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#DiscoveringWrestling #026 – #TorontoWrestling reviews Smash Wrestling’s Gold 2K17

Once again I found myself back in the Phoenix Concert Theatre, where Smash have really found a great home. It’s easy to get to, spacious, well-lit for a wrestling show, they have A/C… what more could you ask for? Well, how about they have a dude making great burritos you can chow down on during the show, and they don’t skimp on the alcohol content in your mixed drinks!

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Gotta admit, they’ve got a killer logo!

The atmosphere amongst the audience was just absolutely the most passionate and energetic I have seen a Smash crowd get. They were abuzz with excitement over the return of Mark Haskins, who seems to have laid a trap in the hearts of everyone who had seen his previous work in the company. James Kee, one of the masterminds behind Smash, told me that Haskins “is Smash wrestling,” he is the paradigm for what they want out of their in-ring action and connection with fans. At intermission people lined up many men deep for an opportunity to buy merch directly from the man, to take photos and connect. During the matches he participated in the audience was a chorus of chants, in the sing-song style of British football, whenever the action focused on their hometown-hero-from-another-hometown. For his part, he put on a killer performance and he absolutely returned the love the audience gave him.

The night was structured as a special kind of Smash tournament. Five qualifiers, concluding in a five man Elimination match to determine the Number One Contender for Tyson Dux’s Smash Wrestling Championship. With that in mind, let’s get to the matches!

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This match was a really great way to open the show!

Match 1: Tarik vs. Lio Rush – Gold 2K17 Round 1

Tarik bails from the ring at the beginning of the match, refusing to engage with Lio Rush. He eventually gets back in the ring and they finally lock up, and the smaller Lio Rush backs Tarik into the corner. Tarik bails from the ring again, and Rush chases after him. They run all around the ring and back in, where they engage in a back-and-forth sequence that shows great athletics from both men. Tarik starts playing with some heel antics to define, fully, his role in the match. Lio Rush gets some loud kicks in, but plays to the crowd for too long, giving Tarik the opportunity to take control with a lariat in the ropes.

Tarik tosses Lio Rush around the ring and smartly plays to his size advantage. They tease an inside-to-outside suplex with Tarik playing the aggressor, but Lio counters his attempts so Tarik just drops his neck on the ropes. He grinds away at Rush, targeting his ribs with a plentiful plethora of elbows. With Rush properly pulverized, Tarik takes him to the corner to set up his backpack stunner but Rush reverses out of it and they brawl. Infuriated, Tarik Irish whips Lio Rush so hard into the corner that he flies between the ropes and crashes hard into the post and then tumbles out on to the floor.

They make effective use of the ten count here, with Rush only back in at nine. Refreshingly, the audience did not chant “10” for every count! Once back in the ring, Rush elbows his way into a sequence built on crazy dodges, kicks, and dives; he presses his advantage with potent fury. Both men then show off huge acrobatics in an insane reversal filled sequence where Tarik keeps looking for, and eventually gets, his backpack stunner, whereas Rush hits video game like spinning kicks and dives all the damn way across the ring with an RVD-esque frog splash. Neither man here was able to secure a pinfall.

In the final moments of the match Tarik hits a huge Go To Sleep and Disaster Kick combo, but can only get a two count. Frustrated, he sets up Rush for an avalanche backpack stunner. Rush escapes and goes for a roll up to surprise Tarik, but Tarik simply sits down on him and, out of heelish desperation, grabs the ropes out of the referee’s view for leverage. With this act he secures himself the three count, and entry into the main event, along with the ire of the entire audience.

This match, overall, was a little shaky at spots. However, the frenetic pacing, exciting action, and emotionally manipulative narrative really brought the crowd alive and set a great, positive tone to start the night off on.

Grade:  B+

In a nice bit of mirroring, post match Kevin Blackwood came out and beat on Tarik with a chair, just as Tarik had done to him post match at the previous show. It’s a feud that looks to be exciting, and Tarik seems to be in a position to really get the hot, new Blackwood really over with the Smash audience.

Match 2: Kevin Bennett vs. Brent Banks – Gold 2K17 Round 1

Bennett is, at this moment, the most on-fire heel in Toronto . Before the show began a promo video was played of Bennett rapping about his participation in the tournament. The audience booed the video into silence. At the start of this match Bennett tried to cut a promo about how his indentured servant, Frankie the Mobster, had been injured and wouldn’t be there as announced. He stood in the ring with his two cronies, starting and stopping, never getting through his promo to any meaningful degree. The crowd absolutely obliterated him with chants of “Shut the fuck up!“, giving the man nuclear heat to the point that they just played his opponents music and cut his promo short. It was a special moment.

Banks starts out the match on fire in his own way, dominating and controlling Bennett right out of the gate. They fight in the ring and out, where Banks manages to get a fan to chop Bennett’s chest. Bennett’s cronies distract him and Bennett takes the opportunity to jump the unawares Banks. Bennett takes control and heels it up, choking Banks with the ropes.  He then hits a cool Tiger Feint Kick into a splash. While the crowd may love to shit on Bennett, they cannot deny he has moves. Bennett tries then to suplex Banks, but there’s too much life left in him.

Brent “Money” Banks dumps Bennett out onto the floor and uses this to give him the advantage back in the ring as well. Banks gets to show how flippy he is in a nice sequence which sees him take out Bennett and his cronies on opposite sides of the ring from each other. All without losing any momentum in the match, so fast that Bennett had no opportunity to recover. He hits big moves but can’t put Bennett away. They do a cool springboard cutter reversal sequence, but still no three count. Banks and Bennett then exchange cutters and pinning predicaments, but neither man comes out on top. Banks then hits a huge knee and shiranui in sequence and has a three count on Bennett but his cronies interfere by pulling the ref mid count. Bennett secures the win after a distracted referee misses one of his cronies crotch Banks.

I get the story but a few sloppy moments and a bit of overbooking lower the grade.

Grade: B+
Match 3: Greed vs. Sebastian Suave – Gold 2K17 Round 1

I was, surprisingly, a little underwhelmed by Kingdom James’s promo work before this match. Usually, as Suave’s heel manager, he really delivers a brilliant, funny in its own way, adapted on the fly hot take against the crowd. This day’s promo just felt tame in comparison.

When the bell rings Greed rushes Suave and levels him immediately. Greed is dominant to the point that Kingdom tries to protect Suave by pulling him out of the ring, but Greed levels them with a Tope Suicida. Kingdom tries to interfere again, but Greed still is too much of a monster for Suave. They go back-and-forth with strikes for a bit and Suave gets a nice neckbreaker in to gain the upper hand. He works on Greed a bunch but Suave cannot get his throws in, as Greed is just too big for his former tag team partner to toss around.

Greed climbs the turnbuckles, but Suave catches him and dumps him with an avalanche belly-to-belly suplex. This, however, does not put Greed down. A huge Suave spinebuster gets him a two count. They exchange strikes again and Suave goes crazy on Greed, but gets caught and eats a TKO for a near fall. They do a submission spot in the ropes where Suave has Greed tied up in what looked like an arm bar from my angle, Greed tries to do a reversal into a powerbomb out of the spot but can’t get it and the whole bit just looks bad. Suave then hits the slowest, but grizzliest, Death Valley Driver on the apron. This only gets him a two count once back in the ring.

Then it is Suave who goes up top, but Greed catches him and hits an avalanche TKO. This would have been the three count for Greed, but Kingdom interferes and puts Suave’s foot on the ropes to break the fall. Greed goes after Kingdom and Suave tries to jump him from behind but gets caught and thrown onto Kingdom. Kingdom distracts the referee again and Suave gets a surprise roll up on Greed for the three count.

Some spots in this match were a bit janky or looked too telegraphed, which lead to the disruption of my suspension of disbelief.

Grade: C+
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I sat next to the most excitable Dalton Castle fan during the show.

Match 4: Mark Haskins vs. Dalton Castle – Gold 2K17 Round 1

Dalton Castle comes to the ring with guest boys, whom I recognized as people I have seen in crew shirts at  Smash shows. The Peacock of Pro-Wrestling gets a whole whackload of streamers, the only time I can remember streamers actually being used at Smash. Both Castle and Haskins look to be huge crowd favourites here.

They start off by feeling each other out with technical grappling, and proceed to put on a great display of both men’s talents as they do flippy stuff in the ropes and tease dives. Haskins climbs the buckles but Castle cuts him off and wails on him with big kicks. They spend a good amount of time just at ringside brawling so far in transitions between ringwork. Castle gets all agro on Haskins and tosses him with a gut-wrench suplex. Castle has him down and starts to drop splashes down on Haskins as he tries to roll away. Castle goes for one too many though, and eats knees. Unfortunately for Haskins he cannot make a comeback. Castle dumps Haskins on the apron and gets a two count for his efforts. He then rocks Haskins with strikes, which only enrages the Brit. Haskins gets into a flurry of strikes and takes control in a sequence capped off by an STF.

Unfortunately for the man garnering the biggest crowd response I have seen at a Smash show, Haskins cannot submit Castle. Haskins just kicks Castle a bunch and then locks in another submission but Castle gets to the ropes. They get into a back-and-forth exchange then Castle unleashes suplex after suplex after suplex after suplex… He just absolutely wrecks Haskins. Somehow this abuse only nets Dalton Castle a two count. They squabble and the ref takes a bump so Castle dick kicks Haskins and then powerbombs him and Germans him for another fucking near fall! A frustrated Castle beats on Haskins a bunch, but Haskins comes back with a big super kick and a jumping rolling transition into a sharpshooter and forces Castle to submit. Haskins moves on to the next round and the crowd eat it up with a big ol’ spoon.

The match was a bit slow paced at times, and the crowd while hot were oddly quiet at points that didn’t warrant it. Castle played with a heelish side to his personality not usually seen, to great effect which helped in really elevating Haskins’ position as a top face. I think the crowd may have been expecting a face vs. face style match and that is why there was the discrepancy in their behaviour.

Grade: B+
Match 5: Scotty O’Shea vs. Evil Uno – Gold 2K17 Round 1

Uno starts the match off by gaining control with chops all over the ring. He has O’Shea so flustered that he doesn’t even offer any real resistance when Uno just bites O’Shea’s foot. O’Shea goes outside to breathe and eventually Uno makes chase, but back in the ring O’Shea takes over with his rope-based offense, using the ring as a weapon to level the odds against the bigger Uno. They go back-and-forth, exchanging control until O’Shea gets a big kick in and humps Uno’s head into the mat.

Uno makes his comeback shortly afterwards with a unique trip and superkick combo which sees  O’Shea’s head repeatedly hitting one of the turnbuckles; it looked pretty vicious. O’Shea  knocks Uno out of the ring and dives on him, but his momentum is turned against him when he is stopped with a big elbow and slammed hard on the apron. His offense not entirely stuffed, O’Shea manages to get a two count off of a chasing moonsault sequence. Uno gets a big superplex for two, and O’Shea tries to comeback again but Uno dodges and gets him in a sharpshooter of his own. They build to a climax, exchanging strikes and big moves, and eventually Uno spins O’Shea out of a Gory Special into a Gotch-style piledriver for the three.

O\Shea seemed less there than usual, and something here didn’t click for me. It was a solid, fun match, but nothing special.

Grade: B
Match 6: Halal Beefcake (Idris Abraham + Joe Coleman) vs. Tabarnak de Team (Mathieu St-Jacques + Thomas Dubois)

TDT jump Halal Beefcake and try to hit stereo Germans but Idris and Joe hold on to each other and reverse it into a meeting of the minds on the Quebecois brawlers.  Halal Beefcake then do their rope-choke push-ups spot, likely only succeeding in angering the burly Frenchmen. They go to dive at TDT and get decked and dumped on the apron for their troubles. This match is built on, and excels because of, how much team offense is used!

St-Jacques gets a big knee drop on Coleman for a two count. They isolate him and beat on him with frequent tags. They double team and mock Coleman. Even at their heeliest, I still cannot help but like these Quebecois! they abuse Joe with stiff strikes and heel double team tactics. Joe gets in a comeback spear and tags in Idris Abraham, the Sultan of Shawarma, who cleans the ring the best way possible, like a man possessed. He stacks TDT in the corner and wrecks them with a dropkick. Halal Beefcake flirt with control here, reversing TDT’s offense into hard slams.

Building towards the climax both teams exchange near falls and pinning predicaments in sequences involving all four men. Dubois gets in his nice moonsault to the outside and then ruins Idris Abraham’s day with a double teamed piledriver into an up-kick assisted powerbomb for the victory.

The crowd absolutely loved this match, and so did I. I thought it was fun and worked all four men in in a way that made them feel like true “teams”, like unified fronts.

Grade: A-
Match 7: Psycho Mike vs. Braxton Sutter vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Wrestling Championship Match

Before this match started I wrote down a note about how I wanted it to develop, what kind of story I wanted it to tell. To me, the budding rivalry between the charismatic Well-Oiled Machines, tag partners recently on the outs with each other, should be the highlight of the match with Dux serving as it’s backbone. I was not disappointed.

The match starts off by teasing that the Well-Oiled Machines might work together and try to wear down Dux as a team, but the great body language from Braxton Sutter – the slightly different turn of his body, the careful positioning of himself in relation to Dux and Mike, and his head motions – telegraphed to the audience the near immediate betrayal we were to see. Before Dux could be attacked by Mike, Sutter hits his, ostensibly, partner with a huge sequence capped off with a spinning fisherman suplex like move. Psycho Mike tumbles to the outside and we are left with Braxton Sutter and Tyson Dux in the ring.

Dux and Sutter brawl and exchange strikes back-and-forth wherein Dux takes control. He punches Braxton all over the ring and locks in an abdominal stretch (which I take more seriously than most North American fans because of my immersion in Puroresu fandom). Right as Sutter looks to make a comeback he eats a surprise Spinning Big Boot from Psycho Mike and disappears from the ring. This leaves Dux to face off with Mike alone.

This time the challenger takes control, as Psycho Mike stomps the shit out of the Wrestling Machine. Beaten down and tired, Dux uses technique to outwrestle, and take control back from, Psycho Mike.  Mike’s strength gives him opportunities, but Dux cuts off his momentum. Sutter then is back in the ring and dumps Mike out of the ring, quickly followed by dumping Dux out of the ring.

Psycho Mike slides back into the ring and now has “the box” from the promos they ran leading up to the event. He teases hitting Sutter with it, but instead stomps on the empty box, unable to fully turn on his tag-team partner. Dux comes back in and a comedy gag spot leads to a meeting of the minds between the Well-Oiled Machines. This is followed by all three men engaging in an extended elbow exchange until all three collapse. The Well-Oiled Machines recover and work together, hitting their tag finisher on Dux, and then Mike dumps Sutter and gets a two count. Dux is back in the mix, and a sequence leads to Dux hitting Mike with the brainbuster and then slamming Sutter on to the prone Psycho Mike with a Death Valley Driver and getting the three count on Mike to retain.

This match had a great story structure with a few funny spots for levity which elevated my enjoyment of it. Truly great character work was on display, serious when appropriate and silly when appropriate. A heavily comedy, or character work, based match could have been detrimental to Dux’s reign, but they pulled this one off rather close to perfectly.

Grade: A
Match 8: Mark Haskins vs. Tarik vs. Kevin Bennett vs. Sebastian Suave vs. Evil Uno – Gold 2K17 Final Round Elimination Match

A title shot is at stake in this main event, as the winner will walk away as the number one contender to Tyson Dux’s championship. The crowd had been built up to some serious hype by the time these men made their second entrances and it really added to the atmosphere. It felt like a big deal.

Right after the bell, Kevin Bennett bails from the ring and just walks about outside, wanting nothing to do with the fracas that explodes in the ring. The action in the ring turns into everyone trying to do a schoolboy roll up on someone else, and to obviously no effect. Evil Uno takes control after some neckbreakers and Bennett tries to sneak a pin on Uno for two. Tarik and Uno have a bit of a brawl, but Haskins comes back into the ring just as Tarik starts to get the upper hand. Bennett tries to sneak in again to get the advantage, but winds up all alone with Evil Uno who wrecks him until his cronies at ringside pull him out.

Haskins takes this as an opportunity to dive on the three of them, and to team up with Uno in just abusing Bennett outside of the ring. Action spills all over the venue as, right near me, Haskins chops up Suave while over on the concert stage used as part of the entrance ramp Uno vertical suplexes Bennett hard.  Haskins and Uno then team up some more to take on Suave and Tarik right near the entranceway, giving Bennett the perfect target for a literal stage-dive Tope Con Jilo onto the whole mess of them.

Bennett and Tarik team up for a bit and beat on Haskins. Tarik stops Haskins from making a comeback with a huge knee strike. The match transitions into one of those classic indie multi-man match spots where everyone is in and out of the ring, getting their stuff in and looking great while doing it. Suave gets a two count on Bennett, and then he and Tarik go after Haskins who comes back, stacks them both onto each other and locks in a combo Boston Crab/Camel Clutch on the two men at the same time. Bennett breaks up the submission hold. We then get the multi-man suplex spot, which is silly but the crowd loves it.  Uno  beats on Haskins and tries to fend off Tarik. Haskins wrecks both of them with flair, and then eliminates Tarik with a Death Valley Driver and strikes. Next Bennett eliminates Suave when he kicks a chair into his face and hits a rope assisted neckbreaker.

Bennett beats on Haskins and Uno but eats double superkicks and then Haskins and Uno boot each other and everyone is down. There’s a fracas and Uno gets Bennett with a huge slam but cannot eliminate him, because Bennett’s cronies pull Uno\s foot to break the count. In response to this, Uno just kills them with some chairs. Back in the ring Uno gets caught with Bennett’s finisher and eliminated. Haskins, looking weak, crawls in and makes a huge energetic strikefest comeback but can’t go for the pin right away. Haskins keeps hitting Bennett with all sorts of big moves for two counts. Haskins gets an armbar on Bennett and the cronies, somehow not dead after Uno’s beating, interfere again so he wrecks them and gets his roll-through Sharpshooter on Bennett to make him tap. Haskins is your number one contender.

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What a way to close the show! Photo taken from Smash Wrestling’s facebook page.

The crowd, rowdy and in love with Haskins, go wild. The match was a bit overbooked for my tastes, but the elimination structure  helped to really build tension towards the end. No one wanted Bennett to win, and they teased him coming out with the victory a lot in those final moments. Great manipulation of crowd emotions.

Grade: A-

Solidly built card with some seriously good wrestling on it, proving that Toronto’s local scene is taking things seriously and trying to break through to the big time. The quality of these shows has been improving steadily, thus far, since I started attending and I wholly look forward to seeing Smash Wrestling become an even bigger name than they already are.

Next month sees Kaito Kiyomiya, whom I watched wrestle for Pro Wrestling NOAH at Korakuen Hall this past January, make his Toronto debut with Smash. This has me excited on all kinds of levels. I’ll be front row for that… and maybe I’ll bring enough streamers for the entire section?

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #025 – #TorontoWrestling reviews Vampiro’s Underground Invasion

A lot of anticipation had built for me by the time May 28th rolled around. This event was co-promoted by both Smash Wrestling and Lucha T.O. and had a really exciting, stacked card. I was particularly excited to see a match between genuine stars of Mexican lucha libre in the main event, as I have often dreamed of traveling down to Mexico City to take in a real dose straight from the Mecca of the style, This was the next best thing, and probably the closest I will get for a while.

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Sadly, Son of Havoc could not participate and had to be replaced with Matt Cross. They both have equally good beards, though.

Unfortunately, this show was hampered by a variety of factors. As these disappointments were not the fault of those performing in the ring, I’m going to list them now and leave them alone for the rest of the review, even though they came up often amidst my actual notes. I honestly don’t know quite where to begin…

The VIP seating was anything but VIP. I had been advised, both in person at other events and listed on the events FaceBook page, that seats would be reserved with names on them. I had purchased my tickets for the event the moment they went on sale and was anticipating a good view. While I was let in earlier than general admission, and was provided with a seat, it was against the wall. This allowed for a swarm of GA ticket holders to fill the space between my seat and the row of VIP ticket holders who were actually given good seats, and forced me to stand up on my seat for the entire show to get an even halfway decent view. Outside of the chance to have my photo taken with Drago and Aerostar, realistically, my VIP ticket offered me literally no advantage over buying a much cheaper ticket. Furthermore, they advertised the photo op as being Drago and Vampiro. As the tickets had been sold through Smash’s website and they were co-promoting the event I had anticipated a certain level of quality to the organization and handling of VIP seats for this show and found the experience lacking.

The venue was packed full of so many people that it grew to a cataclysmically stifling temperature. I have never sweat that much from simply standing still in my life. It was relentless and crushing. The pages of my notebook are smeared from where the sweat fell on ink. It was genuinely ridiculous. On top of that, there had been some kind of miscommunication, and even though the event was being filmed as a pilot for TV, the ring wasn’t even remotely properly lit. It was a chore to see what was going on and I was unable to take any decent pictures of the event, even though I tried rather hard. I had a moment of conversation after the show with some of the camera men who confirmed what I suspected, that the footage will likely look terrible due to how poor the lighting was.

If I had been the only person frustrated by the disorganized disparity of the VIP ticket situation, the baffling level of heat, and the atrocious lighting, I may not have written this. Unfortunately, my complaints were echoed by many in attendance throughout the venue whom I had the opportunity to engage with. This show had so much potential, both for the spectators and the promoters, but too many balls were dropped and a lot of people felt frustrated.

Match 0: Captain Morrison vs. John Atlas

I have confirmed this fact with both promoters, and believed it when Vampiro said it: this match was booked on the day of the show, using people in the line-up who had wanted to be given a chance as performers. Atlas is apparently known for working a bunch of shows throughout the Ontario independent scene, whereas nobody I spoke to has any real knowledge of who Captain Morrison is. He is such a nonfactor in the local scene that when I asked the promoter his name I was told Captain Morrison and Cagematch list him as Beck Cadash.

John Atlas, the big ego bad guy, abuses the much smaller Morrison, who looks to be about one-third the size of the big heel. Atlas gets a big drop kick in but things go awkward with the landing and they wind up in a pile. Atlas misses a Stinger Splash but gets a huge powerbomb for two. A second powerbomb gets Atlas the three count. Nothing but an awkward squash match.

Grade: C-

Once that unplanned match was out of the way the show proper could begin.

Match 1: John Greed vs. Freddie Mercurio

As is to be expected after I have seen him several times, the crowd gives Freddie a huge pop when he comes out to the ring. He may not be as smooth or technically sound as some of the other performers in the local indie scene, but he has charisma to spare.

They start off brawling, and Greed looks to be in control of the flow, but Mercurio gets in a series of nice arm drags to even things up. Things look a bit sloppy between the two as they go back-and-forth with each other, but that is all soon forgotten as the action spills outside of the ring and Freddie runs along and jumps off of one of the small bar counters surrounding the ring. This venue, while it has some problems, is great for these kinds of spots.

They brawl all the way through the crowd, from one side of the venue to the other, and back in to the ring where Greed takes control with some big moves. He practically flattens Mercurio with a senton, but only gets two. Greed gets in a huge elbow but Mercurio fights back, a bit awkward in execution, and caps it off with a big diving DDT. Mercurio tried to get a headscissors on Greed but Greed just flat out stops the British luchador’s rotation and reverses it into a TKO. this gets Greed another near fall over Mercurio. Mercurio comes back with a superplex and goes to hit his moonsault but misses. Greed capitalizes on the error by hitting him with a Death Valley Driver for the three count.

Not a bad match, but there were too many awkward spots. Something just felt off here, and I have seen both men put on much better performances before.

Grade: C+
Match 2: The Fraternity (Channing Decker + Trent Gibson) vs. Halal Beefcake (Idris Abraham + Joe Coleman)

The match starts with the usual Fraternity beer spitting shtick, and quickly moves into the action. I love how versatile The Fraternity are. Able to be heels and faces with the nuances of how they present their gimmick. At this event they chose to heel it up.

Decker and Coleman start off in the ring, but after the beer is spat , Abraham and Gibson are in. Quickly Halal Beefcake get both members of The Fraternity draped across the bottom ropes with drop toe holds and then do push ups on their backs. A heelish spot of their own that only gets a face pop because of their attitudes. Upon brief reflection, most of Smash Wrestling’s tag team division can play this sometimes heels, sometimes faces, never changing their gimmicks game. Both teams spill to the outside and they brawl, with Halal Beefcake getting the momentary upper hand with a two-man Meeting of the Minds. Unfortunately for them, back in the ring, The Fraternity take control and hit Coleman with the Eiffel Tower. They play clever heels and isolate Coleman, keeping him away from the big haired wonder Idris Abraham.

Right on cue Coleman hits a huge slam and gets the hot tag to Abraham. He comes in like a caged bolt of lightning being unleashed and wreaks havoc at high speed. He competently handles both members of The Fraternity for a while but is overwhelmed by their numbers and gets hit with their Keg Stand finisher. Coleman is in to break up the pin at two. The Fraternity level Coleman with what looked like an initiation paddle and still get the three count on Abraham. Realistically this match took a bit too long to get started. It was competent, but wasn’t anything too special.

Grade: B-
Match 3: Carter Mason vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Wrestling Championship Match

Carter plays the coward at first, and throughout the match keeps playing up his “King of the North” gimmick, many times throughout the match, by telling Tyson Dux to kiss his hand, gesticulating in condescension as he extends his hand. Of course Dux, the dauntless champion, never acquiesces. It does, however, raise the ire of “Textbook” Tyson Dux, giving way to moments Mason could capitalize on. Unfortunately, this psychological prodding, at the beginning of the match, gets Mason’s arm twisted by Dux.

They chain wrestle and both men look good in the back-and-forth, then they exchange chops. Dux takes control of the flow of the match but starts to act cocky, and Mason dumps Dux out of the ring. The “King of the North” takes control with a baseball dropkick to Dux on the outside and a big back suplex back in the ring. He can’t get the three count but Mason stays in control and looks to work Dux over. Dux, ever resilient, keeps kicking out. Carter Mason looks like a real contender, as he keeps seizing control over the match and putting Dux in peril.

The two men exchange strikes and Dux looks to take control with a vicious lariat. The champ catapults Mason into the turnbuckle and nails a lariat to the back of his head. Mason bounces back from the beating and gets a near fall with a neckbreaker and superkick. Control flows back into Dux’s hands and he locks a Boston Crap in deep, but cannot submit Carter Mason.

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You can even see me diligently taking notes in the background. Though why you’d wanna look at me when this action shot is amazing is beyond comprehension.

Now the pace of the match picks up even more, as the two men go in to the last act of their match. Mason transitions a Tornado DDT smoothly into a guillotine choke and comes within a hair’s-width of capturing the Smash Championship, but Dux powers through and reverses it into a brainbuster, but before he can land it Mason reverses the reversal into a stunner and follows it up with a lionsault. The crowd is, at this point, digging their teeth into the match. The two performers had a series of near falls that elicited gasps and excitement, thrilling the audience burdened by the sweltering heat. Mason climbs the turnbuckle, hoping to overwhelm Dux with his offense, but eats a series of chops and sets himself up nicely for a stalling avalanche brainbuster. Amazingly this only gets Dux a two count over the “King of the North”. The crowd reacts with chanted vulgarities of appreciation. Dux picks up Mason and drops him hard with a Death Valley Driver. Mason kicks out at one. Dux picks him up one more time and drops him with another brainbuster. This time he doesn’t kick out. Dux retains.

Post match Vampiro gets on the mic and asks both men to take a picture with him, he says he has never seen anything like this match before. He tells the audience that this was a Two-Hundred-and-Seventy-Five Million star match. I didn’t rate it quite as high, but I absolutely enjoyed it. Very respectable contest.

Grade: B+
Match 4: Sebastian Suave vs. Scotty O’Shea vs. Space Monkey

Kingdom James of course accompanies Suave to the ring and cuts a promo. He is the best heel manager on the indie circuit today that I am aware of. He should really be taken into consideration by some bigger companies, he’s just too good.

Every time I see “Hacker” Scotty O’Shea I’m left with a question: “What is he missing?” I want to like him more than I do, and I do see the potential for greatness in him. But it feels like something is off.  He lacks a certain polish as a performer that, I feel, holds him back from reaching his full potential. I hope he finds it.

Space Monkey, if you are not aware of him, is the greatest character to come out of the Ontario indie scene. He lives and breathes that monkey gimmick. He continues to find clever, unique ways to work his monkey antics into serious matches, adding levity to performances without derailing the physicality or athleticism in any way. He feels very marketable, like he should have action figures already.

Seemingly to prove my point, Space Monkey controls the flow of the match, against both opponents, while eating his banana to start. He intentionally drop toe holds O’Shea so he lands face first on a banana, prompting some great expressions from Hacker. Space Monkey is thrown out of the ring and Suave takes control, while Kingdom assists by abusing the Monkey on the apron. O’Shea sets up a spot and does an awkward moonsault onto his foes in the ropes. It took too long to set up and get done.

O’Shea capitalizes on his momentum by humping Space Monkey’s head into the canvas. Looked like it hurt and was embarrassing. There’s lots of violence that follows, and eventually Monkey comes back with an Up-Kick. He climbs up top to finish off O’Shea but Suave comes out of nowhere and pushes him off of the turnbuckle, sending him crashing onto the nearby concert stage. Hacker and Suave go at it and set up a Tower of Doom spot which sees Space Monkey flip into the ring from the stage to hit the powerbomb portion.

Firmly in control, Space Monkey monkey flips Suave into the oncoming Hacker, only to see Suave come back by tying Monkey up in the ropes. O’Shea makes his return to the scene and wrecks both other contenders. O’Shea gets a two count on Space Monkey in a nice sequence, but cannot keep the advantage. With Sebastian Suave back in the mix he gets a near fall on O’Shea with an avalanche ki krusher, only to have Space Monkey break it up with a tail whip. Kingdom climbs the apron and distracts Space Monkey, allowing suave to capitalize and get the three count with a flying elbow.

Grade: B
Match 5: Matt Cross vs. Willie Mack

The match begins with an extended back and forth sequence the puts both men’s acrobatics and strength are put on grand display. There is nothing but super crisp action between the two men. Eventually Cross takes control over the flow of the match, but Mack counters with a huge strike. Willie Mack talks up a storm and his humour and charisma punctuate his actions phenomenally. Mack lights Cross up with chops, but quickly the big beard is back in control himself as he hits a series of hard hits and pin attempts of his own.

It’s a very evenly balanced match as Mack gets a comeback sequence of his own, that ends with him getting a 2 count on Cross with a huge corner senton. Mack then lays into Cross with a tremendous hit that puts him down for a nine count, but of course he’s back to his feet to continue the match before Mack can get a pinning predicament in place. They exchange strikes and Mack hits an impactful Samoan Drop and standing moonsault for a near fall. Mack goes up top but misses with a Frog Splash and eats a weird springboard cutter from Cross for another near fall. Finally they brawl in the corner and Cross comes out with the advantage, hits a nice Shooting Star Press, and secures the victory.

Grade: B+
Match 6: Drago vs. Aerostar

Aerostar made the most of the darkness cast over the ring with his trademark light-up suit and spraying flames into the air. Remarkably, I would soon discover, his mask even has built in LEDs that he left on during the entire match. Now, none of my photos turned out particularly good, but this should give you an idea of what it was like.

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Shiny Light-Up Mask! We have the technology, we can do this to every Luchador!

They start off with some cool back-and-forth action seeing both men utilize quick reversals, submissions, and pinfall attempts. The action too rapid for me to document the exact techniques they put on display, but the smoothness and fluidity was undeniable. High speed sequence after sequence and Aerostar jumps into the crowd from atop the ropes in pursuit of a fleeing Drago. Unfortunately, once back in the ring, the referee positioned himself in such a way as to prevent me from seeing much of the action as they traded control in never ending, ever varying, very cool back-and-forth.

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I was clearly having way too much fun (dehydration from the heat and only alcohol to re-hydrate you will do that.)

A huge avalanche hurracanrana gets Aerostar a two-count on Drago. Aerostar then sets Drago up and executes a crazy spinning rope-walk lungblower. Unfortunately Aerostar cannot capitalize on the move and Drago comes back, hitting a huge twirly slam of his own, getting a two count on Aerostar in the process. He transitions into a Majistral for another near fall on Aerostar. Both men are up to their feet and they run the ropes, passing by each other multiple times, building up tremendous velocity that they use to down each other with a huge double lariat. They have a wobbly-kneed strike exchange once back on their feet, and Aerostar hits a move so astonishing that I had no verbiage to describe it, noting it down simply as “crazy move,” which nets the cosmic man a two-count. Drago makes his intentions known when he hits a crazy flipping DDT on Aerostar, so vicious and impactful looking that the audience in attendance were genuinely concerned for his well being. Drago ties him up into a pretzel but only gets a two count. Aerostar then nails an out-to-in dive on Drago and secures a hard fought victory with the 1-2-3.

Grade: A-

This was a fun show for in-ring action marred, unfortunately, by the circumstances of the day. I know that this drop in quality is not wholly representative of either Smash Wrestling or Lucha T.O., having myself attended several other events by both groups. These problems with disorganization, lighting, and excessive heat are not the hallmarks of either of these promotions, or the venue itself. This unfortunate confluence of negative factors did hamper people’s enjoyment, to a degree, but when the performers in the ring pulled out all the stops, the audience saw through the stinging sweat and dark gloom to enjoy the efforts of these athletes.

I look forward to the next time a cross-promotional event rolls around and I can see how these two fine companies have learned from, and improved because of, the negative attributes of this show. I also very much look forward to the teased follow-up to the Tyson Dux/Carter Mason match.

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #024 – Powerbomb.TV are breaking down barriers for Indie Wrestling

On June 11th 2017 the independent Pro-Wrestling world will once again be breaking the barrier between content and audience, as Powerbomb.TV will be hosting a veritable who’s-who of indie stars in Old Forge, Pennsylvania to promote their streaming service, and help spread awareness of the many brands and star talents available on it.

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Look at how crisp that design is!

In 1999 the founders of scoopswrestling.com arranged the original Break the Barrier, an indie wrestling super-card featuring the likes of Mike Quackenbush, Headbanger Mosh, and Stevie Richards. The card featured participants from thirteen indie promotions and had many different titles on the line. This event from a bygone era completely flew under my radar until Powerbomb.TV announced that they were holding their own event, referencing this past crowning achievement in cross-promotion indie super-card booking. In referencing this event they draw stark comparisons to their own, highlighting that they are bringing together a startling number of promotions under their banner, and also forcing people to become aware of this long dead event. This confrontation seems to be to highlight the fact that had an infrastructure, like their own, been in place back in 1999 to distribute this event it may be more talked about and remembered today.

The card for Break the Barrier is stacked. Seriously, click on that link. Maybe you’re familiar with these guys, maybe this is the first time you’ve ever seen these names. Nevertheless, trust me, this card is great. How great? Let me tell you just about few of the reasons I’m excited for this show:

1: The Olde Wrestling showcase match featuring Dasher Hatfield vs. Jeff King. This promotion puts on a time-travel period piece spin on Pro-Wrestling. They turn back the clock, wear simpler, period appropriate attire, pare down the move sets, pick-up the dialects of, and transports the audience to the roaring 20s. They lean heavily on novelty and comedy, with fanciful storytelling and endearing costuming and characterization. Dasher Hatfield is already an old-fashioned baseball playing hero, so he’ll fit right in, but more importantly he is a storied, exciting veteran over in Chikara Pro. This match promises to show you something you, most likely, have never seen before… and if you like what they’re doing, Powerbomb.TV has two whole events for you to dig your teeth into.

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Old-Timey wrestling for modern eyes!

2: Desean Pratt vs. Ophidian is going to be phenomenal. These two former tag-team partners have battled before, back in Chikara Pro, and each man has gotten more experienced, and better, over the last several years. They know each other intimately, and can tell a phenomenal story with each other in the ring. This will be a solid match, even if they each worked at 50% capability… but I have never seen them put on a match that wasn’t 100%. I’ve been a fan of these guys for near a decade, and distinctly one shirt size ago. If you’ve agreed with my opinions before, or like what I have professed to liking, give this show a chance for this match alone (and stick around for the other exciting matches as well!)

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The men who could travel through time…

3: C*4 bring to the event a match featuring Buxx Belmar, one of the weirdest, most exciting performers to come out of Montreal. Called Dirty and Filthy, Buxx Belmar moves around the ring in a way literally unique to him, that is discomforting and forces you to pay attention to him, and performs bizarre hardcore stunts and gross-out spectacles. That videos pretty gnarly, maybe you don’t wanna click on that link. Now, he’s not always that disgusting, and his weirdness is usually more entrancing. He is unlike anything you have seen before, and is constantly amazing me in how he puts new spins on Pro-Wrestling.

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The weird just oozes out of him!

That’s three great reasons to watch any show and I haven’t even mentioned the insane fact that a legend like Skayde is in a huge lucha libre match or that the main event is jam packed with talent. If you sign up for Powerbomb.TV’s free trial today you will get to see this indie super-card entirely for free, and once you’re pumped up by that free spectacular you’ll want to stick around and dig deep into what the service has to offer.

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Skayde was integral in training many of the men on this card via his association with Chikara pro.

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It’s almost a shame that this isn’t a full time promotion with a main event this exciting and international!

 Service Overview:

Their streaming service itself has a fair number of “pros” to list here. My favourite part of the service is that it has a striking number of companies signed up under its banner. At the time I was crunching my numbers it came to a total of thirty-three promotions with a combined total of One-Hundred-and-Seventy-Three shows spread across them. Each company’s landing page provides the subscriber with links to the various social media, video, and web platforms that company has. This provides people like me with a desire to discover wrestling (see what I did there?) something to really sink their teeth into. Powerbomb.TV, therefore, make themselves an indispensible asset to someone who is looking to scout new talent from around the world, or someone who simply wants to find something completely fresh to engage with. One moment I am watching Italian wrestling, the next hardcore Lucha Libre, the next a bizarre glimpse into history with the retro-chic Olde Wrestling. All for $10.00 a month. Your mileage may vary.

Sign-Up for the service is stupid easy, requiring only an e-mail address, and their billing options are diverse. Having PayPal as an option to counter-balance accruing needless credit card debt is absolutely phenomenal. It puts them on the level of big name players in the streaming service market. Once you have signed up and logged in the landing pages are well designed and easy to navigate, and video playback is generally a simple and clean experience.

Before I start listing the “Cons” of the service, I’ll admit that many of them seem nitpicky. I bring them up herein to point out things that, if improved, would likely guarantee people stay signed up to the service for longer periods of time.

While, strictly mathematically, the average number of shows per promotion is 5.25, it doesn’t really play out in such a balanced way. The vast bulk of these shows, 93 to be specific, can be attributed to just four of the promotions signed up to the service, while eleven of the promotions on the service have a paltry one show a piece. This uneven spread is problematic if what excites you on the service is on the scantier side of content volume, well, then you might not stick around for too long. Furthermore, only seven out of the thirty-three promotions available on the service have content from 2017 actively available. This means that a scant 21% of promotions have content that can be considered moderately current, and the numbers grow more stark when you look at how many videos out of the total are from this calendar year: 6.35%, or 11 videos out of 173. While this scarcity of up-to-date content has no impact on one’s ability to enjoy exploring new promotions and good wrestling, it does, however, mean that Powerbomb.TV is not going to be the place for those who have a need to keep absolutely up to date with the promotions they enjoy.

While I have praised above the ease of use of the service, and the quality of their landing pages, Powerbomb.TV does lack a feature that would greatly improve my enjoyment, and the general ease, of using the service: a search function. So, let’s say that you watched some videos and you really liked one specific guy, and let’s also say that it was one of the few promotions that has double digits worth of shows. In the current set up you have to go through every video the company has one-by-one to tray and find more content featuring that exciting individual. Certainly, some of the videos are one-off matches that list their participants in the titles, but others are full events and a basic set of built-in search functions would greatly improve the experience. A search feature would also allow you to find work that the performers have done in other brands that may be on the service as well. It seems almost too simple a concept to be lacking, and yet it does lack this feature.

Interview:

To get a better feeling for what Powerbomb.TV is, and aims to be, I reached out to Gerard Durling, co-founder of the service for a short interview.

NC: For those unaware, who are you and what is your background?

GD: My name is Gerard Durling and I’m the founder of Coal Creative internet marketing, co-founder of Powerbomb.tv independent wrestling video on demand service. I guess you can say that, in a previous life, I was an independent wrestler by the name of “Vin Gerard” and “Equinox” in CHIKARA.

NC: What made you transition from being an in-ring performer to a partner in a streaming service?

GD: Well, the in-ring performer stuff has been behind me now for about 5-years. Personally, I didn’t feel like I was advancing myself enough to continue performing the amount I was. In my last year of wrestling, I was also creating my first start-up business that was gaining some attention from investors. I ended up taking a deal and it required me to be available a lot on weekend evenings. That is of course, when most independent wrestling shows were. It felt like a natural progression and break to see what else I could do outside of it.

In the last year or two, my company Coal Creative, has really expanded ourselves into video marketing. That’s how this all started with Powerbomb.TV – I was approached by Adam Lash to see if I’d be interested in getting involved in the project with him.

NC: With all the recent waves being made in the streaming service market concerning Pro-Wrestling (WWE Network, NJPW World, Lucha Underground on Netflix, multitudinous indie promotions having their own dedicated streaming options etc.) what is your vision to make Powerbomb.tv stand out from the crowd?

GD: Adam and I both share a passion for wanting to help independent wrestling be more successful and to help however we can. We’re not millionaires, that’s for sure. We can’t compete with some of these services in dollars. We thought that by creating this service, we could reinvest into the companies that work with us. We’re not in this to make money from the subscription service. We want to help make a difference on the independent level and to expose fans to new talent and promotions.

NC: What do you offer to Promoters and Fans that sets you apart as a business partner and as a service to invest in?

GD: I think we offer promoters a lot of opportunity. If someone asks us for help with anything, we’re always open to trying to figure out a way to make it work. As for fans, we have a very diverse catalog of content already, over 30 promotions, and a lot are from partners in Mexico. We want to try to involve the promotions we work with as much as we can in creating out of the box ideas that will garner more attention for everyone.

NC: Who on Powerbomb.tv are you most excited to watch? Who should people be keeping their eyes on?

GD: A lot of the independent lucha libre has me excited. We have some opportunities there to create some interesting content that could help educate American wrestling fans to some of the new faces of Lucha Libre. We’re looking into providing alternate commentary for some of those promotions. C*4 in Ottawa Canada deserves a lot more attention for some of the shows they’ve put together over the last few years.

In Conclusion:

Powerbomb.TV is positioning itself in the independent pro-wrestling scene as an exciting alternative to the standard distribution models of DVD and VOD sales, whose scope offers people like me, and hopefully people like you, something fresh and exciting. While there are some concerns I have raised about the content and the platform’s functionality, this is a living service that is routinely being updated. Since I crunched my numbers at least six new videos across a minimum of three different promotions have been added. I think that they have all the potential in the world to become an exciting, vibrant hub for fans of independent and international pro-wrestling to find what they are craving. I look forward to seeing their offerings expand, and to seeing them take more interesting marketing initiatives like Break the Barrier 2017. Don’t forget to sign up for your free trial today and watch Break the Barrier on June 11th, then dig into the offerings the participating promotions have on the service!

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #023 – #TorontoWrestling reviews WCPW’s Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier

On May 14th, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, held what I do believe is their second ever event outside of the U.K., the Canadian Qualifier for their inaugural Pro Wrestling World Cup. I was thankfully front row and in person for this special collaboration between the newest juggernaut of the Brit-Wres scene and the stalwart locals Smash Wrestling. The Phoenix Concert Theatre was packed, and everyone was in a state of mind to see some good wrestling. I think it was one of the most vocal, excited crowds I have ever sat amongst. They had specifically requested that those in attendance not spoil the show’s results online before it aired, so I’ve been sitting on this since then.

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When they announced this I knew I’d travel anywhere in Canada to see it. Thankfully they decided to plop it right down in my home, Toronto, and team with local indie powerhouse Smash Wrestling.

Match 0: Kevin Blackwood vs. Buck Gunderson (c) – Hogtown Pro Ontario Openweight Championship Match

It’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t record this match. Buck Gunderson has a very old fashioned look to him, reminiscent of Jerry “The King” Lawler in his attire, and there was a lot of love for him, even when he heeled it, from those in attendance. It was my first time watching him and while his attire set me back a step, he was quite adept.

The two men start with a back-and-forth series of technical lock ups, both men looking equally good in the exchange. They run the ropes and exchange tosses and Blackwood comes down hard on a seated buck with a Missile Dropkick. Buck comes back with some innovative rope use and gets distinctly heelish in his performance. They do some more back-and-forth moves. Blackwood rocking that really current indie style, while Buck has some really great moves of his own but stands out more as a character, with a style that physically expresses his gimmick.

Blackwood wrecks Buck Gunderson with a flurry of kicks, but it isn’t enough to stop the champ. Gunderson looks good as he goes for the nouveau retro-cool finisher de jour, The Crossface Chickenwing, but Blackwood escapes eventually. Not afraid to get dirty, Gunderson finally secures the 3 count with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes.

Grade: B-

After that nice bonus match, the filming commenced and the announcer hyped the crowd up for some tournament action!

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When Dupree was announced for this show my reaction was: “He’s still alive?”

Match 1: Michael Elgin vs. Rene Dupree – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1

Big Mike gets a huge pop on his way to the ring, one that put the reaction Dupree gets to shame. I remember Rene Dupree very well from his time in the E and he looks just as fit as ever, chiseled as fuck, and he has ten years of new tattoos and a hilarious ponytail.

The match starts with a stare-down and the two big mean lock up, the audience takes this as an opportunity to hate on Dupree. They stare down again and go back and forth, with Elgin maintaining control over the fight. He hits a big outside-to-inside slingshot splash on the former WWE Tag Tem champion. Elgin lifts Dupree up in his stalling vertical suplex and hits gets a full thirty seconds of air time. Keeping track of that number was devilishly difficult because of that damned “Ten” chant that has infected the local shows whenever there is a count of any kind. It was cute at TakeOver: Toronto when we created it, but that was for Dillinger, because of his unique gimmick. It belongs nowhere else than in his matches. Please stop.

Dupree kicks out of the power move and tries to take control with a series of strikes, getting in some big kicks but Elgin just shrugs it off when the Maritimer chops him. They exchange chops and when Dupree gets in a big knee, Big Mike wrests control away from him by tossing him with a huge suplex, and lariats him like a boss. Elgin gets two on Dupree with a German, but Dupree comes back with another big knee and a huge suplex of his own. A corner dropkick gets Dupree two on Big Mike. Dupree gets frustrated, goes and gets a chair, and winds up crushing the ref in the corner and getting himself disqualified from competition. Big Mike wins in a match that cries out for a blow off at a later date where chairs aren’t illegal.

Grade: B-
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Frankie the Mobster has been at this for a long time, kind of a legend of the Montreal scene.

Match 2: Frankie the Mobster vs. harry Smith – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1

Frankie, announced as FTM, comes to the ring in a badass two-piece giant horned helmet, like something out of Frazetta art, makes a striking impression. Smith comes down to the ring and runs around it, hi-fiving pretty much the entire front row. There isn’t the same disparity in crowd support between these two as the last two. There is, however, quite the size difference between the two. Harry Smith is an imposing figure and moves strikingly fast for a man his size.

Quickly the match spills outside of the ring, as Harry knocks Frankie to the floor. Smith pursues him and slams him against both the concrete and ring apron, and just dominates him. He grinds on Frankie and keeps him down. Harry has a really nice snap suplex, it gets him a one on FTM. The crowd gets behind Frankie as Smith grinds on him, wearing him down, and maintains total control. The son of the British Bulldog hits Frankie with a nice neckbreaker and slaps on lots of headlocks, preventing the Montrealer from making the comeback that the crowd so desperately wants him to make,

Harry goes for a powerbomb but Frankie reverses it and gets his comeback, nailing a good lariat and t-bone suplex, following it with a dropkick to turn the tide. Sadly for the fans he only gets a two count here. Frankie no sells a big lariat but can’t get the upper hand. They exchange big moves, and just as Frankie looks to secure the win with a chokeslam Harry grabs the ref and crotches FTM then gives him a piledriver for the three count. I was really surprised at how good they let Frankie look, all things considered,

Grade: B
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I had no way of anticipating how good this match would be!

Match 3: Mike Bailey vs. Brent Banks – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1

This match starts off with the most chanting I have ever been a part off, as the audience showered “Speedball” Mike Bailey and Brent “Money” Banks with adulation, even giving the ref his moment of praise. One of the most passionate wrestling fans I know turned me on to how awesome Bailey is, and Banks has really grown on me since his lacklustre match against Tarik at F8ful Eight. This match solidified both of them as near-future super stars in my mind.

They start with some great lucha libre inspired grabs and escapes, trading position back and forth, displaying charm and charisma aplenty. They follow it with super fast spots while running the ropes, eliciting huge pops from the crowd. Banks hits a huge tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on bailey, pressing the advantage it gives him by chopping, stomping, and slapping Speedball. Banks looks great in the sequence and goes for a cocky Jericho-esque pin, to no avail.

Enraged, Banks stomps the piss out of Bailey, heeling it up to highlight how good Speedball is as an underdog. Bailey makes a comeback with huge kicks and dodges, nailing a particularly thudding kick to Banks head to take control. Banks counters Speedball’s flurry of offense when he catches him out of a springboard handstand into a Blue Thunder Bomb, getting only two out of a spot that could have ended the match.

They turn up the intensity with an amazing sequence where the run the ropes, ending with Bailey hitting a moonsault onto Banks outside of the ring. There’s a bit of a botch when bailey does a rope jump, and some unpleasant corner work that doesn’t meet the crispness of the rest of this match, This moves the match into its final moments, as there is a back-and-forth sequence of huge moves that sees Banks absolutely kill Bailey with everything in his arsenal for two count after two count. Speedball gets a flip piledriver, whirlwind kick, and huge shooting star knees for the final three count on Banks, advancing him to the next round.

Grade: A
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Dux looks weird in black and white.

Match 4: Tyson Dux vs. Kyle O’Reilly – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1

The two technicians start the match off grappling for control, wrenching each other’s arms. The opening portions of the match are very technique heavy, with each man exchanging control with the other many times. They set up a narrative where O’Reilly has the edge in technique and Dux the advantage in terms of raw power. They have a great early sequence demonstrating their crisp techniques as they run the ropes.

Dux can’t keep control and O’Reilly cranks his neck, headlock fucking him, and maintains his grip through a nasty suplex. Frustrated, Dux goes outside but O’Reilly gets him with a running headlock. He walks the Smash Champion around the ring, hi-fiving fans as he embarrasses Dux. Finally Dux starts to make a comeback when he targets O’Reilly’s knee. He works the knee all over the ring, and abuses it particularly hard on the apron and post, getting really brutal. O’Reilly tries to come back with a surprise arm bar and rocks Dux with a big knee. Unfortunately he can’t take the advantage because his worked-over knee gives out on him.

Once back on his feet there is a flurry of strikes from O’Reilly and he is back in control. He targets Dux legs with a knee bar but Dux fights back by yanking on O’Reilly’s wounded knee, they go back-and-forth like this a while. The Dux gets O’Reilly in a Figure 4 after a strike flurry, but there is no submission, and they mutually lariat each other. After they recover O’Reilly really sells his hurt knee. Dux targets the knee but O’Reilly powers through, wrecks Dux with knees, and goes for the brainbuster but Dux escapes. O’Reilly keeps up the pressure, but can’t get a victory out of any moves, and they wind up exchanging strikes and grapples. Finally O’Reilly gets his brainbuster transitioned into an armbar spot and wins.

Grade: A
Match 5: Martin Kirby vs. Tarik

This match starts off slow, slow enough for me to worry about it just long enough that I had to make a note of it, but kicks into a higher gear quick enough. Kirby shows some good flair and looks to take the advantage but eats a wallop of a straight punch from the angry Calgarian. There’s a bit of bother with a corner spot that distracted from the quality of the action, but they work it out. Tarik takes control of the match with a big springboard elbow to the back of Kirby’s head, netting him a two count. Tarik keeps up his full control with a series of big strikes, even knocking Kirby to the outside.

Kirby takes control back with a big kick and transitions into a sequence that nets him a slingblade. He dodges everything that Tarik has for him and knocks his opponent down. He goes for the Zoidberg Elbow but instead eats a G2S and Disaster Kick from Tarik, kicking out at two. Tarik sets up Kirby for his Backpack Stunner out of the corner but can’t connect, and Kirby secures the three count with a superkick and fameasser. Solid fun.

Grade: B+
Match 6: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Gabriel Kidd (c) – WCPW Internet Championship Match

This match starts with both men grappling to feel each other out, with ZSJ taking control of Kidd’s arm. Both men showing striking levels of technique. They exchange position and go back and forth with technical cranks, bending each other in painful ways. They put on a respectable show of grappling right from the onset and I love it. Each man looks like money as they trade position back-and-forth and put on a veritable wrestling clinic.

ZSJ takes brief control but is overwhelmed by both the speed and power of Gabriel Kidd. The Internet Champ is great with the escapes, back-and-forth they go just looking like absolute genius athletes in the ring. Neither man has a clear advantage over the other until Sabre Jr. turns on his vicious streak and brutalizes Kidd with a kick and choke. He starts picking on Kidd and runs through a chain of submissions until Kidd gets the ropes. Even after that Kidd taunts ZSJ, getting himself all tangled up as a reward.

Kidd levels the playing field with a big European uppercut and slam. A tremendous missile dropkick gets him a two count on Sabre Jr. ZSJ ties Kidd up as tight as can be but the Champ gets the rope break, then they move into a strike exchange, throwing wild European uppercuts at each other. They trade pinning predicaments. Sabre Jr. antagonizes Kidd with a slap to the face and Kidd comes at ZSJ hard, fuelled by anger. Zack controls the flow of the action for a while, tying up Kidd to counter everything, even moonsaults. Nevertheless, ZSJ can’t make Kidd tap or keep him down for three, even after he wrecks him with a German and Penalty Kick. An infuriated ZSJ is caught off guard with a surprise small package and Kidd retains his championship. This match wowed me.

Grade: A+
Match 7: Harry Smith vs. Michael Elgin – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 2

Smith rushes Elgin right out of the gate, targeting his leg, and very quickly the two big men spill out of the ring and brawl all over the venue, slamming each other against all sorts of things. They go so far into the wilds of the venue that I lose sight of them from my position, and can only track their movement by the huge pops from different sections of the audience.

Back in the ring, Smith targets Big Mike’s leg again, using the ropes and the post to brutalize Elgin. Smith locks in a sloppy, but very welcome, Figure 4 around the ring post. He grinds on Elgin’s legs with multiple submissions and attacks. Every time Elgin tries for a comeback, Harry Smith goes after his leg again. Routinely locking on nice submissions, using the ropes for leverage, and looking like a technical master with beautiful bridges.

Smith misses with a knee and finally Elgin catches a break, lands some strikes, and dumps him with a German. He then gets a Falcon Arrow on Smith for a two count. They tussle and Big Mike dumps him with another German, but Harry counters and gets a huge kick for two. Smith gets a sharpshooter, but Elgin escapes. Harry goes for a driver on the apron but Elgin reverses and there’s a cannonball to the outside, which nets him a two count when he gets Smith back in the ring. Harry gets a low blow and piledriver on Elgin for two and tries to secure the victory with a sharpshooter again. Elgin reverses it into a small package for two and then finally secures the three count with a powerbomb.

Grade: B
Match 8: Mike Bailey vs. Kyle O’Reilly – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 2

O’Reilly comes down to the ring still selling the work done to his leg by Dux in his previous match. This puts me in a good mood from the very beginning of the match, as it helps build continuity and drama. The two dance around each other with kicks. They spar fast and furious. Kyle O’Reilly tries to take the advantage with grapples, but Bailey escapes and starts in on O’Reilly’s injured leg. It really gets to O’Reilly and he takes a short walk to recoup, Bailey playing pure babyface doesn’t chase him down, he just stretches and waits.

They grapple-scramble for position, playing fair with each other, and go back-and-forth with a series of strikes and grapples. Kyle keeps selling the leg as Bailey targets it to make it worse. They both show how talented they are as the sequence develops. Bailey gets in a Dragon Screw and works over O’Reilly’s knee like a boss. bailey stays in control until O’Reilly turns it around with a capture suplex.

O’Reilly gets control but he sells that his knee is bothering him as he uses it, creating great uncertainty in his ability to win. He goes to his strengths and works on submitting Speedball, working his knee hard in revenge for the abuse taken. They give room to sell the action, to breathe and feel tense and real. The longer O’Reilly works on submitting Mike Bailey the more Bailey slides into his preferred position as underdog in the match. Bailey nails a nice standing moonsault knees but there’s no pinfall attempt. Both men are tired. They have a nice sequence that is capped off with Bailey hitting a huge Tae Kwon Do kick. O’Reilly comes back with a buzzsaw kick and tries to submit Bailey and then they go back-and-forth looking really good. O’Reilly then dumps Speedball with a big suplex for a two count. They exchange kicks and O’Reilly then sweeps the leg, and then they trade strikes in a flurry of action.

Bailey tries to finish off O’Reilly with a huge kick, but gets caught mid flip in a submission. There’s a big exchange and O’Reilly gets a brainbuster for two. Immediately he goes into a series of submissions, but Speedball gets to the ropes and the crowd is in love with this match. Speedball cranks up the acrobatics with an inside-to-outside moonsault  but misses and Kyle O’Reilly takes control and puts him up top on the turnbuckle. Bailey escapes and O’Reilly pursues and Bailey escapes again and gets the flipping knees of death on O’Reilly for the three count, advancing him to the finals in the UK. Overall this match went a little too long, with me making certain to note as much, which kept it from being better.

Grade: A
Match 9: El Ligero vs. Joe Hendry

Hendry cuts an overlong heel promo to set the tone of the match to come. He attacks Ligero before the match with the belt and knocks him loopy. Hendry wails on Ligero in a rough manner. Ligero gets in a flurry of chops and the action spills outside of the ring. They brawl into the crowd and all over the place, they disappear amidst the people and the next I see of them Ligero is getting a running splash on a seated Hendry. At this point in the match I had to note that it felt like they were spending too much time in the crowd. Before the move back into the ring Ligero gets a huge dive onto Hendry off of an elevated bar counter.

Back in the ring the ref takes a bump and Ligero gets a cutter on Hendry for a five count, but the ref is still down. Hendry gets a low blow on Ligero and grabs a chair. Ligero counters by getting a lowblow of his own hits him with the chair, and then creams Hendry with a splash. El Ligero gets so many counts, but still the ref is down. A new ref rushes the ring but its too late and Ligero can only keep Hendry down for a fresh two count. Ligero at this point has won the match two times with no ref to count. The second referee then takes a bump and Hendry clobbers Ligero with the belt and the ref is suddenly back and gives a two count.

They go outside again and Hendry wrecks Ligero, tossing him into stuff. They have spent at this point altogether too much time outside of the ring. Hendry heads back and Ligero starts getting counted out, makes it back in at nine. There is a flurry of action as the men go back-and-forth. Hendry applies the anklelock, Ligero escapes, but Hendry just grabs on with another anklelock and Ligero taps out for the win. The crowd boos. Definitely not the best match to close out such an awesome show. Over booked and too much time outside, but both men are great performers.

Grade: B-

Post match Martin Kirby saves Ligero from a beatdown by Hendry.

This show had a lot of really great matches on it, and I hope that the audience love comes across on the recorded product. I haven’t been to an indie show yet in Toronto that has offered this many quality matches, that were so different from each other, in one evening. Clearly WCPW wanted to pull precisely zero punches here. It wasn’t perfect, and some of the great matches could have been better with little tweaks. This show could have had at least three A+ matches with just a bit of fine-tuning. Nevertheless, it was one for the record books.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #022 – But why does YouTube hate Pro-Wrestling? Part 2

Last Monday I laid out that there has been a heavy impact felt by several vocal  Professional Wrestling promotions (and likely many more  who have not voiced their woes) with regards to YouTube’s shifting stance on what is, and what is not, advertising friendly content. Companies like Beyond Wrestling, WCPW, and WWR have all seen their advertisement income through the platform decimated, reduced to one tenth or less of what it had been. Each company impacted by this solemn decree from high atop Mount YouTube, that Professional Wrestling, in its entirety, is heretical and antithetical to advertisers, is coping with the blow to their bottom line in different ways. WCPW has been forced to scale back, cancelling their weekly Loaded show, Beyond is resting, somewhat comfortably, on its diversified income streams, while WWR faces an indefinite hiatus if paid sales of content don’t pan out in the immediate future.

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With the scene set, I left the last article on the idea that there were two paths forward at this critical juncture in the Internet-Age of Pro-Wrestling: Adaptation and Confrontation. So let’s look a little at what these two paths would entail, and what opportunities and pitfalls they each might hold for those companies faced with choosing their own adventure.

ADAPTATION

Herein we will define “adaptation” as the need for companies to diversify and/or strengthen their non-YouTube revenue streams to turn the tide against this loss of income. Now, we can safely assume that, if shows are being cancelled and operations potentially indefinitely suspended, the revenue earned from ticket sales for shows and merch alone is insufficient to cover the various operating costs. The natural assumption would then be to ask “Why not just raise ticket and merch prices?” Well, unfortunately there’s only so much that prices can be raised before you turn off your fan base . This could happen either because they cannot afford to move up to whatever price point you deem necessary to survival, or because they determine that the cost-to-fun ratio isn’t worth it anymore, or they expect that with increased cost comes increased quality of venue, production value, talent et al., not simply maintaining the status quo.

So, while I could see an approximate five to ten dollar increase across the board not driving away fans in stampeding droves, anything greater than that would likely fail to garner you any serious benefits – and even that small increase, with the additional taxes that would have to be paid on them, may turn out to be entirely ineffective.

One could attempt to increase ones profit margins through increased volume of merchandise sales, but for indie companies this can prove to be a difficult, uphill climb. Only a few major companies, such as the WWE, NJPW, ROH, and Impact, can afford to take production and distribution and paying of owed royalties out of the hands of the performers on their shows. This leaves indie promotions to compete for merchandise sales at their shows with the regular talent and special guest attractions. Most often, from my many, many, many years of attending independent shows, those in attendance will purchase far more merchandise directly from the wrestlers than from the promotion. The reasons for this are multitudinous, and not worth exploring in their entirety here for the sake of this article.

There are a few ways that promotions could grow their merchandise sales without having to take on the burden of production, and fronting costs, for performer merchandise or, worse, raise the ire of fan and wrestler alike by banning sales by any parties other than themselves at their events. They could hire top tier graphic designers to produce merchandise that is more visually appealing than that of the talent they bring in, and I can say that great designs have made me buy shirts for brands that I wasn’t a huge fan of before. But designs in and of themselves will not accomplish enough of an increase, on their own. What drives revenue to wrestlers tables, more than to the promotions’ merch, is that people like to support things they are excited to see. The company itself, and not just the people who perform there, has to be seen as a destination, an entity in and of itself, to breed brand loyalty.

Considering the nature of Professional Wrestling in 2017, with most talent working many promotions in a given area, and the speed at which major players are scooping up independent talent to bolster their rosters, making your promotion have an identity, and not relying exclusively on local star talent or special attractions to drive sales, is a key to survival. Creating brand loyalty, instead of being a place where people go to see some big names when they come through town, is crucial. Now, the brands in question here – WCPW, Beyond Wrestling, WWR – are not exactly your standard local indie promotion and have, relatively speaking, entrenched fandoms. Likely this issue wouldn’t be as much of a problem for them as it would be for one of those other companies I posited as hypotheticals earlier.

I feel ill-equipped to advice companies on how to create that crucial identity, that peculiar mixture of characteristics, that will work to generate brand loyalty. There are too many factors to take into account, most of them directly and explicitly unique to the locality a company operates in. This is where you, as a promoter, would have to do some research, learn what your local audience likes, what will click with people who identify with your territory, and tap into the collective regional zeitgeist. This mixture will be wildly different from one audience to the next, with multiple promotions capable of running overlapping geographical space and still having their own full-fledge and hardcore non-overlapping fan base.  I think Smash Wrestling have done a wonderful job of this for Toronto, and I’d love to pick the brains of the men behind the branding – let’s see if I can arrange that for down the line.

So then, if you’re already at a point where you’ve crafted your brand’s identity, and your fandom is loyal and willing to spend money on your merchandise, and you’re still feeling the hit like a bulldozer in this lost revenue, what options are there left? Many companies are turning to digital streaming services, either independently like Chikara and Smash have done, following the WWE’s model, or through platforms like Fite TV, FloSlam and Powerbomb.TV that all offer multiple companies’ shows housed under one roof. To the hardcore fans these are great options for keeping up to date with your company’s content, but the problem here is that the marketplace is brutally crowded, with dozens of companies having dedicated services as well as boatloads of companies having YouTube channels that give away content for free. It is very easy to look at all of these different places vying for your money and become overwhelmed with the sea of choice. Even if you assume that your local indy fan doesn’t want to be subscribed to the WWE’s network, that still places you in direct competition with NJPW, DDT, Stardom, Chikara, Smash, Progress, and others who all have potentially more visibility.

So crafting brand loyalty would certainly help to engage your loyal fans in making a choice towards your service, but a few hundred or a thousand subscribers may not be enough to patch up the lost revenue, when you consider the additional costs that would be associated with it. It certainly helps to shore up your war chest, but if one match previously returned to you thousands of dollars in YouTube revenue and now is giving you scant more than forty bucks, you’re looking at a gulf that may not be patchable on your current fandom…

Is, then, growing your fan base the only solution? Obviously every wrestling promotion should have its sights set  on bringing more eyes to their product and bringing new people into the overall Pro-Wrestling fandom. Yet, realistically speaking, I generally see the same sets of people at the local indy shows month-in and month-out. Reaching beyond your core hardcore audience and attracting new people to Professional Wrestling seems to be the hardest hurdle. Realistically even the E fails to do this in this day and age, and they offer the most flash, bang, and pop in production values and big spectacle shows. There’s clearly a missing component, here. I’m not enough of a businessman, prophet, or savant to be able to answer the questions raised here, about how to grow the popularity of Professional Wrestling beyond its current bounds to the heights it once achieved, and has the potential to exceed, or how to best monetize your existing fans without driving them away. Maybe in the future I’ll come to a point where I have investigated the industry and the fans enough to be of more help. But there’s still another option left…

CONFRONTATION

But another possibility exists, as mentioned above in that video. A cryptic possibility tied tightly with the newly crowned Fighting Back show, which apes the YouTube logo to make its intent clear. A campaign, they call it, will be launched to try and counteract this loss of revenue. Likely this will be aimed at YouTube changing its advertising and monetization guidelines to reinstate Pro-Wrestling as a friendly place to advertise. Hell, the WWE shills Rocket League and Slim Jims (okay, I’ve dated myself with one of those references). But what form the campaign will take, and what impact it will have, leaves much to the imagination.

From my personal experience with the Indivisible crowd funding campaign, and knowing the large social media presence the WhatCulture boys have, a Thunderclap or other similar mass broadcasting message service would seem a logical direction to take this in. Make your noise loud, make it with as many voices as possible, and worst of all for YouTube, make it fucking #trend. Depending upon their choice of words, and the specific platform they use to approach this topic, it wouldn’t be a far cry to see many other Pro-Wrestling companies, and genre appropriate YouTube personalities, enlist their own fan bases to expand the efficacy of this proposed campaign. I can see how I would go about this, were I in their position. We’ll have to wait and see what moves they make. I’d hate to lose such potential after such little time.

In the meantime, however, after WCPW’s cryptic messages, Pro-Wrestling fans across social media have mobilised. Presently there is a petition, launched by Heelbook on Change.org, calling for a reversal of YouTube’s declarations concerning Pro-Wrestling. This petition picks up on the concerns voiced by Adam Blampied in WCPW’s video from last week and runs with it, mentioning Beyond Wrestling, as I have, and adding some new names to the list of those affected. This petition has caught they eye of one Will Ospreay who retweeted it, and is approximately 7000 signatures away from its 25000 signee goal. Whether or not this number of people will make a difference in the eyes of YouTube or just be inconsequential is beyond my grasp, but it is obvious that fans and brands seem to have chosen to fight this rather than strive for those intangibles associated with adaptation. It will be interesting, over the coming months, to see how this plays out.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #021 – But why does YouTube hate Pro-Wrestling? Part 1

I wanted to release an article today about WCPW’s recent tapings as part of my #TorontoWrestling series. They taped the Canadian leg of their Pro Wrestling World Cup on May 14th 2017 at The Phoenix, immediately after a fantastic Smash Wrestling event. The article I wanted to post was a hype article, a spoiler-free review of the show (as they had requested that those in attendance not spoil the results on the internet before it is broadcast). It is set to broadcast shortly, at the end of this week. It would have been a glowing spoiler free review. The show was fantastic, with no less than three absolutely stellar matches. It saw local talent excel in surprising, opinion-changing ways. It introduced me to new names and faces that have bright, vivid futures in Pro-Wrestling. It was exciting and well produced.

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“What Culture” may be a dumb, tongue-in-cheek name, but their product is solid fun.

But then on the way to work today this video hit my twitter feed…

WhatCulture are not the only company who are seeing a hit to their financials out of YouTube and this was not the first time I had heard mention of heavy cuts to vital advertising revenue being bemoaned by a Pro-Wrestling organization – nor would it be the last time I would hear about it today. Beyond Wrestling suffered a hit, and so did the Women’s Wrestling Revolution. Beyond Wrestling have publically announced on their twitter that they are getting 1/10th the revenue they had been getting – and had insinuated that their ad revenue had been a big factor in the talent they were bringing in. They have also said, however, that their income streams are diversified enough that they will weather the storm. However, unlike other companies, WhatCulture started off, are most familiar with, and rely very heavily upon their YouTube platform to fund their operations and keep it viable as a business.

An argument can be made here against putting all your eggs in one basket, but it’s also hard to blame a company that has been around for less than 2 years for not diversifying their income source enough to protect against something as unexpected as YouTube classifying all of Pro-Wrestling in its entirety as not advertiser friendly. The YouTube bubble was bound to pop, and WCPW had started to diversify their funding platform with their subscription “WCPW Extra” service – and subscription services are a crowded, competitive marketplace. Unfortunately, this has not provided them with the kind of buffer they need to keep promoting shows at the frequency, quality, and scale that they had been doing previously.

These companies, and many others I am certain, produce quality Pro-Wrestling entertainment. They help to elevate their scenes. They provide a place for people to work. They expose people to unique and different things. All of that is in various degrees of jeopardy because of a unilateral, seemingly arbitrary, decision made by YouTube to protect its bottom line – which I cannot argue against them having the right to do.

What I can look at, the questions I can raise, are about how these companies can, nay must, adapt to the evolving landscape. What strategies will be most effective and what options do they have to compensate and adjust for the lost revenue? As I see it there are really only two options: either promotions suffering from the sucking chest wound of lost advertising revenue find a way to replace that with increased revenue directly from fan pockets, or convince YouTube that Pro-Wrestling content, while sometimes overly violent and raunchy, is, nonetheless, a desirable market for advertisers to want to be associated with.

It seems apparent that WCPW have a plan to “fight back,” a plan so good they called it a campaign. Words of war are nothing to bandy about without actions to back them up. Come back next week when I will explore the options available along both the path of adaptation and that of confrontation which lay ahead of the companies most affected by YouTube’s policy changes.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #020 – #TorontoWrestling reviews Smash Wrestling’s Have Ring Will Wrestle

I arrived at the Phoenix Concert Theatre a touch too early, and woefully underfed. With back-to-back shows to attend, I had an 8 hour shift of writing notes, talking to fans nearby me, and no food in my belly to look forward to. Thankfully the Phoenix has a Burrito Guy (okay, he also makes Tacos and Quesadillas) and while moderately overpriced (it is venue food, after all) the damn burritos this man cooks up were big and delicious. Burrito Guy saved my day. I had lunch and dinner from him, and would not have been able to focus on the proceedings had he not been there. If you have been to the Phoenix, you’ve seen him slinging his food, next time try it.

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Basically the best event logo they’ve had. The event T-Shirts are boss and I love mine. Buy one yourself!

Match 1: Brent Banks vs. Kevin Blackwood vs. Buxx Belmar vs. Scotty O’Shea vs. Sebastian Suave vs. Vaughn Vertigo

This match was a 6-Man Timed Entry Elimination Match. They didn’t explain the rules to the audience beforehand but it became readily apparent as they started with just Brent Banks and Scotty O’Shea in the ring, but Kingdom James, the manager of Sebastian Suave, came out and cut a promo and waited around at ringside for his man to come in. The big countdown clock also helped, once the next fellow was ten seconds away. I hate O’Shea’s ring gear more and more with every time I see him. Kingdom called it a wet suit. It does kinda look that way.

The match kicks off and Brent Banks makes a point of showing off how agile he is. He gets a gorgeous dropkick into the mix to take control of the flow of the match. The countdown pops up, sooner I think than anyone anticipated, and Vertigo hits the ring, taking quick control of the situation with his aerial stylings. The countdown pops up again and Buxx Belmar heads to the ring, somehow acting even weirder than before his injury put him out for years. Belmar takes down everyone, dropping them in a big dog pile in the middle of the ring, and does a splash on the pile. He then hits O’Shea and Vertigo with his very loudly proclaimed “Penis Attack!”, best described as a Shining Wizard face hump.Banks avoids being the victim of Belmar’s balls, and gains the advantage. The countdown timer pops up again and we are treated to the entrance of Sebastian Suave. Suave takes control of the ring and drops everyone. Suave ties O’Shea up but before he can eliminate the wet-suit wearing Hacker he eats a superkick from Brent Banks. That countdown timer comes up again and Kevin Blackwood storms down to the ring. He tries to clear out the competition, gets through most folk, bot O’Shea takes him down.

The match moves on and they go for the obligatory multi-man Tower of Doom spot out of the corner. I’m growing tired of this spot, it’s not fun anymore. Suave takes control of the fracas but eats a huge powerbomb from Banks. Everyone switches up, in and out of the ring, and in the chaos Buxx Belmar scores the first elimination on Vertigo, but can’t rejoice in his vioctory as Sebastian Suave wrecks him for the 3 as well. Four men left. Kingdom James announces a commercial break and some endorsement message plays on the “tron”, Suave stares at it and admires himself on the big screen. Usually these commercial break spots are a moment of rest for those in the ring, but Blackwood says “Fuck It!” and grabs Suave in a surprise pinning predicament to eliminate The Endorsement. Huge Pop from the crowd. Blackwood goes  on a tear, hits O’Shea with a Yoshitonic for one, but he keeps going. Blacwood sneaks a roll up on Banks during the fracas for 3 count and gets a nice clean hit on on O’Shea for 2.5. O’Shea almost puts Blackwood away with a corner cannonball. Scotty O’Shea avoids multiple pinfall attempts and ends up getting the final three count out of a nice Gory Special into a slam.

Good opening match with lots of energy brought out of the crowd, good way to psyche us up for the two back to back shows. Post match Tarik beats down Blackwood for just being the new kid on the block. It feels like Tarik is in the Gatekeeper role in Smash, running new blood through the meat grinder to establish them and see if they stick. Should be a good feud between them.

Grade: B-
Match 2: Well-Oiled Machines (Psycho Mike + Braxton Sutter) vs. Tabarnak De Team (Thomas Dubois + Mathieu St-Jacques)

The whole match starts with the Well-Oiled Machines oiling themselves up, followed by the crowd chanting for TDT to likewise oil up, so they take their flannel off and get their burly Quebecois selves nice and greasy. Of course, Psycho Mike and Braxton Sutter take this as an opportunity to jump them and beat down on them before the bell. but they make the terrible choice of gloating over their pre-match assault and wind up falling victim to an act of revenge. TDT stack Mike and Braxton on top of each other in the corner and brutalize them. TDT take control, tagging in and out, as they work over Psycho Mike. They just wreck him for a while.

The Well-Oiled Machines take control via shenanigans and Sutter lays into St-Jacques, beating him down but not securing the pinfall. Frequent tags keep the Machines in control until St-Jacques clears the opposition and gets the hot tag. Dubois is inand tosses Psycho Mike around, hitting huge moves. The Well-Oiled Machines spill out to the floor and Tabarnak De Team follow suit with stereo Tope Suicidas. The two teams brawl into the audience in what is easily becoming a trope at Smash shows. They work their way back, collectively, into the ring and when the opportunity presents itself St-Jacques hits a glorious Moonsault on Psycho Mike, but Sutter breaks up the pin. The Well-Oiled Machines next get Thomas Dubois into a pin, and he kicks out with both of them on top of him. St-Jacques comes in and DDTs both opponents. They go into a sequence where both teams tease their finishes but can’t follow through, TDT get the upper hand and slam Mike and Sutter into each other, then hit a Diving European Uppercut-Powerbomb combo for the win.

Grade: B-

Amusingly, between matches they have to get some crew in to  wipe down the ropes, as they were covered in oil from the previous four burly men.

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Having never seen either before, this image made me anticipate a much more even match.  That was a height joke.

Match 3: KC Spinelli vs. Vanessa Kraven

Vanessa Kraven is huge compared to KC Spinelli, and they play off of it, both for comedy and intensity. They start with comedy as KC tries to deal w/ the sheer size of Kraven, whom they introduced as “The Mountain“. It’s almost as if KC is stunned by the fact that a woman that large exists, standing across from her. Spinelli finds an oily patch of ropes, vocally drawing attention to it, and when the chance arrives she grinds Kraven’s face into the oily patch. Nevertheless, Kraven keeps derailing Spinelli with, needing just one hit to undue any amount of work Spinelli can do. Inevitably Kraven easily takes control with a series of damn thunderous chops. She gets to stomping on Spinelli, but they just look too fake and take me right out of the story they’ve been telling. Kraven makes up for her stomps with a pair of nice overhead belly-to-belly suplexes. The second one looks like it was a bad head dump. Brutal! She gets that corner cannonball everybody and their uncle is doing now and only keeps KC down for two. Both previous matches, and many more on this night, featured that exact same move. This one seemed kinda boring after the previous two, this one just didn’t  stand out. Kraven wins with a Chokebomb.

Overall, this match wasn’t bad, but it did nothing to really excite me and felt poorly placed on the card.

Grade: C
Match 4: Kevin Bennett and Franky TM vs. the Super Smash Bros (Stu Grayson + Evil Uno)

Before the bell a brawl breaks out and all four men spill outside the ring, and then Bennet’s cronies get involved. The Super Smash Brothers are overwhelmed and Bennett’s cronies hold them in place as Franky goes for a big ol’ Tope Suicida, but Uno and Stu escape just in time for Franky to wreck Bennett’s thugs. Then they just brawl all over the venue. They head back up the ramp and it’s impossible for me to see exactly what is going on. Then all of a sudden people are flying down the ramp section and there’s just chaos.

The SSB get back in the ring, dragging a limp Bennett and Franky with them and finally the bell rings, the match can now start. They go for a pin, and almost get a win right out of the gate, but Bennett’s cronies break it up. The biggest guy out there, Bennett’s personal security, eats an absolutely brutal slam onto the apron from Stu Grayson. He’s just so heavy looking, the force that must have had… I certainly wouldn’t have gotten up after that.

Once the fracas ends it’s Franky and Uno in the ring, very evenly matched. Uno tags in Stu who flies through the air, right into the loving embrace of Franky TM, who drops him hard in a great slam. Bennett gets in with Stu, but can’t secure the three count when he has Grayson down. There’s miscommunication and Bennett winds up ganking Franky, but the SSB can’t get the 3 either.

Franky cleans house, but he goes after Bennett, looking to take out many months of frustration and being Bennett’s bitch. Bennett’s cronies yank him out of harm’s way and then Franky gets abused by the SSB. He eats a series of knees and super kicks while tied in the ropes and takes a running knee-piledriver combo for the SSB to win.

Grade: C+
Match 5: Greed vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Championship Title Match

Greed starts throwing down big hits right away, but Dux comes back and hits a huge corner Death Valley Driver. He only keeps greed down for two. The story of the match is technique versus brute force. There’s some even back and forth, each man laying furiously into the other. Grred keeps up well with the former Cruiserweight Classic competitor in Tyson Dux. They spill outside onto the floor. Greed gets the advantage, using his size and weight.

The crowd is oddly silent but they pep up when Dux gets to work suplex-ing and cutter-ing Greed. In the ensuing action there is one point where Dux’s pained expression is just priceless. I hope they got an angle on the camera that captures it for their streaming service. You gotta see it. Dux hits a big superplex on Greed, and transitions, turning the big man over into a Boston Crab right in the middle of the ring. Greed escapes and Dux tries to thwart him by going up top but the big man catches him and rams him to the turnbuckle. Again, it’s oddly quiet. Greed takes control and finally his his shirtless Bullfrog Splash (I coined that myself, at the show, get it? Because Greed is huge) but only gets two on Dux. The champ gets a huge brainbuster on Greed, only keeps him down for two. Dux picks him back up and gets another brainbuster for the final three count.

It was a good match but never really lit the crowd on fire. I’m surprised that ROH haven’t come knocking for Dux, considering the style he’s working these days and their dearth of talent.

Grade: B-
Match 6: Tarik vs. Kyle O’Reilly

The crowd is on fire when O’Reilly makes his entrance. There’s some nice chain wrestling to start. They go back and forth with technical style and O’Reilly does his sunset flip-arm bar spot. O’Reilly is in control and he does the weirdest twisting takedown. O’Reilly grinds on Tarik, controlling the flow of the fight, but it gets messy on the apron and Tarik winds up in control. Tarik gets a nice Vertical Suplex in, but only gets a two count out of it. His frustration grows and Tarik’s well established wild side comes out, he chokes O’Reilly multiple times with the ring ropes. It spills outside for a moment, but it quickly gets back inside and Kyle gets to kicking Tarik, but Tarik reverses with a Disaster Kick and gets 2 on O’Reilly. Tarik goes for a mount on O’Reilly but gets a leg bar for his troubles. They do a strong style strike exchange, and it looks like Kyle’s in control but Tarik counters with a huge drop kick.

Tarik looks to be in control and goes for his Backpack Stunner but gets choked. They brawl and O’Reilly gets in his signature combo before going into a huge sequence that nets him multiple submissions on Tarik, but Tarik gets to the ropes. He keeps up beating on Tarik but winds up eating a comeback Backpack Stunner, getting a two count on the former Ring of Honor World Champion. They exchange a series of huge big boots, do a forearm back and forth spot, and then Kyle gets the upper hand and unloads with dozen knees on Tarik. A final flurry of moves sees O’Reilly choking, kicking, and brainbuster-ing Tarik, who kicks out at two. O’Reilly catches him mid kick out and locks on an armbar for the tap out.

Grade: B
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They need to get more designs done like this for future shows.

Match 7: Michael Elgin vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

The crowd was hyped. They mix it up and play power versus technique to good results. They do a classic Greco-Roman knuckle lock test of strength spot, I haven’t seen one of those in a while. Made me smile. It was like comfort food for my wrestling soul. ZSJ goes to work on Elgin’s arm, binding him for days. I love the little touches Sabre does, grinding away at spots on Elgin’s arm with his elbow, bending his fingers back. For all the babyface treatment he gets, ZSJ is vicious and ruthless in the squared circle.

Elgin stops Sabre with a cutter, and uses his strength to put ZSJ down. They do the stalling suplex spot, full thirty seconds, each one punctuated by a chant. It gets elgin a two count. They go back and forth, do some strong man spots, and then ZSJ gets a great sweep and running PK for the two count. Elgin gets three German Suplexes on the Brit, but ZSJ dodges a lariat and ties Big Mike up. Elgin escapes and hits an Enzuigiri to try and take control but Sabre combos into a two count. Then they exchange strikes. Sabre kicks the crap outta Big Mike but eats a Falcon Arrow for his troubles. Sabre winds up getting a Jim Briggs Special on the top rope, but gets sunset bombed, hard. Somehow Sabre kicks out. Big Mike sells all the work ZSJ has done to his arm really well, and it was a bit of shame that he didn’t carried it over into the WCPW show, but the two don’t share continuity so there’d be no meaning behind it outside of for the audience members who attended both events back to back.

Big Mike gets out of submissions using power and the two brawl to the apron where Elgin hits a DVD. He then hits Sabre with an outside-to-inside Avalanche Falcon Arrow, gets two. Buckle Bomb and then Power Bomb and Sabre counters into a prawn hold. It’s followed by a lightning fast exchange between the two. it ends with Elgin hitting a Sit-Out Cricifix Powerbomb. He getsa two count and the crowd goes wild. Elgin goes for the Burning Hammer but Sabre flips out of it and gets a strong kick on Elgin. This leads into a flurry of action and Elgin gets the win with a sitout powerbomb.

Grade: A-

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#NoLookingBack #018 – On being Overwhelmed

I have a lot I want to accomplish in life, as a writer and creator. I have always wanted to achieve so much and I struggle daily with feeling like I am never doing enough. Even when I am meeting my self-assigned deadlines, producing routine content, and growing my presence on social media – all integral elements of my strategy towards success – I feel I am letting myself down on a cosmic level. It is the ever present hound, nipping at my heels, driving me forward in frustration and confusion.

The funny thing is, that that sensation, of never having accomplished enough… sometimes it freezes me and I get flustered. I wonder if my ideas are worth it, if the effort is worth it. Clearly, the darkness inside me speaks aloud, if what I was doing was any good I’d have become successful by now, after all, I am 32. It comes at me and I see how far I have to go, and feel so overburdened that I consider giving up entirely. My confidence executed by the dark side of my own drive to succeed. Am I worth it? Can I do this? Questions assail me, I lose track of my progress and my organization goes even more to shit than it already is.

I already find it remarkably difficult to balance my day job, my wrestling articles, drawing, working on scripts, and building a social media presence. New projects fall into my lap, stack up daily. I have skills I need to practice, software I pay for that I hardly use and feel discouraged when I practice and get bad results in. The last thing I need to do is beat myself up about the fact that I have too much going on for my mind to handle. But I do it anyways. Somehow I always come out the other side and get back on track.

I’m writing this because sometimes I say things in a way, online or otherwise, that might make me seem like I have so much figured out. But i don’t. I have determination and drive and a willingness to push through down times. I’m stubborn. I have failed a lot and so far none of it has been hard enough to keep me down. Memes and anecdotes tell me that this is the path towards success. One hundred failures before you get it right. Ten thousand hours. I feel like my time is limited, so I better clock them fast. Just gotta keep getting up, it is the only thing that has worked for me so far. I hope one day I can look back at this post, with a wall full of my works and properties behind me, and be proud of the path I took.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #019 – #TorontoWrestling reviews Ring of Honor at the Ted Reeve Arena

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The official event logo. Property of Ring of Honor.

May 7th 2017 I attended my fourth annual ROH/NJPW cross-promoted tour stop in Toronto. Each and every one held at the Ted Reeve Community Arena. Before we get to the actual review of the show, I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about the venue. I have, over the years, developed a love/hate relationship with the hockey arena. It holds a good amount of people, and the sight lines from pretty much anywhere in the venue are great, perfectly fine to enjoy the matches. But it’s also prone to traffic jams, immense lines that criss-cross and get confused amongst each other when trying to deal with the meet and greet and merch tables. But worst of all is the huge bottleneck created by the venue using the hockey arena’s penalty boxes to move people from the entrance and GA seating to the floor. It makes no sense and has created giant swirling pools of confused people all mobbing for one way out. Somehow, surprisingly, this year I didn’t encounter any of that, but it was a first specific hell. It was a first.

I had to watch the first few matches while standing in line to see Kenny Omega, because they had seriously oversold the photo op tickets for the ever increasing in popularity killer talent. They at least owned up to it and made certain that everyone who had spent hard earned Canadian dollars got their autographs. I kinda felt sorry for the amazing Japanese talent. My friend and I both got through the line for one of my favourite stars, Hirooki Goto, in literally 0 seconds. No one was lined up for him. Naito had a good long line, but other than him only Kenny had a line. And his dwarfed everyone else put together.

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Here’s that picture I had to wait in the longest line for. Totally worth it!

I was lucky enough, while waiting in line with my friend who wanted a group shot with Los Ingobernables de Japon, to have a nice little moment with KUSHIDA. Naito’s line extended to a point where I was standing in front of KUSHIDA. I was rearranging my stuff, I was getting my camera ready and placed my Wrestle Kingdom 11 programme down in such a way that it caught his eye. KUSHIDA looked at me and asked, simply, “Internet?” while pointing at my programme. I smiled, laughed a bit and said “No. Tokyo.” His face lit up and he started asking me about which hotel I stayed at, like he was half-excited to hear about a Canadian travelling to Wrestle Kingdom, and half like he wanted to make certain i really stayed in Tokyo. I stumbled through mispronouncing the name of the Shiodome hotel where I stayed and eventually he smiled, pronounced it properly and I thanked him for the correction. It was a little throwaway moment, but it was me connecting with him on a very human, equal level. I loved it.

Okay, okay. Enough of that. Time to get to the matches.

Match 0: The Fraternity (Channing Decker + Trent Gibson) vs. Cheeseburger + Will Ferrara

The match started with The Fraternity, definitely getting face heat as local talent, doing their usual beer shenanigans. This resulted in Cheeseburger spitting beer in one of their faces to kick off the match. The match was solidly built on some back and forth exchanges, presenting The Fraternity boys as on equal ground with the visiting ROH talent. Cheeseburger’s underdog personality really gets the crowd going and he even hits a nice dive to the outside. The Fraternity heel it up, faking tags and isolating Cheeseburger as their target. They nail some solid offense, including their “Eiffel Tower” double elbow drop (that’s an immature sex joke, right there). Burger does solid underdog work, using The two members of the Fraternity against each other, but they almost get the win over him anyways. Ferrara comes in for the save and Cheeseburger gets the win with the Shotei.

Post match Ferrara gets on the stick and we find out that he and Cheeseburger will be chasing tag-team gold in ROH. That’s an underdog quest right there, I bet the belts are heavier then Cheeseburger.

Grade: C
Match 1: The Rebellion (Caprice Coleman + Rhett Titus) vs. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley + Chris Sabin)

The match started off very fast, It headed outside almost immediately, and coincidentally, entirely out of my view. From the echoing crashes I could tell they were doing a lot of ring barricade spots. When they did get back in the ring it was a pretty standard face vs heel tag team match, with the MCMG doing their most loved vintage spots. The rebellion came out on top out of nowhere, getting the victory in a moment I looked away due to general disinterest in the match. I just don’t like Rhett Titus or Caprice Coleman all that much.

Grade: C
Match 2: Hirooki Goto vs. Shane Taylor

The match starts out mostly with hard hitting strikes, presenting both men on mostly equal footing. Huge lariats and forearms traded back and forth. Taylor hits a huge splash and Goto kicks out of it, only to wind up eating a huge amount of Taylor’s plentiful posterior in the corner. Goto comes back with the GTR following a huge headbutt and fireman’s carry flipped into a neckbreaker over his knee.

Grade: B-
Match 3: CHAOS (Trent Beretta, Rocky Romero, and Gedo) vs. Dalton Castle and The Boys

The match starts with Rocky and Dalton in the ring, but he doesn’t want to lock up with the Party Peacock, so he tags in Trent, who likewise wants nothing of Castle and tags in Gedo. Castle does his Peacock pose and Gedo wants absolutely none of it, but RPG VICE jump off of the apron, unwilling to get back in with the bizarre and brazen Dalton Castle. So Gedo does the only reasonable thing, he imitates Castle and they have a pose off… until Gedo decks him.

Now the match kicks into gear, with the crowd in good spirits. There’s a fracas and Dalton clears the ring. CHAOS go to leave, fed up with the weirdness of Castle’s faction, but the boys chase them down and they rawl back to the ring, CHAOS in control, as Dalton waits. After brawling on the outside for a while, CHAOS isolate one of the boys and work him over. The other boy tries to jump in and Romero hits the Forever Clothesline. Then, with Dalton growing impatient on the outside, RPG VICE hit their trademark spots, making certain to work a good bit of comedy in amongst the athleticism.

Dalton distracts the ref and the Boys use twin magic to get a fresh man in so that Dalton can get the hot tag. He starts cleaning house, but eats double knees from RPG VICE. However, it is not enough to keep him down and Dalton is back in it, nails everyone with German Suplexes and hits the Bangarang on Gedo to win.

Grade: B
Match 4: Punishment Martinez vs. Hangman Page vs. Bully Ray

Crowd doesn’t think much of the entrants until Bully Ray is announced, then there is uproarious ovation. He gets on the mic, gets a good cheap ROH pop, says he wants to adhere to the code of honor… but no one else wants to shake hands. Page jumps him before the bell but Bully Ray dips into his bag of classic mannerisms and clears out the ring. It’s short lived success as Page and Martinez work together for a while to try and dominate the ring veteran. The alliance breaks down and Page gets really impressive as he catches Martinez out of the air with a big move. Completely unexpected and highlights why Hangman Page is somehow wrestling’s best kept secret. He’s so good but no one seems to care.

Page and Martinez do some good work outside the ring. Back in the ring afterwards Bully and Page work together for a moment, and Bully calls for “the tables” but page superkicks him and nearly secures himself the victory. Page gets another near fall on Martinez off of his ever improving flipping clothesline. Martinez kicks out and winds up chokeslamming everyone except the referee, but it’s Bully with the win off of a Bubba Bomb to Page.

Grade: B
Match 5: Will Ospreay vs Cody

Cody opens the match with a slap to Ospreay’s face, setting te tone of the match that would follow. They play a game of one-ups-manship, taking turns disrespecting each other and showing off in the early stages of this match. Ospreay even gets the chance to tie Cody up in a nice full body submission hold, reminding us that he can do more than flip around and shoot himself into works.

As the match develops Cody gains control, and The American Nightmare grinds away at Ospreay. He repeatedly thwarts Ospreay’s attempts to make a comeback. If Cody weren’t so beloved, this would have gotten him some good heel heat. Ospreay of course gets the babyface comeback, dumping Cody hard with a move I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. He follows it closely with a beautiful Spiral Tap-like dive but doesn’t secure the three count.

The match builds to a close with a huge sequence that teases the Cross Rhodes, but Cody can’t hit his big finish and Ospreay looks to take control by using his speed and agility. In short, Will flips a bunch. Cody gets the win off of an out-of-nowhere pursuit Disaster Kick that catches Ospreay out of mid air  as he springboards off the turnbuckle, followed by a Cross Rhodes for good measure. This match genuinely surprised me with its finishing sequence.

Grade: B+
Match 6: The Kingdom (Matt Taven + Vinny Marseglia) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito + BUSHI)

Taven on the stick is better than he is in the ring. Before LIJ even have the opportunity to come down to the ring, Taven gets on the mic and cuts a good heel promo, getting cheap heat by ripping on local sports teams, insulting the fragile egos of hundreds in attendance. The crowd reacts vigorously and he lets them. He stands silent after cutting a remark and the crowd builds to a ravenous chant of “Shut the Fuck Up!”. Taven lifts the mic back to his mouth and delivers the death blow, “I’m not even talking!”.

Once LIJ are in the ring, The Kingdom jump the opposition to get the match started. They 2-on-1 Naito, who treats them like bitches and dumps them to the outside where BUSHI dives on them with alarming velocity. BUSHI absolutely wrecks them.

The Kingdom stay in control for a long while afterwards, working over BUSHI, but he makes a comeback and tags in Naito. Naito’s in like a ball of fire but the comeback is stuffed when his corner outside-in dropkick spot is stuffed. The match builds the audience’s frustration as The Kingdom keep stuffing LIJ’s comeback attempts. That is until BUSHI mists Vinnie out of midair Naito gets in a dick kick and Destino for the win. Sadly a key standout moment in this match was Matt Taven badly and obviously botching a powerbomb.

Grade: B
Match 7: Silas Young + The Beer City Bruiser vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL + SANADA) vs. The Briscoe Brothers (Mark + Jay Briscoe)

Mark and EVIL start off in the ring, but before they can even lock-up Silas blind tags EVIL. This sets a bit of a trend for the match where Silas and the Bruiser are the biggest antagonists in the match. Silas and mark engage in some cool chain wrestling and Silas executes a beautiful bridge escape at the end of the sequence. He’s seriously better than people give him credit for. Each man tags in his partner and Jay Briscoe and the Beer City Bruiser start getting into it when EVIL blind tags the Bruiser. Things again start to get going between EVIL and Jay when the Bruiser blind tags EVIL. I’m seeing a pattern here. With LIJ relegated to the apron, the Beer City Bruiser drops huge moves on jay Briscoe. He and Silas Young maintain control, even after Mark tags in, demolishing him.

Jay gets in and he clears the ring out, there’s a fracas and at the end its SANADA against Jay. SANADA ties him up into a ball and drop kicks him hard, looking to take control, but the Briscoes turn the situation around. They clear everyone out of the ring again and Mark hits a solid brainbuster on EVIL for a close 2 count. Multi-man shenanigans ensue and Beer City comes down on Mark with a gigantic Frog Splash, but SANADA breaks up the pin attempt. Then the match suddenly kicks into high gear, everyone is in and hitting everyone else with signature spots and big moves, the crowd goes wild. It all happened so fast I couldn’t note all the individual moments. Everyone spills outside in hectic, exciting madness and then the Beer City Bruiser just crushes everyone with a huge flip cannonball off of the apron. The Briscoes pick up the win with a neckbreaker/Froggybow combo.

Grade: B+
Match 8: KUSHIDA vs. Jay Lethal

Lightning-speed chain wrestling between the two men starts the match. Both men look great and are depicted evenly, each moving as fast as they can and mirroring each other to try and take the advantage and show up their opposition. They play a game of chicken with suicide dives, with jay eventually wrecking KUSHIDA who is out until the count of 19. Lethal gains, and maintains, control of the match with a series of nasty backbreakers. Both men look good during this part of the match, showing creative offense, but Lethal maintains firm control by going back to the backbreakers, clubbing blows to the back, and submissions. Lethal works over KUSHIDA like he were a technically gifted brawler heel to KUSHIDA’s babyface.

Lethal maintains control until KUSHIDA reverses a top-rope move into a combination submission and slam from the top. Jay goes for the Lethal Injection to try and put an end to KUSHIDA’s comeback but gets caught out of the air in a cross armbreaker. KUSHIDA switches arms but eventually Jay reverses the hold and transitions into a Figure-4 Leglock of his own. Lethal catches KUSHIDA with a big powerbomb and goes for his Hail to the King, only to be caught out of mid-air again in another cross arm breaker. Lethal escapes and winds up hitting a surprise cutter. It seems like Jay Lethal is in contol again, when KUSHIDA hits him with the Lethal Injection and transitions into the Hover Board Lock, but Lethal escapes.

KUSHIDA gets a huge Pele Kick and DDT to set up the finish, where he gets the win on Jay Lethal with a Small Package Driver. I have never before seen KUSHIDA use this move, myself, and it is one of my favourite moves in recent years. Looks vicious and also goes immediately into a pinning predicament. I adored this match but the crowd, for some reason, seemed oddly dead and rather disrespectful throughout.

Grade: A
Match 9: Hiroshi Tanahashi + The Addiction (Christopher Daniels + Kazarian) vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson)

The match starts off with Matt Jackson and the ROH World Champion Christopher Daniels in the ring. Matt disrespects the champ by Too Sweet-ing him in the eye, but the tables are quickly turned on him and he gets Too Sweet-ed himself, right in the eye, from each member of the face team. Matt scrambles out and Nick Jackson is in against Kazarian. Nick goes into his usual shenanigans, crotch chopping and telling Kazarian to suck it. They both put on a good display of agility. Then Tanahashi tags in and demands Kenny tag in too. Kenny gets in the ring, but instead of a sporting contest with Tanahashi, The Elite all rush over and jump their opposition en masse.

The Elite take advantage of the opportunity to do a 3-on-1 beat down but it plays for comedy a tonne, instead of serious violence. They tease the Terminator dive with all three members of The Elite, but they are interrupted. Then everyone takes a turn at trying to attack everyone else but they all miss in a prolonged comedy spot. The Elite retake control after the gag, and this time they hit the full three-man Terminator dive. The match at this point has been hectic, fun, and irreverent. Crowd chanting gets The Elite to do their 1 Boot-2 Boots-4 Boots spot that we’ve recently seen them do in cam footage from their UK tour. Kazarian is in against Kenny but again The Elite use shenanigans aand absolutely wreck him with repeated superkicks as they keep propping him back up on the apron after each kick, then they finish their gag spot with a nice senton. Somehow, unbelievably, Kazarian kicks out and still has all his teeth.

Tanahashi is in again and grabs Matt Jackson, putting him into an abdominal stretch and strumming him like he’s a guitar. Somehow Tanahashi can’t put Matt away so they plop him down in the face team corner and use rapid tags in cycle to just stomp away at him. Not just one rotation of tags either, multiple full rotations of the entire team. The Addiction do a good string of team combo moves, followed by The Elite doing the same. Nick Jackson winds up in the ring alone, facing both Daniels and Kazarian. He cures The Addiction all by himself, string together a series of moves that handles both men with ease, and works in his signature spots as well. Tanahashi hits the ring and gets both of the Young Bucks with a double Dragon Screw but can’t capitalize because Kenny is back in the fray.

Kenny kills Tanahashi with a powerbomb. Then the ring is chaos and everyone gets big moves in succession and the crowd loves it. Kenny takes on Daniels and there’s some good back and forth between the two until Kenny murders everyone with Dragon Suplexes. Daniels is almost beaten by a triple Superkick from the entire Elite but kicks out. The faces regroup when Tanahashi comes in like a bolt of lightning and hits Omega with Slingblade, which Daniels follows with a nice Uranage, then Tanahashi hits the High Fly Flow and Daniels follows him with the Best Moonsault Ever… but Kenny kicks out! It erupts into craziness with dives to the outside and an Indytaker outside the ring as well. Tanahashi is wrecked by this. Matt Jackson and Kazarian go outside together in a nasty spill with a gross bump. The referee gets kicked and Cody storms the ring for some old fashioned interference, giving Kenny the opportunity to hit the One-Winged Angel on Christopher Daniels for the win.

Grade: A-

Overall, a really enjoyable show. Even with their huge roster shakeup and the online uncertainty and criticism of the brand, Ring of Honor continue to produce exciting evenings of professional wrestling. So long as they continue to run shows in Toronto, particularly ones where they take strong advantage of their international partnerships, I will continue to happily attend. I’d love to see them do a similar type of tour, but taking advantage of their partnership with CMLL.

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#NoLookingBack #017 – Plentiful Planning

I’ve been spending a good deal of time lately crafting a rigid structure for my current comic book project. This structure applies not only to the story I am telling, but also the logistics of how many pages it would be, and deadlines for when different pieces of the story have to be done to produce it the way I wanted, by when I want it.

I’ve written the overall plot at least 3 different times, moving from bullet point ideas to concept elaboration paragraphs to one draft design specifically to calculate page count estimates. Each time through I have enhanced, refined, and better applied the teachings I learned from Ty Templeton’s writing courses. It behooves me to understand and internalize the lessons I have available to me from the wonderful resources I have had made available to me. This project, while significantly lengthier, is built upon my understanding of his lessons which I have already put into practice by creating a spec script for his class. That experience taught me to trust his structures for telling engaging and exciting stories. It excites me to move through the five act structure and plot out the exact story beats and then build out, expanding to fill in the minutiae, the things that get you lost in the excitement so that the story doesn’t feel too obvious. It’s like a game, a puzzle I am solving, where my only goal is to one up myself and do a better job at hitting the targets I have in sight.

It’s not the easiest thing to do, and it almost works better when you are telling small stories with compact page counts. But that’s most likely my inexperience talking. I’ve many lessons to teach myself by practicing these skills, but I have recognized the benefit. I recognized the potential back when I first took part in my first class with Ty, but it wasn’t until I had completed my first script under his tutelage and gotten his feed back at the end of my third set of classes with him that I recognized how much his lessons had benefited me.

It’s late and I’ve had little sleep, but I am excited by the future I see for this project, and I am looking forward to hitting each milestone as I plan it out and execute it with clear understanding of my direction. It’s an evolving organism, a story at the phase before you have panels described and dialogue delicately drafted. I know that by the end of June I want every broad stroke planned and the prologue and first act penned to the very last word of dialogue. I have the tools to chase this down, organize it, and successfully execute it in a marketable fashion because of Ty.

If you’ve ever been interested in writing for a living, and you are in the Greater Toronto Area, I would highly recommend you take classes with Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Boot Camp. He helped me to reach over the threshold and really understand how to write a well-structured, exciting story.

Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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