- Manami crushes her with the Japanese Ocean Queen Bee Bomb (wrist-clutch northern lights bomb)!! Sara is dead! So Manami makes it emphatic by using Quack’s CHIKARA Special for the tap-out at (23:02). Manami wins it for her team!
Okay, I dug this one- very slow & steady and building up to something instead of just going all-out like the indies (or joshi) can sometimes do, into an AWESOME final 6-7 minutes, Quack giving way so Toyota can show off. I quite liked Sara’s stuff- she’s got that compact, athletic build and all her stuff comes out very smoothly as a result. Even regular kicks and suplexes look good. Very few Claudio/Manami segments at first- they barely touched at all until 15 minutes in, but that made it cooler when they did a very “AJW” style sequence- like repaying one “revolutions” move with another (giant swing to a rolling cradle). Manami hitting her Manami Roll on Claudio only for Sara to kill her with stuff into that wicked giant swing/dropkick was rad, too. The ref was good- Quack was out of position on the spike piledriver break-up, so he did an “air slap” before starting his real count. Manami was the big “question” here, as she’s far out of her athletic prime and in a different country for a rare appearance, but almost everything looked good and she had the selling, charisma and killer moves to back up her rep.
And the booking was really smart- they wanted to showcase the guest star, so she got her signature spots in early, then Mike did the “meat”, then Manami came to take all this devastating stuff so she looks tough… and then Mike takes some damage so she can recover and make the big comeback win. Like, that’s how ya do it!
Rating: **** (I was very “well it’s PRETTY good…” through the long heat sequence on Quackenbush but they knocked it out of the park on the final surge)
CHASE TATUM vs. PROTOTYPE:
(UPW, 20.12.2000, probably)
* Hahah, holy shit, check THIS out! It’s a WCW Power Plant jobber going up against JOHN CENA, back when he was messing around the indies and hadn’t been discovered or sent to OVW yet- he even used his robotic “Prototype” character pre-OVW. UPW here was an indie that sometimes trained and scouted WWE guys (it’s rep is somewhat notorious according to others). I guess this is where Chase ended up- he was a classic Plant guy, but was MONSTROUSLY roided and ripped, which always made me wonder why Vince didn’t want him. I mean, he wasn’t that GOOD, but even my Cruiserweight-loving ass thought this guy looked awesome back then. Of course, for this show his only gear is black sweatpants, making him look like he spent all his cash on juice. Though Cena is possibly abusing even more, as he’s in his bodybuilding days, looking completely shredded. The ring announcer actually manages to bugger up the introductions, claiming that Nathan Jones is “The New Prototype”, before realizing he meant Chase was.
Chase pounces to start, Prototype coming back but eating a T-Bone suplex for two. Powerslam gets the same, and Chase wears down Prototype with arm stuff and clotheslines. Finally Prototype ducks under one and hits a big leaping shoulderblock like a missile, then scores a DDT as both sell. Prototype throws shots when they get up, clearly calling spots on-camera with his mouth easily seen flapping up and down (boy, sure glad he fixed THAT little problem!) and hits a dropkick with great height on it. Side slam gets two, but Chase hits and All Japan-esque (!!) German, sending Prototype flipping over. He gets his foot in the ropes, but takes a release Northern Lights Suplex. Chase whips him into the corner, but misses a charge, and eats a god-awful Proto Bomb (backdrop suplex to sit-out powerbomb) for the three at (4:47)- Prototype wins! As he celebrates, a guy named “Smelly” (Mark Bell, brother of failed WWF wannabe Mike- the guy Saturn beat up that one time) jumps in, as does a trenchcoat-wearing Nathan Jones, and Smelly beats Prototype down, hitting the “Stink Bomb” (full nelson slam).
Wow, who taught CHASE to work? He was forgettable in WCW, but managed some decent stuff in here with a very green Cena (who hilariously is more smooth and athletic as a bodybuilder than he was as a WWF Main Eventer owing to youth and a more slender physique over Cena’s HGH-bloated one that rendered him a very clumsy, unathletic guy later on). Though the match was ridiculously short considering this is an indie that presumably needs repeat fans to feel like the show was worth the ticket price. It was mostly Chase throwing Cena around, setting up the occasional two-move comeback, and then out of nowhere a blind charge gets the win.
Rating: *1/2 (fine enough Hoss Match, but too short to be meaningful)
JOHN TENTA & YOSHIAKI YATSU vs. BRUISER BRODY & “SUPERFLY” JIMMY SNUKA:
(All Japan, May 1st, 1988)
* Back for more of Skinny John Tenta in AJPW, as now he’s teaming up with lower-end Yatsu against… wow, Brody & Snuka are reunited! Last I saw they were in All Japan in 1981 as a regular team, but now Snuka’s on, um, “leave” from the WWF as he is now wearing his tiger-print speedos and teaming with the black-clad Brody against Tenta (still in his blue Canadian flag singlet) & Yatsu, in black and with a pudgy jobber’s physique. This is from early May, and Brody was murdered in late July, making this one of his final matches.
Joined in Progress with Snuka beating Yatsu’s ass, tossing him into Brody’s forearm on the apron and dumping him. Tenta calmly walks over and saves Yatsu, not showing any of the emotion he’d later develop, and Yatsu makes a weak comeback in the ring. Tenta does a choke-lift and a running forearm in the corner (he’s not big enough for a proper avalanche yet!), and slams Snuka for a near-fall. Powerslam off the ropes, but Brody saves, and when Yatsu dumps him, he hits the apron and boots Tenta after Snuka reverses a whip. Flying Headbutt from Snuka way across the ring gets two- Yatsu saves, so he & Brody brawl to the floor. Tenta hits Snuka with a big belly-to-belly suplex off the ropes, but Brody legdrops the back of his neck. A double-dropkick from the heels sets up Brody’s big Kneedrop finisher for the three at (5:17 of 9:51 shown), Snuka dealing with Yatsu.
Perfectly fine, ordinary match in its latter going. Yatsu & Tenta didn’t show anything, but it was kept simple.
Rating: *3/4 (simple basic bout with some pretty limited guys on one team)
JOHN NORD & BARRY DARSOW vs. DISORDERLY CONDUCT (Mean Mike & Tough Tom):
(WCW Saturday Night, 11.08.1997)
* Oh man, all four Saturday Night Legends all in one match! Nord is the former Berzerker, now a roided up generic arrogant heel, while Darsow is washed up but still active as a loudmouth JTTS. Disorderly Conduct are just a pair of shitty indie guys with looks so bad even Memphis might not want them, decked out in purple singlets. While Darsow is funny as always with his brash nonsense (twice he insists the camera get out of his face), Nord’s shades and “If you don’t like us, there’s something wrong with YOU!” quote just mark him as so, so bad. Bischoff in a shoot says he wanted to give Nord a chance because of their AWA history, but Nord had too many chemical dependencies and it didn’t work out.
Darsow starts, but Nord hammers the lighter-haired one (let’s call him Mark) from behind like a dick. Right away you can see how insanely big most WWF-era guys are, as DC are positively dwarfed by these two. Darsow hits Jumping Demolition Axehandles and Nord hits shoulderblocks and elbowdrops. More brawling as Darsow works in his usual smack-talk (“I’m gonna rip your stinkin’ head right off!”), but puts his head down and Tough Tom’s in. But Tom hits an avalanche and Darsow just no-sells and tackles him down sideways and beats on him in a funny bit. Back suplex and Nord comes in with a gutwrench suplex and more beating, but misses a kneedrop and Mark comes back in. He hits two clotheslines but Nord just runs him over and hits the World’s Strongest Slam for two- Tom breaks it up but Darsow kicks his ass with a DDT, and Nord hooks the Camel Clutch on Mark while Darsow slides the shades onto his head, getting the win (3:45).
Rating: 1/2* (Pretty basic squash with mostly brawling from the heels, plus some suplexes)