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#DiscoveringWrestling #033 – #TorontoWrestling at Smash Super Showdown V!

I won’t beat around the bush and I’ll outright say it: Smash Wrestling routinely put on high-quality, entertaining shows and, thus far, have made the biggest impact on my wrestling fandom out of all the Toronto-based wrestling promotions I have seen advertisements for and attended shows run by. The impartial journalist in me wants to prioritize diversity and exploring new talent and promotions in this blog series, but the frugal and budgetary minded side of me says “Stick with Smash, it’s the best bang:buck ratio in the city!” With some of the life changes I see on my horizon, as I try and chase dreams and a fulfilling career, that budgetary concern becomes an increasingly powerful force. Smash would lose out were I solely looking at the pure dollar value, as other shows do run cheaper in the city. Where Smash really win out is that their quality is only getting better and they are earning their higher ticket prices. This show, touted as the biggest show of 2017 for the brand, was certainly not a disappointment and took me on a tremendous rollercoaster of fun.

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It’s in my blood, for certain!

Match 1: Brent Banks vs. Louis Lyndon vs. Kevin Bennett vs. Scotty O’Shea

This match was originally announced as simply Banks vs. Lyndon, but a series of events lead to it suddenly becoming a four-way match. Banks interrupted Bennett’s pre-show concert and, in a very problematic and passé promo for a company that has featured men fighting women as a viable contest, challenged Bennett’s masculinity and invited him to join the match. Then, during Lyndon’s entrance, O’Shea hacked the show and entered himself into the match.

The match itself starts with a bunch of brawling and dives from different participants. This leads into a wonderful spot where Bennett fakes a dive to the outside but stops short, is handed a microphone, and starts up his rap concert again. He goes on for a few bars as his henchman tosses those who try to attack him back out of the ring. Thankfully Brent Banks interrupts the performance with a superkick and the match continues. Lyndon gets in on the action and gets in a nice double avalanche hurracanrana which leads into a sequence that highlights his athleticism with O’Shea and caps it off with a roll-through German Suplex on Banks.

Bennett takes control for a while when his crony interferes, but after some good spots with O’Shea it is Banks turn to take dominant control with some hard hits and slams on Lyndon and Bennett. Remarkably, defying my usual opinion of him, O’Shea comes back and kicked it into high gear with a good flurry, delivering crisp action in the ring against his opponents. Banks attempts to make a comeback but Lyndon catches him, reversing Banks into a flying Dragon Sleeper. With Banks locked in the hold and Lyndon looking like he’s about to win, Bennett flies off the top and crashes on top of both of them. The action goes high speed, into turbo speed, as everyone gets their good stuff in. Eventually Banks manages to avoid his opponents, after hitting Lyndon two times with his finisher, and secures the pinfall against his originally announced opponent.

Watching this match was like playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo with a turbofire controller switched on. It was hectic and exciting, but lost a bit of substance and soul for it. It was fun, a bit silly, and definitely ridiculous. Nevertheless, part of me really wishes I had gotten the one-on-one Banks vs. Lyndon match that had been originally announced.

Grade: B
Match 2: Sebastian Suave vs. Greed

Greed makes his presence felt with force at the beginning of the match as he ambushes Suave in the middle of a Kingdom James promo. He goes full aggro on Suave, with speed and ferocity, and ties him up with a submission in the ropes. Suave quickly takes back control by using the turnbuckle as a weapon and relying on Kingdom James for the assist. Suave violently beats on Greed, but Greed keeps fighting back, just to get laid low again.

Greed’s sheer size allows him to make a comeback and he dumps Suave with a German Suplex but is incapable of pinning him. Suave escapes a Package Piledriver attempt and takes back control with a series of reversals and using his speed to his advantage. He keeps Greed down a while with a submission out of a reversal, spinning around Greed and locking it on tight. They go back and forth like this a bit, with Greed using his size to overpower Suave, but unable to put him down for the count, and Suave escaping with agility. Greed tries to hit the Package Piledriver again and Kingdom James, as a manager should, distracts Greed. Suave rolls outside to recover and Greed chases Kingdom around the ring and winds up laying the loudmouth manager out with a TKO, but not before accidentally clotheslining the referee. Suave comes in for a surprise pair of sliding elbows, one to the back of Greed’s head, and puts the bigger man down for the three count.

It was a fun match with some exciting moments but overall it felt a little lacklustre. Mostly I think it was how overbooked it felt with the ref bump and how long the Kingdom James in-ring segment lasted.

Grade: B
Match 3: Tarik vs. Kevin Blackwood – Chairs Match

The two men start brawling immediately, throwing big hands and really looking like they hate each other. As has been common for their interactions in this feud, they spill outside quickly and frequently throughout the match. The violence gets turned up with chairs first by Tarik who catches Blackwood in the face with a thrown chair mid-leap. Tarik plays his ultra-aggressive heelish persona up, talking smack as he beats down on Blackwood and stuffs his comeback attempts. He tosses Blackwood out of the ring and brawls with him up to the stage. Tarik takes a bit too long to get his giant pile of chairs constructed on the stage and Blackwood reverses him, dumping Tarik onto his own violent implementation.

Back in the ring Blackwood kicks Tarik until he falls out and goes to pursue him with a dive, but Tarik intercepts him. Tarik sets up a wildly nasty chair spot in the ropes and seemingly obliterates Blackwood. Blackwood, however, makes a comeback with machinegun kicks. Both men, thus far, look equally good and are playing their roles in the match very well. Tarik looks dominant and violent, and Blackwood looks alternatively courageous and desperate in his war to overcome his opponent.

The two men go back-and-forth like this a bit and then, just as I noticed and wrote down that it had been a good while without any chairs being used, Blackwood ups the ante with a chair-assisted lungblower. He only gets a two count off of it so he goes up top and dives with a chair held under him. Tarik dodges and Blackwood hurts only himself. The final sequences of the match kicks the violence up another notch, as Tarik goes out of the ring and brings back a special, white chair and proceeds to wreck both Blackwood and the chair with thunderous shots. After brutalizing Blackwood with some nice chair offense, including a thankfully protected headshot, Tarik finishes off his prey with a top rope stomp to Blackwood’s head on a chair, which Blackwood prepared to take a little too obviously. Tarik wins and post-match gives Blackwood the respect the Smash newcomer had wanted from the beginning.

This match was fun, but I wish the pacing had been a bit better and that more chairs had been used in fresh ways. I really didn’t like that I was wondering when they would next use a chair for as long as I had been when I took note of it. Maybe reducing some of the brawling time and stacking the chair spots more back-to-back could have helped.

Grade: B+
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Look at those beautiful, bearded bastards!

Match 4: Tabarnak de Team (Thomas Dubois and Mathieu St-Jacques) vs. Super Smash Brothers (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) – Tag Team Elimination Table Match

These two teams were at each other’s throats from the moment the match began. The SSB saw an early advantage but TdT turned it around, chopping them down with some robust lariats. The action spills outside the ring and they brawl in pairs all around, eventually meeting up on the far side of the ring from me. SSB take thorough control at this point and drop St-Jacques hard on the apron and set up a table next to the apron. Uno scraps with St-Jacques on the apron and catches him in the SSB’s finishing piledriver/penalty kick combo and drop him through the table for a very early elimination.

Dubois then plays the outnumbered but scrappy hero for the audience. Dubois scraps hard with Stu, who had introduced a second table to the ring corner before Dubois had recovered. They do some sick reversal spots and Dubois comes out on top. Uno rushes back in just in the nick of time to prevent Dubois from eliminating Stu. Dubois scrambles as he fights both Super Smash Brothers but they’re too much and he winds up getting stomped to oblivion.

With the SSB on the verge of victory, St-Jacques comes galumphing back down to the ring, with a horde of men in crew shirts trying to hold him back. Amusingly, and tellingly, they’re all wearing red shirts. This distracts the SSB who lose focus of Dubois. Stu takes a running leap and flies over the ring post and wrecks St-Jacques on the floor, along with those crew members around him. Dubois recovers just in time to take a moonsault off the post outside count, taking everyone down again. The crowd popping hard at each big moment. At this point another table has been set up outside, and I honestly cannot remember when it got there, and St-Jacques tries to get in to the ring but a red shirt is holding him back when Uno gets back into the fray. He charges at St-Jacques to hit him with a big boot, but the Frenchman dodges and instead Uno sends the poor crew member crashing through the table in his stead.

The wreckage of tables lay all around the ring and TdT get in the ring together, looking to double team Evil Uno. More red shirts get involved and TdT send them packing. Both teams go back and forth in an amazing reversal filled sequence that sees Uno laid up against the table in the corner and, inevitably, Stu tossed hard into him sending both members of the SSB through the table together and giving TdT the definitive win.

Tabarnak de Team = Carnage and Ref/Crew Bumps. While I’ll admittedly bemoan most matches with this level of non-Wrestler involvement, there’s something about the wild drunken lumberjack gimmick of Monsieurs St-Jacques et Dubois that works with this kind of carnage. It’s a spectacle. After this match the crowd started a Tag Team Titles chant, which I would love to see happen.

Grade: A-
Match 5: Psycho Mike vs. Braxton Sutter – “What’s in the Box?” Match

Writing a summary and commentary on this match is in no way going to be able to express the true joy that it brought me. At many moments I was doubling over with laughter. Yet, on the other hand, the action was treated remarkably seriously. I’m going to try and do it justice.

It is important to note that this match is the culmination of a months long developing feud between the two men, tag team partners and oily good brothers. They both come to the ring with the same music, with their tag team name emblazoned on the screen. They started fighting with each other after a string of losses. During their feud a mystery box, brightly wrapped in paper, had been introduced in vignettes and matches, by the absurd and lovable buffoon Psycho Mike. As the two men faced off in the ring for their grudge match, Mike cuts a promo and challenges Sutter to a “What’s in the Box?” match. This elicits a series of laughter and chants from the crowd. The match kicks off and no one, not even the referee, knows the rules (and trust me, I asked him!)

They go back-and-forth with huge wallops on each other, throwing haymakers. Sutter scrambles to cut Mike off when he heads for the Box, afraid of what might be inside it. At some point someone had managed to place a giant box wrapped in bright red paper on the stage. They spill out of the ring and they brawl up to and around the box on the stage, but neither man touches the mysterious package. They head back towards the ring and brawl some more. Sutter is tossed from the ring and Mike goes to take a dive out onto his estranged tag team partner. Unluckily for him, Sutter retrieves a weapon and wallops him in the head with it. It takes a moment for me to catch on, as they are on the opposite side of the ring from me, but the weapon is a roll of wrapping paper. Mike sells it like a kendo stick.

This match quickly shows its secret, true colours: It is athletic and both men are treating it as deadly serious, with weapons that are completely silly being treated by those in the match like diabolical implements of devastation. They slam each other on stacks of wrapping paper as it unravels from the rolls they are swinging at each other like swords. Mike takes control with a big boot and dumps out a bag of Christmas ribbons from a sack, mimicking the way people spill thumbtacks, and they work a series of reversals and avoidance around them like they pose a real threat. Eventually Sutter hits a nice neckbreaker on Mike, dropping him hard on the ribbons. By this time I am dying laughing in the audience.

They brawl back up the entrance way to the stage and Sutter knocks Mike back through the curtains and takes the box back to the far side of the ring. Upon realizing that his foe is nowhere to be seen, Sutter goes back to the stage to get him back, and suddenly Mike emerges with an even bigger box and beats on Sutter all the way back to the ring with it. They build to a closing superplex spot where Mike hurls Sutter through the two stacked boxes and they explode into a shower of balloons. Mike pins Sutter amidst the balloon filled ring and I am sufficiently charmed. Post match they ham it up and have a reunion, putting their differences aside and embracing in an oily hug as the Well-Oiled Machines once again.

I loved how dead serious the wrestling was amidst the sheer nonsense of the match’s premise and implementation. The juxtaposition of harmlessness and intense aggression was superb. I laughed so much and at no point did the performers break character. Badass silliness is a word I’d use to describe this. That post match loving reunion literally had me hunched over in my seat, doubled up with laughter.

Grade: A+
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“Speedball” Mike Bailey is having one hell of a year with all the great matches he’s had in the Canadian independent scene and in DDT.

Match 6: Mike Bailey vs. Bobby Lashley

I feel blessed to have been able to see Mike Bailey two times in August thus far! He may just be the best babyface underdog in the world right now. This match would build its entire narrative around that fact. Lashley cut an immediate promo on Bailey before the match began, mocking him for his stature and telling him to just lay down and make it easy for himself. Bailey obliged in so much as he lay down for Lashley, but we all knew this Speedball wasn’t going to take the easy road out. Bailey scored the first hit, springing to his feet and kicking the overly cocky Lashley, who was selling prints of him with Donald Trump at his merch table, right in the head.

Bailey starts off by fighting very defensively against the much larger man. He does this by using long range kicks to keep Lashley at a distance and scrambling to avoid grapples when Lashley powers through for a takedown. Suddenly Bailey switches into offense with a flurry of kicks and the match explodes into a segment where they run the ropes. Lashley comes out on top using his mass. Lashley looks super impressive with his vertical suplex. A huge tower of muscle where a man once was. It’s crazy.

While Bailey is able to get in some good offense, the story here quickly switches to one where Lashley is the supreme force, the bigger mass of humanity. Lashley picks bailey up and slams him into the buckles hard. He locks in a submission and grinds down on Bailey for a long time, his cruelty building Bailey’s underdog heat up hard. To cap it off he tosses the bedraggled Bailey out of the ring and slams him into the one barricade in the venue. He takes his time to beat on Bailey, rolling back into the ring just long enough to break the count and continue his assault.

With Lashley looking thoroughly dominant the underdog heat for Bailey reaches a boiling point and he makes an explosive comeback to sate the crowd’s desires. He unleashes a flurry of kicks and beautiful high flying, flippy offense. They go back and forth, escalating the moves into bigger and bigger slams and strikes, until out of seemingly nowhere Lashley catches Bailey with a spear out of mid springboard and gets the three count win, deflating all the heat. Post match he puts bailey over big time and tells him that he should be on TV somewhere by now… did he not know this was being filmed for TV?

This was a very fun match that told a different kind of story, built around the distinctly different physical builds and the unique match up it would present. On a card this stacked it managed to stand out because it presented something unique, without ever deviating from being a standard one-fall match.

Grade: A-
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Both of these men have a valid claim to being Champion of the Smash Wrestling audiences’ hearts!

Match 7: Mark Haskins vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Wrestling Championship Match

They open the match with a scramble and flurry of technical prowess which quickly turns into strikes and slams. Haskins is the first to take the fight outside the bounds of the ring, diving on Dux and then chopping the shit out of him and booting him in the head. Dux lays his punishment in with heavy blows and Haskins sells it well, doing a good job looking beaten and weary from the assault. Dux keeps Haskins on the defenses, fighting off his opponent’s flurries of action and sneaking in good moves of his own. Haskins catches Dux with a spin into a cross arm breaker and then rolls through that into another submission when Dux tries to escape, but Dux pushes through and still looks strong when he gets to the rope and breaks the hold.

At this point they transition into an amazing sequence filled with reversals from both men and capped off with a huge stomp-like dropkick by Haskins to a seated Dux. Dux, however, won’t stay down and counters Haskin’s continued onslaught into a Death Valley Driver, which itself is followed by a highly athletic sequence where both men search for the win over their opponent. Herein Haskins looks great with his submissions and his control over ring positioning. Eventually Dux reverses Haskins into a crossface, but the Brit escapes and puts Dux in a Sharpshooter, which Dux escapes. This exchange puts both men in a position of equal heat, equal advantage against the other.

Haskins keeps the pressure on Dux with a pair of Death Valley Drivers as the crowd fluctuates their support between them both. Unable to put Dux, the Wrestling Machine, away with that he starts superkicking Dux in the head repeatedly, going for a pin attempt each time, but the champion is resilient and kicks out each time. Dux powers through the hard-hitting offense of his opponent and scores a stalling avalanche brainbuster followed shortly by a big kick and a saido suplex. Somehow Haskins survives the flurry and they mix it up again, and hit each other with mirrored head kicks. They recover and go right back at each other, exchanging strikes before Haskins catches hold of Dux for a big spinning DDT and superkick combo. Dux isn’t fazed by this flurry and so Haskins tries to go for another DDT, but Dux reverses it into a brainbuster, then picks Haskins up immediately for a second brainbuster to put all doubt about his title reign to rest.

This was genuinely the best title defense I have seen Dux wrestle. He and Haskins worked very well together, and were able to maintain a high pace without damaging the dramatic moments that make a championship match matter. Haskins said he’ll be back, and I genuinely wouldn’t mind if next time he is he takes the belt off of Dux. He’s proven to me that he isn’t in Smash just to get paid, he is here to put on one hell of a show.

Grade: A
Conclusion:

Go see a Smash show if you’re in Toronto or they come to your neighbourhood. You never really know what you’re going to see, but a good time is guaranteed. This show surprised me in many ways and I am so happy to have been there in person.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Leave a comment here!

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#DiscoveringWrestling #032 – Montreal’s First Ever Superkick Party!

On August 4th I left my day job a bit early and went right to Union Station, my bags already with me all day at my desk, for a quick five hour ride up to Montreal. My purpose: To see the Young Bucks wrestle in the legendary IWS, International Wrestling Syndicate, the promotion that spawned Kevin Steen and El Generico, who became pretty big deals under different names recently. The impetus for this trip was the opportunity to see, in person, one of the greatest tag teams in ever, the Young Bucks, have a match against two of my favorite Canadian independent tag teams, Tabarnak de Team. I’ve seen the Bucks wrestle several times, including in the Tokyo Dome, but I had never seen them work in a setting like I knew IWS would be. On the other hand I have watched TdT come up in a much more intimate way. I remember them working for nCw back when they were young and green and not a tag team, and I have seen them craft and evolve their gimmick touch by touch until they hit this amazing groove they have been on as of late. The prospect of these two teams colliding excited me. It was an easy sell.

So I queued up for the Meet and Greet with the Bucks, and I queued up again to get into the show. The venue was cramped, people standing in the stairwells just to get a view of the ring, at this sold out show. Amazingly it didn’t get too hot with near 300 people crammed in the teeny-tiny night club, mostly occupied by the ring and a conveniently placed bar. Drinks were rather affordable too. It had an intense and intimate atmosphere but a big fight feel, everyone abuzz with excitement and a sea of Bullet Club shirts all over the place.

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Scott “Jagged” Parker dropped both his titles on this night, one in a match and one being vacated due to his suspension. Is he NXT bound? Some in the crowd certainly thought so.

Match 1: Black Dynamite vs. Scott Parker (c) – IWS World Heavyweight Championship Match

The night starts with Mike Paterson, Black Dynamite’s manager, cutting a fun, comedic promo, pumping the crowd up, and getting a chant of “You Drink Breast Milk” started. With the crowd pumped up to see these two clash, Parker plays the perfect heel by ducking outside the ring each time Black Dynamite tries to engage. They play these antics up and Parker uses these moments to frustrate and take advantage of Dynamite’s temper as he chases the champ around. Scott “Jagged” Parker uses everything in his heel toolbox to get the advantage in the early parts of this match, including using Dynamite’s manager as a human shield when Dynamite tries to dive on him. All these antics give him opportunities to control the flow of the match and he uses his momentum to stuff any comebacks Dynamite attempts.

With Dynamite in a disadvantageous position Parker starts breaking out his technical prowess, including solid suplexes, but he cannot keep his opponent down for the three count. At this point the match goes into IWS’s hardcore territory and Jagged gets some chairs and tosses Dynamite headfirst into on in the corner and then hits him with a low blow when he can’t make him tap to a Dragon Sleeper. In a true show of babyface energy, Black Dynamite stay in the game after getting dropped on a chair with a facebuster. At this point Parker clocks the ref for the first of many ref bumps in the evening. Without the referee present, Dynamite tries to make a comeback but IWS owner Manny runs in and he and Parker beat on Black Dynamite furiously until Paterson interferes, saving Dynamite from a table spot. At this point Dynamite recovers, no sells a chair shot, and powerbombs Parker through a table to pick up the win and become the new IWS World Heavyweight Champion.

This match itself wasn’t anything super great, and felt a bit rushed. I’ve seen Parker give better performances in the past and Black Dynamite looks like he has more he can show off than this, but it was the opening match. For a title match, it felt underwhelming and overbooked. I am curious to see more of Black Dynamite though.

Grade: C+
Match 2: Gordie O’Toole, Buster Barao, and Shayne Hawke vs. Matt Angel, Frank Milano, and Steven Mainz

The match starts off with some quick tag sequences that show off the talents of the men in the ring, particularly showing off the talents of the smaller, flippier face team of Angel, Milano, and Mainz. It builds up to a huge shmoz of dives to the outside, with even Hawke taking flight. Back in the ring, they do a 6-man suplex spot, followed by the indie multi-man everyone gets their shit in sequence. This leaves Angel and Hawke standing and they exchange strikes, with Hawke coming out with the upper hand. This is followed by another sequence with everyone getting their stuff in, big moves all over the place. Unfortunately at this point things got awkward, as there was a big pause where it seemed like the performers involved, Bario, Angel and Milano, just sorta stayed still in the ring in their spots waiting for someone else to move. Milano gets a moonsault on Bario for the win.

This match had more than its fair share of botchy moments, but the dudes on the winning team (Angel, Milano, and Mainz) came out of the showing looking like they have a lot of potential.

Grade: B-
Match 3: Stephany St-Clair vs. Kath Von Goth vs. Veda Scott – Winner is Inaugural IWS Women’s Champion

Kath Von Goth dominates the opening moments of the match with test of strength spots against each opponent, which logically makes sense as she is the biggest in the match. Nevertheless, Veda Scott takes both Von Goth and St-Clair down with a tandem attack. Veda works over St-Clair in the ring while Von Goth just sort of chills at ringside. This would become a nagging point for me during the match. Von Goth certainly looked the rookie in this match, and the way she just sorta hung around outside until it was time for her next spot in the ring felt very out of character for the biggest person in the match. Very arguably at this early stage she had not been hit with anything hard enough to take that much steam out of her.

Once back in the ring, Von Goth tries to throw her opponents with what I can only imagine are supposed to be suplexes but things just don’t go right and it looks awful. She does, eventually, pull out a nice corner cannonball on St-Clair and a big slam on Veda Scott but can’t get the three count. they do a Doom’s Day Device spot and Veda goes for pinning opportunities on both of her opponents but St-Clair makes a comeback and wrecks Veda and s8ubsequently forces Von Goth to tap out, becoming the first ever IWS Women’s Champion!

The winner chosen here was apparent from the early moments of the match, as St-Clair is the more experienced local in the match. I couldn’t imagine them putting the belt immediately on someone as green as Kath Von Goth or as unlikely to be available for future dates as Veda Scott. I was speaking with a friend involved with the promotion after the show about why now was the time for the IWS to create a women’s title. I was wondering if it was bandwagon jumping, or if something else was the impetus, and he provided me with an answer that excited me. He told me that recently the training classes for new wrestlers in Montreal had moved from being approximately ten percent students being female to approximately fifty percent. It’s great to hear that more women are getting in to classes and I look forward to seeing who comes out of montreal in the future.

Grade: C+
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Brute Van Slyke is a really cool man to see perform live. He’s like the second coming of Bam Bam Bigelow.

Match 4: Big Magic vs. eXess vs. Bob Anger vs. Brute Van Slyke – IWS World Heavyweight #1 Contendership Match

The match starts off with Anger throwing Big Magic and eXess out of the ring, facing off with Brute Van Slyke alone. I never had a true appreciation for how massive Van Slyke is until I saw him live in this match. Indeed, he is too massive for Anger and he easily knocks down his smaller opposition. Of course, in a four man match, there is always the other men to pay attention to. Van Slyke is tossed from the ring by eXess who quickly ties Anger up in the ropes with a submission, fully legal in this hardcore promotion apparently. On the outside Big Magic rams Van Slyke into the corner post, giving the big man a valid reason to stay down on the outside. He then capitalizes on the weakened Anger while his security cronies are sent after Brute Van Slyke.

Infuriate by this act of cowardice, the Green Phantom chases Big Magic’s security away after they have thrown a remarkably huge amount of baby powder into Anger’s eyes. I could taste the powder in the air as it wafted around Club Unity. Van Slyke makes his comeback here with a huge suplex on Big Magic. At this point in the match Brute comes in at full force and lays waste to the opposition one after another, shrugging off strikes until eXess catches him with an enzuigiri and top rope knee drop. Big Magic breaks up the pinning predicament, costing eXess a potential victory, and locks him in a Boston Crab. At this point Brute Van Slyke just lingers on the outside for far too long doing nothing as Big Magic and eXess go through their spots in the ring. He comes back in at just the right moment to prevent eXess from winning and hits him with the Greetings from Oneida, New York and gets the victory.

Regrettably this match felt like it had too much down time in it and, simultaneously, like it was too over booked with extraneous individuals. Really only Brute Van Slyke came out looking good, which is particularly odd as Big Magic is a genuinely good performer whom I’ve watched many times and enjoyed more than this outing.

Grade: C+
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These two are destined for greatness, and for very different reasons.

Match 5: Buxx Belmar vs. Mike Bailey

Before the match Belmar is up to his usual gross out antics, chugging from a water bottle with cigarettes in it, and spilling it on the ring too. Bailey, amusingly, plays into it very well and is grossed out to the point where he gets the referee to clean up the mess before he will wrestle. With a start like that I knew the two men knew how their characters would interact, but I had no idea how amazing the performance would become.

The opening of the match has Bailey trying to lock up with Belmar, only for his opponent to gross his way out of the lock up, by spitting in his hands or rubbing them in his pants in suggestive ways. There is a long delay to the match really kicking it into gear because of Belmar’s gross out antics, but all of a sudden bailey kicks Belmar hard and the gears shift immediately. They run the ropes and bailey catches Belmar with a good dropkick.

After Buxx Belmar misses a dive to the outside Bailey nails him with flying knees and a brutal running kick he had to clear a path through the crowd to perform. Back in the ring Bailey takes a page from his time in Japan and lays machinegun kicks into Belmar in the corner, sending visions of NOAH’s glory days into my brain. They move about and  shift positions and Bailey goes in for another kick on Buxx, and this is where the match gets really fun. To counter Bailey’s kick, Buxx grabs his foot and sucks on his toes – maybe I should have mentioned that Bailey wrestles barefoot? Either way, it stopped Bailey dead in his tracks and he had no idea what to do about it.

This gives Buxx an opening and he uses it to hit big moves in sequence, rocking Bailey but unable to secure a pin. bailey capitalizes on Buxx missing atop rope legdrop by hitting moonsault knees and a Gotch-style piledriver but can’t get the three count. This builds up to one of the most fluid and exciting spots I have seen live. Bailey is on the apron looking to springboard in at Buxx, but the Dirty Buxx Belmar thinks ahead and charges at Bailey. It looks like he’s going to spear Bailey to the floor, but instead he flies through the ropes and crashes to the floor as Speedball leaps over him and fluidly into a moonsault off of the top rope and out onto the already crashed Belmar. It was remarkable.

Bailey, in firm control, gets Belmar back into the ring and hits him with the stiffest German Suplex and Lariat I have ever seen Bailey do, but Buxx kicks out after each one, earlier in the count than the last move. It is worth tangentially noting here that every time Bailey comes back from Japan he seems to have gotten tighter and more aggressive in his delivery, and this progression excites me.

In classic Buxx fashion he goes to his gross out tactics, sucking on Bailey’s toes again and refusing to let go – and to his credit Bailey sold it like he was being bitten by the grossest animal ever. Speedball escapes and Buxx catches him with a Snapmare Driver but Bailey kicks out. Buxx then spits the cigarette water he’s been keeping with him in bailey’s face and hits him with a sit-down pinning hip attack and almost gets the win. Bailey comes out on fire, laying into Belmar with a series of kicks but Belmar keeps countering Bailey’s attacks until he works his way into his own finishing move and puts Bailey down for the three count.

this match was filled with more unexpected kickouts than I knew what to do with and showed what both men can do at the top of their game. To me, this is a match I can point back to as proof that these two men have big time, top of the card potential in them. potential I have seen grow and improve for many years running. Even better than impressing me, the crowd fucking loved the match and were rolling with the momentum just as they should be.

Grade: A
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Honestly, I was hyped for this match for several months!

Match 6: The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) vs. Tabarnak de Team (Mathieu St-Jacques and Thomas Dubois) (c) – IWS Tag Team Championship Match

Both teams were showered with love by the audience as they made their entrances, and it was no doubt at all that the crowd was hot for this match. They had been hot for this while lined up for the meet and greet near on five hours earlier, and that heat grew as this tight venue was packed with loads of people.

The match itself begins with solid basics and technical work on display by all four men, punctuated by potent banter. Loads of charisma on display, in two languages. Once the action picks up, the Young Bucks go right into their Greatest Hits collection, hitting everything one would see in a Top 10 Moves of the Young Bucks video on YouTube. Before they can get into Meltzer Driver-territory, TdT counter the Terminator Dive with a pair of spears and then dive on the bucks themselves. The adrenalin quotient is ramped up immediately by the Bucks then hitting the Terminator Dive successfully.

The Bucks try to take the upper hand, attacking Dubois’s beard, but it seems to just piss him up and Dubois unloads on Matt with just a clusterfuckload of backbreakers. Then Tabarnak de Team use solid teamwork, frequently tagging in and out, and their bulkier frames to control the flow of the match and isolate Matt in the ring. Even more than that, they use the same heelish tactics their opposition do, and like their opposition, remain charming throughout it all.

When Matt makes the inevitable hot tag, Nick comes in and hits his solo spots, leading to the much beloved facebuster. They quickly enough transition back into double-team work, ramping back up on their Young Buck’s Greatest Hits tour. Before the Bucks can steamroll the champs, St-Jacques catches them with a double DDT, giving Dubois the chance to show off his gorgeous belly-to-belly suplex. He tries to fly at the Bucks, but takes out the ref instead. With the referee out of commission the action doesn’t slow down for a second. Tabarnak hit their number one tag team finisher, a running punch to an opponent being hung in a powerbomb position, followed by the obvious powerbomb. They get an audience-chanted six count but without the referee they realize the pin is pointless. They get a table set up in the corner but shenanigans ensue and again the ref gets in the way and TdT spear him through the table. This leads to a remarkable sequence where the Young Bucks superkick Dubois out of mid-Moonsault, prompting the crowd to go apeshit, and then Meltzer him. The ref is slow to recover and is prevented from making the three count by St-Jacques, who pulls him out of the ring.

The match breaks down in to chaos, and the Young Bucks manage to superkick the ref. The teams exchange strikes a bunch. I honestly think multiple referees were involved but I couldn’t keep track as the action was furious. To break up an attempted Sunset Flip, St-Jacques grabs the ref and piledrives him on to Matt. Then Dubois hits his moonsault on him, and dodges when Nick tries to swanton on him, causing him to crash onto his brother. Then Tabarnak de Team hit their piledriver/powerbomb combo and get the three count. Tabarnak de Team retain their title.

Overall this match was really fun and filled with shocking, surprising moments. For all I am familiar with both teams, they still managed to put new things in front of my eyes. At a certain point I thought the ref bumps were getting to be a bit much, and then they just kept doing more and I couldn’t help but like how it became a subplot of the match. It passed into the realm of raucous, enjoyable absurdity. It was great fun. Post-match some dudes charged out to attack TdT and the Young Bucks teamed up with TdT to send the attackers packing, giving fans of all stripes a good go-home moment.

Grade: A
Conclusion:

While the undercard was unremarkable Indie fare, the final two matches delivered excitement in spades to an already hot crowd. It was definitely worth the trip up to Montreal to see this special match, and I hope that people take the time to seek it out and give Montreal wrestling some room in their grappling diet.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Leave a comment here!

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#NoLookingBack #021 – Upgrades!!!

Right now I’m sitting at my newly rearranged and upgraded work space. I’ve upgraded to a dual monitor set up with a new wireless keyboard and it is so much more comfortable than I have ever been before while working at home. I have a mitochondrial condition that causes me optic nerve death earlier than I should be experiencing it, and it is slowly degenerating. One of the hardest things for me to do lately has been working on my personal art projects after working a full day. My job requires me to use a computer screen all day and my eyes get tired. All of my passion work – writing, drawing, lettering, video editing, et al. – are visual tasks. It’s gotten to the point where sometimes my eyes just hurt too much to do much other than close them and just lay there. It’s really limited my ability to advance projects because straining my eyes on my fifteen point six inch laptop screen has been gruelling. With this new monitor, at nearly double the size and with a variety of really amazing eye strain reducing technology, damn! I feel like I can just work and work and work. I can size it large enough that I don’t even have to strain in the slightest. I feel that, at this moment, with this simple expenditure of money, I have set myself ahead of where I was projected to be without it.

Hopefully you’ll see a whole lot more content from me moving forward.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #031 – Can Anthem #MakeImpactGreat Again? (Part 3)

The list of international promotions who have had working relationships with Impact, in its various incarnations, is a lengthy one. I’m not going to lie and say that they’ve always made excellent use of these relationships, and the talent that has moved through their roster because of them, but, for a variety of reasons, they have always excited me.

Right now, Global Force Wrestling has working relationships with Pro Wrestling NOAH, AAA, and The Crash. Perhaps not too surprisingly they have already begun to lean on these relationships to bolster their roster and provide fresh, distinct match ups to their viewing audience. Most prominently featured, thus far, and becoming semi-regulars in the process, are the team of Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid, courtesy of The Crash. For many weeks now this pair have featured in the Tag Team landscape and have garnered for themselves a fair bit of love from those paying attention to the product.

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Look at how happy they are! But Garza Jr. recognizes this fan can’t spell his name right…

In more recent weeks, Impact Wrestling’s audience have been treated to the spectacle of Drago and Taiji Ishimori being entered into the latest installment of the Super X Cup, a four-company interpromotional tag team title match at Slammiversary, and the sheer bewildering absurdity of a Naomichi Marufuji versus Moose match for the Impact Grand Championship. Impact Wrestling talent have also found themselves abroad, working in NOAH and The Crash themselves this year.

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Drago picks up the win over Sammy Guevara and moves on to the Semi-Finals in the newly reborn Super X Cup! Seriously, guys, this X Division is good!

While many will cling to the well-documented story of Okada, as a young lion on excursion, having his time in TNA be a completely missed opportunity – and as hindsight would have it, woah yeah that’s a missed opportunity – few will give them credit for their successes. At present they have repeatedly used their inter-promotional guests to great effect, booking them to look strong in victory and defeat, making certain to set up their losses in ways that do not tarnish their value as special attractions for the brand. In doing this well enough they have elevated both the X and Tag Team divisions, injecting meaningful depth into a roster rife with instability, both looming and present. This presentation is respectful to their partner promotions and beneficial to making their own talent look competitive.

While the tag division, post-Slammiversary, has been on a simmer with LAX’s involvement with El Patron, the X division is at a full boil with the Super X Cup, the budding feud between Sonjay Dutt and Trevor Lee, and the ascendancy of Matt Sydal all going on at the same time. That’s a lot of TV time dedicated to the division. The fresh match ups and high quality performances brought to Impact Wrestling by their international guests are a strong component in making that time worth watching. Not only do they book them into matches up and down the card, they spend a decent amount of energy introducing their audience to who these guests are, getting them over and giving them depth enough so that the audience feels it is safe to invest in them. Realistically I do not know how long the current selection of talent will be in play, but it doesn’t feel like they’re just going to be here for a short time and have no meaning to the greater whole. That feeling, in the moment, is possibly more valuable than whether or not they actually succeed at it because it has generated intrigue and buzz enough to get people talking.

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This match was really quite amazing, and the set up here for Low-Ki’s double stomp had me excited. You knew it was coming and you couldn’t wait!

This formula reminds me of when, in times past, TNA had successfully utilized their international talent. I remember a young Hiroshi Tanahashi, then the IWGP U-30 champion, having matches with AJ Styles that excited me. Back then, much like the recent match between Moose and Marufuji, run ins marred the match itself but helped to keep the question of who would have won without it in the mix. Furthermore, Impact’s marketing of Wrestle Kingdom III as Global Impact  gave fans a window into a world that only tape traders and hardcore fans had had access to. This is arguably not something that was remarkably beneficial to them back then. Nevertheless  it did draw me further towards Puroresu which I am thankful for. However with the increased power of social media and the increasingly tightly-knit nature of the online fandom, I have seen people talking about and watching Impact who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered to pay it any mind at all. Most notably English speaking fans of their foreign partners, such as NOAH, who were abuzz about the announcements of the partnerships and the action that has unfurled from these relationships in those domains.

With the return of the Super X Cup, one must wonder if these partnerships could be leaned on to populate the roster of a potentially rebooted team-based World X Cup. The previously annual World X Cup events were always a highlight of TNA’s calendar year for someone like me. It put a lot of new talent in front of my eyes and introduced me to new companies, new styles of wrestling, new fan favorites. Indeed, I can say that I likely would have walked down my path into Puroresu fandom a lot later in life if Then-TNA hadn’t put so much of it in front of my eyes. If I had never discovered that Global Impact WAS Wrestle Kingdom III then I don’t know where I’d be as a wrestling fan now.

Right now, Global Force (a.k.a. Impact Wrestling f.k.a. Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling) sits at the crux of a fascinating international inter-promotional alliance. In the current landscape of Pro-Wrestling you have a handful of alliances building and consolidating their power bases. The WWE has its own, with Evolve, IPW, and Progress being willing underlings and talent farms for them. Then there is the second tier, featuring Ring of Honor, NJPW, CMLL, and Rev Pro. Then you have the third tier, consisting of AAA, NOAH, GFW, and The Crash (and, in an indirect way, Lucha Underground). This third alliance is seen by many as the black sheep of the industry.   GFW has a well documented, turbulent history full of highs and lows, with rumors of the company’s imminent shut down circling about every few months (or so it seemed). NOAH, once a shining star in the constellation Puroresu, now a brown dwarf barely visible in the night sky, were undone by untimely deaths and financial troubles which led them into an unfavorable relationship with NJPW. AAA is plagued by rampant rumbling rumors and twitter beefs about their backstage politicking and talent disputes. Only The Crash escapes the negativity-storm unscathed, and that is realistically because it’s very young. Humorously, The Crash spawned out of a splinter group of talent who left AAA because of their dissatisfaction with management.

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It was kind of surreal seeing NOAH’s logo on an Impact show, partly because I grew up watching both in my Post-E days.

Brought together, however, their leadership stood united on the ramp at Slammiversary, and their talent have worked matches together on Impact. 2017 has been a year of rebirth for GFW Impact and NOAH, seeing both companies turning out good shows and rededicating themselves what made them work in the first place. During their dark times the two companies didn’t feel like themselves, they felt like a bad version of another place. Can they lean on each other, and their turbulent Mexican partners, to revitalize, reinvigorate, reinvent, and rebrand themselves as themselves? Or will the immense potential presented by this pool of exchangeable talent go to waste? If I were to base my verdict on the past several months of Impact television, I’d say we’re in store for some amazing wrestling over the next few years… but the specter of the past looms large, and the only way to know for sure is to tune in each and every week to find out!

Do you have any feedback or questions? Leave a comment here!

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#DiscoveringWrestling #030 – #TorontoWrestling at Love Life, Love Wrestling #SupportTheScene

On July 16th Smash Wrestling held their first event in the city of Toronto since they announced their new television deal with the Fight Network, and it was all being recorded for their new show. The recent weeks have seen a sea of big news for Smash Wrestling alongside the TV deal, including unveiling a new logo, and announcing an official partnership with Leduc’s Federation de la Lutte Quebecois. This show was named #SupportTheScene and it rang true for me, as I have not felt more like supporting the scene, spending my good money, on local indie Pro-Wrestling than I do now, than I do since Smash moved from the outskirts of the GTA in to Toronto proper and started making baller moves. It’s a good time for #TorontoWrestling and, more excitingly, a good time for Canadian wrestling as a whole.

Match 0: Mark Wheeler vs. Benjamin Boone

Boone is dominant right out of the gate, but Wheeler is very aggressive and turns momentum to his side. The match is built around some good striking and both men take big bumps off of a running lariat spot from Boone. Boone shows good energy with his suplexing, but for some reason the crowd was very cold. Wheeler busts out a pretty moonsault but misses. Boone hits him with what I can only describe as a package vertical suplex for the three count. Simple, short, fun opening match. Both men look like they have more to offer if given expanded time.

Grade: C
Match 1: Evil Uno vs. Brent Banks

Uno puts his superior power on display early in the match. Banks, on the other hand, uses very lucha libre styled work escape. Evil Uno plays up to his name and uses dirty tactics to get Banks outside of the ring and slams him hard, spine first, on the ring apron. The crowd reacts well, and on cue, to this violent display. Uno uses his nefarious upper hand to grind Banks down slowly. He snaps fingers, uses shenanigans, and gets a solid neckbreaker for a two count. Uno, in full heel mode, rakes, pokes, and bites Banks at every indecent opportunity.

Brent Banks turns the tide with a huge comeback slam, which he follows up on with an Asai DDT for a near fall. A huge corkscrew crossbody gives Banks the perfect opportunity for a Tope Suicida, but Uno catches him out of the air and drops him with a vicious tombstone piledriver on the hard concrete floor. The crowd explodes. Banks makes his way back into the ring at the nine count and Uno pounces on him, hitting a brainbuster for two. Banks gets his own near fall off of a surprise jackknife pin, and Uno gets another near fall on Banks off of an electric chair dropped into a neckbreaker on his knee. This build up of intensity leads to a sequence with a flurry of hard strikes exchanged between the two men and avoided attempts at finishing each other off until Banks gets his springboard cutter on Uno and puts him away for the three count.

I think this match would have served the Super Smash Bros storyline heading into Smash’s next show better had Uno won off of the electric chair neckbreaker so as to not have a loss heading into battle with the hottest tag team in the company, and it would also have truncated a match which in the end felt like it went on just a little too long.

Grade: B-
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Look at Kiyomiya’s intense death-glare.

Match 2: Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Stu Grayson

Kiyomiya controls the opening portion of the match with solid, fundamental wrestling. He grinds down on Grayson with submission holds and pin attempts. Unfortunately he cannot maintain the momentum after Grayson takes him down with a huge uranage like slam. This gives Grayson control and he starts working over Kiyomiya with strikes and ground and pound. They switch control back and forth based on their striking skills but Grayson lands a huge belly-to-back suplex on Kiyomiya for two to stuff his momentum. Grayson keeps cutting off the much younger competitor at every possible turn.

With all the speed his body has contained in it (and it’s a lot, folks! (gif link if I can find it) Kiyomiya lands a forearm to reverse positions, and gains control. He lands a series of good looking strikes and a ridiculously high angle missile dropkick, but can only get a two count. He follows that up with just the prettiest, most beautiful Fisherman’s Suplex Hold, getting himself another two count over Grayson. Unfortunately for the Young Lion on excursion, he cannot secure the victory and succumbs to Grayson who lands a nasty Torture Rack transitioned into an over-the-knee backbreaker for the win. Easily the most brutal looking backbreaker I have seen live.

Definitely an entertaining match that went to show how much potential Kiyomiya has, and also how undeniably great Grayson has been getting these last few months. He’s been around a while and yet I don’t think he’s ever been this exciting to watch before. Keep that up!

Grade: B-
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Here I am with Kaito Kiyomiya, after the show. Great flashback moment to me seeing him perform at Korakuen Hall on my trip to Tokyo.

Match 3: Scotty O’Shea vs. Matt Cross

Cross opens the match with a huge boot to O’Shea’s face. The action immediately spills outside the ring and they brawl near the corner post and then Cross hits a crazy elbow drop after hanging himself off of the post horizontally. It was very gymnastics-esque, and also very cool. Cross dominates until O’Shea catches him with an ear clap from behind. He keeps knocking Cross down, but cannot secure the three count after many pin attempts. O’Shea is shown to be forceful, but Cross is too resilient to be worn down. Each time Cross fights back, O’Shea stuffs his momentum back down, resisting the comeback with aggression and bravado.

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The goddamn manliest beard on the show!

Unfortunately for O’Shea, his bravado sows the seeds of his undoing. He taunts too much and lets Cross breathe. Cross flips his way out of danger and takes control by force of will and iron body combined. He springs around the ring like a musclely, beardy super ball. O’Shea tries to mount a comeback but misses a corner cannonball and this sets up a sequence with many attempts to hit moves but Cross comes out on top with his crazy shoulder springboard cutter for the win.

Like the other matches up to this point on the card, this match doesn’t quite make the transition from being entertaining into being great. Likewise, it also features good banter from the performers. This show was very vocal.

Grade: B
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There’s a whole lot of great talent in this match.

Match 4: Sebastian Suave, Braxton Sutter, and Tarik vs. Greed, Psycho Mike, and Kevin Blackwood

The bell rings and Braxton Sutter faces Greed to start us off. Sutter tries to get the upper hand on Greed, but he’s too strong. Frustrated and turned around, Sutter tries to tag in Psycho Mike, which generates a good moment of levity and builds on the story of their falling out as tag team partners. Instead of tagging himself out to safety, Sutter gets slammed by Greed. They switch it up and Psycho Mike and Sebastian Suave are in for their teams. They run the ropes and Mike knocks Suave down. Greed comes in and body slams Mike on to Suave, whom he is feuding with.

Tarik and Kevin Blackwood are the next two men to rotate in. It quickly breaks down to a scramble and brawling, and Blackwood comes out of it with a series of kicks to Tarik. Tarik and Suave work together and beat down on Blackwood, but he escapes and tags in Greed. In the ring Greed goes after Suave and it’s about this time that I realized how good a job this match is doing at building the storylines for these wrestlers heading into the next event. In that aspect this match is a great success, but without the appropriate commentary or having seen the last several months of matches, some of the nuances would be lost on an incoming fan.

The heels triple team Greed to get the advantage, and then isolate him with frequent tags to wear down on the biggest man in the match. They can’t maintain control over Greed and Blackwood gets a huge backstabber on Tarik after the beleaguered Greed finally tags out. The action spills out of the ring and Psycho Mike takes to the air, landing on all of his opponents. He is followed quickly by Blackwood and, inevitably, by Greed as well, leading to a massive wreckage of humanity on the floor. Back in the ring Greed dominates Tarik and Sutter with throws. But things aren’t all rosy for the faces, as Suave absolutely murders Blackwood with a torture rack drop.

Heading in to the closing stretch of the match, Mike hits suave with a huge Fisherman’s Buster, but Sutter is in to break up the pin. The match then descends into absolute chaos. Psycho Mike comes in with “the box” that has been a part of the feud between himself and Sutter and wails on people with it. Tarik and Blackwood then duelled each other with chairs. All of this in front of the referee and there were no DQs handed out. All of this leads up to Suave kicking Greed in the gonads, behind the referee’s back, setting up a flying knee from Tarik, and getting the win for his team.

All in all this match was very fun and filled to the brim with feud building and storytelling. Unfortunately, the rules suddenly not mattering in front of the referee neutered the impact of Suave low blowing Greed behind the ref’s back. If that had been the only shenanigans that happened in the match and the weapons had only been used afterwards, it probably would have made more sense.

Grade: B
Match 5: Fight or Flight (Vaughn Vertigo and Gabriel Fuerza) vs. Tabarnak de Team (Mathieu St-Jacques and Thomas Dubois)

The match opens with St-Jacques dominating Fuerza with brutal heel antics, but Fuerza recovers and Fight or Flight use teamwork to fight back against their physically domineering opposition. Regrettably, this leads to Tabarnak de Team stacking them in the corner and wrecking them. Fight or Flight try to mount a comeback with a good high-flying sequence, but TDT counter it with brutality and isolate Vertigo. They wail on him and he fights back, valiantly, but he can’t outsmart Dubois, who just keeps on top of him. St-Jacques tags in, rinse and repeat, Vertigo is no match for the Quebecois wrecking crew.

Vertigo finds his opening on Dubois with a huge Tornado DDT and promptly tags in Fuerza. Very surprisingly Fuerza clears the ring of both Dubois and St-Jacques with remarkable German suplexes on the burlier Frenchmen. He strings together some boss offense but TDT, in the end, are just too big for him to handle. The biggest Fight or Flight moves are kicked out of, and TDT intercept attempted dives with a tandem spears. Dubois and St-Jacques nail a combo hanging European uppercut and Powerbomb but only get a two count. Fight or Flight tease a comeback off of a sick backstabber and swanton bomb combo, but French power overcomes all and Tabarnak de Team turn the tides in their favour again. They absolutely murder Vertigo with a phenomenal moonsault slam from the top rope followed by a double team Alabama Slam, securing themselves the victory.

This match was filled with super great tag team action, and was built on easy, fun, clear storytelling. Both of these teams improve each time I see them, however TDT have really been amping up their performances lately. This match in particular gave me a sneak peek into one of my most anticipated matches of the summer, where TDT will be defending their IWS Tag titles against The Young Bucks. I expect to see that same moonsault slam from the top rope again. That move was amazing. At first I thought it was going to be an avalanche fallaway slam, and then he was moonsaulting while holding Vertigo in his arms. These guys are great.

Grade: A-
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Man, Smash’s match graphics always look so well made!

Match 6: Jay White vs. Kevin Bennett

Jay puts on a great display of technical aptitude to open the match, with a beautiful arm drag and then locking Bennett up tightly. Jay shows great charisma in how he deals with Bennett’s heel behaviour. He maintains firm control and looks really good. He lays chops in to Bennett, taking him on a tour of all four sides of the ring as he does so. In fact, for Bennett to mount any kind of an offense at all on Jay White he has to rely on the interference of his cronies. Once they start interfering they keep it up and Bennett takes every advantage he can out of the situation, looking like the most cowardly and opportunistic of heels.

No matter how heely Bennett acts, or how hard he hits Jay, each time Jay survives. Jay mounts his comeback with a series of strikes and a beautiful suplex. Bennett finds an opening and hits a spinning neckbreaker on Jay but cannot secure the pinfall. Jay comes back hard with a trio of beautiful suplexes and wrecks Bennett, throwing him hard into the corner with the final suplex. With the distraction provided by his cronies Bennett crotches Jay on the turnbuckle and throws him down hard from the top. This pattern plays out through the whole match, each time Jay looks to capitalize on his beautiful, crisp, clean, devastating offense the cronies get involved and delay him or distract him. Infuriated, Jay hits Bennett with a huge brainbuster and locks on a crippler crossface, Bennett tries to roll out of it but Jay keeps hold and turns it into an Anaconda Vice. Bennett taps out but his cronies distract the referee. Jay decides to take the cronies out of the equation but when he returns to deal with Bennett he gets a low blow. Suddenly a message from Frankie the Mobster plays, tying in with the long-term storylines between Bennett and Frankie, which distracts Bennett and gives Jay the opportunity to finish him off with a Cobra Clutch Suplex and a vicious flatliner.

Jay White is absolutely excellent. Bennett is a well-booked, well=performed heel. Regrettably the video from Frankie being what clinches the ending sequence was a bit detrimental to the overall narrative and weakened the quality of Jay’s face heat.

Grade: A-
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Ladies and Gentleman, your main event of the evening!

Match 7: Colt Cabana vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Championship Match

They scramble for position to start and quickly Colt gets up to some of his comedy antics, prompting Dux to ask him to “not be silly.” The two masters put on a great technical sequence, going hold for hold with each other, and putting on a display of action that is very favourable to me. So far I have seen Dux defend his title a handful of times and each defense has felt quite different from the last. This is both a compliment to Dux as a performer and to Smash’s booking of high quality, diverse talent for him to work with.

Clever and skillful work is on exhibition throughout this match. Both men move so fluidly from hold to hold, sequence to sequence, that it can only impress. Dux is the first to resort to striking, as neither man can outwrestle the other, and he is willing to take things to the next level to keep that championship in his possession. Colt Cabana gets angry over the transition from grappling to striking, almost seeming offended that a fellow technician would resort to crude fisticuffs. But Dux isn’t phased and comes out of a scramble of moves with a stupid hard DDT.

Dux decides that to maintain control of this match he has to get violent. He strikes Cabana with intensity, transitioning into the very aggressive side of his in-ring style. Cabana tries to turn the tide but Dux is unwavering, until the crafty Colt scores a nice flying head scissors and sends Dux for a tumble.  There’s a nice, lighthearted sequence where Colt looks to hit Dux with an elbow but can’t find it, he tries several times before eventually connecting and Colt injects his usual charm into the whole shebang. They go back-and-forth with each other in a fun series of moves where Dux can’t put Colt away. He tries for a single leg Boston Crab but to no avail. Colt finds his opening on Dux and gets in a hopping splash, but Dux kicks out and hits a death valley driver, resetting the momentum. They go back and forth again and shortly Dux counters Cabana into a brainbuster for the win.

A fun match that appealed to my sensibilities but was missing a certain element for a title match: At no point did I feel that Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana had even a chance of leaving Toronto with that title. Something about the atmosphere and presentation of the match didn’t tip it over that line.

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

Overall, this show was really great from a continuity perspective. The in-ring action may not be at the peaks I have seen it at previously, but the real meat of the matches came from watching the long-term stories of Smash Wrestling unfold.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #029 – Can Anthem #MakeImpactGreat Again? (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about the special feel and solid booking that GFW Impact Wrestling brought to its four weeks worth of television filmed in India. These shows, and the subsequent pay-per-view Slammiversary XV, featured a truly satisfying ratio between match time and segment time. This allowed for the matches to have, as they say, room to breathe. It gave the performers the room to develop the story of the match. With more meat to the in-ring portion of the product, the segments do not feel like they are robbing me of action I’d rather be seeing. This trend looks to be continuing in to Post-Slammiversay episodes of Impact as well.

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Look at that nice, slick logo!

I want to talk about the Swoggle and Rockstar Spud feud here in a positive light, which is funny to write down here because, by all rights, it was a waste of talent and TV time. It failed to do anything meaningful in-ring, and the entire story failed to make either man look particularly good. It was a sad expereince… except it wasn’t the same in the backstage vignettes. These segments were filmed to look like television drama rather than traditional backstage pro-wrestling cinematography. The critical successes of the #Broken Hardys’ gimmick and Lucha Underground’s entire presentation has clearly gotten through to someone in creative and they’ve decided to go all in on it. This decision elevated an otherwise idiotic set of cliched and meaningless feud into a campy, weird jaunt through dreary American hospital rooms to self-referential, bizarrely aware of itself, campy Indian cafeteria food fights and chase scenes through the streets.

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Look at that amazing framing!

This advanced presentation was not limited to Spud and Swoggle. Many other names benefitted from it. The training sessions with Borash and Park were filmed in a simillar fashion, and the entire middle portion of their Slammiversary match against Matthews and Steiner was a jaunt through the annals of Impact history which even included underwater camerawork. LAX and the strange musclely bromance of Eli Drake and Christopher Adonis also got caught up in these really fun vignettes of their own, that certainly felt like we were getting a look into these characters world’s outside of just an arena and dressing rooms and hanging a cloth on the wall, mounting a logo to it and calling it an office.Hell, they even made me care about the goddamn Mumbai Cats!

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They made me care about these monstrocities!

There’s a certain tone that runs through these segments that feels a bit irreverent. They know we’re in in the illusion and a lot of it comes off as tongue-in-cheek. At the same time as this new approach is being injected into the framework of Impact as a television show, the familiar tropes and stylings of Pro-Wrestling as Television bolster the bulwarks of the genre. They’ve freshened up the product without  what a wrestling fan, casual or hardcore, has come to expect about it. Continuing in this direction, and maintaining an upward momentum in quality storytelling (as they did with Dutt vs Low Ki, something I talked about last week) this could pay big dividends in making their product have its own identity again, instead of being looked at by many in the Pro-Wrestling fandom and community as a C-Grade version of the WWE.

Come on back next week, where I’ll talk about how GFW Impact is leaning on its great international alliances! Also, later this week tune in for my review of Smash Wrestling’s latest event!

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#DiscoveringWrestling #028 – Can Anthem #MakeImpactGreat Again? (Part 1)

I will admit to having been a wandering fan of NWA-TNA-IMPACT-GFW. I fell headlong into my fandom when they were on Spike, a channel I could finally get in my Canadian cable TV packages, which i had to beg my Mum to add to our package. During this time something resonated with me in Then-TNA more than WWE. The X Division was brilliant and somehow they managed to reinvent and rebirth characters whom the E had failed me on. I fell out of regularly watching them shortly after Hulk Hogan made the decision to take away the six-sided ring and try to convince me that his presence was beneficial to the company. Nevertheless, I have occasionally popped back in from time to time, trying to get back into the product that had provided me with so much joy.

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This Logo has gone through a lot of revisions in recent months.

Once Anthem purchased Impact Wrestling (and now GFW too, Double J somehow keeps on winning despite all odds) some interesting details and news started coming to light. Piquing my interest the most was the announcement that they were heading to India to film a series of episodes. One of my favourite things in Pro-Wrestling is seeing how different cultures engage with and reinterpret the art. Never before had a North American company broadcast shows filmed with an Indian audience and I knew I’d have to follow along and see what the crowd was like. If nothing else about the shows was good, at least I’d have a window into the Indian audience.

I tuned in a few weeks ahead of the India episodes, so that I wouldn’t be blind to the storylines heading into these special episodes. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how focused the shows were on in-ring action, and was greeted with the returns of Low-Ki and Sonjay Dutt. A clever decision geared towards helping reintroduce returning fans to the product’s new age with some familiar faces. I’m not going to break matches down here, or dissect every single nuance of every single story that Impact has had going on over the last five or six weeks. That would miss the point entirely. I’d like to talk about a selection of details that really highlight the deep potential their programming has displayed over the last while. This week I’m going to talk about what pulled me back in to the fold: their excursion to India.

Beyond making history, and beating the E to the punch, by being the first North American promotion to broadcast shows filmed in India, Impact’s time in Bollywood gave the viewer some notable ups, with very few downs. The crowd in attendance for these tapings was hot for the product. They were there to have a good time and reacted at all the appropriate times in the appropriate ways. I’m certain that India is capable of producing smarks but they didn’t make their presence felt the way they so often do in North American audiences. This may be because having full-fledged promotions running in India is a relatively recent phenomenon, with things like The Great Khali’s CWE and WrestleSquare being relatively fresh in the cultural zeitgeist. It may also be because the Impact brand lineage was one of the first to try and push into the Indian market and establish themselves a foothold, even going so far as to create the short-lived Indian based Ring Ka King promotion for that market. Maybe they just wanted to be excited for the spectacle of a live event. Whatever the reason, the audience was so into the show that they elevated the product.

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Moose got a good reaction from the audience, who quickly picked up on the arm pump mannerism and reacted vigorously for all performers.

Another distinct upside to the tapings in India was the booking of Sonjay Dutt’s storyline. The creative team built up a story that worked to engage and captivate both the North American and Indian audience at the same time. For the North American fans the story hinged upon Dutt’s inability to capture the X Division title in his lengthy tenure with the company, and was back-dropped with his return “home” to India where he finally captured the championship that had eluded him for so long. For the Indian fans he was an Indian underdog, coming to the ring with an eye patch over his wounded eye, competing for a championship on home turf. He came out of these episodes as a babyface to both audiences. The booking rewarded both the longtime Impact viewer and the hometown fans equally. More importantly, while they did play with Indian tropes throughout the shows, at no point did they pander towards xenophobia. This is the right way to go about making an Indian the central figure to an arc to attract the Indian audience. Compare this to the criticism often leveled at the E: Jinder Mahal is an Indian for an American audiences to hate. Sonjay Dutt is an Indian for an Indian and American audience to love. He’s a bigger face now than he ever was before. All of that without even mentioning how good the matches he had with Low-Ki were, easily the best work I have personally seen from Dutt. I’ll talk more about the in-ring product another time.

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To make the shows in India extra special, GFW Impact Wrestling even modified their match graphics and logo to reflect the colours of India’s flag.

Logistically I know that heading back there may not be easy or immediately cost effective but I do believe it would be to the benefit of the brand to make their presence in India a part of their annual schedule. It made the product feel extra special with the change in colours for the logos, and the different settings for the outdoors vignettes, and the simple but effective and respectful booking. If Anthem truly wants a “Global Force” in the business, they can do so if they can corner a solid share of the Indian market. Not only would it be financially beneficial to gain revenue from the huge Indian market, the difference in presentation to their North American audience would really make Impact feel special. If Anthem can capitalize on this market, and this special feeling to these shows, they just might #MakeImpactGreat again!

Come back next week where I’ll continue looking at the direction of GFW Impact Wrestling.

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#NoLookingBack #020 – No Witty Title

This week I go visit a lawyer at a free legal clinic for artists for the second time in one calendar year. I’ve had a strategic change of mind about a long ongoing situation and want to make certain that I go about it in the most secure way possible. I’ve found a new path towards resolution that sets me ahead instead of behind. Since it’s a legal matter, I won’t say any more about it specifically.

I don’t like feeling like I’m coming out on the losing side of a situation. It festers like a wound and sometimes this leads me to self-detrimental behaviours and feelings about my worth. Then again, sometimes I find a way forward in the ashes and rubble. The solution I came up with this time, if I can pull it off, provides me with a full and robust project to move forward with. It’s thrilling to have this prospect. If I cannot resolve my legal issue the way I want to, this failure has still provided me with a structure and concept that can be moved forward either way.

The steps I have taken towards creating these comic book projects has been fraught with failures and learning lessons. Too often I have come out feeling like I failed myself, and there are still ways in which I need to improve on the efficiency, efficacy, and other words that end in y, of my burgeoning skillset and projects under my purview. Nevertheless, I see ahead of me big successes and many, many more lessons to learn. I’m certain I will fail to live up to my own expectations time and time again, but I won’t be derailed. Moving forward is the only way to pursue this dream.

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#NoLookingBack #019 – On Planning and Follow Through

I’m an idea guy. Naturally I have a lot of ideas for stories, designs, concepts, projects et al. Often I paint in broad strokes, but when I get serious about something I have become increasingly good at the nitty-gritty detail work. I presently have lists and lists of tasks to accomplish for establishing my online presence, and for bringing my own comics to life. I’m good at planning. What I stumble with is scheduling and follow through…

The problem I have encountered is that my greater goals are broad in scope and all require a strong devotion of time and effort. I have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished, but doing it in an organized and timely fashion makes me hit a strong brick wall of feeling lost and… well, as I’ve said before, overwhelmed. I want to run ahead and work on these big, flashy ideas. I want to get to the easier, or more fun, part. But I’m at the part where I have to plan time to organize ideas and make more complex plans.

Often I set myself goals to do work and I’ll sit down to do it and completely blank because, and I can recognize this, I feel like I cannot accomplish my goals. This is mostly psychological and me being self destructive. Oftentimes it is exacerbated by how tired my eyes get. I work with computers all day for money, and all the time for my projects too. I have a mitochondrial condition that causes me to have optic nerve death earlier than there should be. These stack up on me and really tire me out. I think my only real solution is to get additional monitors so that its less of a strain on my eyes to work. Then it’ll only leave my crushing self doubt to waylay me.

My friend keeps telling me that my dedication to, and pursuit of, my dream and passion projects has inspired him. He tells me that I have accomplished a lot. I can’t take the praise because I never feel good enough. I never feel like I work hard enough, which then engenders me to not work hard because “what’s the point?”…

I know artists struggle with this a lot. I know I’m not the only one. I know I sound whiny. But hey, this is my blog and this is my series about my journey towards being a better creator. I own my flaws, and I know they are holding me back. Writing about it has helped me to understand it better.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #027 – Review of Powerbomb.TV’s #BreakTheBarrier2017

This review is based upon the version of the show that you can watch now by signing up for a free 10-Day trial of Powerbomb.TV. Partway through the unfortunate stop-and-go nature of doing this review the crew behind the event updated it from a rough-cut with low-tier lower thirds and spelling errors to a much more polished version, so I had to throw a bunch of criticism out the window. This is good. It looks like they went out of their way to make it as top-notch as they could. My only criticism of the lower thirds that remains is that the individual names in one of the tag team matches would have been nice to have on screen along with the team name, so that I didn’t have to rely on the commentators to tell me who is in the match. A super minor nitpick.

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It’s a great looking logo.

Having Joe Spostos, f.k.a. Leonard F. Chikarason, on commentary immediately made me feel more at home with the show, bringing a sense of the familiar to performers I had never seen before and promotions I have never watched.  Your mileage may vary, as not everyone is familiar with what I adore. Much like a Chikara show, they would rotate out partners for Spostos. For most of this show it was fine, but there were moments it excelled and failed.

Match 1: Stevie Shields vs. Brute Van Slyke (c) – GSW Adrenaline Championship Match

“The Cinema” is Stevie Shields nickname, which does absolutely nothing to make me feel excited to watch him. What is that supposed to mean? Is it supposed to be a B or C-rate version of “The Human Highlight Reel” moniker? Does he just like going to the cinema a lot? I don’t think they really thought that one through enough.

Brute Van Slyke is surprisingly agile for his size. Even so, the opening technical exchange seems oddly slow. Shields tries to do a speedy strike based offense but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough oompf to them. It’s like he’s trying to look like he’s trying to knock Brute out. It  just doesn’t have the snap or speed behind it to really sell me on it. They do a spot where Brute is supposed to catch Shields out of a springboard handspring, but Shields is seriously lacking the requisite springiness to generate the speed to make it look good and the spacing is all kinds of off. The quality of Shields’ performance in this match just takes me out of the illusion of Pro-Wrestling.

Brute, on the other hand, does brute force very well (who’d have guessed!). His powerbombs, all four throughout the match, look great. He controls, for the majority of it, the second half of the match and gets in a series of nice big man offensive manoeuvres. Around this time the commentary draws too much attention to the fact that the bigger man is wasting time and not going for the pin when he has clearly downed Shields. This makes the match feel  oddly paced and drawn out, particularly because Shields’ offense looks too unbelievable for him to actually win the match. Even Shields’ finisher, a top rope elbow drop, felt impactless, whereas Brute’s suplexes looked tight and brutal.

Brute gets in his Greetings from Oneida, New York finisher for the win. It’s a nice tribute to the late, great Bam Bam Bigelow and feels very appropriate as Brute is like Bigelow in many ways. Overall this match did successfully make me want to see more of GSW to see how Brute fares as a champion, and to see him compete against other people who hopefully would deliver a match that captivates me more.

Grade: C
Match 2: John Silver vs. Tracy Williams

Since I’m ragging on people for their nicknames, these two men are known as “Raw Dog” and “Hot Sauce” respectively. Neither name excites, and if I think about it for a moment too long I begin to imagine condiments fighting the food they are put on. Nevertheless, unlike Stevie Shields in the previous match, these two did manage to get me into their match.

They open with matwork back-and-forth with good transitions as both men flow from lock to lock. Williams reminds me a bit of Zack Sabre Jr. There’s a nice dropkick from Silver to try and take the advantage, but Williams reverses momentum with a great suplex out of an attempted powerbomb. Like ZSJ, Williams uses a series of kicks and submissions to try and control the flow of the match. That is until Silver turns the momentum in his favour with a series of kicks and running forearms.

Silver’s momentum is cut short, however, when Williams catches him out of his moves and hits his own. Silver escapes a piledriver attempt and hits a sick sounding kick to the back of Williams’ head and German for a two count. The two men rock each other  with huge strikes and throws back-and-forth, with neither man looking to have the edge over the other. Silver hits a Gorilla Press into a cutter, a variation I have never seen before . It is always cool to see people twist a classic with a new spin. He then finishes Williams off with a running knee and, literally, a Batista Bomb for an almost outta nowhere three count.

It felt like they could have done a bit more in this match. It was, however, nice to have a match surprise me with its finish. not only in regards to who would win but the timing of it as well. I honestly had thought it would go the other way.

Grade: B
Match 3: Buxx Belmar vs. Joey Janella

Outside of the action between the two participants in this match there is a particular problem I felt it necessary to address. The Commentary team  keep talking about how the match is being contested under “C*4 rules,” and while I could infer from their conversation and action what that means, they never bother to actually tell me what the rules are. I shouldn’t have to guess at what your rules are, particularly with a card like this where rules change on the fly between fights from different promotions. Just say it directly, don’t make me work to understand the limitations of the confrontation.

Buxx Belmar, as usual, goes for some gross-out hijinks immediately. He hasn’t lost a step from his extended time off due to injury, and continues to look remarkably weird  in his movements and daredevil in his offense. He gets a good elbow drop during a rope running sequence, and Janella answers with a Tope Suicida.

Janella looks good with his running European uppercut. They go back-and-forth with some strikes and it spills, remarkably quickly, out to the ringside area where they brawl. Buxx’s mannerisms are dialed up to eleven, as I’ve come to love and expect of him. He’s so different from your prototypical indie superstar. Janella, however, looks to have the heavier hands in their exchange.

Buxx starts climbing a support beam in the middle of the venue’s crowd area, and Janella follows him up. Buxx knocks him down and you expect him to jump off of it onto Janella but he doesn’t. He gets down off of the beam and takes his belt off and starts to whip Janella with it. Shortly thereafter, chairs are introduced to the match and are brought into the ring. They do an insane monkey flip spot that sees Buxx toss Janella, who is seated on a chair, in such a manner as to have the chair fly along with him and land in a seated position, hurting his ass in the process. Absolutely bonkers stuff here. Nevertheless, Buxx only gets a two count on Janella for all his hard work.

Janella hits a rolling Death Valley Driver and maintains his grasp on Belmar, carries him to the far side of the ring, through the ropes, and drops him with another Death Valley Driver on the apron. What a crazy idea! I’ve seen a tonne of DVDs on the apron, but never a sequence quite like this. Unfortunately, Buxx returns the brutality by DDT-ing Janela on a chair, and getting himself a near fall in the process. Buxx dives from the top but misses his leg drop and gets caught by Janela with an interesting looking slam to give Joey his own near fall. Janela sets up a chair and tries to abuse Belmar, but Buxx reverses out of it and tosses Janela into the chair and follows it up with a gutbuster for two. They exchange strikes back-and-forth and both men go down.

Buxx gets a nice Michinoku Driver but can’t secure the pinfall. Buxx then grabs Janela by the penis, but Janela escapes unfazed and locks Belmar in a Boston Crab. Buxx escapes but gets chaired a lot, netting Janela another two count. Janela then double stomps on chairs on Buxx and gets another two count. Buxx then gets a flippy facebuster on Janela on the chairs and picks up the win, but the referee caused some consternation and confusion, botching the count a bit.

This was a very different kind of match from the stuff I usually watch, but was quite fun nevertheless.

Grade: B
Match 4: Renee Michelle vs. Penelope Ford

They start off with some standing chain wrestling, presenting some pretty standard back-and-forth action with some knock downs and grapples but nothing stellar. There’s a nice crossbody by Penelope in the early parts of the match. They play a out a spot where they chase each other in-and-out of the ring over and over. Renee Michelle hangs Penelope’s neck on the ropes eventually to cap off the sequence.

Renee stomps on Penelope and stands on her fingers a bunch. She then misses a moonsault. Nevertheless, she continues to be the cruel heel towards Penelope. Penelope makes her comeback with some nice flips and gets a springboard cutter for the win.

Overall, this match wasn’t bad to watch but also didn’t do much.

Grade: C+
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Two phenomenal stars who I don’t think have been given the recognition they deserve yet.

Match 5: Ophidian vs. Desean Pratt – Grudge Match

They tie-up and struggle against each other, creating the sense that they are evenly matched in terms of strength. They slap each other and go into a nice dodge spot filled sequence. Desean Pratt is the winner, as he comes out of it by catching Ophidian with a bunch of kicks and a nice back suplex. Pratt just wails on Ophidian and it transitions into a strike exchange. Pratt is in control until Ophidian him with a move in the ropes.

Ophidian ties up Pratt in between a reversal filled back-and-forth series, but Pratt gets knees on Ophidian. Ophidian, likewise, gets the opportunity for his own strong reversals, and keeps tying up Pratt. Pratt fights out of Ophidian’s grasp and makes his comeback attempt by hitting a slingshot Falcon Arrow for two. Cool innovation there, as I’ve never seen that specific variation before. Pratt is in full control as he put pressure on Ophidian while dodging his strikes. He capitalizes on the pressure by wailing on Ophidian with a spinebuster and superkick. Then Ophidian tries to make a comeback, dodging some kicks in the process, but Pratt manages to catch him with a truly hard kick.

Outta nowhere Ophidian locks in a crossface and won’t let go. Pratt struggles against him, eventually powering through and countering with a DDT. He tries to capitalize on his newfound upper hand by climbing to the top, looking for his 450 Splash, but Ophidian stumbles into the ropes, dropping him crotch first onto the unforgiving steel. Suddenly finding himself with an opening, Ophidian murders  Pratt with a series of double knees and meteora, but doesn’t go for the pin. He decides to add additional punishment onto the pile and hits the Egyptian Destroyer for a tasty two count. Pratt still has fight left in him! Ophidian next locks on his Death Grip, but Pratt escapes.

Frustrated and enraged, Ophidian uses his snake powers to hypnotize the referee into making an official announcement that, henceforth, the match will be a No DQ match. Emboldened by his devious wit, and in full heel-mode, Ophidian just straight out wallops Pratt’s penis. This sends Desean Pratt to the mat, shrieking in pain. Ophidian pulls a steel bar out from under the ring and ties Pratt up, adding the steel bar to the hold to create additional pressure and leverage, The match takes a full-on hardcore turn as they pull random stuff out from under the ring and beat on each other with chairs and street signs as they build towards the climax. Ophidian pulls out a super thick table and sets it up in the ring, and hits an avalanche Egyptian Destroyer onto the table. I say onto because they certainly don’t go through it. They bounce off in a moment that made me wince. Ophidian doesn’t even try to pin Pratt, setting the table up again flat on the ground. This turns out to be his undoing as Pratt hits Ophidian with a DDT onto the table and then the 450 Splash to get the win.

Overall this match was pretty cool. I liked the sudden addition of the No DQ element as  it increased the tension and stakes and worked the usually comedic hypnosis spot in in such a way as to make it dangerous. Unfortunately, the hardcore spots were often too telegraphed, and towards the end it felt like the match was dragging on too long.

Grade: B

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So how did the Old-Timey King of Swing vs. The Old Timer go?

Match 6: Jeff King vs. Dasher Hatfield

To truly convey the feel of Olde Wrestling as a period piece-wrestling hybrid, they change the filters to be grainy and in black and white. They also have the referee dress up, sticking a pillow in his shirt to look tubby and wearing suspenders. They go over the rules, presenting such familiar antiques as no closed fists, no piledrivers, and not throwing your opponent over the top rope to the outside. Hay bales adorn the corners of the ring.

They start with a test of strength and King decides to be a dirty, rotten heel by kicking Dasher in the gut. Dasher takes it in stride and returns the antics by doing a Dasher classic gag, wherein he ties up King’s legs and uses his own attires straps to keep the hold in place. It’s a great gag as Dasher stands in front of King and the realization that he has become his own enemy crosses King’s face. They go into a nice string of moves that sees them execute an abdominal stretch, a backslide, and a body slam. Truly at the cutting edge of Olde Wrestling’s technique repertoire! King acts truly villainous, of course, ever the scoundrel he cheats to garner himself any advantage he can grasp. The action constantly calls to mind images of older wrestlers, and the commentary tries to keep the old timey feel going, but I felt that they were being a bit more modern here than in other Olde Wrestling content I’ve seen, in terms of move selection. Most likely this is because they are in front of a crowd expecting modern indie style action, and the tonal shift may have been too jarring. It’s not a big step outside of Olde Wrestling’s time-travel illusion, but it was there.

However, they certainly do not eschew the retro techniques in any way. King spends a good amount of time working over Dasher with claws. Leg claws, stomach claws, insert your favourite body part here. The claw is a move that has fallen by the wayside in wrestling, as the exposed nature of the product renders it wholly unbelievable. It’s tremendously outdated feel renders it a brilliant choice for this product, where my suspension of disbelief is already in overdrive, working to put me in a different era.

As the match moves on King takes a great bump in the corner, with perfect comedic timing he hits all three turnbuckles on the way down. A certain amount of levity is required when you are presenting wrestling as a period piece, as the art has evolved now to such a state that much of what used to be dead serious business seems silly, inconsequential, and incomprehensible.  King tries to hit Dasher with a piledriver but the referee prevents it, as it is in plain sight and, the dastardly villain, is an illegal hold!  Dasher capitalizes on this with a great whirlwind slam but cannot get the three count. King manages to get the referee distracted by the audience and behind his back he hits Dasher Hatfield with a closed fist, a piledriver, and tosses him over the top rope to crash on the floor outside! The scoundrel!

Jeff King, who has broken all of the rules the referee laid out at the start of the match, waits in the ring as the referee counts Dasher out. Mustering good, old-fashioned intestinal fortitude, Dasher is back in before the ten count. Back in the ring the ref gets distracted again and Dasher Hatfield goes about giving Jeff King some turnabout with closed fists and a piledriver of his own. The commentary do a good job to help build the structure of this olde match. Dasher goes to throw King off the top rope, to complete the trilogy of turnabout but King reverses it into a roll-up with a handful of tights and secures himself the victory.

This match was fun, but a bit off in how it felt on this show. Perhaps I found it too silly?

Grade: B
Match 7: The Carnies (Kerry Awful + Nick Iggy) vs. The Monarchy (Prince Apollo + The Black Baron)

Iggy and Apollo start of this tag team affair, giving the audience some good spots while running the ropes and shows a vicious side to Iggy when he fishhooks his opponent. The Black Baron and Kerry Awful switch in for their teams and Awful lays his lips on the Baron, showing absolutely zero respect for the obvious threat the champion should be. The Carnies, true to their name, are a strange breed, and marvellously entertaining. As the two big men of their teams, Awful and the Baron exchange hoss shoulder tackles and Awful scores a cool roll up in the process.

The Carnies use good team tactics to work over the Baron, but the Monarchy come back with teamwork of their own, and the players switch again. Apollo and Iggy back in against each other. Unfortunately for Iggy, it turns out that the Monarchy are really good at suplexing people two-on-one. The monarchy follow this up with a nice combo bow-and-arrow and slingshot senton. The monarchy keep Iggy isolated, and the Baron has some nice suplexes but can only get the two count. Nevertheless, the Black Baron grinds on Nick Iggy, using the ring ropes to his nefarious advantage.

Nick Iggy hits a desperation cutter and tags in Kerry Awful. Awful then overpowers the Black Baron and gets a huge John Tenta-esque seated senton. Prince Apollo is in to break up the ensuing pinning predicament. Awful is in, all alone, against both members of the Monarchy and powers through the numbers game to take down both men, getting a clever spot in where he uses them to trip each other. He then powerbombs and piledrives Apollo for good measure. The might Black Baron tries to battle both Carnies, but gets caught with double team knees and a cool slam and dropkick combo from Iggy and Awful. Unfortunately for the Carnies, Prince Apollo is in again to break the fall.

Again the Monarchy swing things to their advantage, isolating and double teaming Kerry Awful. They hit him with a wheelbarrow DDT and Brainbuster combo and keep double teaming him when he kicks out. It’s two-on-one but Kerry Awful keeps fighting and will not go down. There are unique combo moves aplenty as the match unfolds and eventually all four men are in the ring for a four-man strike exchange. The Carnies take the upper hand and set up and make the Baron give a Canadian destroyer to Prince Apollo. Nifty shit being invented by these Carnies. The Black Baron tries to fight back and spills out of the ring with Nick Iggy, leaving Awful and Apollo alone together. Awful gets Apollo into a Boston Crab and Iggy comes in outta nowhere with a Diving Knee to knock-out Apollo and the Carnies win.

This was a very fun match that left me wanting to see more of The Carnies and The Monarchy, which really works to Powerbomb.TV’s strengths in that New South is available to watch on their service, unlike the prior Beyond Wrestling show case towards the beginning of the card.

Grade: B+
puma_tiger_vs_mayajr_skayde

Look how menacing Puma King looks!

Match 8: El Felino + Puma King vs. El Guerrero de Maya Jr. + Skayde

The two elder statesmen of the match, El Felino and Skayde, start us off. They do some grappling exchanges and Skayde ties up Felino with some crazy submissions. El Felino reverses these himself into his own fanciful submissions. The living legends are too evenly matched so Puma King and Maya Jr. tag in. The younger stars display their great lucha libre matwork and tonnes of flippy reversals. They are also dead even.

El Felino and Puma King, father and son, work together and double team the opponents in turn as they move in and out of the ring. Puma and Felino heel it up against Maya Jr. but the action kicks into high gear as all four are in and doing cool things. Maya Jr. hits both Felino and Puma King with tilt-a-whirl backbreakers. They even inject a funny handshake spot for levity. Maya keeps up the pressure with a gorgeous series of arm drags on both opponents. Skayde follows this up with some gorgeous twirly lucha libre throws. Skayde does beautiful work with arm drags of his own and then he and Maya Jr. fly with tope suicidas.

Felino and Maya Jr. then mix it up, exchanging high speed spots, and Maya Jr. comes out looking dominant. Puma King makes his presence known and breaks up the pinfall attempt, he superkicks Maya Jr. but doesn’t put him down. Puma King twists him into a cool submission. Maya Jr. escapes the hold and flees the ring, allowing for Skayde to come in. He mixes it up with Puma King and they exchange pin attempts before El Felino is back in the ring. Skayde is still dominant and chops him a bunch but gets taken down by a powerbomb.

Maya Jr. impresses as he hits a fancy looking neckbreaker on Puma King. Unfortunately as the match heads into its final moments, some segments seem to be  in awkward slow motion. Puma King hits a series of powerbombs in sequence and rolls Maya Jr. up with a majistral to pick up the win.

It was a fun match but I found myself mentally wandering off at times. Unfortunately, as such, it can’t go any higher than this. The final pairing of Spostos and Hatfield on commentary didn’t help the match much either, and they stick together for another two matches at that.

Grade: B+
Match 9: Colt Cabana vs. Orange Cassidy

Orange’s drunk/lazy gimmick is really hit or miss, in my opinion. This match sort of put that on display in a big way. I had previously only seen Orange in multi-man tags over in Chikara, and I totally get what he does, but in a single’s competition it takes up too much time and I lost interest in how the match would go. Colt Cabana plays the straight man, which is funny in and of itself. They mostly fool around, avoiding any wrestling moves, but both men are remarkably talented as wrestlers. Cassidy shows wonderful smoothness when he executes picture perfect arm drags and rolls through moves without taking his hands out of his pockets. The entire match functions because they are both brilliant technical wrestlers, but the lack of impactful action felt a detriment to this position on the card. After an annoyingly long corner gag Colt drops Cassidy on the top rope and then gets a pinfall on him. Sadly this match never felt like it got going. I wonder what Orange Cassidy would be like if he went more serious in a match of this nature, this high on a card?

Grade: B-
jigsaw_vs_flywarrior_vs_chuck_taylor_vs_kenbai

The main event, folks!

Match 10: Jigsaw vs. Fly Warrior vs. Chuck Taylor vs. Kenbai

Jigsaw and Chuck Taylor both elicited great reactions from the crowd in attendance. Fly Warrior and Kenbai had some excited reactions, in smaller numbers, from part of the audience. I wonder how many had seen them before, and how many were excited simply because they were imports?

Chuck Taylor is the first to take control of the match, as he dumps both Jigsaw and Kenbai out of the ring and focuses his attention on Fly Warrior. The two have an athletic exchange before they’re both out of the ring and Kenbai and Jigsaw are given their moment in the ring. They go for a bit and then the players shake up and everyone is in and out and it transitions to Jigsaw and Fly Warrior. Fly Warrior wrecks jigsaw with strikes and a German suplex. Kenbai is then in and he and Fly Warrior mirror each other in a sequence that leads to both men diving, in sequence, outside to take out everyone else. Immediately it has a very North American Indie feel to it, which is what I was expecting to come from this match.

Chuck Taylor is the first to recover. He takes Kenbai in to the ring and beats on the smaller man, suplexing him and trying to pin him several times to no avail. Chuck is working smart here, and conveys his domination of the ring by working preventing Fly Warrior and Jigsaw from getting back into the ring into the narrative of him hunting down Kenbai. Kenbai recovers from the onslaught and catches Taylor with an exciting Tornado DDT. Chuck responds by bailing from the ring and Fly Warrior is the first in to face Kenbai. Unfortunately, I found myself actively noticing around this time that I felt the commentary was dragging the match down.

Fly Warrior hits cool moves on Kenbai, but Jigsaw breaks up the pin. Lucha Libre really has a great propensity to astonish and Fly Warrior looks here to be the cream of the crop in his field. Jigsaw and Fly Warrior exchange strikes and a cool sequence leads to a near-fall off of a brainbuster by Jigsaw. All four men are in the ring and they set up a cool variation of the standard Tower of Doom spot, with a reverse suplex in the mix instead of a vertical suplex. Everyone is in the ring and they do the mandatory everyone gets a chance to look good, hitting big moves in sequence, given their chance to look good. Kenbai comes out of the fracas by hitting Chuck Taylor with a killer double stomp. He goes for the pinfall but Jigsaw breaks it up with a double stomp of his own, crushing Kenbai’s spine on top of Taylor. The sequence looked really cool. Jigsaw, however, cannot capitalize as Fly Warrior comes in and gets the win with a radical package driver preceded by a cool sequence with some innovative spots while running the ropes.

There were a couple of little awkward moments that can most likely be chalked up to unfamiliarity or language issues. These slowed some parts down and created a sort of stutter in the action. The match did, however, make everyone in it look good. Kenbai and Fly Warrior really came out as the shining stars here. Hopefully this will see them getting booked in North America some more. I’d love to see them up in Toronto.

Grade: B+

This certainly did a good job to get me interested in some of the talents and promotions associated with Powerbomb.TV’s platform. They had their new Independent Wrestling Championship on display throughout the show and several men made gesticulations and declarations about their interest in the title. With their first showcase under their belt, filled with mostly solid matches and a post-show run in from Johnathan Gresham, Powerbomb.TV have set up a storyline that makes them not just a service but an overarching entity that asks the question: How much influence will they, and their new championship, have on the companies they are working with, and the indie wrestling scene as a whole?

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