#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s From The Ground Up

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

Match 1 – Young Myles vs. Kevin Blanchard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

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

 

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

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

Match 1 – Vaughn Vertigo vs. Kaito Kiyomiya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 6 – Joe Hendry vs. FTM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

 

#TorontoWrestling at #NXTToronto

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

 

Match 1 – Tye Dillinger vs. Kona Reeves

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

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

Grade: B-

 

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

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

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

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

Grade: B

 

Match 3 – Johnny Gargano vs. Killian Dain

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

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

Grade: B

 

Match 4 – Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

 

Match 5 – The Velveteen Dream vs. Bobby Roode

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

 

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

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

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

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McIntyre, the champion, is an imposing presence!

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

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

Grade: A-
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

And now, the show:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 4: Hermit Crab vs. Argus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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It’s in my blood, for certain!

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 2: Sebastian Suave vs. Greed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6: Mike Bailey vs. Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 5: Buxx Belmar vs. Mike Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Match 0: Mark Wheeler vs. Benjamin Boone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 2: Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Stu Grayson

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

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

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

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

Match 3: Scotty O’Shea vs. Matt Cross

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

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The goddamn manliest beard on the show!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6: Jay White vs. Kevin Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gotta admit, they’ve got a killer logo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 0: Captain Morrison vs. John Atlas

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

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

Grade: C-

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

Match 1: John Greed vs. Freddie Mercurio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Match 6: Drago vs. Aerostar

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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