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

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

Match 0: Mark Wheeler vs. Benjamin Boone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 2: Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Stu Grayson

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

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

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

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

Match 3: Scotty O’Shea vs. Matt Cross

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

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The goddamn manliest beard on the show!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6: Jay White vs. Kevin Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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Look at that nice, slick logo!

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

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Look at that amazing framing!

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

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They made me care about these monstrocities!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#NoLookingBack #020 – No Witty Title

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

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

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

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#NoLookingBack #019 – On Planning and Follow Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s a great looking logo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: C+
pratt_vs_ophidian

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

Match 5: Ophidian vs. Desean Pratt – Grudge Match

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B

hatfield_vs_king

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

Match 6: Jeff King vs. Dasher Hatfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
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Look how menacing Puma King looks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-
jigsaw_vs_flywarrior_vs_chuck_taylor_vs_kenbai

The main event, folks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

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

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

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

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

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Gotta admit, they’ve got a killer logo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 0: Captain Morrison vs. John Atlas

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

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

Grade: C-

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

Match 1: John Greed vs. Freddie Mercurio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Match 6: Drago vs. Aerostar

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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

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

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Look at how crisp that design is!

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

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

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

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Old-Timey wrestling for modern eyes!

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

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The men who could travel through time…

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

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The weird just oozes out of him!

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

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

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

 Service Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
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Dux looks weird in black and white.

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Match 5: Martin Kirby vs. Tarik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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