This installment has matches involving Jon Heidenreich, Lita, Jazz, Island Boys and Tajiri! Plus, Michael Modest from Beyond The Mat fame!
Match #1: Perry Saturn vs. Jon Heidenreich
Date: December 18th, 2001
Reason Reviewed: I’ve always really enjoyed Saturn’s in-ring work and by this time he wasn’t getting a lot of airtime on television. I’m rather curious to see how well he manages to work with Heidenreich in this situation. For those who don’t know who Jon Heidenreich is, he was a monster heel in the WWE in 2004 feuding with the Undertaker. He soon became a face and teamed with Animal to reform the Legion of Doom in 2005.
Heidenreich is wearing Saints gear since the show is taking place in New Orleans and he’s from the area. Saturn gets a decent pop, more than the hometown kid that they hyped up. Jon hip tosses Saturn at the start and a few fans try to chant his name but that doesn’t work. Saturn works over Jon with a few forearms but Heidenreich comes back with a clothesline only to miss an elbow drop. Saturn recovers to hit a swinging neck breaker. Heidenreich comes off the ropes to hit a knee lift for a two count. Saturn sends Jon chest first into the ropes and hit a leg sweep, essentially hitting his own Total Elimination. Saturn atomic drops Heidenreich followed by a springboard dropkick for a two count. Saturn works over the midsection with a few head rams and kicks Jon over the back. Jon misses a clothesline and is dropped with a super kick that nearly wins it for Saturn. Saturn blocks a big boot in the corner but Jon hits a clothesline after being spun around. Heidenriech power slams Saturn and follows up with a spine buster for a two count. Saturn goes for a German suplex but John avoids it. Saturn settles for an exploder suplex. Heidenreich plants Saturn with a tilt a whirl side slam. Saturn arm drags Jon and puts a standing arm bar on for the submission win. (**. It’s not an awful match with Saturn displaying some good offense throughout. I was kind of hoping for the Death Valley Driver on Heidenreich as that would have been quite the visual. I’m glad Saturn was still capable of getting decent crowd reactions.)
Match #2: Michael Modest vs. Donovan Morgan
Date: September 14th, 1998
Reason Reviewed: The following night, Modest had a tryout match with his APW friend Tony Jones. That match was highlighted on the Beyond The Mat movie. However, this one occurs the night before and isn’t mentioned in the movie. Donovan Morgan would be a top independent name wrestling for ROH and in Japan quite often. I have to believe this match was better than the APW tryout.
Modest doesn’t get an entrance but Morgan does. Morgan hip tosses and arm drags Modest at the start of the match. Morgan monkey flips Modest into the ropes but gets cut off by a clothesline. Modest drops Morgan on his head with a full nelson suplex. Modest locks in a Boston Crab but Morgan quickly reaches the ropes. Modest continues with a back breaker and a few overhand strikes. Modest drives Morgan down with a Death Valley Driver, which gets a good reaction from the crowd, for a two count. Morgan comes off the ropes with a cross body but Modest recovers to keep control. Modest drops Morgan with an uppercut. Modest backdrops Morgan and blocks a sunset flip attempt with a right hand. Morgan nearly wins with a rollup. Modest keeps Morgan on the canvas looking for a submission but Morgan got to the ropes quickly. Morgan counters a dragon suplex hitting a DDT. Morgan dropkicks Modest to the floor and takes Modest out with a somersault to the outside. Morgan sends Modest into the corner and Modest drops down after hitting his shoulders. Morgan wins the match following a split legged moonsault. (**. It’s a decent match, though it is very clear that Modest is a veteran at this point in his career compared to Morgan. Modest knew exactly what he was doing and his moves were impressive. Morgan got a pop for the finish, but Modest impressed me more.)
Match #3: Island Boys vs. The Haas Brothers
Date: September 18th, 2001
Reason Reviewed: Island Boys would go on to be known as Rosey and Jamal (Umaga) later in their careers. The Haas Brothers got a lot of attention in the PWI magazines during this era. That’s how I first became aware of the team and they were promoted as being the next great tag team to enter the WWF. I wanted to see how their styles meshed and if the Haas Brothers really were that good.
Island Boys come out to the Headshrinkers theme music. Russ and Jamal start the match with Jamal takes Russ over with arm drags and backdrops Charlie. Rosey tags in and hits a double elbow drop with Jamal. Russ tags in Charlie who runs into a clothesline from Rosey. Charlie sunset flips Rosey, but he just sits down to counter it. Russ comes off the top with a missile dropkick to help Charlie. Charlie strikes Rosey a few times before tagging in Russ to hit a double dropkick. Russ chokes Rosey over the middle rope to keep control of the match. Rosey makes his way towards the corner and tags in Jamal but the referee was distracted. Rosey is dropped with a double clothesline and nearly pinned. Rosey counters a double suplex hitting a suplex of his own on both men. Jamal gets the hot tag cleaning house with clotheslines and super kick for a two count. Rosey clotheslines Charlie to the floor leaving Russ in the ring and is finished off by a big splash from Jamal. (**. They worked a fine match and the Island Boys impressed with their offense. Jamal has plenty of charisma and seemed to connect with the audience more than Rosey. I wonder if Russ Haas would have been with Charlie for the WGTT’s run in 2003/2004 had he not passed away.)
Match #4: Lita vs. Jazz
Date: November 13th, 2001
Reason Reviewed: Jazz was quite successful in ECW and would make her debut at Survivor Series 2001. However, she first battled Lita in this dark match. This could be good.
Jazz arm drags Lita at the start but doesn’t followup with the advantage. Lita counters a hammerlock with one of her own but is rammed into the corner. Lita gets a headlock on Jazz and comes off the ropes with a shoulder block. Jazz went for a slam but Lita gets out of it and plants Jazz with a tilt a whirl slam for a near fall. Lita keeps Jazz on the canvas with an arm bar. Jazz works over Lita in the corner with a knee lift and forearm shot. Lita clotheslines Jazz in the corner and delivers a few right hands. Lita springboards out of the corner and lands on her feet but appears to injure her left leg. To prove it’s a work, Jazz works over the injured left knee. Jazz yanks Lita throat first into the top rope before continuing to work over the left leg of Lita. Jazz keeps control of Lita with right hands decking her to the canvas for a near fall. Jazz eye rakes Lits and drop toe holds her to the canvas. Jazz has a modified chicken wing submission. Lita head scissors Jazz and clotheslines her a few times. Lita plants Jazz with a flapjack. Jazz comes back with a spin kick but misses a big splash. Lita goes for the Twist of Fate and hits it! Lita goes to the top rope and hit the moonsault for the win. (**. I thought it was a solid match between these two women. Jazz is one of the few women that I enjoy watching in-ring. By this point, Lita was fun in the ring, too. Jazz was a much needed addition to the women’s division along with Molly Holly. A really solid dark match and showed me why Jazz got signed.)
Match #5: Tajiri vs. Funaki
Date: May 7th, 2001
Reason Reviewed: The argument could be made that at one point, Tajiri was one of the top faces in ECW towards the end of their run. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he got a tryout in the WWF against Funaki. Spoiler alert, Tajiri got signed. I wonder how impressive the tryout was.
Tajiri gets an entrance with basic theme music and gets a great reception from the crowd. Tajiri ducks a clothesline but not a kick to the gut. Funaki avoids a leapfrog with a chop to the chest. Tajiri kicks Funaki off the apron to the floor. Funaki is playing like he’s dead on the floor, which was humorous. Tajiri gets a two count in the ring. Tajiri continues with a spinning heel kick and a standing moonsault for a near fall. Funaki fights back with right hands and a springboard cross body for a near fall. Tajiri comes off the ropes with a handspring back elbow for a near fall. Tajiri chops Funaki in the corner and Funaki falls flat on his face. Tajiri avoids a sunset flip and knee drops Funaki for a two count. Funaki gets a few shots in but is dropped by a kick to the midsection. Tajiri rams Funaki into the corner and puts him in the tree of woe. Tajiri hits a running baseball slide dropkick. Tajiri chokes Funaki over the middle rope before hitting a neck breaker for a two count. Tajiri snap mares Funaki before locking in abdominal stretch on the canvas. Tajiri nearly wins with a rollup. Funaki hits a running bulldog after sending Tajiri into the corner. They trade a few overhand chops until Funaki hit a back suplex for a two count. Tajiri stops Funaki with a kick to the gut and a kick to the head but only manages a near fall. Tajiri places Funaki on the top rope but Funaki hits a reverse tornado DDT for the win. (**1/2. There was clearly some appreciation for Tajiri here and he hit a few of his trademark moves. I enjoyed the action and Funaki probably got the biggest win of his career to this point in a dark match.)
This was probably one of the more enjoyable installments of this series thus far. These kind of matches make me wish that WWE would do dark matches like this on a regular basis. However, with NXT, that’s likely not going to ever happen again.
What are your thoughts on these matches?
On the next installment the following matches will be highlighted…
– Randy Orton battles Billy Gunn in singles action.
– Spike Dudley tries his luck against Brock Lesnar.
– AJ Styles gets a WWE tryout against Rico
– Orlando Jordan also takes on Rico
– Perry Saturn squares off against Billy Kidman in a WCW dark match!
Thanks for reading.