Happy Wednesday Everyone!
We continue on from last week as we pick up the countdown of my Top 50 Favourite Wrestlers. I should reiterate here that this isn’t supposed to be an objective list on who I think the best wrestlers are but rather a subjective list of the wrestlers that I personally find entertaining for one reason or another.
For those of you who weren’t here last week, please check the archives to get yourself updated on the first 5 selections if you feel like doing so.
The Match: Vs Justin Credible, ECW Ballroom Blitz Night Two (26th August 2000)
Steve Corino first came to my attention during his run in ECW from 1999 to 2001. Initially coming in as a cowardly anti-hardcore character, Corino would start getting a reputation for bloody brawls in early 2000 when he started feuding with Dusty Rhodes. Corino’s forehead eventually paid the price for the decision to switch to that style of wrestling, with the numerous scars almost acting as a ghoulish certification of his hardcore credentials. Corino was a good worker though and his character work was strong, so amazingly ECW tried, and succeeded, in turning him babyface in the summer of 2000 when Corino began a feud with Heel World Champ Justin Credible.
Sadly ECW didn’t pounce on Corino’s newfound popularity, as Corino lost a gripping and exciting bout to Credible at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. With that defeat Corino’s momentum began to stall and when he did eventually win the Title at November to Remember 2000 in a confusing Double Jeopardy bout, the window for him to become ECW’s next top babyface star had closed and he was back to working as a Heel by the end of the year. Corino continued to deliver the goods in the ring though, having enjoyable matches with the likes of Jerry Lynn and The Sandman, but ECW was on borrowed time and by February 2001 the company was all but dead.
Corino remained a presence on the American indie scene following ECW’s death, with him even winning the NWA World Title at one stage. Corino also managed to start getting booked in the Zero 1 promotion over in Japan and quickly became one of the promotions main foreign stars. Corino’s more old school style was a perfect fit for Japan, and he remained an entertaining act, even if he didn’t have the flashiness of some of his contemporaries. Over in the states Corino was a featured player in the original version of MLW, where he was World Champ and leader of Heel faction the Extreme Horsemen alongside Simon Diamond and CW Anderson.
Corino was also a big part of ROH’s early days, with him having notable feuds with the likes of Homicide and Christopher Daniels. Some of the matches with Homicide were great intense battles, partly because both men legitimately didn’t like one another in real life. Homicide even shattered Corino’s eardrum with a slap at one stage, whilst Corino once incited a riot at the Elk’s Lodge when he defeated Homicide in one of their numerous grudge bouts.
ROH was also where Corino started bringing out Bobby Cruise as his personal ring announcer, leading to many hilarious longwinded introductions that led the ROH fans to frustration. Corino would pass through ROH on a few occasions, including an entertaining run as a lackey for fellow Canadian Kevin Steen in his violent feud with El Generico. Corino’s combination of solid ring work, entertaining character work and sharp mic skills always made him someone who I looked forward to watching. He never really had the “look”, but he had pretty much everything else and I was pleased when I heard he was hired to be a producer in NXT, as he definitely has skills that are worth passing on to the next generation. I just hope “slice your head open regularly” isn’t one of the examples of sage advice he is giving the fresh faced WWE hopefuls.
The Match: Vs Zack Sabre Jr, FWA Hotwired 2009 (29th November 2009)
I first saw Joey Hayes way back in 2006 at a Futureshock Wrestling event in Stockport and I was instantly impressed by his ability in the ring. Even at a young age he was a mechanically sound wrestler who had that something special about him and I just knew that he could be a star not just on the British scene but elsewhere also. Sadly it just didn’t work out that way for Hayes and he remains, in my opinion, one of the best unsigned wrestlers currently out there. His regular tag team with Danny Hope is always one of the highlights of any show they appear on, and Hayes is also a decorated and talented singles star.
When the FWA came back in the second half of the 00’s, Hayes was one of the wrestlers on the British scene who was brought in to wrestle for them. Forming a team with CJ Banks, he feuded with Zack Sabre Jr and Marty Scurll, leading to some awesome tag matches but also some great singles matches as well, including a fine technical based contest with ZSJ on the Hotwired event in Nottingham. Following the inevitable death of the new FWA, Hayes would continue to work all over the country and always delivered in the ring both in the singles and tag team realm.
I genuinely think Joey Hayes is one of wrestling’s hidden gems, with his inability to crack the big time in a company like WWE of AEW being genuinely disappointing. I’ve seen few wrestlers who make it look as genuinely effortless as he does so often when in between those ropes. One of the major companies could definitely benefit from his involvement, and hopefully a day might come where he’s no longer wrestling’s best kept secret and is instead widely recognised and appreciated for his skills.
The Match: Vs AJ Styles and Low Ki, ROH First Anniversary Show (8th February 2003)
Paul London was probably one of the most underutilised wrestlers of the entire “Ruthless Aggression” Era of WWE, with him often being relegated to the lower reaches of the card, even when he was delivering great in-ring action. London may not have been blessed with amazing size by comparison to beasts like Albert and Gene Snitsky, but he had good looks and tremendous in-ring skills. In some ways London came along too early, as he would have likely been a big star in either Triple H’s version of NXT or All Elite Wrestling had you taken the 2003 version of him and dropped it into the modern wrestling world.
London came out of the Texas Wrestling Academy and really made a name for himself on the indie scene in 2002 to 2003 whilst working for ROH. His matches with Michael Shane, Low Ki, Xavier, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe and others were of a high standard and he quickly became one of the biggest stars in early ROH. His handsome looks and ability to sell like a mo-fo meant he wasn’t just a guy doing MOVEZ but rather a well-rounded worker who had additional attributes that naturally leaned towards stardom, so it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise when WWE decided to roll the dice on him in 2003.
Sadly though London would never really get out of the lower-mid-card during his time in WWE. His initial debut where Brock Lesnar absolutely mauled him didn’t seem to bode well, although London gave a very impressive performance in getting his clock cleaned. London did briefly find himself as a Smackdown Tag Champ with Billy Kidman, with their inevitable breakup leading to a fine contest at No Mercy 2004. However, like with most things in London’s WWE run, when he delivered and looked like he was on the cusp of getting somewhere it would always lead to the rug getting jerked out from under him.
London and Kidman would not wrestle one another on pay per view again and the feud kind of quietly ended with little in the way of fanfare. London’s next impressive display was in the 2005 Royal Rumble, where he got clotheslined out by Gene Snitsky and took an incredible bump in the process, a bump that not surprisingly got him in trouble with some of the higher-ups because in their mind it was too good, and smaller lower-card guys weren’t allowed to be that good. Undeterred, London decided to get all tasselled-up and become the Cruiserweight version of the Ultimate Warrior, something that did eventually net him a Cruiserweight Title run and some good matches with the likes of Chavo Guerrero Jr. However, London once again found himself in the dog house by having the temerity to request that he and the belt not get treated like an afterthought, which led to him dropping the belt to James Maritato and being relegated back down to Velocity.
London did at least have some darn fine matches whilst shunted to weekend show heck, with the bouts with Jimmy “Akio” Yang being some of the better WWE would have on any brand during the time period. Eventually months of plugging away in purgatory bore fruit, as London and partner Brian Kendrick were chosen as the team to end MNM’s Smackdown Tag Title run. What followed was an improbably long run for the “HooliganZ” as the kings of the Smackdown Tag Division, although they and the belts weren’t exactly treated as a showpiece act on the brand. They still had some cracking matches though with the likes of Kid Kash/Jamie Noble and Regal/Taylor.
London ended up essentially killing off his own WWE career by grinning like a madman when Vince McMahon walked past him in a backstage segment, even though being all wacky and spaced out was kind of his gimmick at the time. Vince McMahon irrationally punishing a wrestler on a whim, how likely is THAT?! London returned to the indie scene following the end of that WWE run and has never been back in a mainstream company, although he did have a run in Lucha Underground. London remains one of my favourite wrestlers to watch though, and in fact during the series with Akio and his ascent up the Cruiser ladder he was straight-up my favourite wrestler at the time. Not just a spot monkey; London had strong technical skills and was excellent at telling a story between the ropes. WWE just sadly didn’t give him much of a chance to do it to the fullest of his abilities.
The Match: Vs Samoa Joe, ROH Glory By Honour (20th September 2003)
Christopher Daniels had been a fixture on the independent scene both in America as well as in Japan and Europe for many years when I first became a regular viewer of his work during his time in ROH. Daniels’ whole shtick in ROH was that he wanted to bring down the company’s “Code of Honour”, which led to him facing off in feuds with the likes of Low Ki, Steve Corino, CM Punk and Samoa Joe. I was quickly impressed with Daniels both as a wrestler and as a character, with his evil preacher look being very cool and his anti-respect gimmick fitting into the early 00’s indie scene perfectly.
The big story of Daniels’ first ROH run was his quest to win the ROH Title, something which actually led to him getting cheered by some parts of the crowd even though he was still technically a Heel. Daniels eventually got his shot against ROH World Champ Samoa Joe in September of 2003 and the two had a fantastic match where Daniels dished out everything he could in quest of winning the belt, only for Joe to just have that little bit more in the long run. The match was a perfect example of how you could both elevate a challenger in defeat whilst also leaving something on the table for rematches.
Daniels wasn’t just tearing it up in ROH during this period either, as he was having great matches in NWA:TNA, both in the X Division singles ranks as well as in the tag division with Elix Skipper and Low Ki as part of the Triple X stable. Indeed, Daniels would play his part in two of TNA’s greatest ever matches, as he would tag with Skipper against Chris Harris and James Storm in two separate steel cage matches that remain excellent viewing even to this day. Daniels also played his part in another all-time great TNA/IMPACT outing, as he took on both AJ Styles and Samoa Joe at the Unbreakable pay per view in September 2005 in one of the best triple threat matches you will see from any company.
Daniels also wrestled regularly for both Michinoku Pro and New Japan Pro Wrestling as the wacky Curry Man, a masked nutter who would have a literal bowl of curry on his head. Daniels was exceedingly entertaining in the role, showing that he was a versatile performer as well as being a smooth grappler and high-flyer in between the ropes. Curry Man would even have a brief run in TNA as well, where the character got over with an American audience also. Daniels would regularly perform in one of the better bouts on any show provided he wasn’t hamstrung by working with lousy opponents, such as when TNA forced him in there with a totally past his prime Val Venis on a pay per view event.
Daniels did eventually finally get to win the ROH Title, although I will confess that I’d stopped watching the promotion by that stage. However, I have watched All Elite Wrestling from its early days onwards and I enjoyed seeing Daniels team with Scorpio Sky and Kazarian as SCU. To me I will always enjoy the run Daniels had between 2002-2007 in ROH and TNA, as he had great matches with a varied list of opponents and his character work was usually always strong as well. The tag team stuff with Skipper against AMW in particular is something all fans of tag team wrestling should seek out as it was genuinely cutting edge work and they had numerous top outings.
The Match: Vs Colt Cabana, ROH Better Than Our Best (1st April 2003)
Similar to Daniels, Homicide was a big part of the early days of ROH and excelled in both tag team and singles action. Homicide entered ROH as one half of the street fighting tag team known as The Natural Born Sinners with Boogalou. The Sinners took part in many hard-fought brawls with The Carnage Crew of Loc and DeVito, including a famous hardcore war where Homicide stuck barbed wire in DeVito’s mouth in order to gain a submission victory. Boogalou would eventually leave ROH though, leading to Homicide switching into a singles feud with Steve Corino, a feud made all the more intense because Homicide and Corino legitimately didn’t like one another in real life.
Homicide and Corino wrestled one another in hard-hitting stiff matches, with even barbed wire getting introduced into proceedings at one stage as well. alongside the Corino feud, Homicide had a similar arc to Christopher Daniels as well in that Homicide’s key motivation was to become ROH World Champion, with the storyline always centring around how close Homicide would get when in there against Champs such as Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson before ultimately just coming up short at the vital moment. One failed challenge against Joe saw Homicide turn Heel, leading to him feuding further with Joe as well as Danielson and Colt Cabana.
The Danielson feud produced some fantastic contests, as the two competed in a Five Match Series which saw the ante upped with a different stipulation each time. The Cabana feud may have been one of the most intense rivalries in ROH history as well, which was surprising when you consider that Cabana’s character was usually that he was a light-hearted joker who often liked to wrestle on the mat rather than throw fists. However, Homicide just could not sanction Cabana’s buffoonery, especially when Cabana stupidly used the word “nizzle” in Homicide’s presence, leading to a violent blood feud that saw Cabana finally having to rise to the challenge and take the fight to Homicide in a violent street fight.
Homicide would turn babyface following the feud with Cabana when he would come to ROH’s aid in their feud with CZW, which would then lead him to feuding with ROH on-screen authority figure Jim Cornette over Cornette refusing to reinstate Homicide’s good friend and former student Low Ki. After taking part in numerous brawls against Cornette’s goons, including a moment where Homicide buried the hatchet to team with former enemy Cabana, Homicide was finally able to win the ROH Title by defeating Danielson at Final Battle 2006, leading to wild scenes of celebration. Sadly the reign wouldn’t last that long as TNA soon started refusing to let their talent appear in ROH and Homicide had a TNA contract, so he dropped the belt to Takeshi Morishima and became a full-time TNAer.
Homicide certainly had some great matches in TNA, notably when teamed with Hernandez as one half of the LAX tag team, but to me his ROH stuff was generally better because TNA never really pushed Homicide like he was a star, whereas in ROH he was one of the top guys. Homicide was usually the third banana in LAX, with Konnan being the mouthpiece and leader whilst Hernandez was the guy the company always wanted to push because he was big. Outside of some good tag action, what I mostly remember Homicide’s TNA run for is him hitting Rob Terry with a chair shot so sickening that some people actually stopped watching the show for a bit because they were so disgusted with it.
Homicide did eventually leave TNA and returned to the indie scene, and in a nice example of wrestling sometimes coming full circle, Homicide eventually began a feud in Catalyst Wrestling with Colby Corino, the son of Steve, and they had some great matches together. That Homicide, he just hates the Corino family doesn’t he? What I enjoy so much about Homicide is how he can combine wild brawling with solid wrestling and even some high-flying for good measure. In many ways Homicide was the emotional anchor for ROH during the period in the company’s history that I enjoyed the most, with his quest for the Title, his Heel turn and then his eventual turn back to being a babyface on route to winning the Title being one of the best story arcs the company ever had.
Homicide could work and had an interesting character that you could get emotionally invested in, either as a babyface you could get behind or as a villain that you wanted to see be foiled. Homicide’s ability to work excellently on both the Heel and babyface sides of the divide is a testament to his versatility not just as an in-ring performer but also as a character outside of the ring. It’s a shame there wasn’t an AEW or NXT 1.0 around 15 years ago as Homicide could have gone to either one and been a big star. I think sometimes it gets forgotten just how good Homicide was because so many other members of that ROH crew went on to bigger and better things and he kind of just got trapped in TNA because he couldn’t go to WWE and TNA was the next best place to go during that era. Thank heavens there isn’t a wrestling monopoly anymore.