On March 4th I attended my first Smash Wrestling show, their annual F8ful Eight tag team tournament. The show was held at the Franklin Horner Community Center in Etobicoke, officially outside of what most people consider to be Toronto proper. I’d been to this remote, cramped, hot venue once before for a Chikara show. This show was to be a farewell, of sorts, between the promotion and venue it had made its home base. I for one will not mourn this remote, hot, and cramped venue. Smash have made the wise decision to move into a more central location, which should encourage more fans to attend regularly. The Community Center isn’t the worst venue I’ve ever attended a show in, but its remoteness (over 1.25 hours on public transit from my door to theirs) made me simply not want to go. To those relying on public transit, Etobicoke is NOT Toronto, and Smash want to promote themselves as Toronto’s premier Pro-Wrestling company. I look forward to seeing the promotion grow into its new home.
Sadly I sat behind that one fan who would yell out random, inane commentary at everything, including video packages that had no hopes of responding to his desperate pleas for attention. It was distracting but I decided not to let it bother me and sat back in my seat, with food, beer, good company, and my notebook to enjoy the festivities. Before the show even began the audience proved itself to be aggressively loyal, knowing all the appropriate promotion-specific chants, and also all the chants that have wormed themselves into all strata of Pro-Wrestling fandom in North America. There is a striking difference, that I miss, to sitting in a Japanese audience and appreciating the show in another way.
Match 1: #TheBest vs. Super Smash Brothers
This match started off with some simple, solid brawling with #TheBest getting some good moves in, particularly notable was a nice Exploder Suplex, but the Super Smash Bros remained in control for most of the bout. As typical with indie style booking, everyone got to get their thing in the match, making both teams look good. Each side had some impressive tag team tandem offense. #TheBest had a nice top-rope splash onto one of the Smash Bros who was held on his opponents knees after a double-knee gutbuster, while the Super Smash Bros claimed victory with a brutal looking running knee strike by Stu Grayson onto his opponents face while Evil Uno held him in a belly-to-back piledriver, before of course dropping the piledriver.
Match 2: “Oily Beefcake” vs. The Boys of Jollyville
After a video package explained that the impromptu team of “Oily Beefcake” was formed from the combined remnants of Halal Beefcake and The Well-Oiled Machines, due to each man’s respective partner being down in Orlando for Impact Wrestling tapings, we got off to a good start on this match. The teams had some good back and forth action, with solid mixture of indie style brawling and grappling mixed with comedy spots. The Boys from Jollyville employed some good heelish tactics and came out of the match with the win after Psycho Mike, of the Well-Oiled Machines, threw protein powder in everyone else’s face and decided to get himself too. This resulted in what I believe was a blind fight between the Oily Beefcake partners who thought they were fighting their opponents and led to a Jollyville victory.
I was honestly surprised I didn’t hear any “Fuck TNA” chants like I expected after the general impression a lot of the fans chanting around me gave me. If it were an ROH show i am certain i would have heard that unnecessary chant.
Match 3: The Fraternity vs. Kevin Bennett + Franky TM
The first thing I had to note was how odd it seemed that a team based on juvenile beer chugging and Frat-boy jock antics was cheered so heavily. They were the obvious faces heading into the match and were definitely crowd favourites. Meanwhile, Kevin Bennett elicited chants of “Fuck You Bennett!” from much of the audience, even those sitting directly next to small children.
The match itself introduced the audience to the fact that Franky TM was unwillingly forced to be Bennet’s “bitch“, and that Bennett was a dickish heel when he threw beer in the Fraternity’s face pre-match. The match itself was unremarkable outside of a few spots. Particularly exciting moments include an Avalance TKO by one of The Fraternity and Franky TM’s finishing move wherein he dropped his opponent from a Military Press into a Fallaway Slam into a TKO. The match was heavily influenced by the presence of Bennett’s cronies, and while Franky nailed the finishing move, Bennett got the tag and pinfall victory.
Match 4: Tabarnak de Team (TDT) vs. The London Riots
Without a doubt, this was the best match of the night and came right before intermission. Before the match even started the two teams were at each other’s throats, with TDT nailing stereo German Suplexes to kick things off. The ring couldn’t contain this fight as it quickly spilled to the outside with some great action. One sequence in particular saw one of the London Riots with a Tope Suicida, followed by a TDT Top-Rope Moonsault to the outside, followed by a Riots Tope con Hilo. These guys may not be the tallest guys on Earth, but this was the Hoss Fight of the card, both teams boasting burliness in spades. The match was big move after big move, and while at times it did appear that TDT were having trouble with the weight of their opponents, it didn’t slow the match or detract from it too much. The London Riots pick up the win with a brutal tandem slingshot into a spear tag team finisher.
If i were to give this match any real constructive criticism it would be that they could have, both sides, sold more and slowed the pace down just a bit. It was big moves back and forth throughout the match and it left little room to truly appreciate how violently these men were treating each other.
Match 5: Sebastian Suave vs. Brent Banks
Suave’s manager cuts a great heel promo before the match to really get the crowd to want “The Sponsored Athlete” to lose. In fact, Suave’s manager was probably the most entertaining thing in the match, as he caused interference in audible, microphoned ways and somehow there was even a mid-match commercial break. Both performers in the ring were obviously very athletic, but the match did nothing for me. Suave wins with a sliding elbow or clothesline, was hard to tell exactly what from my angle.
Match 6: Tarik vs. Jimmy Havok
This one got going right out of the gates, with Tarik rushing at Havok and the action quickly spilling outside. From my angle there appeared to be some botchiness with the ropes when they were trying to move the action out of the ring, but it was easily forgotten due to the level of violence and how hyped the crowd was for the match. Before the audience had time to breath Tarik cleared a swathe of fans from their seats and sent Jimmy Havok careening into the plastic chairs like a bowling ball. Once we returned to in ring action, and our seats, there were a couple more noteworthy moments… for good or ill. Tarik absolutely kills it with a backpack stunner against Havok. Havok, however, turns it around promptly and nails a Burning Hammer (or some variation thereof, it wasn’t as snug as Kobashi’s) which Tarik then promptly no sells sending me into a fit at my seat. Whilst furiously ranting about how you cannot no sell a Burning Hammer, Havok picked up the win with what looked like the Rainmaker.
Match 7: Smash Championship Match – Tyson Dux (c) vs. Greed vs. Scotty O’Shea
This match was all kinds of not-right. At the second entrance theme there were obvious technical issues, the match was announced as a Triple Threat and yet two men were being introduced in a pre-match ceremony when the originally scheduled third man suddenly runs in with a chair in hand, leaving the crowd wildly confused as to the booking. At one point Dux hits a nice outside DDT on Greed, and while a few other big moves standout, such as a great Cannonball into the corner by Greed or O’Shea doing a corner Death Valley Driver to Dux where he slams him into Greed, the match fizzled with the ending. Dux has O’Shea in a Boston Crab and Greed slides in to, from what it looked like, stop O’Shea from tapping to keep the match alive, and then all of a sudden the ref is calling for the bell and telling the audience that O’Shea tapped out… to which the audience promptly responds with a rousing chant of “Bullshit! Bullshit!”
Post match Jimmy Havok comes out and challenges Dux for the Smash Championship at the next show, and hopefully that match will have a defined ending that is clearly recognizable to the entire audience.
Match 8: F8Ful Eight Tournament Finals Elimination Match – Kevin Bennett + Franky TM vs. The London Riots vs. The Super Smash Brothers vs. The Boys from Jollyville
Before the match is even underway – and i’m beginning to see a trend towards pre-match action at Smash Wrestling – Stu Grayson of the Super Smash Brothers does an excellent Tope con Hilo to clear out Bennett’s extra goons at ringside. The match, being four corner tag team elimination, is hectic and busy right from the get go. The Boys from Jollville, bearer of the worst tag team name in history, have some pretty good spots here and some great early match chemistry with The London Riots. Of particular note is a great spot where the larger member of the Jollyville team has their opponent in an Airplane Spin and the smaller member is decking him in the face with right hands on each rotation. Certainly spoke to them having character as a unit. Before any one team has had a chance to be eliminated they go out of their way to do a car crash level Tower of Doom spot that elicits a huge pop from the crowd for Franky TM, the man left standing. Franky then nails his Fallaway Slam tossed into a TKO and drapes Bennet over one of the Jollyville fellas for the 3 count and The Boys from Jollyville are eliminated.
The first elimination is followed by an awesome sequence between the Super Smash Bros and the London Riots that culminates in the Riots going for their tandem slingshot-into-spear finisher on Stu Grayson who flies out of the slighshot with a knee lift to the guy coming in with the spear. This turns the tables and the Super Smash Brothers eliminate the London Riots with their knee strike/piledriver combination. This match continues to show us how damn good Stu Grayson has become. The Super Smash Brothers have been around for a long time and this latest reinvention has seen them at possibly their best ever as heels, both in psychology and physicality. Franky TM uses Bennett as a weapon against the SSB and things look to be at a stalemate when, out of the blue, Bennett’s cronies show back up and kidnap Evil Uno, taking him behind the curtains and leaving Grayson alone with both Franky TM and Bennett. Franky nails what looks like a Rydeen Bomb (or a Chokebomb) on Grayson and goes to tag in Bennett so he can get the pinfall. Bennett heels it up and commands Franky to do the move two more times before he will allow his bitch to tag out. Bennett gets the pin.
After the match Bennett grounded Franky TM, after he attacked Bennet’s cronies,for the next several events, and set up another leg of their slow-burn feud.
All in all I left the show satisfied, despite the best match coming at the midway point and the shenanigans that spoiled the title match for much of the crowd. I bought tickets, 2nd row VIP, for their next two events, intent on continuing to delve into the company and excited for the change in venue to a more Torontonian milieu. Smash Wrestling show great promise, and with their established working relationship with Progress Wrestling and their newly formed partnership with WCPW, look to be going places in the landscape of Canadian independent wrestling.
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