#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s Any Given Sunday 6

Well, folks, this one was a humdinger! On January 21st 2018 Smash Wrestling held their first show of the new year, and it was filled with brilliant action and big moments. This time I found myself back at The Phoenix, and greeted by a sea of chairs unlike any setup I had seen Smash run thus far. This card was seemingly designed to set up the major storylines of 2018, and in their push to build narratives, I found some things to nitpick, but the good far outweighed the bad. So let’s get to it!

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Match 1 – Scotty O’Shea vs. Joe Hendry

The legitimate best part of this match was Hendry’s brilliant mocking of Scotty during his comedy entrance package, taking the piss right out of the poor lad. Unfortunately, I found neither man really brought much of anything special to the bout. They’re both competent athletes who are solid hands in the ring, but there just wasn’t anything to really get excited about. The closest I got to excited was during the two times that Hendry navigated his way into the Ankle Lock from unusual starting positions. It was fluid, interesting, technical wrestling inserted almost  without context into this otherwise standard and dry opening contest. In the end O’Shea picks up the win off of a low blow and corner cannonball spot.

Grade: C+
Match 2 – The Super Smash Brothers (Evil Uno and Stu Grayson) vs. Halal Beefcake (Idris Abraham and Joe Coleman)

The match starts with a long stretch of solid but not particularly engaging action that has the SSB reveling in their new extra-heelish mannerisms. They isolate and work on Coleman for what felt like a very long time. After about a million years Coleman gets the tag to Idris Abraham after a double back suplex on both of the SSB. This pops the crowd and sets Idris up for positive treatment from the fans. Abraham doesn’t disappoint either. He runs the ropes like a flash of lighting as Halal Beefcake build up their offensive comeback. Unfortunately for the adorable goofs, the SSB aren’t put out of the fight as they set up their win off of a great leaping knee strike counter from Stu Grayson. With the speed game of Halal Beefcake shut down, Uno and Grayson lay hard into their opponents and let the Smasholes in attendance know that they are full villains by breaking their own pins to lay more punishment into the beleaguered faces, only to come out on top anyways! Dastardly doings right there.

In the end this match could have been more engaging for longer, but it finished very strong and carried on the villainous tone that the evening would run with through till the end.

Grade: B
Match 3 – Tarik vs. Sebastian Suave

Tarik made his way to the ring, in what looked to be some nice new gear, to a rowdy and appreciative audience reaction. He paused to revel in it near me, laying out some good meta pro-wrestling commentary and loving every minute of the wild affair. This reaction was irrefutable proof that Smash’s project to turn Tarik face had been working, and this match would go on to cement that turn.

The match exploded into an aggressive back-and-forth from the first ding of the bell. Tarik’s turns in control were frenetic and passionate flurries, while Suave’s were slowed down, methodical and impactful. The two worked well together and kept the pace at an engaging level throughout. Tarik came off as more charismatic than usual as he fought a fight that his opponent, and the loud-mouthed manager Kingdom James, had made personal.

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Tarik and Suave battle on the apron as I take notes in the front row. Take note of my proximity to the ring for later.

As the match built to its climax the audience was treated to bigger and flashier moves as the men traded near falls off of some of their go-to fight ending manoeuvres. Notably Tarik kicks out of a top rope driver and Suave out of a diving knee and a benadriller. At this point Suave lays in to Tarik with murderous elbows and their fight spills outside the confines of the ring, and the match, as Suave, unable to put Tarik down, turns his boots to Tarik’s family in attendance and the two are pulled apart by security and we have a non-ending to what was a tremendous match.

Grade: B
Match 4 – Carter Mason vs. Lionel Knight vs. Kevin Blackwood vs. Allie vs. Jeff Cobb

This match had so much potential to be a show stealer. The men and women in the match can all go and their combined talent should have led to something along the lines of the last multi-man bout Cobb was in at Smash’s New Girl in Town. Unfortunately the central conceit of the match failed to provide the same kind of framework for success that the previous one did. I want to make it clear that none of the performers did a bad job performing the roles they were given, and the match as a whole wasn’t boring, or bad, but it was disappointing.

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Jeff Cobb is ready for his match, folks.

The match started out seemingly on even footing between all the competitors, but after a double knee combo from Carter Mason and Kevin Blackwood sent Cobb out to the floor, the power dynamics began to be creep their way in. The heels, Blackwood and Mason, developed most of their heat from the fact that they would hit Allie, their opponent in this competition. The male faces, on the other hand, would have moments where they team up with and seemingly protect Allie, forgoing actively attacking their opponent in a competition. Really, the guys getting the boos in the match were the only ones who treated Allie the same way they would treat anyone else who stood across the ring for them, and this made the whole match feel disingenuous. In fact, it diverted energy away from the pace and offense output of the performance. In the end Cobb picked up the win when he took Blackwood on a Tour of the Islands.

Grade: B-
Match 5 – Kevin Bennett vs. Mark Haskins

Mark Haskins is a tiny, intense, living murder bullet. I had two words jotted down in my notes about the opening moments of this match, “fast” and “aggresive,” before Haskins came flying in my direction. A suicide dive aimed at Bennett’s cronies Muscles and Big Tank, wiped them out and caught me in the crossfire. My beer fell victim to the assault, spilling its frothy blood across my collected possesions and leaving a slippery film across the floor to remind performers of its once crisp, refreshing taste. I hope it looked great on camera. For full disclosure, Smash crew had a new fresh beer in my hands quick-fast.

Stunned I watched as Haskins and Bennett released their limiters and went crazy with each other. I fell behind by a lot in my note taking and my back and neck were stiff from absorbing the impact. Their match was like a whirlwind. It was super fast and hard hitting. Most importantly, I think it was the best match I’ve ever seen Bennett in. The match builds in violence, and Haskins lays his kicks in like he is trying to commit literal murder, but Bennett is up for it and they dial up each other’s offense as the match builds.

Bennett’s cronies interfere one too many times and the referee ejects them, leaving Bennett alone for the first time in as much of Smash as I can remember. Unfortunately they come back after the match has gotten really good and wind up getting Haskins the win by DQ. As part of a longer storey that has been brewing for months, this non-finish is almost excusable, but the problem comes with the fact that it was the second such ending of the night, and the fourth match to end with heelish shenanigans. I think this may be a slight flaw to the way the shows are planned for television tapings, but it just started to feel really “same-y” as the show went on.

Grade: B+
Match 6 – Brent Banks vs. Matt Riddle

This match was super fun and competitive. Banks and Riddle work smoothly with each other from the opening bell. Early on we see Riddle using his MMA-based grappling to confound and fluster Brent Banks to such a degree that he teases stomping on Riddle’s bare feet. Riddle tries to capitalize on Banks hesitancy to pick a direction to approach the fight from and the audience is treated to some very gymnastics heavy reversal sequences as the two men figure each other out. As the match develops, Riddle dials the aggression up to eleven and gets in some nasty shots with his “Bro 2 Sleep” and a deadlift German suplex for a near fall, followed shortly by a pair of gutwrench suplexes that had the crowd chanting “Broplex City.”

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Team SPLX taking the fight to the Toronto locals at AGS6!

Banks, finally fed up with the dominance of his opponent, takes the next opportunity to stomp on Riddle’s unprotected feet and gets a German suplex of his own. At this point the dynamic of the match changes for the better. Riddle aggressively pushes ever onward towards winning, but is met now by a Brent Banks who is frustrated by being outclassed and wants to prove his worth. Banks strives on in the face of the oncoming assault and takes desperate measures, like catching Riddle’s kick and biting his foot, which he follows with a sensational running boot in the corner. The action comes on hard and varied in style and Riddle looks to come out on top when he hits his tombstone piledriver to end a huge back-and-forth sequence. Unfortunately for the Bro, Banks kicks out at two and makes a brief comeback before reversing Riddle offense into a pinning predicament and scoring the surprise victory.

Grade: A
Match 7 – Tyson Dux (c) vs. Frankie The Mobster – Smash Championship Match

Built off of the idea that Frankie and Dux go way back as friends, this match opens with tempers flaring as Dux jumps his once-friend and lays into him with ferocity. It’s a nice change from the average Dux title defense which had little emotional stakes to offer the audience, and with Dux style led to many of them feeling too similar to the last outing.

Unfortunately this emotional component to the match doesn’t stop FTM from slowing… the… pace… to… a… crawl. He talks a lot and looms menacingly over Dux, moving weirdly and laying in some attacks as the match builds. It’s well executed but boring, that is until Dux gets fired up and just hits oh so many suplexes and goes for the pin. Unfortunately, at this precise moment, the SSB try to make their way down to the ring from the stage and the referee gets distracted. This distraction allows Vanessa Kraven to come in and obliterate Dux with a chokebomb. Frankie then hits his finisher and gets the pinfall, dethroning the longest-reigning Smash champion to date and forming a new villainous stable in the process. I’m curious to see how this plays out for two particular reasons: 1) All of these allied villains are from Quebec, which means there is a cultural rivalry with Ontarians they can easily capitalize on and 2) Frankie, while a long-time player in the Ontario and Quebec independent wrestling scene, is not what one would consider a modern indie worker in style, and has had a propensity for injuries over the years.

Grade: B
Match 8 – The Well -Oiled Machine (Braxton Sutter and Psycho Mike) vs. Tabarnak de Team (Mathieu St-Jacques and Thomas Dubois)

This was a fucking fun, hectic, tremendous match. The opening action was solid, with the teams trading dominant position in the ring. The violence was quickly dialed up to new heights for both of these teams. They introduced and murdered ladders early on, each man making certain to slam his opponent on a ladder, or throw one at him, or strike him with one at every given opportunity. While both teams were equally violent, willing to brutalize their opposition for the prize on the line, Tabarnak de Team took the early advantage by managing to set up strong double team moves that took both of the Well-Oiled Machines down at the same time.

Monsieurs St-Jacques and Dubois, in a momentary lull in their torrent of team offense, take the time to keep myself and those around me out of our seats to set up the first of two tables they would use. It was a surreal moment as these sweaty, burly Quebecois woodsmen commanded us to move. It was like I had become the camera of a well produced show and they perfectly filled the frame, bursting with intensity and charismatic aggression. New ladders and chairs are introduced to the match and Braxton Sutter gets put through the table they forced me to move for, which prompts Psycho Mike to return and start wailing on his opponents, yelling like a maniac. Around this time the crowd also pops huge for Psycho Mike fixing the support arms on a ladder previously set up by TdT, because it was upside down and wouldn’t lock into place due to that. A portion of the crowd had been trying to communicate to TdT but it just didn’t get fixed till Mike got his hands on it. Good job Mike!

Heading into the final stretch of the match Sutter brings out the second table and sets it up, again clearing fans away in the jam-packed Phoenix. This show I do believe was genuinely the biggest audience I have seen at a Smash show, with far more chairs set up than ever before, and the main eventers were there to work. There were constantly men and weapons in motion, Dubois weaponized his top-rope Moonsault to the outside with a smaller ladder clutched in his arms as he flipped onto everyone below. It was just this wonderful mess of insane stunts and courageous, violent performers. A terrifying ladder spot sees the Well-Oiled Machines send one member of TdT off the top of a ladder to crash into the other standing on the apron, only to have both of them then crash through the table Sutter had set up on the outside. With this, the Well-Oiled Machines were free to climb the ladders and grab the belts hanging in the air to become the first ever Smash Wrestling Tag Team champions. While some moments were a bit derivative, the participants performance was top notch and the match turned out to be remarkably engaging.

Grade: A+
Conclusion:

While there are certainly elements of the show that I have been critical of thus far, this show was dialed up to eleven to kick off Smash’s 2018. The sheer number of screwjob/non-endings won’t feel anywhere near as troublesome when the show is broken down into two weeks or more worth of television, and I do not begrudge this brand their efforts to make their television product compelling and engaging. To compensate for this fact I can certainly see that all the talent put their best foot forwards in terms of how they presented the action that lead to these endings and it certainly kept me entertained and wanting to see more. If they can keep this energy up in throughout the year, and provide the fans with big payoffs to the stories they are building, then Smash are set to burn down the expectations of the Ontario indie scene and erect new standards in their place.

 

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#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s CANUSA Classic 2017

On December 3rd 2017 Smash Wrestling returned again to the overbearing stuffiness of the Franklin Horner Community Centre for their annual all-female event, pitting teams representing Women’s Wrestling from Canada and the US of A against each other. Seeing as Cheerleader Melissa and Mercedes Martinez were on the card, it reminded me heavily of the NCW Femme Fatales event I attended back in Montreal, years before I made the move down here to Toronto. The venue, as was to be expected, did the in-ring action little justice. My girlfriend, who attended the event with me, was compelled on several occasions to go outside for a breath of fresh air as the venue’s lack of air circulation was triggering her asthma. Overall I am willing to travel back to this facility for the quality of shows that Smash put on, but I won’t be bringing anyone with me to this venue again. It’s just not good when you compare it to the far superior Phoenix and Opera House. Nevertheless, venue aside, the show did a good job of highlighting some amazing, incredibly talented performers.

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Match 1 – Veda Scott (USA) vs. Danyah (Canada)

Veda made an immediate impact with her entrance, riding to the ring on a child’s bicycle, draped in the American flag, as Kid Rock’s “American Badass” blared over the sound system. This light mockery of the least beloved phase of the Deadman’s career, however, could easily be seen as the high point of this match. Veda performed adequately enough but, and particularly from my angle, the same cannot be said for Danyah. Her inexperience showed throughout the match, as she delivered lacklustre and/or sloppy offense. The uncertainty in her movements really weighed down the pace of the match when the action was in her hands to control. Of particular note were the corner dropkicks, which looked neither impactful nor crisp. In the end, Veda picked up the win off of a series of kicks.

Grade: C+
Match 2 – Kaitlin Diamond (USA) vs. Gisele Shaw (Canada)

I had no serious complaints about the quality of this match. It was quite fun and served its role as an opening match better than the first one did. Gisele put on an early display of lucha libre inspired agility and offense, popping the crowd as she went. Instantly she was, by virtue of her being Canadian and doing cool moves, placed hard in the role of the babyface. This played well into Diamond’s hands as the crowd really got behind booing her as she took control by fighting dirty.

Both performers looked good in the match, with Diamond receiving the lion’s share of my praise for her solid displays of power and striking. Her offense was technically sound and well executed, but lacked a little something to make it stand out from the crowd. Gisele Shaw, on the other hand, had the moves that made the audience pop more but, while she did display nice control in the sequence, her strike flurry felt weightless. It seemed as if she was more concerned about her form being on point than the blows looking like they could hurt someone. In the end Diamond picked up the win with a strange fisherman’s hold dropped into a package front-facelock neckbreaker (I honestly cannot describe it better than that, sorry folks!)

Grade: B
Match 3 – Samantha Heights (USA) vs. Jewells Malone (Canada)

Nothing but fun here. This match was a solid pace from the opening moments where Heights ambushed Malone all the way through to the end. The two had some good brawling on the outside of the ring, capped off by Malone turning momentum in her favor with a leaping chair attack off of the ring apron. Back in the ring, and in clearer view, both women put their offensive skills on display. Samantha Heights, much like the last time I saw her, kept up a barrage of banter mixed in to her rough heelish ring work. Distinct improvements to the quality of her ring work could be seen, to a degree that astonished me for the relatively short time period between September and December.

Malone, whom I was watching for the first time, delivered nice strikes and suplexes, but shone the most with her speed as she ran the ropes. The two had good chemistry with each other, both being the rough and tumble sort of charismatic brawler that wrestling so often revolves around. In the end, Jewells Malone would pick up the victory off of a TKO, but not without having to kick out of an impressive cross-up Shining Wizard from Heights. These two certainly have a future in the business.

Grade: B
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While not initially advertised as a Fight Network taping, partway through the show they realized how well it was going and seemingly changed their minds. Not everything will be broadcast, but these are three great matches to highlight.

Match 4 – Jordynne Grace (USA) vs. Alexia Nicole (Canada)

This match was built around the physical mismatch of the women’s bodies, with Jordynne Grace dwarfing the absolutely teeny Alexia Nicole, to great effect and fun. Jordynne’s power easily overwhelmed her opponent from the opening moments of the match, with Alexia being forced to rely on her speed and technique to mount any kind of offense. Alexia would mount her offense with a series of lucha-like twisty, fast manoeuvres and then get cut off by something simple, like a spinebuster, by Jordynne Grace that would pop the audience far harder and with far less effort. Indeed, the audience loved Grace throughout the match, giving her much love for her hard hitting, firm, big-move centric offense.

The intensity of the match built up nicely as it went on, with Grace easily taking control but unable to secure the pinfall victory over Alexia Nicole. Muscle Buster? Nope, that’s a kick-out. Electric Chair Apron Facebuster? Nope, that’s a kick out, too! In the end, frustrated by her inability to keep the much smaller woman down, Grace fell victim to an unfortunately unconvincing wheelbarrow facebuster from Alexia. This, unfortunately, but a bit of a damper on an otherwise great match, muddying the quality and believability of the finish. Nevertheless, the performances of the women in this match were rock solid.

The night had begun with the announcement that there would be a “Standout Performance” medal awarded to one wrestler at the end of the night, as voted on by “the people in the back” (read: other wrestlers, Smash Wrestling management and crew). After this match I knew Jordynne Grace would win that award. I wasn’t wrong. Jordynne Grace is the future.

Grade: B+
Match 5 – Cheerleader Melissa (USA) vs. Xandra Bale (Canada)

This match was, both in kayfabe and reality, very one sided. Cheerleader Melissa was both booked to look dominant and was the crisper, more refined performer in the outing. On the other hand, Xandra Bale is underwhelming. Every time I see her I want to like her, her entrances and look are on point, but she always winds up disappointing me. This match was, regrettably, no exception. Indeed, the best thing I can say about her in this outing was that Xandra Bale is 100% unafraid to take some wild spots and bumps. Melissa swung her through chairs hard, knocking over a whole swath of audience seating in the act.

Melissa dominated the match, with simple, effective, and brutally applied submissions and strikes. This built  up to a finishing sequence that saw Bale try to fight back, with slow strikes and a spinning fisherman buster, only for Melissa to come out with the win off of an Avalanche Air Raid Crash. Keeping in mind the limitations I feel Bale has as a performer, I still rated this match rather well for the fact that the match was booked and built in such a way as to limit how exposed these weaknesses were. Cheerleader Melissa carried the heaviest bulk of the offense in the match and Bale played the beleaguered underdog well.

Grade: B
Match 6 – Mercedes Martinez (USA) vs. Rosemary (Canada)

This match benefitted from the previous match’s one-sidedness, as the more even back-and-forth presentation made the participants both feel like a big deal. The opening saw the Smash-faithful firmly on the side of Rosemary, and Martinez throwing some of the loudest chops I have ever heard in person. The love that Toronto has for Rosemary cannot be understated here, as the audience popped pretty much any time she did anything. Martinez, as a deft performer, capitalized on this to elicit boos from the audience by faking dives and throwing Rosemary hard with a beautiful side suplex.

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Rosemary always makes a striking entrance. I didn’t take this picture and have lost my notes on where it came from. If this was yours, let me know how to credit you please!

In the end, after being beaten with chairs outside, eating a super ace crusher and a series of nice suplexes from Martinez, Rosemary would score the win with her Red Wedding. This match was, without a doubt, the best thus far of the night. Both women came out looking to make an impression and didn’t slack in any way. It was fun. Both of them are also incredibly versed in suplexes and it just felt like the best pairing possible.

Grade: B+
Match 7 – Allie (USA) vs. Gail Kim (Canada)

This match was touted as being Gail Kim’s last Canadian Pro-Wrestling match before her retirement. As some of you may be aware, I had been thankful to see her for the first time at the Bound For Glory event in Ottawa. This evening, however, offered me something that the other didn’t: An intimate venue and indie setting. At Impact Wrestling, the talent felt so far away, so inaccessible. Here I finally got to meet her an, very inelegantly, thank her for how much she gave me what I wanted out of women’s wrestling back in the glory days of TNA. She lead the charge, to me, in the North American women’s wrestling scene being taken seriously by a mainstream audience. Her efforts will, likely, never get the true respect they deserve but she stands atop a mountain in my mind. So, as a personal moment, I really want to thank both Gail Kim and Smash Wrestling for being so great on that night!

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Gail Kim was my gateway into loving women’s wrestling. She answered the question I was asking when she went to TNA and started her career there: Can women’s wrestling be more than what the WWE was giving me? The answer was an emphatic “Yes”. Thank You!

The match itself was solid, but at times felt a bit rushed. They opened with back-and-forth exchanges, showing each other to be evenly matched. Allie was the first to ratchet up the pace of the match, with an aggressive facebuster. Unfortunately, like too many Smash matches, the two brawled outside and disappeared from view for a while. With Allie as the aggressor, Gail Kim responds by avoiding an attempted corner drop kick and turns it into a corner Figure-4 leglock of her own, turning the tide against her fellow Impact Wrestling roster member. Gail then turns to her submission game heavily, working on Allie’s legs with submissions and strikes. This leads to Allie getting a submission of her own on Gail, a very well execute Cattle Mutilation.

In the end, Allie kicks out of Gail’s Eat Defeat finisher at a healthy two-count, and surprises the veteran Kim with a reversal into a pinning predicament to score the win. This victory was also the deciding blow in the even heat between Team USA and Team Canada. Even though led by a native Canadian, Team USA scores the win at CANUSA 2017 off of Allie’s quick wits and never say die attitude.

Grade: B+
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Team Canada and Team USA, post event, with their medals. Sadly Veda Scott isn’t in this as she had to catch a flight to the UK for a show.

Conclusion:

This was the first all-women wrestling show I had been to in many, many years (my last one being an nCw Femmes Fatales show years before I moved to Toronto from Montreal which, coincidentally, also featured Cheerleader Melissa and Mercedes Martinez on the card.) This show was exciting and energetic, building towards a solid finish from an engaging start. I wish there was a stronger presence in Canada for all-women’s shows. The talent pool certainly exists to run them, and the local scene is certainly developing new depth all the time. Locally, it seems, a lot of the younger women are cutting their teeth in inter-gender matches as well. I look forward to CANUSA 2018 and seeing who they bring in for that spectacle. Also, writing this makes me realize how much I regret not seeing a Stardom or Ice Ribbon or Sendai Girls show while in Japan in January 2017. Next time I am in Tokyo, you can definitely expect me to attend a Joshi show or two.

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Montreal, many years and many bad hair decisions ago. Myself and Cheerleader Melissa. She told me I looked like a wrestler with my hair.

#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s From The Ground Up

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

Match 1 – Young Myles vs. Kevin Blanchard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

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

 

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

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

Match 1 – Vaughn Vertigo vs. Kaito Kiyomiya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 6 – Joe Hendry vs. FTM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

 

#TorontoWrestling at #NXTToronto

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

 

Match 1 – Tye Dillinger vs. Kona Reeves

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

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

Grade: B-

 

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

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

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

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

Grade: B

 

Match 3 – Johnny Gargano vs. Killian Dain

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

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

Grade: B

 

Match 4 – Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

 

Match 5 – The Velveteen Dream vs. Bobby Roode

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

 

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

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

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

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McIntyre, the champion, is an imposing presence!

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

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

Grade: A-
Conclusion:

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

#TorontoWrestling at Impact Bound For Glory in… Ottawa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B

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Match 2 – Tyson Dux vs. Taiji Ishimori

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: C
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

And now, the show:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 4: Hermit Crab vs. Argus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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It’s in my blood, for certain!

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 2: Sebastian Suave vs. Greed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Smash-Wrestling-Super-Showdown-V-Super-Smash-Brothers-Evile-Uno-Stu-Grayson-Player-Dos-vs-Tabarnak-de-Team-Mathieu-St-Jacques-Thomas-Pipes-Dubois.jpg

Look at those beautiful, bearded bastards!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A+
Smash-Wrestling-Super-Showdown-V-Speedball-Mike-Bailey-vs-Bobby-Lashley

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

Match 6: Mike Bailey vs. Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #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.

Smash-Wrestling-Hacker-Scotty-OShea-vs-Matt-Cross-Support-The-Scene.jpg

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.

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?

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

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