Phil Schnedier’s 3 Count

Sting/Darby Allin vs. Big Bill/Ricky Starks 

AEW Dynamite 2/7

Sting is winding down one of the greatest retirement tours in wrestling history by winning his 25th title, defeating a very game Big Bill and Ricky Starks in the kind of fireworks show matches in which the Sting/Darby team has become experts in Sting’s time back in the ring.

Starks and Bill have enough heel charisma to hold their own and fill the spots between huge moments.  Bill has really impressively turned his life around, getting clean, getting in great shape and turning into a hell of a big guy worker. Ready for a Darby vs. Bill big singles match, as they had great charisma, including an incredible spot where Bill caught a Darby tope into a huge spinning Bossman slam, another page on the insane bump book which Darby has been building over the last decade. Sting also took a couple of big risks for a guy as old as Mike Pence, including a plancha off of the ring entrance balcony and a hard missed Stinger splash into a removed turnbuckle.

He ends up getting the win with a Stinger death drop, a move with so much history that I totally buy it taking out a top athlete 30+ years younger than him. I am not a Bucks guy, but they are at their best as big bumping smarmy heels, and I imagine they will kill themselves to get Sting over in his final match, and beating up Darby, Sting and Stings two large adult sons while smearing their blood on their all-white suits is a great bit of business.

Zach Sabre Jr. vs. Bryan Danielson

 NJPW New Beginning in Osaka 2/11

Bryan Danielson is treating the last full-time year of his pro-wrestling career, like a Make a Wish kid, Hechciero, Okada in the Dome, BCC 8-man in Arena Mexico, Akiyama on Collision, and another grappling masterclass with Sabre Jr. in Osaka.

The opening sections of this match were focused on working out of knuckle lock, with lots of clever attempts a counter, including both guys blocking monkey flip attempts by dropping down, and Danielson hitting some sick Volk Hanish armdrags. The big turning point of the match is when Danielson arm whips Sabre into the ropes and the back of his leg hits the bottom strand hard and awkwardly. Dragon then goes right after that leg with some nasty dragon screws and a Romero special. Sabre was able to get a bit of an advantage by hitting two Magic screw neck cranks, and started after Dragon’s neck. They moved away a bit from the grappling near the climax of the match, including an ankle lock section where they both teed off with hard kicks to each others skulls, and Danielson landing a sick back kick right on Sabre’s knee.

I could have done without the standing strike exchange, but it did have some cool moments, including blocking an uppercut with a strike on the arm and a short counter slap by Danielson which dimmed Sabre’s lights. It got a bit fighting spirit-y at the end, not every match needs that stuff, and this one definitely didn’t, but I did like how it ended in a mad mat scramble, with Sabre getting the roll up.

With the series tied 1-1, and neither man getting a tap out on the other, we are definitely getting a rubber match, post-match Danielson challenged him to a 2/3 falls battle on neutral ground (we have a pretty full card for DEAN~!, but could sneak it on, DM me Zach or Bryan) and I am sure that it will be incredible stuff.

Ilja Dragunov vs. Dijak 

NXT 2/6

I imagine one of these weeks I will write about a non-Ilja WWE match, but this isn’t that week. I am historically not a Dijak guy, but you put him in with Dragunov and he is going to match, or even surpass, the sicko violence which Ilja specializes in. This wasn’t Dijiak trying to hang or step up to Dragunov the way, for example, Trick Williams did last week. Dijak was actually the guy dishing out the sickest shots here.

There was a promo segment earlier in the show where he threw a straight right hand directly to Ilja’s nose (it made a gross crunching sound which might have been sound sweetening, but I think was just cartilage cracking), and spent most of the match working on Ilja’s face with potato shots. There was one point where he just closed-fist punched Dragunov right in the temple, which led to a slow drizzle of blood coming down Dragunov’s forehead. Ilja of course responded with concussive blows of his own, he may be one of the only wrestlers in the world I don’t mind throwing forearms, as he throws them to a point six inches past his opponents jaw.

Joe Gacy coming from under the ring with a boxing glove on a stick, was real stupid, but it led directly to Ilja hitting a diving forearm so hard that it made Dijak forget his niece’s names, so I guess I was OK with it. WWE has been no-contact wrestling for the vast majority of its history, and I love there is this little pocket in Orlando where a psychotic Russian is wrestling like Fugo Fugo Yumeji.

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