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#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s From The Ground Up

On September 17th 2017 Smash Wrestling travelled back to the Franklin Horner Community Centre in Etobicoke for a pair of exciting shows to celebrate their centennial day. From The Ground Up had the enviable premise of showcasing young, up and coming talent in the Ontario, and nearby, independent wrestling circuit. It was the opener to their 100th show, which was sold as a secret with no matches announced, and looked to draw in the dedicated Toronto indie wrestling fan base with the prospect of some never before seen match ups and fresh faces in a Smash ring.

Match 1 – Young Myles vs. Kevin Blanchard

This match worked well as an opening bout, with its downside being some awkwardness in execution and choreography that held it back from being a stronger outing. Blanchard started off like a gunshot, hard and fast, displaying good aggression and hitting hard with strikes and a springboard double stomp to Young Myles’ back. Young Myles, the moment he was given an opportunity, responded with a dive.

Both men had some ups and downs in the match. Young Myles’ strikes were garbage at times, but his suplex chains were cool and crisp. Blanchard aimed to toss Myles into the turnbuckle with a Razor’s Edge but miscalculated his spacing and it didn’t quite work. Both men telegraphed too much what they were doing, making it too obvious that it is a staged performance. Regardless, they had pretty decent chemistry working together. In the end, Young Myles would show off his cool move set, including a solid Michinoku Driver, and get the win off of a Meteora type move, Interestingly, Young Myles reminded me a bit of Trent Beretta with his high-flying and technical move set paired with his tall and somewhat gangly build.

Grade: C+
Match 2 – The Kevin Bennett Experience (Big Tank and The Muscles) vs. #TheBest (Spunk and Logan Reid)

This match, regrettably, didn’t fare better than the opener. #TheBest are the more athletic, better dressed, and, I believe, more experienced of the teams. My criticism of the match doesn’t fall on booking decisions or psychology as much as it does on the weak execution. Big Tank has his strengths and weaknesses as a young performer put very clearly on display during the outing. He did not convincingly punch or body slam anyone, but his chops were good (and, therefore, should make up more of his offense). Mostly it seemed he got over with the audience based on his size, which is undeniable, and his connection with the Kevin Bennett Experience. I’ll give credit where it is due, he has addressed his lack of decent ring gear since this event.

The match itself was well structured babyface vs. heel tag team work, with the Kevin Bennett Experience focusing on isolating Logan Reid. #TheBest fight back and Spunk hits a nice high speed knee strike and a monkey flip but, in the end, Tank comes in illegally and takes out Logan to set up the Kevin Bennett Experience for their first win as a tag team.

Grade: C
Match 3 – Aiden Prince vs. Space Monkey
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Every one needs more Space Monkey in their life! Official Promotional Match Graphic from Smash Wrestling

Before we get serious, take a moment to imagine the spectacle of people showering space monkey with bananas upon his entrance. That was a good moment, wasn’t it? Now then: Good storytelling served to patch up some weaknesses in execution throughout this match. Early technical displays quickly faded out to some good switcharoo comedy spots involving the referee, which made me smile. Of course, Aiden Prince robbed the audience of their smiles when he intentionally brutalized the Space Monkey. Prince took particular pleasure in punishing the primate’s tail. Throughout the match the heel would return to torturing Space Monkey’s additional appendage, causing him great harm. The dedication to the gimmick both men worked with was tremendous.

As the match builds to a climax the mutant Monkey eats a banana to recharge after escaping from the peril of Aiden Prince and hulks up, even getting in a big boot. Aiden prince takes the comedy pratfall on the banana’s peel, popping the audience right proper. A bit of miscommunication, however, dulls the ending to a cool athletic sequence. Prince has some really cool moves in his repertoire but his execution leaves something to be desired. Prince tries to monkey flip the Space Monkey but gets monkey flipped himself and lands hard on the turnbuckles. This set’s up Space Monkey to whip Prince in the face with his tail and pick up the win.

Grade: B-
Match 4 -Matt Angel vs. Kobe Durst

This match featured a lot of really good action at an elevated pace, particularly compared to the previous match. Regrettably, it doesn’t make up for the fact that there were a good number of botches that approached being dangerous and detrimental to the performers health at times. A top-rope Spanish fly botch genuinely made me worry for the health of the men involved. It’s never good to be yanked out of the illusion in such a way.

With that in mind, Matt Angel and Kobe Durst both put forth a lot of effort and have their own innovations to add to the pro-wrestling world that makes me hope they continue to develop into more well-rounded, experienced performers. Angel countering an attempted back body drop by leaping into a double-foot stomp to the back of Durst’s head shows some nice new thinking, and spots like that were rather big highlights of the match. Kobe Durst picks up the win off of a nice piledriver that capped off a hard hitting back-and-forth sequence.

Grade: C+
Match 5 – Xandra Bale vs. Samantha Heights
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Really wishing I had taken my own pictures at this event! Official Promotional Match Graphic from Smash Wrestling

This match never really seemed to get its feet underneath it and the two combatants lacked chemistry with each other. Samantha Heights excels at the smack talk part of wrestling and was very entertaining, but regrettably this didn’t lead to an improvement in the quality of this match. While both competitors showcased some nice technique at times, Heights botched a cutter of some kind badly at one point, which wasn’t unforgivable. However, afterwards an awkward corner spot dragged on for far too long and something got botched badly in it. I couldn’t tell who was at fault but it looked a mess. In the end Xandra Bale picked up the submission victory with a spinning octopus hold like move.

Grade: C
Match 6 – Carter Mason vs. Kevin Blackwood
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Time for the main event! Official Promotional Match Graphic from Smash Wrestling

This was the kind of hard fought back-and-forth match that you’d expect from two warriors each trying to earn the respect of the other. The early part of the match saw the men trading advantage back and forth amid dropkicks galore and brawl to the floor. Both men’s strengths are highlighted and they are presented as evenly matched. A great early moment involved Mason maintaining control of Blackwood in a scissored sleeper hold and preventing his prey from escaping the hold, quickly adjusting and locking it in a second time.

The match isn’t without its faults, as demonstrated by this overlong corner sequence where Blackwood searches for a suplex out of the corner but Mason blocks his attempts. It dragged on for too long and, most regrettably, had no big move payoff. In the end, after knocking Blackwood away, Mason just hops out of the corner and goes back to working like he had never been on the top turnbuckle. Thankfully afterwards the two men do kick it into the next gear with a huge strike exchange that puts both men down and pops the crowd hard. Carter Mason hits Blackwood with some seriously good offense, big move after big move, but can’t put Blackwood down. In the end, Blackwood picks up the win with a pumphandle driver variation.

This match was presented in a very fun, competitive manner which bolstered my enjoyment significantly. The fact that Carter Mason isn’t more frequently seen in a Smash ring kind of baffles me, and I hope he makes further appearances with the brand. Blackwood is certainly no slouch either and, in the months since this event, has looked increasingly good in the ring.

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

For a show whose whole purpose was to highlight a new, upcoming crop of talent to new eyes, From The Ground Up was a smashing success. The matches herein may have been rated rather poorly, in some regards, but that is because I try to keep a relatively consistent scale to my grading and it is obvious that less experienced performers are going to make mistakes and be scored worse. The show at no point dipped below a quality threshold where I could not see the potential for these men and women to grow and become much better performers. In fact, I hope that I get to see these men and women more often. Furthermore, as a lead-in to the secret show, it served as a remarkable opening act that carried the promise of hopefully seeing some of these folks at a future anniversary celebration.

 

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#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s Good Things Only End Badly

On November 26th 2017, Smash Wrestling presented the oddly titled Good Things Only End Badly. I say it was oddly titled because the event, most definitely, did not end on a sour note. I feel that I must preface this review with the fact that partway through the show I started feeling terribly ill and had trouble focusing, so my notes in places were slim to none. The Opera House was an interesting venue for a Pro-Wrestling show. The set up felt very intimate and close, because of the architecture. So, let’s get to the matches!

Match 1 – Vaughn Vertigo vs. Kaito Kiyomiya

This match was built around a core pattern that repeated and escalated into a nice finish. The match started with some nice back-and-forth technical grappling work, depicting both men as skilled athletes near on the same level. Then Kaito Kiyomiya would get the upper hand by using his size and strength to overpower Vertigo. This lead to some really aggressive suplex variations, slams, and an absolutely beautiful vertical leaping elbow drop. With the hurting being put on him, Vaughn Vertigo would then use his tremendous speed and evasiveness to counter attack.

The match would repeat that before moving into an ending stretch demarcated by, in my opinion, the moment that Kiyomiya dropkicked Vertigo out of the air. Kiyomiya would follow that with a beautiful missile dropkick and then try to set up his finisher. Vertigo escaped the complicated manoeuvre and went on a brief tear, and looked for a swanton off of the top rope, but met with knees instead. Kiyomiya would hit his finisher and win the match.

Kiyomiya and Vertigo have both impressed me with their development over the course of 2017, but I have to give the young NOAH excursionee the edge in terms of overall development. He’s really showing a lot more personality in how he moves in the ring, and in the variety of his offense. I started off 2017 in Tokyo and I first saw him on January 7th at Korakuen Hall. He looked good then. He looks great now. Between the two of them they put on a really fun opening match, putting the crowd in a good mood.

Grade: B-
Match 2 – Halal Beefcake (Idris Abraham and Joe Coleman) vs. Heavy Metal Chaos (James Stone and Alextreme)

This match was a lot of fun. From the very first minutes both teams worked the crowd hard, eliciting numerous chants and really engaging the audience. The match gets started by Stone ambushing Idris and repeatedly knocking down the Sultan of Shawarma. The crowd turns on Stone with a “Get a Tan” chant after Coleman calls out the heavy metal fanatic for his pale complexion. This chant fires Idris up and he comes back off of an amazing rope-running segment that saw him build up tremendous speed and score a remarkable pop from the crowd when he finally downed his opponent.

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Heavy Metal Chaos (James Stone, above, and Alextreme, below) make thier Toronto debut for Smash Wrestling! Bienvenue a Toronto! Courtesy of @DanIsAYeti

Abraham scores the hot tag to Coleman, but their comeback is cut short as Heavy Metal Chaos quickly isolate and dominate him. Their control is effective because of how impactful they make everything they are doing to Coleman look. I’ve seen both of the members of Heavy Metal Chaos before, several times apiece, when I lived in Montreal. It has been a solid four years since I’ve seen either man wrestle and, without a doubt, they have both improved a good deal. In particular, James Stone, who failed to make much of an in-ring impression on me back then and whose recent work is solid.

A beautiful spear by Coleman breaks the sheer dominance of Heavy Metal Chaos and the match builds to its climax as Idris gets the hot tag. Idris displayed a great sense of misdirection and understanding of ring space to set up some cool work in a fun, innovative diagonal turnbuckle-to-turnbuckle running spot. At one point Heavy Metal Chaos look ready to hit their Alley Oop/Knee Strike combo but it gets broken up, which is a shame because it would have popped the Toronto crowd hard. Halal Beefcake win after Idris hits the diving elbow on a downed opponent who had been dropped with Coleman’s driver style finisher.

Grade: B
Match 3 – Petey Williams vs. Kevin Bennett

Like the previous matches, this was a good deal of fun. It was not, however, a match built around the same kind of competitive storytelling as the previous two. Bennett, as ever, was accompanied by his cronies, Big Tank and The Muscle, to the ring and as such, we can easily anticipate their involvement in the fight. In fact, this match served mostly to reinforce Bennett as the top heel in the company and position him for a move up from the mid-card to the main event (we hope.) Of particular note is the fact that Bennett is pushing a new catchphrase about how he did it on his own.

The match saw Petey Williams in complete control from the very first moments of the match, showing off his athleticism and getting his beloved “Oh, Canada!” spot in early. He remains in control until Bennett’s cronies get involved and set him up for Bennett to make a comeback. The fun thing here is that when Bennett is on a roll, he’s a remarkable athlete and his moves I’ve not seen anyone else do, like his Tiger Feint Kick setup that leads to an in-ring body splash. It’s just nuts amounts of fun to watch him work. What’s more nuts is how much fun it is to boo him and chant “Fuck You, Bennett!” at him.

Bennett cheats to stay in control and hits Williams with big move after big move but can’t put him down. Petey Williams makes a strong comeback and hits Bennett with many great sequences, winding up in a sharpshooter that Bennett taps out to… behind the distracted referee’s back! Bennett winds up stealing the win with a roll-up in a lengthy, complex sequence that saw Williams let go of the hold and chase after the cronies.

Grade: B-
Match 4 – Scotty O’Shea vs. Kevin Blackwood

Like the last match, this one served the story more than the in-ring action. Smash have been doing a series of online vignettes that build to this match taking place, wherein the “Hacker” Scotty O’Shea tries to get Blackwood to become his disciple, based around him seemingly knowing something about the new and rising Smash Wrestling star. Backstage muggings from O’Shea have seemingly taken place at every taping the two men have both been present at, so emotions were high when the two men met in the ring.

Immediately the two men start brawling, throwing wild fists as they spill out of the ring and brawl throughout the audience. This lead to a tremendous moment where, on the way back to the ring, Blackwood leapt from nearby railing almost over my head and crashed into Scotty and a bunch of Smash staffers in spectacular fashion. I love it when people leap off of things and Blackwood seems extremely willing to take that risk.

Back in the ring the match built up in violence and intensity until Scotty grabbed Blackwood’s head, whispered something in his ear, and then screamed that the audience didn’t know what he knew. This prompted Blackwood to give up the fight and let O’Shea hit him with his finisher and pin him. Post match O’Shea baptized Blackwood with his own blood and a new alliance was formed. Good story building that regrettably cut short a match that was rather fun.

Grade: B-
Match 5 – Mark Andrews vs. Sebastian Suave vs. Tarik

Regrettably this is the match I have the least notes for. I started feeling remarkably ill at around this point and, on top of that, the action moved at a blistering pace. The purpose of this match, from Kingdom’s opening promo throughout, was to position Sebastian Suave as one of the Pillars of Smash Wrestling, and due his time in the limelight of the main event scene.

Suave jumped Andrews during Kingdom’s confrontation with Tarik to start us off fast and furious. This lead into an immediate fracas, with all three men moving in and out of the ring at high speeds and doing incredible things. Mark Andrews really impressed with how well he moves live and, frankly, I cannot understand why we haven’t seen more of him on major TV shows. I also find it immensely charming that at the same time as he is touring Canada to wrestle, his band is touring as well. It really fleshes out his character. While all three men looked good throughout the match, and were all given the opportunity to hit their signature spots, Suave was definitely given the lion’s share of the time in action.

In fact, the only time I can remember him not being involved actively in the fight was after Andrews wiped out both Tarik and Suave on the outside. Suave stayed down long enough for Tarik to hit Andrews with his finisher and then he pounced and stole the win.

Grade: B
Match 6 – Joe Hendry vs. FTM

This is one that was a bit of a miss for me. For all the logical reasons why I can say Joe Hendry is a talented, funny, athletic performer… he just hasn’t clicked with me yet. His entire entrance was a hilarious gag at mocking Frankie the Mobster, in song, and then coming to the ring with a mask that had croissants taped to it to mock The Beast King. It was genuinely funny stuff that you had to be there, and know who FTM is, to get. Hendry clearly cares a lot about this gimmick he has constructed for himself, and is remarkably good at it. Both outside and inside the ring.

Yet something bored me about the match itself. Outside of Hendry looking amazing when he hit a fancy escape into a DDT and a comedic gag spot where both men hit each other with the big boot and said “You stole my move!” simultaneously I have nothing great to say about it, or Hendry. In fact I noted down specifically “Frankie hits his finisher to put this boring match to rest” live at the event. Only miss of the night, for me.

Grade: C+
Match 7 – The Super Smash Brothers (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) vs. Two Single Matts (Matt Sydal and Matt Cross)

This match started out with some tomfoolery between Sydal and Uno, but quickly picked up the pace into a flurry of action highlighted with some amazing spots. Early on Sydal gets in his signature spots and tags in Cross against Uno. Cross, as is to be expected, moves through the ring and his offense like the definition of fluidity. The Matts double-team Stu Grayson but Uno comes back in with some dirty moves to turn the tide and the SSB isolate Sydal, working him over hard as he fights back.

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“Two Single Matts” is a team loaded with so much athleticism that it almost sickens me. I genuinely hope I have the chance to see these two tag together more regularly. Courtesy of @DanIsAYeti

Sydal won’t stay down and turns the tide for his team with an amazing leaping hurracanrana that tosses Grayson into Uno and allows for Sydal to tag in Cross. Not to be outdone, Uno and Grayson unleash some phenomenal double team offense that tosses the Matts into one another as well. Unfortunately for the Super Smash Brothers, Cross hits his unique springboard cutter on both of them at the same time, and he and Sydal seal the deal with a pair of stereo dives for the double pinfall. Great ending to a solid fun bout.

Grade: B
Match 8 – Brent Banks vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Wrestling Championship Match

This match was, without a doubt, the best match of the night and saw both men show me things I haven’t seen from them before. The fact that Brent Banks isn’t being booked everywhere right now baffles me. The match starts with a lock-up and some scrambling that depicts both men as entirely equal at the basics of wrestling mat work and power, which sets the audience up very well for the two men to show us what makes them excel as individuals. Furthermore, it allows for us to understand that, from the very beginning, the contest will be a hard-fought, narrow victory. It was a cleverly performed, almost insignificant portion of the match, but meant so much to me in that moment.

The match builds into a really exciting back-and-forth pacing that gives both men equal opportunities to look good… and boy do they not disappoint! Brent Banks is given ample opportunity to look good and shows off his speed and agility with aplomb. Regrettably, for him, Dux interrupts his control of the match with an apron suplex that echoed through the venue.

Nevertheless Banks keeps rolling on with killer offense as both men lay into each other to set up for a wicked superplex spot. Dux can’t capitalize on the big move and the match continues, and Banks continues to impress, looking the best I have ever seen him be. During a monkey flip into the corner spot Banks botches his landing but recovers and adjusts so quickly and fluidly that it doesn’t even break the breakneck pace of the match.

To be frank, I felt so wretched that at points during some of the matches I could hardly keep my eyes open. This match, however, yanked me viscerally back into focus with its mounting quality. The two men The men exchanged a barrage of strikes too numerous to count and Banks comes sickeningly close to beating Dux with two Death Valley Drivers, Dux’s signature move, one of which was into the turnbuckles. Sadly for Banks, Dux kicked out and managed to work his way back up to win with an incredibly inventive arm-trapped Boston Crab variant that forced Banks to verbally quit as he couldn’t even tap out!

Legitimately the best Smash Wrestling championship match I have ever seen, and the best performance I have seen from both of these men. I know I can’t expect every match to be this good, but I can certainly want them to be!

Grade: A+
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Post-Match a bloodied Tyson Dux is ambushed by the Super Smash Brothers to set up his next defense. Photo courtesy of @DanIsAYeti

Conclusion:

I’ve been to some Smash shows that have had an overall higher spread of A-rank matches, but this one was an amazing experience only truly marred by my illness. I’ve been critical of Dux on occasion for being somewhat formulaic and a bit dry in a lot of his defenses of the belt, ranking his matches lower on the show than others, but this performance is the kind of thing that makes me love wrestling and Smash keep giving me that. Bang for my buck, Smash Wrestling is consistently the best product I have been to in Toronto and many other cities.

 

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#TorontoWrestling at #NXTToronto

On September 9th 2017 NXT made a house-show styled stop in Toronto, and tailored the event specifically towards the local market by having both Tye Dillinger and Bobby Roode make their final NXT appearances at the show. A lot more seats went unsold than I had anticipated, potentially speaking to the dwindling flame of interest in NXT since TakeOver Toronto almost a year prior packed out a much larger venue. Nevertheless, my night was quite fun and I took notes and blurry photos furiously. Here is my review of the matches that occurred:

 

Match 1 – Tye Dillinger vs. Kona Reeves

The crowd was, as expected, hot for a home-town hero (at a Wrestling show, if you’re from anywhere in Canada, you’re in-front of a hometown audience.) Poor Kona Reeves came out and was met with nowhere near the enthusiasm of his opponent’s arrival. That mattered little as he put in a really strong performance, playing the heel nicely even from the very early moments of the match. Early-on in the match Kona acts the overconfident heel, celebrating tiny moments like he had won the match and escaping from harm by breaking the rules, but quickly Tye makes him look a joke with a series of deep armdrags.

Tye Dillinger’s easy to understand and chantable gimmick gave way to his opponent receiving “1” chants from the audience whenever he gained an advantage, berating the young man for attempting to stand up to the returning hero. Tye is granted a chorus of “10” chants all match long and the audience, in general, was very engaged with the match but I was bored. There was far too much pandering and waiting and by far not enough actual wrestling. This is, regrettably, the core problem with the E in general, and it is regrettable that NXT, which once showed signs of being better than that, seems to have been infected. The match ends with a flurry of action and Tye hits Kona with the Tyebreaker for an undisputable win in this solidly worked, kind of boring match.

Grade: B-

 

Match 2 – Aaliyah and Ember Moon vs. Mandy Rose and Vanessa Borne

Mandy and Aaliyah start off for their respective teams and immediately they give Mandy a chance to impress, as she cartwheels out of a modified headscissors attempt. Prior to this the crowd had been sour on her, hyped for Aaliyah as the hometown hero herein. However, with this feat of fluid athleticism, suddenly the audience liked Mandy. It was a simple, effective moment.

The faces look impressive for a while, both putting on a good performance and looking strong until Vanessa Borne gets a handful of Aaliyah’s hair and turns the tide. The heels use standard babyface-frustrating quick tags to isolate the Canadian. In this flurry of action Mandy Rose came out with some nice throws and looked very dominant against Aaliyah, ostensibly the hometown hero. Mandy stays strong looking, getting a submission hold and nice impact off of a clothesline, before tagging in Vanessa. It is with Vanessa in the ring that the crowd begins to chant for Aaliyah to make a comeback. Even with the crowd chanting for Aaliyah, I swear the biggest sounds were still Mandy’s strikes.

As the match builds to a conclusion we see Aaliyah make a hot tag to Ember Moon, who hits a bunch of nice looking spots, even taking out both opponents at once. During the fracas Vanessa Borne and Aaliyah get tagged in for their respective teams and Aaliyah scores a Northern Lights Suplex hold for the three count on Borne. I had known from the beginning of the match that Borne would eat the pinfall herein, and it was the outcome that made the most sense for the builds these women are all at in their careers. Genuinely surprising me, however, was how well Mandy Rose performed. I’d even say she was too good. She has a lot of potential to make a splash in the scene.

Grade: B

 

Match 3 – Johnny Gargano vs. Killian Dain

Gargano starts off the underdog, as is to be expected of most people who would book men of this size disparity against each other. Dain is, simply, too big for Johnny Wrestling’s usual tricks to down people. Eventually, as this match-up type usually goes, Gargano tries for a backpack sleeper, but it too is no good. They tease a comeback with Gargano getting in a flurry of action, but Dain squashes him back down and abuses him. The large man stands on and splashes Gargano’s back and dips deep into the well of big man vs. little guy spots.

Eventually, after enough time for my mind to wander onto other subjects, a telltale mark of boredom, Gargano mounts his comeback with strikes and spear and tope suicida. This comeback builds into a sequence where the two men go back and forth, punctuated by some nice big moments such as Gargano hitting Dain with an Avalanche Hurracanrana. The flow relies of Killian Dain looking unbeatably strong, so he powers out of submission attempts and, in the end, eats a superkick to be put down.

Grade: B

 

Match 4 – Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black

I won’t lie, this was the match I was most excited to see heading in to the event. It was unclear whether or not my long-time favourite NOAH star, KENTA, now known as Hideo Itami, would be making an appearance at this event but I had most-certainly bought my ticket in the hopes I’d finally get to see him wrestle in person. While it wasn’t all I had hoped it to be, it was meaningful nonetheless. It was also one of the better matches of the night.

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I’m a terrible shot, but this was a super cool moment for me!

Itami lays on his new heelish antics from the onset, frustrating Black by bailing on the ring. This nets him the upper hand to start, and he uncorks some strikes on Black. They have a good grappling exchange and Itami lays on the heel cockiness only to be faked out by Black who catches him in a hold. The clear, easily read though physical actions alone, characterization these men put forth goes to show that they know damn well how to work in the ring.

Itami takes control with lots of kicks and ground work, and adds insult to injury by mocking Black’s poses. Itami dominates the match for a very long time, using well executed kicks and submissions, At one point Aleister Black has a terrible landing on Itami’s head off of a springboard moonsault. Itami doesn’t lose pace though and busts out a flurry of action, capped off by a Fisherman’s Suplex, but he can’t secure the win. They tease a comeback by Black, which item suppresses until Black scores a huge running knee.

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This picture is much more in focus, but of course he’s facing away!

Frustrated, Itami shoves Black into the referee and sticks him with a solid DDT for another two count. Frustrated he heads outside and gets a kendo stick from under the ring and goes to wail on Black with it. Unfortunately for Itami the referee yanks the weapon away from him and, in his moment of distraction, Aleister Black hits him with the Black Mass and puts him down for the three count.

For some reason the crowd never bought into this match, even though it featured solid in-ring athletics and psychology. The end result was a bit predictable from early on, but it was expertly executed.

Grade: B+

 

Match 5 – The Velveteen Dream vs. Bobby Roode

The Velveteen dream shouldn’t work so well, but for some reason I found it to be a very fun gimmick in a live environment. Patrick Clark, back on Tough Enough, certainly exhibited a passion for the history of wrestling and, more explicitly, the WWF. It seems terribly fitting that he wound up with such a gimmick driven, retro-inspired character. A character whose gimmick is reinforced by careful choices made about his in-ring performance. Also, because I can’t help but notice it, The Velveteen dream’s initials are VD. Childish humour. Hyuk-hyuk.

While Roode left NXT as a villain, here, in Canada and returning to the brand he debuted on, he has been emboldened and made a hero anew in his final appearance with NXT. Roode shows off his amateur wrestling skills and looks dominant to begin with, making Velveteen dream look like a joke. Somehow the Dream turns the situation around after some mess in the ropes and gets himself some big heel heat by teasing a top-rope dive to the outside, only to hop down and do a low double axehandle off of the apron instead.

When the two are back in the ring the Dream starts wrestling like someone out of the 80s or early 90s, doing a side Russian leg sweep, middle rope leg and elbow drops. He even puts Roode in a camel clutch, the ultimate old school heel submission hold. Once Roode starts going on the offensive again, with suplexes and throws all over the ring, the crowd gets more into it. The Velveteen dream does a good flipping Death Valley Driver, landing on his feet afterwards, but when he chooses next to fly at Roode he gets countered into a sharpshooter for the obligatory Canadian-wrestling-in-Canada-Bret-Hart-Tribute spot. Realistically he could have milked the Sharpshooter for far longer. As the match moves to its final moments the Velveteen dream is left looking really good as he escapes two attempts by Roode to hit the Glorious DDT and goes down to the third attempt for the three count.

After the match was over I was left with a very clear image of The Velveteen Dream. His aesthetic, both in attire and move selection, is decidedly and explicitly retro. His promo work before the show exuded a tinge of Golddust, with a hearty dose of the 80s. He excels at getting heel heat from the moment he walks through the curtains dressed like a cross between Prince and Hendrix all the way through the match as he talks smack and disappoints fan excitement. On top of all of that excellent potential, Bobby Roode made him look good.

Grade: B+

 

Match 6 – Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss vs. Sanity (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe) (c) – NXT Tag team title Match

Before the match Tino and Riddick talk smack and, for their sin against Sanity, are dumped out of the ring. The disheveled rebels Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young take the self-aggrandizing jocks on a tour of the building, introducing them to all the sights and surfaces of the arena.

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Blurry again, but the E at least knows how to let you see during a brawl!

Once the match was actually contained in a ring it seemed the structure bolstered Tino and Riddick’s efforts, as they successfully isolate Alexander Wolfe, keeping the demented mastermind Eric Young out of things. This lasts a good long while, and when Young finally gets the tag he comes in and wrecks both of his opponents. This leads into a sweet sequence that ends with a diving elbow drop on Tino for a two count. There’s a little more back and forth action. Sabatelli and Moss are given a chance to hit a cool Gory Special/Facebuster combo move but can’t put Eric Young down before he tags in Wolfe. Together Young and Wolfe hit a tandem move for the win.

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Good old crazy EY! It’s been crazy watching his career!

Usually I find wild brawls outside of the ring to be boring because of the inability to see the action in a small venue through a sea of people. The E, however, in this larger venue with spotlights, made it work much better. Sabatelli and Moss didn’t make me want to watch more of them, but they didn’t bomb on their half of the match either. Quite fun.

Grade: B
Match 7 – Lacey Evans vs. Nikki Cross

This was a simple, quality outing. Lace put on a good show, holding her own for most of the match with strikes and submission work. She demonstrated particularly entertaining ring mobility as she manoeuvred around the posts and ropes with unique kicks and elbows. The crowd booed her solely because she repped the American flag. Cross made the comeback w/ lariats and a spinning fisherman buster for the win. Really, Lacey was doing just fine and the win was very fast and almost out of nowhere.

Grade: B-

 

Match 8 – Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Drew McIntyre (c) – NXT Championship Title match

This match started with Almas being a brilliant heel, attacking McIntyre while the Champ was down on one knee and still wearing his entrance coat. . Almas shows his brilliance early on in how he uses the ropes to evade his pursuer and, simultaneously, aide him in targeting the larger mans arm. Almas is a smooth worker, making it all look good, as he controls the situation.

McIntyre is no slouch though, as early on when Almas has him down, he bridges out of a pin in a way you would expect a man half his size more likely to do. They demonstrate this with the two men working a nice reversal sequence which McIntyre capped off with a brilliant display of muscle power as he hoisted Almas over with a beautiful vertical suplex. Sometimes it’s the simple things that you really pop for. Then again, sometimes it’s things like McIntyre catching Almas out of the air for an Air Raid Crash that you pop for. Take your pick. McIntyre’s got things in spades.

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McIntyre, the champion, is an imposing presence!

Almas does make an incremental comeback, building up towards nice, strong Tornado DDT. This leads into them really taking it to each other and Almas taking some mighty big hits from McIntyre. Almas works the arm again to weaken up the much bigger Scotsman. McIntyre powers out of a Fujiwara Armbar and plays up his sore  arm but nonetheless gets the kill with a Futureshock DDT and the Claymore kick in sequence.

It’s of particular importance to note that Almas kicked out of many big, hard hitting moves during this match and was made to look like a real contender. This being published after he faced  McIntyre again, this time on a TakeOver special, makes me excited to see the true spotlight, high-stakes version of this match. See, the one downside to this match that kept me from truly buying in was that, in it, the winner was too obvious.

Grade: A-
Conclusion:

While I may not be fond of the presentation  the E is known for. the NXT brand has a certain charm and edge to it. They present their product, and their stars, in a different light. It still has the high gloss and sheen in terms of set-up and production values but there is something inherently exciting about seeing how they are prepping talent for the big time and building new stars. The Velveteen Dream made one hell of an impression at this show and I have heard that, as of this writing, he has just impressed many more people. The future for these talents, and the WWE as a whole, is bright if they don’t get in their own way.

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#TorontoWrestling at Impact Bound For Glory in… Ottawa?

Being a fan, and wanting the survival, of Impact wrestling over the last several years has been an interesting experience. It comes with a lot of recognizing flaws and trying to point out successes, often at the nasty end of belittling fans. The entire experience of Bound For Glory reflects that pattern, boiled down to a grimy, tangible, personal experience that was, in the end, more fun than foul… yet left something to be desired.

Arriving at the Aberdeen Pavilion the only indication that an event was occurring was the lights emanating from the large windows. There was no signage for where we should line up, no indication of how those who had purchased VIPs should separate themselves from the plebes like me in GA seats. Once inside the venue there were food stands set up and the facilities were porta-potties, all kept blocked from view by the black curtains that were set up for the live filming area. The setup inside of the filming area was very clean and crisp and I could tell immediately that it would look good on camera. Up until the moment I was in my seat there was a distinct air of disorganization and the sense that something second rate was right below the high-sheen finish.

Once in my seat I let that go and got excited to finally see the brand after oh-so-many years, regrettably that feeling would, at times, crawl back up to the surface during the event.

Match 1 – Trevor Lee (c) vs. Dezmond Xavier vs. Petey Williams vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Matt Sydal vs. Garza Jr. – X Division Championship Match

This match suffered from being put on first. While, in theory, an exciting match like a 6-way X Division match could get a crowd pumped up, this one’s biggest flaw was that it was over too quick for me to really get invested in the ending. Both the X Division as a whole, and that Championship, deserve better than that feeling.

Dutt and Sydal opened us up with stereo moves and a near miss on Sydal’s standing moonsault. They set up some early match gag moments that see Trevor Lee on the receiving end of both a quartet of superkicks and of dropkicks. It was a moment of satisfaction that the division needed with the very peculiar booking the championship has received in recent months. Each man was given his chance to look good in the match, for what little time it had. Dezmond Xavier’s brilliant flippy stuff and Garza Jr’s headbutt stand out as particular moments of worth. Much of the match was built around Petey Williams looking for the Canadian Destroyer. He had received a remarkable pop upon his arrival and the crowd was hot for him to win. Sydal missed his Shooting Star Press to kick of the final sequence of action that culminated in Petey Williams hitting the Destroyer but having his win stolen by Trevor Lee, who shoves him out of the ring and takes the win, retaining his belt.

Grade: B

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Match 2 – Tyson Dux vs. Taiji Ishimori

The shame of this match is that it was designed, from the beginning, to be the backdrop for Laurel Van Ness to meander through the crowd as her “Hot Mess” gimmick. For those in attendance live it was a right distraction from two great performers having an earnest attempt at a short, quality match. To those at home, it was impossible to look away from Laurel as the cameras mobbed her as she went around. She plays her role very well, and the booking is certainly not within her direct control. She was doing the job they asked of her. It is simply unfortunate that they had to do this during the very limited screen time they had given over to showcasing both a local workhorse talent in Dux and their Japanese partner promotion’s often-champion in Ishimori, who was escorted to the ring by an official of the NOAH offices.

The match itself was pretty fun, even though I was not able to focus 100% on it. It started off immediately with both men putting their all into it, clearly aware of the truncated time and, I hope, advised in advance of the audience shenanigans they had to compete with. Ishimori put his speed and agility on display, executing feints and murderous foot stomps. Dux , as the bigger man, used size to his advantage and threw or grappled with Ishimori as the flow of the match dictated. Ishimori picked up the win with a lovely 450 Splash. Solid fun, but definitely too short for a meeting between men this good.

Grade: B-

After this match Alberto El Patron showed up and cut a “Go Home” heat generating promo about how Impact had abandoned him when he was under investigation for domestic abuse, and then he invoked his children. It was cringey and the audience wasn’t booing him because he was turning heel.

Match 3: Grado vs. Abyss – Grado Loses he Leaves the Country Monster’s Ball Match

This was an overbooked mess. A Monster’s Ball match, in and of itself, is already guaranteed to be spot heavy. This match doubled-down hard on it, having Laurel Van Ness do a run in to hit Grado with the Unprettier. This only prompted more run ins as Rosemary came down, misted LVN in the face, and then ate a chokeslam from Abyss. It felt remarkably forced and unfortunate. Match ended with Abyss hitting a particularly hard-working Grado with a Black Hole Slam on some barbed wire. Match was further marred by a premature bell being rang just before the ending, deflating any momentum that match had even further. I kind of want to see this match again, only without all the mess.

Grade: C+
Match 4 – Team AAA (El Hijo del Fantasma/Pagano/Texano Jr.) vs. Team Impact (EC3/Eddie Edwards/James Storm)

This was my personal favourite match of the night. It got a bunch of things right. It had a big event feeling from the very beginning. Team AAA felt like a big deal from the moment they made their entrance, were the first wrestlers on the card to really make an effort to work the crowd, and as the match built they were given a lot of opportunities to look good in the ring. The match, furthermore, had bits worked into it expressly designed to set up continuing story content as well. This is the kind of feud I would genuinely hope to see more of, in the future, with maybe an Impact vs. NOAH bout to come. I’ll admit to being biased towards anything that gets more international talent in front of my eyes, so this match and Impact’s present multi-promotion alliance are completely in my wheelhouse.

The story of the match is built, primarily, around two elements. The first is that Team AAA will cheat to gain the advantage when necessary, even though they are positioned very early on as incredibly capable combatants. the second is that EC3 refuses to tag in for his team, leaving Impact disadvantaged even further. Eddie Edwards took a good deal of the beatings in this match, even taking El Hijo del Fantasma’s finisher on the apron. James Storm gets the win with the Last Call on Pagano after EC3 finally tags in and gets a double low blow followed by the One-Percenter to set his partner up. There was a bit too much going on to properly pay attention to it all from a stationary live seat, and that’s really my only complaint. It was a fun match that let me see three Mexican stars, two storied Impact talent, and one Global Honoured Crown champion at the same time! Wow!

Grade: B+
Match 5: LAX (Santana and Ortiz) vs. OVE (Jake and Dave Crist) (c) – Impact Tag Team Championship 5150 Street Fight Match

The biggest problem I had with this match was that I was in attendance instead of watching it at home. From the sounds of it, a lot was going on. Regrettably it was almost all out of my view. The thrilling dive from the scaffolding was but a brief flicker of a man visible near the bleachers as he leapt, only to disappear behind the bleachers and leave me with only a tease of violence. Most of the ringside brawling, likewise, was on the opposite side of the ring and difficult to track and make sense of. I’ve been told it was a banging match by those who watched the stream. It’s a shame I can only say I saw about a quarter of the match clearly.

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What I was able to see was some pretty thrilling violence. Chairs collided with flesh in brilliant spectacle. Sami Callihan made his debut and the ensuing carnage was one of the most effective double turns of recent memory. OVE with the win after Callihan put Ortiz through a table with a piledriver off of the apron.

Grade: B-
Match 6 – Gail Kim vs. Allie vs. Sienna (c) – Impact Women’s Championship Match

A lot of people made a big deal about the fact that Gail Kim won this match. While I would have certainly made the opposite decision regarding the outcome of this match, I nevertheless was very happy to see Gail win. I loved Gail Kim’s push in her early time with TNA that proved to me something I had been wanting proved to me for a while, and that the big Connecticut company wasn’t giving me any of:  that women’s wrestling was just as good as men’s. I can’t help but think, in hindsight, that I’d have rated this match higher if Gail had gone out in a way that set up a new generation better, but I won’t begrudge her her moment. She’s given me too much.

The match started with Gail and Allie working together to beat down Sienna and, when Sienna would retreat from the ring, they would grapple with each other. They would, of course, resume their alliance when Sienna would return to the ring. This seemed to be working until Sienna cuts Allie off, catching her unawares. Sienna begins a comeback which sees her toss Allie with an Avalanche Fallaway Slam and nearly secure the pinfall on several occasions as she used her two opponents against each other. The ending came when Sienna was interrupted by Allie in her attempts to defeat Gail Kim. Sienna dumped Allie out of the ring with her AK-47 finisher but gets caught with an Eat Defeat off the top rope and Gail Kim caps off her career with a nice bookended championship victory.

Grade: B
Match 7 – Stephan Bonnar and Moose vs. Bobby Lashley and King Mo – Six Sides of Steel Cage Match

Many of my complaints about this show stem from heavy overbooking, turning personal vendettas and new rivalries alike into messes of tangled humanity. Herein, however, the story that built to this match warranted the interference that was to come. The MMA folks involved in the match, from Bonnar and Mo through every single member of American top Team that would interject themselves into the match all were willing to take bumps and put on a pro-wrestling spectacle.

The match kicked off as a fairly even exchange between the two teams that saw King Mo repeatedly thrown into the cage walls face first, to my personal delight. The match featured a lot of great feats of Pro-Wrestling extravaganza, such as Lashley catching Moose into a powerbomb, or Moose’s eventual leap off of the cage. It also featured a nice MMA inspired grappling sequence between Bonnar and King Mo. Eventually American Top Team invaded the cage and locked Moose out to beat on Bonnar, eliciting Moose to scale the cage and leap in. Regrettably, even after the biggest babyface heat getter of the match, American Top Team beat the team of Bonnar and Moose by sheer numbers alone. Thus prolonging a feud that should have blown off in this match between Pro-Wrestling and MMA. I hear they’re playing it out more over the tapings, and I don’t think it’ll bring much return on investment.

Grade: B
Match 8 – Johnny Impact vs. Eli Drake (c) – Impact Global Championship Match

The best thing I can say about this match is that it happened and Johnny Impact is cool. While Johnny Insertnamehere was a pleasure to watch, as he moves unlike any other performer in the business, the match was marred by three distinct factors: 1)Eli Drake, who is just about as interesting to me as a piece of cold, unbuttered, stale toast. I’ll give him credit for his remarkable athletic ability with his leaping superplex. Maybe he’ll grow on me. 2) “Vanilla Muscles” Chris Adonis, a man who can only trade on his looks. I want to like the man, but he’s just so “there.” He kept interjecting his bland self in the match, riddling it with heel lackey interference. 3) Alberto El Patron’s absurd, confusingly executed run-in. People nearby me were openly saying that it made no sense. I agree. El Patron, a man thoroughly booed and unwanted by the audience, ruins the ending of the main event of the biggest show of Impact’s yearly schedule and I’m supposed to be excited to see more? The match, up until El Patron got involved, would come in on its own at a B/B-… but that shitshow booking knocked it down to the lowest grade of the show. Nobody even got over out of that ending!

Grade: C
Conclusion:

Much like the history of Impact as a brand and Laurel Van Ness, Bound For Glory 2017 was a bit of a hot mess. The show genuinely had some fun matches, but something just felt off throughout the show. The fun repeatedly punctured by these unsettling moments where I question what in the sweet hell the company is doing. Ending the show in such an unsatisfactory manner, in a match already riddled with interference, just derailed the entire experience. It’s a bit stupefying how a company with access to the vast wealth of talent Impact has access to continually hangs its hat on tired ideas the company has burned through before and performers whom the audience is, rightfully so, sick of seeing and hearing from. Even when they do something new and fun, like the LVN gimmick, they do it in such a way that it distracts and detracts value from other performers. They have a really long way to go before they genuinely pack houses, instead of giving away seats, for their TV tapings.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #034 – #TorontoWrestling at Lucha in the 6 Battle Rock!

I like to call this one the “I got a seat!” edition, as every other time I have been to Lee’s Palace I was forced to stand for the duration of the show. It greatly improved my enjoyment of the show, and made it significantly easier to take notes. I can’t imagine going back to another show at this venue and having to stand the whole time. If you are going to a Lucha TO show, head there earlier than you think you should and line up, the view and excitement from the front row is well worth it!

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Wouldn’t be Lucha Libre if it weren’t colourful!

And now, the show:

Match 0: Shaunymo vs. Warhed – Barbed-Wire Net Match

Each man comes to the ring with a weapon, Shaunymo with a stick wrapped in barbed wire, and Warhed with a plastic bat covered in wooden skewers (or really beige nails). Warhed also tosses a pair of chairs into the ring. Barbed-wire criss-crossed over fragile wooden frames rests nicely on the stage. The stage is, literally, set for violence.

The match starts with the two men setting up a pair of chairs in the middle of the ring and plonking their asses down to punch each other in the face in turns. While this spot would feel really satisfying deep in the weeds of the match, I cannot fathom why they would start a match with such an inactive, lethargic moment. Had these two men already been bloodied and beaten, throwing thudding and bloody seated punches as they work themselves back up to their feet, it would have been killer… but here, there was no momentum built and no stakes at play. But hey, psychology be damned.

Immediately after their seated spot, the two men brawl into the crowd with Shaunymo in control, and they spend some good time working their way back to the ring where Warhed is in control.  Shaunymo gets a surprisingly huge boot on Warhed and they brawl some more and then the “nail bat” comes into play and they both wind up with oodles of stuff stuck in them, with Warhed taking a particularly nasty set to the forearms that bled heavily.

At this point they introduce the barbed wire net into one corner and they do the classic tease of each guy stopping in front of it with Irish whips et al., very basic hardcore spot I have seen in every single Deathproof feature match at LIT6 shows. Eventually Warhed suplexes Shaunymo into it. Warhed goes to get the other board and then Shaunymo comes back and they work a variety of spots with the nets and the chairs, eventually leading to Shaunymo getting a neckbreaker on Warhed through a barbed wire contraption, then sandwiching Warhed between the two barbed wire nets and hitting a Frog Splash to win.

This match really felt amateurish. Both men telegraphed things too obviously and for a death match you could see too clearly how they were trying to protect each other from these implements. Both men do, however, have a lot of balls and charisma. I am again left with the question of whether or not either of these men could wrestle a properly structured, non-hardcore match.

Grade: C+
Match 1: Lionel Knight vs. Smiley vs. Kobe Durst vs. Mike Garca vs. Buck Gunderson (c) – Hogtown Openweight Championship Match

Even though Gunderson is the champion and, in a scramble match of this nature, one would assume the title changes hands whether or not he is involved, he starts the match on the apron and lets Smiley and Mike get us going. The two men do some good technical work together, but quickly things go to show that Mike is a heel, when he unmasks Smiley… only to reveal that Smiley has a second mask underneath! Smiley then puts in some good work with a Lucha Libre inspired sequence leading to an innovative low springboard stunner out of the corner.

Smiley tosses Mike out of the ring as part of the ring and goes to dive on him but is cut off by Lionel Knight. At this point the men in the ring start setting up or a huge spot, working it cleverly in to other bits of action. Lionel and Kobe Durst face each other and they go fast and hard with Lionel sending Kobe outside, where he takes a nasty bump in the crowded space between the bar seating and the ring. Buck catches Knight with the Crossface Chicken Wing but he gets dumped out of the ring too. After a moment I noted down as a “crazy situation” Lionel Knight soars between the ropes and spears Mike, who was standing on the bar, right into the crowd (and the mob of wrestlers thrown out of the ring before.) For those unaware, the bar is literally a step away from the ring apron at this venue with such limited space. People sit right at the bar. People got wiped out by this spear, and after the match they had to announce to the audience that the front row, which I sat in, is the “Plancha Zone”… a.k.a. be mindful of your surrounding and keep an eye out for flying wrestlers coming your way. Good times.

As everyone slowly recovers from the gnarly wipe-out, Smiley’s valet climbs the bar and leaps onto them all too (I saw her later walking off a ganked ankle, seems she took a bad landing here.) This is followed by Smiley taking a leap off of the top turnbuckle himself. Slowly they make their way back to the ring, where they do the obligatory Tower of Doom spot, and Buck breaks up a near-fall to keep his title in play. Smiley and Mike team up to beat on Buck, but this sets Kobe up to hit a cool double codebreaker.

The match picks up pace even more, becoming super energetic, chaotic, and fun. They do the obligatory indie sequence where everyone gets their stuff in, working at an incredible pace. Mike tries to cover Smiley but Buck is there just in time to stop it. This is a running theme in the match, as after Kobe gets a sick piledriver on Mike, Buck is there to punch him out of the pinning predicament and steal the win, securing his title reign for yet another event.

While there were a lot of unpolished moments in this match, they never dragged the pace down and didn’t stand out. As such the grade is scaled up a bit for how ballsy the work was, and for the loads of potential I see in these young guys futures.

Grade: B+
Match 2: Super Smash Bros (Evil Uno + Stu Grayson) vs. The Fraternity (Channing Decker + Trent Gibson) (c) – Careers vs. Lucha in the 6 Royal Canadian Tag Team Titles Match

Uno and Channing start off with some technical work that makes Channing look smooth. Channing Decker mouths off a bunch, and eats a big slam and an inverted atomic drop. While the Super Smash bros certainly aren’t known for their good behaviour, they are easily made the faces by their interactions with the overly cocky Fraternity. Grayson and Gibson put their speed on display with a great segment where they run the ropes. The SSB stay on top of the Fraternity and capitalize on their early-match advantage with a nice brainbuster/head kick combo reminiscent of Chasing the Dragon. Uno and Grayson isolate Channing Decker and work him over hard with kicks, slams, and eye pokes. Faces in the match, heels in behaviour!

Decker tags Gibson after serious abuse and they immediately get a great combo cutter and start working together to take down and isolate Grayson. Turnabout is fair play. Grayson plays up the moment by refusing to go down at first and gets beaten even worse for his courage. This isolation is brief as Grayson gets a double DDT and tags in Uno who throws The Fraternity all over the place, devastating them with his size advantage. But that’s not what really shines about this match. The in-ring action is crisp and shows that the SSB are at the best they’ve possibly ever been and the Fraternity are really coming into their own, for certain. However, the in-ring banter between the four men involved in this match is stellar. The chemistry they have and the way they play off of one another verbally as well as physically really elevated my enjoyment of the match.

Grayson hits a crisp 450 Splash on Trent Gibson for a close count, 2.9, and he climbs the turnbuckle again to finish off the foe. Channing Decker makes the save for his team and pushes Grayson off, sending him sailing over my head so close his foot nearly touched me, and he lands hard on a fan who was standing. Both were down for a while. Uno avoids taking the pinfall while his partner is down outside the ring by getting to the ropes and when Grayson is back Uno scores a distracted roll up to get the three count and become the new champions.

This victory was pretty easy to see coming, as it wouldn’t make sense for LIT6 to have the SSB move on when their tag division is, frankly, quite limited at the moment. So limited it almost might be easier to not have a championship for it a la Smash Wrestling. Nevertheless, this match was pretty exciting. Part of it may be my live attendance bias kicking in. Both teams are really on fire right now, particularly the SSB who are having a serious career renaissance in match quality in 2017, having some of the best tag matches I have seen in a good while. The Fraternity have an uncanny ability to be either heels or faces, easily sliding from one role to the other by tweaking small elements of their gimmick, and have been getting much better in the ring over just the small amount of time I have been paying attention to them.

Grade: B+
Match 3: Freddie Mercurio vs. Grado

Grado had me laughing even before he set foot in the ring. His awkward body comedy and bizarre, out-of-place mannerisms really sell the mood. Mercurio’s gimmick itself is prone to moments of comedy itself, and paired with Grado he cranked that shit up to 11. They goof around to make the audience laugh before they go into some sloppy amateur wrestling, of course done intentionally, which elicits more laughter. Then they thumb wrestle. More laughter. They chest bump and pelvic thrust into each other and then make a gag out of criss-cross running the ropes. After a bunch more hilarity ensues, the match gets lost a moment as somehow Grado’s fanny pack was taken away from the ring and it was what he needed, loaded with his gimmick crackers, for the final moments of the match, where they treat it like thumbtacks and both men bump on them, with Freddie missing a moonsault and landing on them and then literally getting a mouthful of them and a swift kick to the cheek to finish him off.

There were some really obvious botches that slowed the pace down a lot, particularly the missing fanny pack, but overall it was saved by the comedy from having a lower grade.

Grade: B
Match 4: Hermit Crab vs. Argus

Two Wrestle Factory graduates live! Argus, now billed as the “Lounge Lizard,” dances his way to the ring wearing a neon-green disco dancing suit over his ring gear. The crowd genuinely got behind him during his entrance, but that enthusiasm tapered off heavily after the bell rang.

After some quick in ring action the two spill out and brawl through the crowd, as is want to happen at Lee’s Palace, and they work all the way back to the stage. And eventually back in to the ring. For some reason the crowd had cooled off a lot and a whole bunch of great technical wrestling, comedy, and brawling goes unappreciated by the restless audience. Inconveniently for the workers in the ring, things are made worse by the technical problems that knocked out a good amount of the lighting in the venue for a while. I’d wager, as well, that the audience was mostly burnt out on comedy after the last match.

Argus recovers the attention of the audience when he locks Hermit Crab in a Cattle Mutilation. Potentially pre-planned or making it up on the fly, at this point the match gets heavier hitting and focuses more on throws and submissions. Nevertheless the crowd stays relatively quiet even though the action is quite good. Argus wound up getting the win, but regrettably my notes aren’t clear on how exactly he did it. Towards the end he did hit a nice bridging capture suplex and I think that may have been it.

Outside of a few botches, the match was technically good. Regrettably the crowd just couldn’t care about it.

Grade: B
Match 5: Carter Mason, Danny Orlando, and Juan Francisco de Coronado vs. Sonny Kiss, Desean Pratt, and Super Crazy

The match opens with Super Crazy facing off against Danny Orlando. Orlando uses his imposing size to his advantage, shrugging off Super Crazy’s offense and catching him out of mid-air, slamming him down. Super Crazy makes the tag to Sonny Kiss, and for the opposing team Carter mason comes in. Sonny hits some big moves and then he twerks, which gets a very good reaction from the audience. Desean Pratt is tagged in and clears Juan Francisco de Coronado out of the ring with great agility and avoids Carter Mason’s attempts to assail him for a long time, the two moving from one spot to the next at a blistering pace.

Unfortunately for Desean Pratt, he eventually is caught by the heels and they isolate him, working him over in nasty fashion. They slow the pace of the match down, reigning in the crowd’s energy and building anticipation for the comeback. When Pratt makes his escape he tags in Sonny, who takes the match to Mason with high speed dodges, running strikes and a series of smacks to Mason’s head with his well defined rump. The King of the North responds by slapping Kiss in the face, and the crowd turns heavily against the hometown heel.

This leads to the heel team taking full control of the match as they double team and triple team and get their big man in without a tag, all while putting Sonny Kiss in peril. Kiss plays the wounded babyface perfectly here, generating a lot of sympathy and the crowd lets loose a furious series of boos at the scoundrels in the ring. Orlando, the biggest man in the match, tosses Sonny high into the air for a back body drop but Sonny lands in the splits, a fall of seemingly eight or nine feet right into it. The crowd is astonished, and Orlando responds simply by kicking Sonny in the head, immediately taking all that good heat and shifting it into boos against him. Carton Mason tries to submit Sonny and the boos rain down on him.

Sonny makes his escape and tags in Super Crazy and the crowd pops with vim and vigour. He tosses Orlando from the ring and locks Juan in the tarantula, but Orlando kicks him in the head to break the hold. Mason tries to submit the Extreme Luchador and the match into the indie staple amazing chain of everyone hitting big moves and kicking out, The match cycles back to Super Crazy and Orlando in the ring, Super Crazy counters the larger man and gets one of two moonsault attempts to hit and then gets a really well executed and satisfying surprise roll up that caps off the narrative well, punctuating the build up of the faces coming through against overwhelming, cheating odds. A great feel good win.

Sonny Kiss and Super Crazy elicited some of the biggest pops I have heard in Toronto, and certainly the loudest I have heard on the Toronto indie scene (and that’s including the riotous standing ovation for Rosemary at Smash Wrestling’s New Girl In Town.) There’s the possibility that the volume was amplified by the cramped venue, but it’s hard to say for certain. Likewise, the boos for the heel team in this match were tremendous, the loudest not involving Kevin Bennett I have heard in Toronto. Juan Francisco de Coronado didn’t do anything particularly flashy to stand out in this match, but his psychology as a heel really did wonders for building the heat of the heel team and his brutish treatment of Sonny Kiss really helped to sell this.

Grade: A
Conclusion:

All-in-all LIT6 has been really getting better, show to show, since I started attending their events irregularly. I know I’ve missed many (those Saturday shows don’t always get along with my schedule) but they are definitely striving to be something special and putting in the work to get interesting and fun talent to put on entertaining matches that really get the crowd invested in the illusion.

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

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

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It’s in my blood, for certain!

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 2: Sebastian Suave vs. Greed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6: Mike Bailey vs. Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 5: Buxx Belmar vs. Mike Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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#NoLookingBack #021 – Upgrades!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 0: Mark Wheeler vs. Benjamin Boone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 2: Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Stu Grayson

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

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

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

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

Match 3: Scotty O’Shea vs. Matt Cross

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

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The goddamn manliest beard on the show!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6: Jay White vs. Kevin Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

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

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