#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.

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#TorontoWrestling at Impact Bound For Glory in… Ottawa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B

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Match 2 – Tyson Dux vs. Taiji Ishimori

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: C
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 0: Captain Morrison vs. John Atlas

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

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

Grade: C-

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

Match 1: John Greed vs. Freddie Mercurio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Match 6: Drago vs. Aerostar

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
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Dux looks weird in black and white.

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Match 5: Martin Kirby vs. Tarik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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The official event logo. Property of Ring of Honor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 5: Will Ospreay vs Cody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #016 – #TorontoWrestling Review: Smash Wrestling’s New Girl In Town

On April 9th 2017 Smash Wrestling properly laid claim to their claims of being Torontonian by moving out of Etobicoke and running the Phoenix Concert Theatre, just slightly right of downtown Toronto. Now easily accessible by public transit, I gleefully headed down to their show, the aptly-titled New Girl In Town. Their goal was obviously to make this show a landmark event in their history, and they certainly delivered.

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He really does look like Uncle Phil…

Smash Wrestling’s new home, the Phoenix Concert Theatre, is a smaller venue as far as concerts are concerned, but has their old home beat by a mile. Gone was the indoor, stuffy, cramped, hot, and far Franklin Horner Community Centre. In its stead, The Phoenix is high ceilinged and open, with a barebones concrete floor and far more space for seats to be packed into, including an overhanging balcony that I can only imagine some brave fool diving off of eventually. Smash used the additional space very well, setting up their entrance on the stage and booking a wild No-DQ match for the finale that would roam the entire venue (except for that oh so dive-able balcony), but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Of particular noteworthiness is how well Smash Wrestling handle their VIP seating. Early access and assigned seating with your name taped to it. Classy and smooth. The Phoenix’s security staff gave me one hell of a pat-down. They must be used to people who are troublemakers. I wonder how they’ll adapt to the Wrestling crowd.

Match 0: Holden Albright and The British Brawler vs. Kevin Blackwood and Mark Wheeler

This was, in essence, a dark match. Albright entered wearing a silver mask, the audience chanting for him to put it back on when he took it off provided for a moment of amusement, but the whole purpose of the mask being taken off seemed vague and unclear. It seemed to add little of value,  but maybe he is going for a Tenzan type deal in the long run. The British Brawler had some odd bunching in his tights that made him look like he had a diaper underneath. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. However, true to his namesake, he was in fact good at brawling. These two played the heels in the match, serving as distractions when the other man was legal.

Holden Albright nailed a really great German Suplex on Mark Wheeler, but failed to secure victory for their team. In the end Blackwood hit a nice looking Pumphandle Olympic Slam to secure his team the win. It was a standard tag team affair with a few botched looking spots that the performers just rolled with, not focusing on them and drawing attention to their errors.

Grade: C
Match 1: Greed vs Scotty O’Shea

This is where the show actually kicked off, and they did so in a pretty big way. Greed starts making his way to the ring as his calmly eerie music plays, and is interrupted by a “hacked” video package mocking him. Suddenly, amidst a sea of fans blocking my direct line of sight, O’Shea jumps Greed on the ramp and I think cracked him with a keyboard. They brawled outside for a bit, getting a huge pop from the audience. Before bring the action back into the ring, Greed levels O’Shea with what looked like an F5 onto the ring apron from the floor. Brutal way to kick off the show. Before O’Shea can recover, the portly wildman Greed throws himself off of the apron onto O’Shea.

Once inside the ring things take a more balanced approach to the choreographed violence. O’Shea makes good use of the ring as part of his offensive arsenal, either using it to give him height or sping to his moves, or as a veritable weapon such as when he hit Greed with a Flatliner, dropping him face first onto the taught ring ropes. Greed stayed on the offensive overall longer than O’Shea, leading up to a great moment where he catches The Hacker out of a handspring and tosses him with a Release German Suplex. O’Shea heels it up good during the match, trying to get victory with his feet on the ropes, but can’t secure the three count.

In a match where one of the things I noticed too often was how frequently Greed’s nipple slipped out of his girth-inappropriate black tank top, this great big guy gets the victory over O’Shea when he hits a Shirtless Fat Guy Frog Splash (trademark pending) clean in the ring. Greed is, indeed, good. betetr yet, he keeps getting better each time  see him.

Grade: B-
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Psycho Mike hanging in there.

Match 2: Super Smash Brothers vs. Well Oiled Machines

At the beginning of the show the sad announcement was made that Eddie Edwards was injured in Japan and will not be competing in what was supposed to be a 3-Way tag match. A video package from TDT (Tabarnak de Team) played beforehand that was obviously quickly edited to remove the American Wolves from the mix, stating that whoever wins the match tonight will have to face them on May 14th. It sucks knowing that the potential had existed for a TDT vs American Wolves match and that an injury prevented this from happening.

The Super Smash Bros, Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, control the match early with quick tags, keeping Psycho Mike of the Well Oiled Machines in the ring. The Well Oiled Machines banter was on fire throughout the match, audible and clear to me in the first row, really helped to flesh out their characters. They gained control of the match but started blind-tagging each other and an undercurrent of them getting agitated with each other was worked into the match. They’re both talented and fit wrestlers, but their character work was really on display in this match. They build up to a confrontation between each other in ring and both wind up eating their share of a Double DDT by Evil Uno.

As the match progresses Stu Grayson proves how insanely agile he can be as he dodges many sinning big boots from Psycho Mike and the Super Smash Bros even get a very close two count when they hit their Piledriver/Running Knee tag finisher followed by Grayson nailing a delicious 450. In the end, however, it was the Well Oiled Machines who claimed the victory after hitting a combo high angle Boston Crab/top rope leg drop to the back of the head. This match was solid fun.

Grade: B+
Match 3: Xandra Bale vs. Allie

Xandra Bale kicks off the match with two tope suicida onto Allie, the second one looked particularly nasty on her knees as she landed hard. There’s some good back and forth between the two leads to a nasty bucklebomb by Allie followed with a good looking sliding elbow. Allie then hits a suplex into the turnbuckles and stacks her up for a pin attempt. Xandra Bale looked great in her mafia-themed pinstripe outfit, but her execution in the middle of the match wasn’t as clean as I had expected. Things just looked a little too obvious that she was in a performance, unlike Allie who is crisp and explosive here. Allie gets the pinfall victory when she catches Bale out of mid-air with a superkick.

Grade: C+
Match 4: Kevin Bennett vs. Andy Williams

This is Smash’s version of Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone in a match with Hogan and DDP. Kevin Bennet is probably the most despised heel in Toronto right now and Andy Williams is the guitarist of Every Time I Die. I went in without any real expectations as to the calibre of Williams’ technique and expected this to be a spectacle more than a match.

Bennett and his cronies get booed and sworn at by the crowd the moment they appear, in the ring he starts to cut a promo but Williams storms the ring and clears out the cronies. He looks great, beefy and crisp in his attacks. What this match does is display how weak his selling is. Early in the match he gets a Guitar Hero guitar controller broken across his knee and the story focuses heavily on his knee being a target. Unfortunately he lacked the little nuances that really make an audience invest in that story… like making me suspend disbelief and think he’s hurt by selling in a somewhat believable way. He goes through the motions, but doesn’t sell it. Williams is, however, willing to take bumps as he gets caught with an Apron Cutter by Bennett in a spot that I genuinely didn’t expect. Williams nails a huge chokeslam on Bennett but can’t get the three count because the ref is distracted by the cronies. When Williams goes to chase them away Bennett trips up the ref who falls in such a fashion that he chop blocks Andy Williams in his wounded knee and Bennett picks up the win. Good heeling.

Grade: C
Match 5: Tony Kozina vs. Davey Richards

Kozina is a great comedy heel here, from beginning to end and really impressed me more and more as this match went on, and I hope that Smash can bring him back in. He started by feigning leaving when he saw how  his opponent was, and turned into him finding ways to trip over himself, the ropes, his opponets and build a lot of comedy into the match, much like the Young Bucks have been doing more as their careers develop. Not afraid to make themselves look the fool. During one part of the match Davey wails on him with some move and Kozina goes into a back bump that he rolls out of onto the top of his head, like an upside-down bowling pin, rotates and then collapses. It almost didnt matter what Davey Richards was doing because Kozina would eclipse it. They brawled outside and Richards got some nasty kicks into Kozina, who he had seated on a chair literally one seat over from me. Kozina, the wily heel, escaped the abuse and sent richards into the chair with a Drop Toe Hold. Back in the ring Kozina gets tied up in a cool submission sequence. Kozina goes to the top and crotches himself when he slips, foreshadowing the ending of the match where, after nailing seeming dominant with a springboard face crusher and quick Piledriver, he goes to the top, falls down, trips over Davey Richards and eats a Shining Wizard as he recovers for Richards to get the win.

Grade: B
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Setting up for one of the sickest bumps of the night.

Match 6: Sebastian Suave vs. Rosemary

The pre-match segment begin with a great hype video for Rosemary’s farewell match, but Sebastian Suave and his manager Kingdom James come to the ring first. They’re most certainly heels, but Kingdom has such great wit and charisma that you’re dying to see what’ll happen next and he almost gets the both of them some genuine babyface love. They do everything right to stay heels though. Kingdom James gets an “Uncle Phil” chant for his resemblance to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character. One fan yells something at the robust heel manager who retorts with a brilliant barrage of words, lacing in some great Fresh Prince references, and caps it off with “I have a microphone, I’m going to win every argument!” and suddenly the crowd is on his side.

Rosemary makes her way down to the ring in her carefully selected gear with her carefully selected entrance theme. Her gimmick is so well put together that it sells itself to you without her even having to open her mouth. With both competitors in the ring, the action still can’t kick off yet because the referee keeps finding various bladed items secreted on Rosemary’s body, and just when he thinks he’s found them all she pulls a butcher’s cleaver out of her trunks. The shrill voice and psychoic quips from her during this sequence reinforce her gimmick thoroughly.

The moment the referee finally disarms her, before the bell rings, Suave dashes across the ring and ambushes her. He can’t hold advantage for long, with Rosemary cracking him with a great headbutt and a gorgeous Capture Suplex. She ties him up in a rope trap assisted choke, forcing the ref to count towards five. She’s savage and wild in her attacks against Suave, but also agile and tight in execution. Gimmick and technique coming together in gestalt. My notes literally say at this point that she “suplexes him like a bitch”.

Suddenly a standoff, and Suave tries to low blow Rosemary, an action that must certainly be frowned on by his corporate sponsors, but she just looks at him confused and then makes him eat a head kick and wrecks him with a German Suplex. He rolls outside and she obliterates him with a spear. Momentum shifts when Kingdom James interferes and prevents her from getting the pin. The bumps get crazier as the match goes on, with Rosemary eating a vicious Death Valley driver on the apron, a boat load of body slams, and a top-rope Death Valley Driver into a Ki Krusher. This is followed by a brilliant sequence of near falls. Rosemary comes close to winning but Kingdom James interferes at just the right moment and secures Suave the victory.

Post match sequence has Rosemary’s rival Allie come down to the ring for what we think will be a team up beat down on the defeated woman, but swerves and superkicks the heel and Rosemary hits him with blue mist and the crowd pops one more time for the leaving hero. Standing Ovation. To me, this was the best match of the night.

Grade: A
Match 7: Michael Elgin vs. Jeff Cobb vs. Brent Banks vs. Tarik

Elgin and Banks to start, with Elgin dominating and showing his strength. The back and forth tells a tale of strength versus agility, but Tarik cuts in to break up a Stalling Vertical Suplex, but Big Mike puts on the breaks and turns it into a strongman show, tossing both men in a double suplex. There’s a fracas of action and and people shuffle in and out of the ring in a flurry of well executed, well timed action. Jeff Cobb and Michael Elgin stare each other down and the atmosphere electrifies. They test each other out, exchanging forearms and no selling each other’s huge throws. Then another fracas erupts, punctuated by great dives and hard hits. This match is money. Then its Banks and Elgin again, with a great sequence. Cobb pops up and wrecks Banks, who he takes on a dizzying Tour. It gets frenetic as Tarik and Cobb mix it up and impress the audience. Then its Elgin and Tarik.

Crisp, clean, and gorgeous action so fast that i can’t keep up. I made this note halfway through the match. At this point there had been very few moments where people were down for a meaningful length of time. If I were to level any real complaint at this match is that I could have used to see them slow down and sell just a little more. Give me a chance to be impressed by your choreography just a little more before you show me something new.

Nevertheless, the match roared onwards. Big Mike Germans everyone, multiple times, and even suplexes two people at once. Everyone gets their time in ring and makes it count. How they manage to keep their timing so precise when they ahve such high speed and complicated things to do with their body is beyond me. There is literally no time to breathe as a fan until Elgin hits a deadlift Avalanche Falcon Arrow on Tarik. But the match doesn’t end there, as Banks breaks up the pin and the crowd loves it. Banks kills Elgin and then Cobb is back in the mix, he destroys Banks but the pin is interrupted and Tarik drops Cobb with a Backpack Stunner. The crowd chants “Fight Forever“.

The match ends as Michael Elgin ruins Tarik, first throwing him out of the ring onto Cobb and Banks, nasty fucking bump, and then kills Tarik with a Bucklebomb and Sit-Out Power Bomb. Elgin gets the victory. Standing Ovation Number Two..

Grade: A

Post match they tease Elgin vs. Cobb in singles action, but before they collide with each other they each have to beat their next opponents. For Elgin they announce Zack Saber Jr., crowd goes wild, for Cobb they announce Kyle O’Reilly, crowd doesn’t pop so much. I can’t blame them, I’ve seen O’Reilly before, but never ZSJ. Smash are playing hardball for my money. Keep it up, guys.

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This is the best picture I took that night.

Match 8: Smash Wrestling Championship Match – Tyson Dux (c) vs. Jimmy Havoc, No DQ

The match starts with some back and forth action that contrasts Havoc’s savage brawling skills with Dux’s precision and technicality.The action almost immediately spills out of the ring and into the audience, wandering out of view and into pretty much every section of the crowd except for my own. As they wind their way back into the ring Jimmy collects various implements from around the venue, bringing into play cookie sheets, a staple gun, tacks, chairs, some paper and some lemons. In the end most of the staples get put into Havoc himself, with some money tacked onto his face. Crowd seems to dig it, but some of it just seems all too deliberate for me to suspend my disbelief.

The action spills out of the ring, out of site again. Ooohs and Aaaahs from those close enough to see. A table gets brought into play. They get in the ring and there’s more back and forth action, weapons involved, and pinfall attempts exchanged. Havoc staples Dux in the junk at one point, pretty certain that’d have ended it if it were me. They do some good spots with the tacks, including loading up Dux mouth with them and punching him. Dux retains after a sequence of Death Valley Drivers into, respectively, a table, the turnbuckle, and the tacks, but Havoc kicks out and its finally a submission hold when he’s in the tacks that makes him quit.

Grade: A-

Smash Wrestling’s previous event, F8ful Eight, piqued my curiosity. This show made me a fan. This weekend it will be made available to watch online on their website, so go visit Smash Wrestling on Sunday and pay to watch this show.

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