Konosuke Takeshita vs. Arez
This was an oddball match held at the Lucha Brothers promotion in LA, and we were lucky enough to get a handheld of it. This wasn’t a perfect match, there were some real selling issues, as both guys took huge moves and just kind of popped up and did some shit, but they were really doing some shit.
Arez is the master of Strange Style, he comes up with weird unique moves nearly every match, and has a herky jerky style of body movement, almost like a wrestling version of Shea Gilgeous-Alexander. I am a low voter on Takeshita, but he has a big boy Japanese wrestling moveset, big suplexes, clotheslines and throws, and it is a surprisingly good match for all of Arez’s off kilter stuff.
The story of this match was Arez using his unorthodox attack and speed to befuddle Takeshita, tying him in knots in the ropes, using a cartwheel to pull him into a chickenwing facebuster. Takeshita meanwhile used his power to just nullify any goofy shit: Arez goes for a tope and Takeshita catches him mid dive in a suplex position and turns it into a brainbuster on the floor, Arez tries for a one foot second rope springboard rana and just gets caught and spun into a Blue Thunder Bomb. Eventually size beat speed, and Takeshita countered a wheelbarrow into a German suplex and dropped him with a running knee.
Sometimes you just want to watch creative wrestlers come up with cool moves, and this match had a bunch of that. It looks like a big style clash on paper, but they ended up melding great. Arez is such a unique wrestler, I would really love to see him break out of MLW hell, and have them run this match back at ROH or AEW.
The Usos vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
The Bloodline story has lost a fair amount of steam since WrestleMania. Paul Heyman is stuck doing a Button up Mind of Bob Newhart shtick doing both sides of phone calls with a vacationing and checked out Roman Reigns. There hasn’t been any real storyline progression with the Usos and Sami Zayn, as they seem to be hitting a lot of the same beats as they did before Wrestlemania, and adding Matt Riddle to the mix isn’t really much of a freshen up.
Add that to the WWE draft, one of the sillier and most illogical tropes they tend to go back to every couple of years (why are some wrestlers free agents? Why just trade the Women’s champions again), and the completely unnecessary creation of a third world title to be handed to someone as a participation trophy, the promotion has been stuck in the mud since Wrestlemania.
They still have some very good wrestlers though, and just putting those wrestlers in long matches you are going to get some quality stuff. The Wrestlemania match between these two teams was a classic, this felt lower stakes. I really liked how aggressive the Usos were, the idea behind this match was that they might get kicked out of the Bloodline if they lost, and they approached the match with the appropriate level of intensity. They inverted the roles from the first match with them beating on Owens for much of the match, and Sami being the guy working the apron.
You would see that with Rock and Roll Express matches sometimes, where Robert Gibson would play Ricky Morton and vice versa, it is an interesting approach, but hurt the match a bit as Owens isn’t nearly as sympathetic a face in peril as Sami. Exciting end run though, and I liked how the Usos took most of the match, it really felt like Sami and Kevin escaped by the skin of their teeth. It adds some suspense to the six-man tag at Backlash, but I do think they need something to freshen up the feud and give the Bloodline a bit of a boost.
Bandido vs. Orange Cassidy
Another week another Orange Cassidy match write up. He really has become the most consistent in-ring performer in the world, which is totally wild considering where he started from. The last several weeks have seen Cassidy overcoming vicious heels and fighting his way through a bad hand injury, this was more of a test of skill. The equivalent of a lucha title match, where even rudos will try to show off their technical skill. In many ways Cassidy is the stylistic child of the great lucha technicos of the 80s and 90s, sort of a modern version of Kendo or Super Mueneco, someone who has a specific signature offense to entertain the crowd, but also has the ability to transcend that and fight for his life. I loved the opening exchanges with some beautiful rope running exchanges built around his hands in the pocket taunts against Bandido’s finger guns taunts.
We also got some cool Bandido strength spots, catching a Cassidy tope into a press slam, catching a bodypress into a one handed press slam, and his long hanging suplex which Cassidy kept trying to reverse out of, until finally turning it into a stunner.
The announcers talked about how Bandido had been studying with maestro luchador Skyade in preparation for this match. Skyade was also a long time Chikara guest trainer and is the inspiration for a lot of the lucha influences in Cassidy’s game. They paid off the Skyade stuff with a great spot where Bandido countered the mousetrap submission, before Cassidy was able to catch him with the Orange Punch and a Beach Break for the win.
I really like how they teamed these guys up post-match as buddies and inserted them in the Jericho and Page feud. Bandido has been used as a special attraction wrestler so far, but has the capacity to be more ,and having him actually mix it up in storylines is a really good use of him. As far as Orange goes, I really want this title reign to go on forever. AEW has a big roster and there isn’t anyone on it, I don’t want to see Cassidy wrestle.