#TorontoWrestling at Smash Wrestling’s CANUSA Classic 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #013 – The Problem with the Paige Leaks

Fuck it! I’ve been trying to figure out a way to be clever or fanciful about how I write this entry, but I just can’t do it. I’m going to be direct and lay it all out there.

So, let’s get some simple facts out of the way. On Friday, March 17th, someone stole, and released to the general public, private photo and video files from devices owned by WWE performer Paige. These files were of a sexual nature and also contained footage of other people, namely Xavier Woods of the popular WWE team The New Day, and former WWE employee Brad Maddox.

It struck me as inhumane that, knowing these files were stolen, people were so voraciously consuming and redistributing them. Maybe I have been lucky in choosing the groups I hang out in and the people I follow, for I had never seen this much misogyny and lack of basic human decency in the Pro-Wrestling fans I had spent my time engaging with or becoming friends with. When I attempted to engage with these people about the wrongdoings they were making themselves a part of, I ran up against the same old arguments I had seen elsewhere, and everywhere, whenever an issue even remotely similar to this one came up. What follows is a series of arguments that people used to try to justify their repugnant behaviour, and why they are wrong.

“People are terrible, get over it.”

Uhm, no.

If this is the depth of your argument then your actions are transparent. All you are doing is trying to soften how you feel about your own behaviour and involvement with the situation. This is simply an admission of guilt coated in dismissal. It has no value.

“If she didn’t want them to be seen then why did she record the video/take the picture?”

Of course she wanted them to be seen, by herself, and the individuals participating in the making of these videos, and whomsoever they fucking CHOOSE to share it with. Just because it exists does not mean you are granted special entitlement to see it. Is every photo you have ever taken, every word you’ve ever written, meant for consumption by the general public? If you can honestly answer yes, I still don’t believe you, and it still doesn’t justify your over-reaching sense of entitlement, or your inability to consider whether or not this is ethically acceptable.

“She shouldn’t have had these on a device connected to the internet” and “She should have deleted them”

Yeah, we could all do with better internet and privacy security. If she had put these on an external hard drive not routinely connected to the internet, or had deleted the files, this would not have happened. That’s certainly true. Indeed, maybe people with any level of fame or public visibility should be more diligent about securing their private photos, videos, and communications. Simply as a precaution due to their perceived increased risk. Nevertheless, this line of argument entirely ignores the fact that these private files were hacked off of a device and distributed without her consent. She didn’t accidentally sync her files to some file sharing website and regret it. The level of security she employed has literally no bearing on whether or not it was right for her files to be distributed online, or for her to be harassed, or for you to masturbate to her private moments. All this argument does is show that those using it are trying to, as always seems to be the case, shift blame onto the woman who was bold enough to film herself enjoying sex for her personal amusement or fulfillment.

“Lawl, we just like her titties and ass, what’s your problem snowflake faggot”

Being sexually attracted to a person and wanting to see them naked is wonderful, across all the spectrums of sexuality there are. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see someone naked, or having sexual thoughts about a person. Yes, even a person you have never met. Paige is a beautiful woman, and I can understand why you would want to see her naked, and if she had chosen, willingly and of her own volition, to release these photos and videos then your argument would be valid and I, in fact, would be in the wrong for telling you anything that contravened your ability to, right to, or enjoyment of looking at these images. However, as has been made abundantly clear, Paige did not choose to release these and, as far as I have been able to determine, nor did Brad Maddox nor Xavier Woods. In essence you have willingly violated the privacy and rights of three individuals. You have taken advantage of this to gratify yourself, and, yes, you should be ashamed.

“Her career is over!” and “The WWE have to fire her now!”

Notice, first and foremost, that the people saying these things never level such accusations at the male talent still employed by the E. Paige’s career is over, the WWE have to fire her, but Xavier Woods should face no repercussions. Approximately 99% of the people arguing this point are simply applying misogynistic double standards towards sexual activity and enjoyment of varied sexual acts. Paige is a “freak” for engaging in these sex acts, and is a blemish on the WWE for it, but Xavier is a hero because he got to have sex with someone you’ve wanted to. It’s ridiculous levels of bullshit. They were all consenting adults engaging in activities together which they mutually decided to film. Their level of depravity and heroicness are equal, and their right to privacy in their acts is also equal.

The only argument I have heard for the WWE having to fire Paige that wasn’t explicitly based on this wellspring of misogyny and double standards was centered around the fact that, in one of the videos, the NXT Women’s Championship belt is ejaculated upon. The argument hinges upon the fact that there is WWE branding being treated in a way that the publicly traded corporation could not condone nor be seen to approve of, even by inaction or omission. As the company now portrays itself as a PG product, and the McMahon family is expressly republican, with Linda McMahon involved to some degree in the present governance of the United States, this puts them in a potentially volatile position where their hand may be forced to act against Paige, whether or not they would have otherwise. Family values, save the children, all that nonsense. Nevertheless, this stance is predicated upon the notion that people should find sex acts shameful and disgusting, and that some ejaculate getting onto something decreases its value permanently.

Thus far, everything I have covered is familiar to pretty much every woman who has ever had photos that were meant for private, select audiences distributed widely by assholes on the internet. This kind of misogyny needs to be stamped out and is certainly not exclusive to the Pro-Wrestling fandom, online or off. This is truly a societal, wide reaching problem. What has happened with Paige here is simply an expression of this insidious, familiar societal blight in the fandom I write about the most.

So, let’s take a moment to talk about the actions that were exclusively in the domain of the Pro-Wrestling fan.

There iss the cynical and self-gratifying attitude of fans who decided to try to get the WWE to have Brad Maddox be the General Manager of RAW after Mick Foley’s departure. No one gave a fuck about Brad Maddox coming back to the WWE until this leak happened. Maddox was, for the most part, a forgotten and unimportant former element of WWE television, but now the online community have turned him, partially jokingly and partially seriously, into this sexual champion whom they want to see back on their TV simply because he had sex with Paige. They want the WWE to hire back the man who ejaculated on the NXT Women’s Championship to be hired back while also saying that Paige is a disgrace. The hypocrisy is explosively and violently apparent. For his part, Maddox has ghosted himself.

Why is it that, as fans of the art form and, supposedly, of those who work their asses off to make the art we enjoy, so many feel the need to make the people who have been wronged suffer for our amusement? A sex tape is not an armbar, and these people have real lives that are affected by how we treat them. It disappoints me that in an era when the major players in the Pro-Wrestling world are just starting to get women’s wrestling to work without predicating every story line on a misogynistic trope, the fans erupt with irreverent glee over a situation wherein needless and cruelly victimizing a woman is the centerpiece. I’m disappointed.

I wish I had some grand strategy on how to go about making the general attitude of society change. It almost feels disrespectful to the situation’s severity for me to not propose a solution. Maybe calling it out enough will help, I don’t know. All I do know is that it is wrong in so many ways and it needs to be changed, in Wrestling and in Society as a whole. We should be striving to be more open, caring, decent human beings. I won’t presume to lead the charge here, a lot of women are far more important to this fight than I will ever be, but I can call bullshit when I see it.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Please leave a comment here. As this subject has been sensitive in nature, and I am well aware of my flaws in perception and understanding as someone who has never been the target of misogyny, I would particularly love to engage in open dialogue about what the Pro-Wrestling fandom, in particular, and people in general can do to really move us forward and beyond this terrible trait of ours.

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