Samoa Joe vs Super Dragon
Hollywood Los Feliz JCC, Los Angeles, California, United States
(reviewed 05/16/2019) Great in the way these two always are but underwhelming in capping off this story. This one starts a little slow since neither man is willing to make a mistake in rushing in but it’s still feisty as hell. These two have been hitting each other hard since the beginning but this match does a lot to illustrate how this matchup is becoming more heated and personal with multiple inconclusive finishes. In particular Joe takes it to Dragon with great animosity, combining his signature powerbomb + STF combo with Dragon’s curb stomp as well as a brutal baseball slide dropkick after a countout tease. Dragon resorts to powdering to the outside to catch a breather, easily the smartest bit of strategy he’s yet used against Joe, but before long it becomes clear that he just has to blow the Samoan out of the water if he has any chance of victory. Certainly feels like that’s in the cards, considering how the final few minutes play out. Joe turns up the heat after the suplex to the floor that won him the first match doesn’t repeat the deed but Dragon powers through his best shots to unload a huge series of moves. He slips free of the Muscle Buster and looks to hoist Joe up for the Psycho Driver but he can’t do it on multiple attempts. Thinking fast, Dragon switches into a rollup and even if Joe kicks out, he does it late enough that it sure seems like he didn’t know if he should. After a moment of awkwardness, he pops up and drags Super Dragon to the corner for the Muscle Buster, which secures the victory. Weird final stretch and flat finish to what was otherwise the hottest match yet between these two. It’s not enough to ruin the rest but it’s a real bummer note to end on.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Even considering the bummer finish I don’t know if this matchup is all that close. I love how Dragon and Joe work and appreciate the way in which their simple story escalates over the course of a year. If we’re going to hinge our enjoyment of matches solely on how they end, Shawn/Taker loses my interest long before the three count and outside of one or two spots never wows me like the stiffest shots in this match.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25