Early 2019 Chinese Pro Wrestling news round-up

Early  2019 has seen an explosion of newsworthy events and information come to light about the expanding Chinese Pro Wrestling scene. In fact there’s been so much news that this time period may be looked back on as a crucial launching point in the next step of the scene’s development, with 2018’s big company debuts serving as a foundation. But enough speculation about the future impact, let’s get to the news!

Oriental Wrestling Entertainment

OWE had, by far, the biggest, most bombastic news out of early 2019 as they headed towards their 1 year anniversary. Spinning out of their very successful second half of 2018,  they made huge moves  that will shape the future of not only their roster but the whole of the scene, bringing a plethora of international eyes onto the brand.

– Partnerships between OWE and The Crash Lucha Libre and All Elite Wrestling were made official (for more AEW partnership details please see comments provided to me by OWE COO Michael Nee, and by AEW Executive VP Matt Jackson.) OWE management are expected to be in Las Vegas today to join Cody, Matt and Nick for meetings and press conferences.

– Famous trainer Jorge “Skayde” Rivera did a stint in China training all members of the roster, regardless of experience level.

NothingElseOn.TV will be broadcasting OWE content on their service, and I learned in discussions with them that they are working on translations to provide English localization for OWE shows and Chinese localization for at least one of their other shows. No dates have been confirmed for when this will be available.

– OWE will be running international dates in Taipei, Taiwan on Marc 30th 2019 and in Osaka and Tokyo, Japan between April 18th and 20th 2019.

– “Scorpio XX” Liu Xinxi will be making his return to international competition February 13th with #STRONGHEARTS at Wrestle-1.

– American talent brought in to China by OWE have recently worked on Gao Yuan’s most recent WLW show, adding further fuel to the rumors that OWE will be more actively working with other promotions in the Chinese Pro Wrestling scene.

 

Ho Ho Lun’s expanding network

– Extreme Wrestling Entertainment (EWE) ran their first show on January 22nd 2019 with very high production values. The promotion is owned and operated by Cai Liangchan, a famous man in Macau who has a background in international sporting events representing Macau and in MMA. Ho Ho Lun has been appointed as the “head producer” for the brand, making this the 3rd company he has a creative controlling stake in (EWE in Macau, HKWF in Hong Kong, and KOPW in mainland China.) Further shows are anticipated to take place in March and May.

– Ho Ho Lun via HKWF will also be helping to run further upcoming Dragon Gate shows in Hong Kong in May, with a “whole Dragon Gate run in Autumn and Spring” planned.

– KOPW and HKWF both ran successful shows in January, with video footage hopefully forthcoming soon.

 

We Love Wrestling

– Gao Yuan, WLW’s owner, has said that while nothing is certain yet he is working on a plan for an OWE vs. WLW event off of the back of their recent inter-promotional friendliness.

– 2019 will see more big shows from WLW, with at least one being in Anshan (Dongbei.)

 

Middle Kingdom Wrestling

– MKW plan on running four to five shows in 2019 in China, with their first being in March.

– MKW have plans for a spring show taking place in Nepal to fall under their newly established “Belt and Road” show banner. Likely this will be headlined by a Belt and Road championship match, to continue their successful and government supported “Belt and Road” promotion efforts.

 

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#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 #031 – Can Anthem #MakeImpactGreat Again? (Part 3)

The list of international promotions who have had working relationships with Impact, in its various incarnations, is a lengthy one. I’m not going to lie and say that they’ve always made excellent use of these relationships, and the talent that has moved through their roster because of them, but, for a variety of reasons, they have always excited me.

Right now, Global Force Wrestling has working relationships with Pro Wrestling NOAH, AAA, and The Crash. Perhaps not too surprisingly they have already begun to lean on these relationships to bolster their roster and provide fresh, distinct match ups to their viewing audience. Most prominently featured, thus far, and becoming semi-regulars in the process, are the team of Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid, courtesy of The Crash. For many weeks now this pair have featured in the Tag Team landscape and have garnered for themselves a fair bit of love from those paying attention to the product.

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Look at how happy they are! But Garza Jr. recognizes this fan can’t spell his name right…

In more recent weeks, Impact Wrestling’s audience have been treated to the spectacle of Drago and Taiji Ishimori being entered into the latest installment of the Super X Cup, a four-company interpromotional tag team title match at Slammiversary, and the sheer bewildering absurdity of a Naomichi Marufuji versus Moose match for the Impact Grand Championship. Impact Wrestling talent have also found themselves abroad, working in NOAH and The Crash themselves this year.

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Drago picks up the win over Sammy Guevara and moves on to the Semi-Finals in the newly reborn Super X Cup! Seriously, guys, this X Division is good!

While many will cling to the well-documented story of Okada, as a young lion on excursion, having his time in TNA be a completely missed opportunity – and as hindsight would have it, woah yeah that’s a missed opportunity – few will give them credit for their successes. At present they have repeatedly used their inter-promotional guests to great effect, booking them to look strong in victory and defeat, making certain to set up their losses in ways that do not tarnish their value as special attractions for the brand. In doing this well enough they have elevated both the X and Tag Team divisions, injecting meaningful depth into a roster rife with instability, both looming and present. This presentation is respectful to their partner promotions and beneficial to making their own talent look competitive.

While the tag division, post-Slammiversary, has been on a simmer with LAX’s involvement with El Patron, the X division is at a full boil with the Super X Cup, the budding feud between Sonjay Dutt and Trevor Lee, and the ascendancy of Matt Sydal all going on at the same time. That’s a lot of TV time dedicated to the division. The fresh match ups and high quality performances brought to Impact Wrestling by their international guests are a strong component in making that time worth watching. Not only do they book them into matches up and down the card, they spend a decent amount of energy introducing their audience to who these guests are, getting them over and giving them depth enough so that the audience feels it is safe to invest in them. Realistically I do not know how long the current selection of talent will be in play, but it doesn’t feel like they’re just going to be here for a short time and have no meaning to the greater whole. That feeling, in the moment, is possibly more valuable than whether or not they actually succeed at it because it has generated intrigue and buzz enough to get people talking.

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This match was really quite amazing, and the set up here for Low-Ki’s double stomp had me excited. You knew it was coming and you couldn’t wait!

This formula reminds me of when, in times past, TNA had successfully utilized their international talent. I remember a young Hiroshi Tanahashi, then the IWGP U-30 champion, having matches with AJ Styles that excited me. Back then, much like the recent match between Moose and Marufuji, run ins marred the match itself but helped to keep the question of who would have won without it in the mix. Furthermore, Impact’s marketing of Wrestle Kingdom III as Global Impact  gave fans a window into a world that only tape traders and hardcore fans had had access to. This is arguably not something that was remarkably beneficial to them back then. Nevertheless  it did draw me further towards Puroresu which I am thankful for. However with the increased power of social media and the increasingly tightly-knit nature of the online fandom, I have seen people talking about and watching Impact who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered to pay it any mind at all. Most notably English speaking fans of their foreign partners, such as NOAH, who were abuzz about the announcements of the partnerships and the action that has unfurled from these relationships in those domains.

With the return of the Super X Cup, one must wonder if these partnerships could be leaned on to populate the roster of a potentially rebooted team-based World X Cup. The previously annual World X Cup events were always a highlight of TNA’s calendar year for someone like me. It put a lot of new talent in front of my eyes and introduced me to new companies, new styles of wrestling, new fan favorites. Indeed, I can say that I likely would have walked down my path into Puroresu fandom a lot later in life if Then-TNA hadn’t put so much of it in front of my eyes. If I had never discovered that Global Impact WAS Wrestle Kingdom III then I don’t know where I’d be as a wrestling fan now.

Right now, Global Force (a.k.a. Impact Wrestling f.k.a. Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling) sits at the crux of a fascinating international inter-promotional alliance. In the current landscape of Pro-Wrestling you have a handful of alliances building and consolidating their power bases. The WWE has its own, with Evolve, IPW, and Progress being willing underlings and talent farms for them. Then there is the second tier, featuring Ring of Honor, NJPW, CMLL, and Rev Pro. Then you have the third tier, consisting of AAA, NOAH, GFW, and The Crash (and, in an indirect way, Lucha Underground). This third alliance is seen by many as the black sheep of the industry.   GFW has a well documented, turbulent history full of highs and lows, with rumors of the company’s imminent shut down circling about every few months (or so it seemed). NOAH, once a shining star in the constellation Puroresu, now a brown dwarf barely visible in the night sky, were undone by untimely deaths and financial troubles which led them into an unfavorable relationship with NJPW. AAA is plagued by rampant rumbling rumors and twitter beefs about their backstage politicking and talent disputes. Only The Crash escapes the negativity-storm unscathed, and that is realistically because it’s very young. Humorously, The Crash spawned out of a splinter group of talent who left AAA because of their dissatisfaction with management.

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It was kind of surreal seeing NOAH’s logo on an Impact show, partly because I grew up watching both in my Post-E days.

Brought together, however, their leadership stood united on the ramp at Slammiversary, and their talent have worked matches together on Impact. 2017 has been a year of rebirth for GFW Impact and NOAH, seeing both companies turning out good shows and rededicating themselves what made them work in the first place. During their dark times the two companies didn’t feel like themselves, they felt like a bad version of another place. Can they lean on each other, and their turbulent Mexican partners, to revitalize, reinvigorate, reinvent, and rebrand themselves as themselves? Or will the immense potential presented by this pool of exchangeable talent go to waste? If I were to base my verdict on the past several months of Impact television, I’d say we’re in store for some amazing wrestling over the next few years… but the specter of the past looms large, and the only way to know for sure is to tune in each and every week to find out!

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #027 – Review of Powerbomb.TV’s #BreakTheBarrier2017

This review is based upon the version of the show that you can watch now by signing up for a free 10-Day trial of Powerbomb.TV. Partway through the unfortunate stop-and-go nature of doing this review the crew behind the event updated it from a rough-cut with low-tier lower thirds and spelling errors to a much more polished version, so I had to throw a bunch of criticism out the window. This is good. It looks like they went out of their way to make it as top-notch as they could. My only criticism of the lower thirds that remains is that the individual names in one of the tag team matches would have been nice to have on screen along with the team name, so that I didn’t have to rely on the commentators to tell me who is in the match. A super minor nitpick.

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It’s a great looking logo.

Having Joe Spostos, f.k.a. Leonard F. Chikarason, on commentary immediately made me feel more at home with the show, bringing a sense of the familiar to performers I had never seen before and promotions I have never watched.  Your mileage may vary, as not everyone is familiar with what I adore. Much like a Chikara show, they would rotate out partners for Spostos. For most of this show it was fine, but there were moments it excelled and failed.

Match 1: Stevie Shields vs. Brute Van Slyke (c) – GSW Adrenaline Championship Match

“The Cinema” is Stevie Shields nickname, which does absolutely nothing to make me feel excited to watch him. What is that supposed to mean? Is it supposed to be a B or C-rate version of “The Human Highlight Reel” moniker? Does he just like going to the cinema a lot? I don’t think they really thought that one through enough.

Brute Van Slyke is surprisingly agile for his size. Even so, the opening technical exchange seems oddly slow. Shields tries to do a speedy strike based offense but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough oompf to them. It’s like he’s trying to look like he’s trying to knock Brute out. It  just doesn’t have the snap or speed behind it to really sell me on it. They do a spot where Brute is supposed to catch Shields out of a springboard handspring, but Shields is seriously lacking the requisite springiness to generate the speed to make it look good and the spacing is all kinds of off. The quality of Shields’ performance in this match just takes me out of the illusion of Pro-Wrestling.

Brute, on the other hand, does brute force very well (who’d have guessed!). His powerbombs, all four throughout the match, look great. He controls, for the majority of it, the second half of the match and gets in a series of nice big man offensive manoeuvres. Around this time the commentary draws too much attention to the fact that the bigger man is wasting time and not going for the pin when he has clearly downed Shields. This makes the match feel  oddly paced and drawn out, particularly because Shields’ offense looks too unbelievable for him to actually win the match. Even Shields’ finisher, a top rope elbow drop, felt impactless, whereas Brute’s suplexes looked tight and brutal.

Brute gets in his Greetings from Oneida, New York finisher for the win. It’s a nice tribute to the late, great Bam Bam Bigelow and feels very appropriate as Brute is like Bigelow in many ways. Overall this match did successfully make me want to see more of GSW to see how Brute fares as a champion, and to see him compete against other people who hopefully would deliver a match that captivates me more.

Grade: C
Match 2: John Silver vs. Tracy Williams

Since I’m ragging on people for their nicknames, these two men are known as “Raw Dog” and “Hot Sauce” respectively. Neither name excites, and if I think about it for a moment too long I begin to imagine condiments fighting the food they are put on. Nevertheless, unlike Stevie Shields in the previous match, these two did manage to get me into their match.

They open with matwork back-and-forth with good transitions as both men flow from lock to lock. Williams reminds me a bit of Zack Sabre Jr. There’s a nice dropkick from Silver to try and take the advantage, but Williams reverses momentum with a great suplex out of an attempted powerbomb. Like ZSJ, Williams uses a series of kicks and submissions to try and control the flow of the match. That is until Silver turns the momentum in his favour with a series of kicks and running forearms.

Silver’s momentum is cut short, however, when Williams catches him out of his moves and hits his own. Silver escapes a piledriver attempt and hits a sick sounding kick to the back of Williams’ head and German for a two count. The two men rock each other  with huge strikes and throws back-and-forth, with neither man looking to have the edge over the other. Silver hits a Gorilla Press into a cutter, a variation I have never seen before . It is always cool to see people twist a classic with a new spin. He then finishes Williams off with a running knee and, literally, a Batista Bomb for an almost outta nowhere three count.

It felt like they could have done a bit more in this match. It was, however, nice to have a match surprise me with its finish. not only in regards to who would win but the timing of it as well. I honestly had thought it would go the other way.

Grade: B
Match 3: Buxx Belmar vs. Joey Janella

Outside of the action between the two participants in this match there is a particular problem I felt it necessary to address. The Commentary team  keep talking about how the match is being contested under “C*4 rules,” and while I could infer from their conversation and action what that means, they never bother to actually tell me what the rules are. I shouldn’t have to guess at what your rules are, particularly with a card like this where rules change on the fly between fights from different promotions. Just say it directly, don’t make me work to understand the limitations of the confrontation.

Buxx Belmar, as usual, goes for some gross-out hijinks immediately. He hasn’t lost a step from his extended time off due to injury, and continues to look remarkably weird  in his movements and daredevil in his offense. He gets a good elbow drop during a rope running sequence, and Janella answers with a Tope Suicida.

Janella looks good with his running European uppercut. They go back-and-forth with some strikes and it spills, remarkably quickly, out to the ringside area where they brawl. Buxx’s mannerisms are dialed up to eleven, as I’ve come to love and expect of him. He’s so different from your prototypical indie superstar. Janella, however, looks to have the heavier hands in their exchange.

Buxx starts climbing a support beam in the middle of the venue’s crowd area, and Janella follows him up. Buxx knocks him down and you expect him to jump off of it onto Janella but he doesn’t. He gets down off of the beam and takes his belt off and starts to whip Janella with it. Shortly thereafter, chairs are introduced to the match and are brought into the ring. They do an insane monkey flip spot that sees Buxx toss Janella, who is seated on a chair, in such a manner as to have the chair fly along with him and land in a seated position, hurting his ass in the process. Absolutely bonkers stuff here. Nevertheless, Buxx only gets a two count on Janella for all his hard work.

Janella hits a rolling Death Valley Driver and maintains his grasp on Belmar, carries him to the far side of the ring, through the ropes, and drops him with another Death Valley Driver on the apron. What a crazy idea! I’ve seen a tonne of DVDs on the apron, but never a sequence quite like this. Unfortunately, Buxx returns the brutality by DDT-ing Janela on a chair, and getting himself a near fall in the process. Buxx dives from the top but misses his leg drop and gets caught by Janela with an interesting looking slam to give Joey his own near fall. Janela sets up a chair and tries to abuse Belmar, but Buxx reverses out of it and tosses Janela into the chair and follows it up with a gutbuster for two. They exchange strikes back-and-forth and both men go down.

Buxx gets a nice Michinoku Driver but can’t secure the pinfall. Buxx then grabs Janela by the penis, but Janela escapes unfazed and locks Belmar in a Boston Crab. Buxx escapes but gets chaired a lot, netting Janela another two count. Janela then double stomps on chairs on Buxx and gets another two count. Buxx then gets a flippy facebuster on Janela on the chairs and picks up the win, but the referee caused some consternation and confusion, botching the count a bit.

This was a very different kind of match from the stuff I usually watch, but was quite fun nevertheless.

Grade: B
Match 4: Renee Michelle vs. Penelope Ford

They start off with some standing chain wrestling, presenting some pretty standard back-and-forth action with some knock downs and grapples but nothing stellar. There’s a nice crossbody by Penelope in the early parts of the match. They play a out a spot where they chase each other in-and-out of the ring over and over. Renee Michelle hangs Penelope’s neck on the ropes eventually to cap off the sequence.

Renee stomps on Penelope and stands on her fingers a bunch. She then misses a moonsault. Nevertheless, she continues to be the cruel heel towards Penelope. Penelope makes her comeback with some nice flips and gets a springboard cutter for the win.

Overall, this match wasn’t bad to watch but also didn’t do much.

Grade: C+
pratt_vs_ophidian

Two phenomenal stars who I don’t think have been given the recognition they deserve yet.

Match 5: Ophidian vs. Desean Pratt – Grudge Match

They tie-up and struggle against each other, creating the sense that they are evenly matched in terms of strength. They slap each other and go into a nice dodge spot filled sequence. Desean Pratt is the winner, as he comes out of it by catching Ophidian with a bunch of kicks and a nice back suplex. Pratt just wails on Ophidian and it transitions into a strike exchange. Pratt is in control until Ophidian him with a move in the ropes.

Ophidian ties up Pratt in between a reversal filled back-and-forth series, but Pratt gets knees on Ophidian. Ophidian, likewise, gets the opportunity for his own strong reversals, and keeps tying up Pratt. Pratt fights out of Ophidian’s grasp and makes his comeback attempt by hitting a slingshot Falcon Arrow for two. Cool innovation there, as I’ve never seen that specific variation before. Pratt is in full control as he put pressure on Ophidian while dodging his strikes. He capitalizes on the pressure by wailing on Ophidian with a spinebuster and superkick. Then Ophidian tries to make a comeback, dodging some kicks in the process, but Pratt manages to catch him with a truly hard kick.

Outta nowhere Ophidian locks in a crossface and won’t let go. Pratt struggles against him, eventually powering through and countering with a DDT. He tries to capitalize on his newfound upper hand by climbing to the top, looking for his 450 Splash, but Ophidian stumbles into the ropes, dropping him crotch first onto the unforgiving steel. Suddenly finding himself with an opening, Ophidian murders  Pratt with a series of double knees and meteora, but doesn’t go for the pin. He decides to add additional punishment onto the pile and hits the Egyptian Destroyer for a tasty two count. Pratt still has fight left in him! Ophidian next locks on his Death Grip, but Pratt escapes.

Frustrated and enraged, Ophidian uses his snake powers to hypnotize the referee into making an official announcement that, henceforth, the match will be a No DQ match. Emboldened by his devious wit, and in full heel-mode, Ophidian just straight out wallops Pratt’s penis. This sends Desean Pratt to the mat, shrieking in pain. Ophidian pulls a steel bar out from under the ring and ties Pratt up, adding the steel bar to the hold to create additional pressure and leverage, The match takes a full-on hardcore turn as they pull random stuff out from under the ring and beat on each other with chairs and street signs as they build towards the climax. Ophidian pulls out a super thick table and sets it up in the ring, and hits an avalanche Egyptian Destroyer onto the table. I say onto because they certainly don’t go through it. They bounce off in a moment that made me wince. Ophidian doesn’t even try to pin Pratt, setting the table up again flat on the ground. This turns out to be his undoing as Pratt hits Ophidian with a DDT onto the table and then the 450 Splash to get the win.

Overall this match was pretty cool. I liked the sudden addition of the No DQ element as  it increased the tension and stakes and worked the usually comedic hypnosis spot in in such a way as to make it dangerous. Unfortunately, the hardcore spots were often too telegraphed, and towards the end it felt like the match was dragging on too long.

Grade: B

hatfield_vs_king

So how did the Old-Timey King of Swing vs. The Old Timer go?

Match 6: Jeff King vs. Dasher Hatfield

To truly convey the feel of Olde Wrestling as a period piece-wrestling hybrid, they change the filters to be grainy and in black and white. They also have the referee dress up, sticking a pillow in his shirt to look tubby and wearing suspenders. They go over the rules, presenting such familiar antiques as no closed fists, no piledrivers, and not throwing your opponent over the top rope to the outside. Hay bales adorn the corners of the ring.

They start with a test of strength and King decides to be a dirty, rotten heel by kicking Dasher in the gut. Dasher takes it in stride and returns the antics by doing a Dasher classic gag, wherein he ties up King’s legs and uses his own attires straps to keep the hold in place. It’s a great gag as Dasher stands in front of King and the realization that he has become his own enemy crosses King’s face. They go into a nice string of moves that sees them execute an abdominal stretch, a backslide, and a body slam. Truly at the cutting edge of Olde Wrestling’s technique repertoire! King acts truly villainous, of course, ever the scoundrel he cheats to garner himself any advantage he can grasp. The action constantly calls to mind images of older wrestlers, and the commentary tries to keep the old timey feel going, but I felt that they were being a bit more modern here than in other Olde Wrestling content I’ve seen, in terms of move selection. Most likely this is because they are in front of a crowd expecting modern indie style action, and the tonal shift may have been too jarring. It’s not a big step outside of Olde Wrestling’s time-travel illusion, but it was there.

However, they certainly do not eschew the retro techniques in any way. King spends a good amount of time working over Dasher with claws. Leg claws, stomach claws, insert your favourite body part here. The claw is a move that has fallen by the wayside in wrestling, as the exposed nature of the product renders it wholly unbelievable. It’s tremendously outdated feel renders it a brilliant choice for this product, where my suspension of disbelief is already in overdrive, working to put me in a different era.

As the match moves on King takes a great bump in the corner, with perfect comedic timing he hits all three turnbuckles on the way down. A certain amount of levity is required when you are presenting wrestling as a period piece, as the art has evolved now to such a state that much of what used to be dead serious business seems silly, inconsequential, and incomprehensible.  King tries to hit Dasher with a piledriver but the referee prevents it, as it is in plain sight and, the dastardly villain, is an illegal hold!  Dasher capitalizes on this with a great whirlwind slam but cannot get the three count. King manages to get the referee distracted by the audience and behind his back he hits Dasher Hatfield with a closed fist, a piledriver, and tosses him over the top rope to crash on the floor outside! The scoundrel!

Jeff King, who has broken all of the rules the referee laid out at the start of the match, waits in the ring as the referee counts Dasher out. Mustering good, old-fashioned intestinal fortitude, Dasher is back in before the ten count. Back in the ring the ref gets distracted again and Dasher Hatfield goes about giving Jeff King some turnabout with closed fists and a piledriver of his own. The commentary do a good job to help build the structure of this olde match. Dasher goes to throw King off the top rope, to complete the trilogy of turnabout but King reverses it into a roll-up with a handful of tights and secures himself the victory.

This match was fun, but a bit off in how it felt on this show. Perhaps I found it too silly?

Grade: B
Match 7: The Carnies (Kerry Awful + Nick Iggy) vs. The Monarchy (Prince Apollo + The Black Baron)

Iggy and Apollo start of this tag team affair, giving the audience some good spots while running the ropes and shows a vicious side to Iggy when he fishhooks his opponent. The Black Baron and Kerry Awful switch in for their teams and Awful lays his lips on the Baron, showing absolutely zero respect for the obvious threat the champion should be. The Carnies, true to their name, are a strange breed, and marvellously entertaining. As the two big men of their teams, Awful and the Baron exchange hoss shoulder tackles and Awful scores a cool roll up in the process.

The Carnies use good team tactics to work over the Baron, but the Monarchy come back with teamwork of their own, and the players switch again. Apollo and Iggy back in against each other. Unfortunately for Iggy, it turns out that the Monarchy are really good at suplexing people two-on-one. The monarchy follow this up with a nice combo bow-and-arrow and slingshot senton. The monarchy keep Iggy isolated, and the Baron has some nice suplexes but can only get the two count. Nevertheless, the Black Baron grinds on Nick Iggy, using the ring ropes to his nefarious advantage.

Nick Iggy hits a desperation cutter and tags in Kerry Awful. Awful then overpowers the Black Baron and gets a huge John Tenta-esque seated senton. Prince Apollo is in to break up the ensuing pinning predicament. Awful is in, all alone, against both members of the Monarchy and powers through the numbers game to take down both men, getting a clever spot in where he uses them to trip each other. He then powerbombs and piledrives Apollo for good measure. The might Black Baron tries to battle both Carnies, but gets caught with double team knees and a cool slam and dropkick combo from Iggy and Awful. Unfortunately for the Carnies, Prince Apollo is in again to break the fall.

Again the Monarchy swing things to their advantage, isolating and double teaming Kerry Awful. They hit him with a wheelbarrow DDT and Brainbuster combo and keep double teaming him when he kicks out. It’s two-on-one but Kerry Awful keeps fighting and will not go down. There are unique combo moves aplenty as the match unfolds and eventually all four men are in the ring for a four-man strike exchange. The Carnies take the upper hand and set up and make the Baron give a Canadian destroyer to Prince Apollo. Nifty shit being invented by these Carnies. The Black Baron tries to fight back and spills out of the ring with Nick Iggy, leaving Awful and Apollo alone together. Awful gets Apollo into a Boston Crab and Iggy comes in outta nowhere with a Diving Knee to knock-out Apollo and the Carnies win.

This was a very fun match that left me wanting to see more of The Carnies and The Monarchy, which really works to Powerbomb.TV’s strengths in that New South is available to watch on their service, unlike the prior Beyond Wrestling show case towards the beginning of the card.

Grade: B+
puma_tiger_vs_mayajr_skayde

Look how menacing Puma King looks!

Match 8: El Felino + Puma King vs. El Guerrero de Maya Jr. + Skayde

The two elder statesmen of the match, El Felino and Skayde, start us off. They do some grappling exchanges and Skayde ties up Felino with some crazy submissions. El Felino reverses these himself into his own fanciful submissions. The living legends are too evenly matched so Puma King and Maya Jr. tag in. The younger stars display their great lucha libre matwork and tonnes of flippy reversals. They are also dead even.

El Felino and Puma King, father and son, work together and double team the opponents in turn as they move in and out of the ring. Puma and Felino heel it up against Maya Jr. but the action kicks into high gear as all four are in and doing cool things. Maya Jr. hits both Felino and Puma King with tilt-a-whirl backbreakers. They even inject a funny handshake spot for levity. Maya keeps up the pressure with a gorgeous series of arm drags on both opponents. Skayde follows this up with some gorgeous twirly lucha libre throws. Skayde does beautiful work with arm drags of his own and then he and Maya Jr. fly with tope suicidas.

Felino and Maya Jr. then mix it up, exchanging high speed spots, and Maya Jr. comes out looking dominant. Puma King makes his presence known and breaks up the pinfall attempt, he superkicks Maya Jr. but doesn’t put him down. Puma King twists him into a cool submission. Maya Jr. escapes the hold and flees the ring, allowing for Skayde to come in. He mixes it up with Puma King and they exchange pin attempts before El Felino is back in the ring. Skayde is still dominant and chops him a bunch but gets taken down by a powerbomb.

Maya Jr. impresses as he hits a fancy looking neckbreaker on Puma King. Unfortunately as the match heads into its final moments, some segments seem to be  in awkward slow motion. Puma King hits a series of powerbombs in sequence and rolls Maya Jr. up with a majistral to pick up the win.

It was a fun match but I found myself mentally wandering off at times. Unfortunately, as such, it can’t go any higher than this. The final pairing of Spostos and Hatfield on commentary didn’t help the match much either, and they stick together for another two matches at that.

Grade: B+
Match 9: Colt Cabana vs. Orange Cassidy

Orange’s drunk/lazy gimmick is really hit or miss, in my opinion. This match sort of put that on display in a big way. I had previously only seen Orange in multi-man tags over in Chikara, and I totally get what he does, but in a single’s competition it takes up too much time and I lost interest in how the match would go. Colt Cabana plays the straight man, which is funny in and of itself. They mostly fool around, avoiding any wrestling moves, but both men are remarkably talented as wrestlers. Cassidy shows wonderful smoothness when he executes picture perfect arm drags and rolls through moves without taking his hands out of his pockets. The entire match functions because they are both brilliant technical wrestlers, but the lack of impactful action felt a detriment to this position on the card. After an annoyingly long corner gag Colt drops Cassidy on the top rope and then gets a pinfall on him. Sadly this match never felt like it got going. I wonder what Orange Cassidy would be like if he went more serious in a match of this nature, this high on a card?

Grade: B-
jigsaw_vs_flywarrior_vs_chuck_taylor_vs_kenbai

The main event, folks!

Match 10: Jigsaw vs. Fly Warrior vs. Chuck Taylor vs. Kenbai

Jigsaw and Chuck Taylor both elicited great reactions from the crowd in attendance. Fly Warrior and Kenbai had some excited reactions, in smaller numbers, from part of the audience. I wonder how many had seen them before, and how many were excited simply because they were imports?

Chuck Taylor is the first to take control of the match, as he dumps both Jigsaw and Kenbai out of the ring and focuses his attention on Fly Warrior. The two have an athletic exchange before they’re both out of the ring and Kenbai and Jigsaw are given their moment in the ring. They go for a bit and then the players shake up and everyone is in and out and it transitions to Jigsaw and Fly Warrior. Fly Warrior wrecks jigsaw with strikes and a German suplex. Kenbai is then in and he and Fly Warrior mirror each other in a sequence that leads to both men diving, in sequence, outside to take out everyone else. Immediately it has a very North American Indie feel to it, which is what I was expecting to come from this match.

Chuck Taylor is the first to recover. He takes Kenbai in to the ring and beats on the smaller man, suplexing him and trying to pin him several times to no avail. Chuck is working smart here, and conveys his domination of the ring by working preventing Fly Warrior and Jigsaw from getting back into the ring into the narrative of him hunting down Kenbai. Kenbai recovers from the onslaught and catches Taylor with an exciting Tornado DDT. Chuck responds by bailing from the ring and Fly Warrior is the first in to face Kenbai. Unfortunately, I found myself actively noticing around this time that I felt the commentary was dragging the match down.

Fly Warrior hits cool moves on Kenbai, but Jigsaw breaks up the pin. Lucha Libre really has a great propensity to astonish and Fly Warrior looks here to be the cream of the crop in his field. Jigsaw and Fly Warrior exchange strikes and a cool sequence leads to a near-fall off of a brainbuster by Jigsaw. All four men are in the ring and they set up a cool variation of the standard Tower of Doom spot, with a reverse suplex in the mix instead of a vertical suplex. Everyone is in the ring and they do the mandatory everyone gets a chance to look good, hitting big moves in sequence, given their chance to look good. Kenbai comes out of the fracas by hitting Chuck Taylor with a killer double stomp. He goes for the pinfall but Jigsaw breaks it up with a double stomp of his own, crushing Kenbai’s spine on top of Taylor. The sequence looked really cool. Jigsaw, however, cannot capitalize as Fly Warrior comes in and gets the win with a radical package driver preceded by a cool sequence with some innovative spots while running the ropes.

There were a couple of little awkward moments that can most likely be chalked up to unfamiliarity or language issues. These slowed some parts down and created a sort of stutter in the action. The match did, however, make everyone in it look good. Kenbai and Fly Warrior really came out as the shining stars here. Hopefully this will see them getting booked in North America some more. I’d love to see them up in Toronto.

Grade: B+

This certainly did a good job to get me interested in some of the talents and promotions associated with Powerbomb.TV’s platform. They had their new Independent Wrestling Championship on display throughout the show and several men made gesticulations and declarations about their interest in the title. With their first showcase under their belt, filled with mostly solid matches and a post-show run in from Johnathan Gresham, Powerbomb.TV have set up a storyline that makes them not just a service but an overarching entity that asks the question: How much influence will they, and their new championship, have on the companies they are working with, and the indie wrestling scene as a whole?

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

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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.

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #024 – Powerbomb.TV are breaking down barriers for Indie Wrestling

On June 11th 2017 the independent Pro-Wrestling world will once again be breaking the barrier between content and audience, as Powerbomb.TV will be hosting a veritable who’s-who of indie stars in Old Forge, Pennsylvania to promote their streaming service, and help spread awareness of the many brands and star talents available on it.

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Look at how crisp that design is!

In 1999 the founders of scoopswrestling.com arranged the original Break the Barrier, an indie wrestling super-card featuring the likes of Mike Quackenbush, Headbanger Mosh, and Stevie Richards. The card featured participants from thirteen indie promotions and had many different titles on the line. This event from a bygone era completely flew under my radar until Powerbomb.TV announced that they were holding their own event, referencing this past crowning achievement in cross-promotion indie super-card booking. In referencing this event they draw stark comparisons to their own, highlighting that they are bringing together a startling number of promotions under their banner, and also forcing people to become aware of this long dead event. This confrontation seems to be to highlight the fact that had an infrastructure, like their own, been in place back in 1999 to distribute this event it may be more talked about and remembered today.

The card for Break the Barrier is stacked. Seriously, click on that link. Maybe you’re familiar with these guys, maybe this is the first time you’ve ever seen these names. Nevertheless, trust me, this card is great. How great? Let me tell you just about few of the reasons I’m excited for this show:

1: The Olde Wrestling showcase match featuring Dasher Hatfield vs. Jeff King. This promotion puts on a time-travel period piece spin on Pro-Wrestling. They turn back the clock, wear simpler, period appropriate attire, pare down the move sets, pick-up the dialects of, and transports the audience to the roaring 20s. They lean heavily on novelty and comedy, with fanciful storytelling and endearing costuming and characterization. Dasher Hatfield is already an old-fashioned baseball playing hero, so he’ll fit right in, but more importantly he is a storied, exciting veteran over in Chikara Pro. This match promises to show you something you, most likely, have never seen before… and if you like what they’re doing, Powerbomb.TV has two whole events for you to dig your teeth into.

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Old-Timey wrestling for modern eyes!

2: Desean Pratt vs. Ophidian is going to be phenomenal. These two former tag-team partners have battled before, back in Chikara Pro, and each man has gotten more experienced, and better, over the last several years. They know each other intimately, and can tell a phenomenal story with each other in the ring. This will be a solid match, even if they each worked at 50% capability… but I have never seen them put on a match that wasn’t 100%. I’ve been a fan of these guys for near a decade, and distinctly one shirt size ago. If you’ve agreed with my opinions before, or like what I have professed to liking, give this show a chance for this match alone (and stick around for the other exciting matches as well!)

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The men who could travel through time…

3: C*4 bring to the event a match featuring Buxx Belmar, one of the weirdest, most exciting performers to come out of Montreal. Called Dirty and Filthy, Buxx Belmar moves around the ring in a way literally unique to him, that is discomforting and forces you to pay attention to him, and performs bizarre hardcore stunts and gross-out spectacles. That videos pretty gnarly, maybe you don’t wanna click on that link. Now, he’s not always that disgusting, and his weirdness is usually more entrancing. He is unlike anything you have seen before, and is constantly amazing me in how he puts new spins on Pro-Wrestling.

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The weird just oozes out of him!

That’s three great reasons to watch any show and I haven’t even mentioned the insane fact that a legend like Skayde is in a huge lucha libre match or that the main event is jam packed with talent. If you sign up for Powerbomb.TV’s free trial today you will get to see this indie super-card entirely for free, and once you’re pumped up by that free spectacular you’ll want to stick around and dig deep into what the service has to offer.

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Skayde was integral in training many of the men on this card via his association with Chikara pro.

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It’s almost a shame that this isn’t a full time promotion with a main event this exciting and international!

 Service Overview:

Their streaming service itself has a fair number of “pros” to list here. My favourite part of the service is that it has a striking number of companies signed up under its banner. At the time I was crunching my numbers it came to a total of thirty-three promotions with a combined total of One-Hundred-and-Seventy-Three shows spread across them. Each company’s landing page provides the subscriber with links to the various social media, video, and web platforms that company has. This provides people like me with a desire to discover wrestling (see what I did there?) something to really sink their teeth into. Powerbomb.TV, therefore, make themselves an indispensible asset to someone who is looking to scout new talent from around the world, or someone who simply wants to find something completely fresh to engage with. One moment I am watching Italian wrestling, the next hardcore Lucha Libre, the next a bizarre glimpse into history with the retro-chic Olde Wrestling. All for $10.00 a month. Your mileage may vary.

Sign-Up for the service is stupid easy, requiring only an e-mail address, and their billing options are diverse. Having PayPal as an option to counter-balance accruing needless credit card debt is absolutely phenomenal. It puts them on the level of big name players in the streaming service market. Once you have signed up and logged in the landing pages are well designed and easy to navigate, and video playback is generally a simple and clean experience.

Before I start listing the “Cons” of the service, I’ll admit that many of them seem nitpicky. I bring them up herein to point out things that, if improved, would likely guarantee people stay signed up to the service for longer periods of time.

While, strictly mathematically, the average number of shows per promotion is 5.25, it doesn’t really play out in such a balanced way. The vast bulk of these shows, 93 to be specific, can be attributed to just four of the promotions signed up to the service, while eleven of the promotions on the service have a paltry one show a piece. This uneven spread is problematic if what excites you on the service is on the scantier side of content volume, well, then you might not stick around for too long. Furthermore, only seven out of the thirty-three promotions available on the service have content from 2017 actively available. This means that a scant 21% of promotions have content that can be considered moderately current, and the numbers grow more stark when you look at how many videos out of the total are from this calendar year: 6.35%, or 11 videos out of 173. While this scarcity of up-to-date content has no impact on one’s ability to enjoy exploring new promotions and good wrestling, it does, however, mean that Powerbomb.TV is not going to be the place for those who have a need to keep absolutely up to date with the promotions they enjoy.

While I have praised above the ease of use of the service, and the quality of their landing pages, Powerbomb.TV does lack a feature that would greatly improve my enjoyment, and the general ease, of using the service: a search function. So, let’s say that you watched some videos and you really liked one specific guy, and let’s also say that it was one of the few promotions that has double digits worth of shows. In the current set up you have to go through every video the company has one-by-one to tray and find more content featuring that exciting individual. Certainly, some of the videos are one-off matches that list their participants in the titles, but others are full events and a basic set of built-in search functions would greatly improve the experience. A search feature would also allow you to find work that the performers have done in other brands that may be on the service as well. It seems almost too simple a concept to be lacking, and yet it does lack this feature.

Interview:

To get a better feeling for what Powerbomb.TV is, and aims to be, I reached out to Gerard Durling, co-founder of the service for a short interview.

NC: For those unaware, who are you and what is your background?

GD: My name is Gerard Durling and I’m the founder of Coal Creative internet marketing, co-founder of Powerbomb.tv independent wrestling video on demand service. I guess you can say that, in a previous life, I was an independent wrestler by the name of “Vin Gerard” and “Equinox” in CHIKARA.

NC: What made you transition from being an in-ring performer to a partner in a streaming service?

GD: Well, the in-ring performer stuff has been behind me now for about 5-years. Personally, I didn’t feel like I was advancing myself enough to continue performing the amount I was. In my last year of wrestling, I was also creating my first start-up business that was gaining some attention from investors. I ended up taking a deal and it required me to be available a lot on weekend evenings. That is of course, when most independent wrestling shows were. It felt like a natural progression and break to see what else I could do outside of it.

In the last year or two, my company Coal Creative, has really expanded ourselves into video marketing. That’s how this all started with Powerbomb.TV – I was approached by Adam Lash to see if I’d be interested in getting involved in the project with him.

NC: With all the recent waves being made in the streaming service market concerning Pro-Wrestling (WWE Network, NJPW World, Lucha Underground on Netflix, multitudinous indie promotions having their own dedicated streaming options etc.) what is your vision to make Powerbomb.tv stand out from the crowd?

GD: Adam and I both share a passion for wanting to help independent wrestling be more successful and to help however we can. We’re not millionaires, that’s for sure. We can’t compete with some of these services in dollars. We thought that by creating this service, we could reinvest into the companies that work with us. We’re not in this to make money from the subscription service. We want to help make a difference on the independent level and to expose fans to new talent and promotions.

NC: What do you offer to Promoters and Fans that sets you apart as a business partner and as a service to invest in?

GD: I think we offer promoters a lot of opportunity. If someone asks us for help with anything, we’re always open to trying to figure out a way to make it work. As for fans, we have a very diverse catalog of content already, over 30 promotions, and a lot are from partners in Mexico. We want to try to involve the promotions we work with as much as we can in creating out of the box ideas that will garner more attention for everyone.

NC: Who on Powerbomb.tv are you most excited to watch? Who should people be keeping their eyes on?

GD: A lot of the independent lucha libre has me excited. We have some opportunities there to create some interesting content that could help educate American wrestling fans to some of the new faces of Lucha Libre. We’re looking into providing alternate commentary for some of those promotions. C*4 in Ottawa Canada deserves a lot more attention for some of the shows they’ve put together over the last few years.

In Conclusion:

Powerbomb.TV is positioning itself in the independent pro-wrestling scene as an exciting alternative to the standard distribution models of DVD and VOD sales, whose scope offers people like me, and hopefully people like you, something fresh and exciting. While there are some concerns I have raised about the content and the platform’s functionality, this is a living service that is routinely being updated. Since I crunched my numbers at least six new videos across a minimum of three different promotions have been added. I think that they have all the potential in the world to become an exciting, vibrant hub for fans of independent and international pro-wrestling to find what they are craving. I look forward to seeing their offerings expand, and to seeing them take more interesting marketing initiatives like Break the Barrier 2017. Don’t forget to sign up for your free trial today and watch Break the Barrier on June 11th, then dig into the offerings the participating promotions have on the service!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
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Dux looks weird in black and white.

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Match 5: Martin Kirby vs. Tarik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-

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

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

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#DiscoveringWrestling #018 – A Muy Bien Addendum

So, last week I posted a quickly put together introduction to Hajime Ohara, as part of my efforts to promote the great wrestling that people aren’t aware of or aren’t paying attention to. I was lucky enough to receive some good feedback from different corners of the internet I shared it with. So, this week, we’re going to address some of the things that were brought to my attention.

First, it was brought to my attention that I mention “Muy Bien” a bunch but I never make it clear why I use the term. It’s simple, really. It is Hajime Ohara’s catchphrase. It’s on his trunks and his merch and he says it in promos.

But, why does a Japanese wrestler spout seemingly random Spanish? Well, this ties directly into another frequently brought up point! I didn’t go enough into Ohara’s history. In the interest of, as my intial article proclaimed, this being part of a brief introduction I’m not going to go into tremendous detail here. Just the big stuff.  He started his career under the tutelage of two legends of Lucha Libre, Ultimo Dragon and Skayde, and spent the first portion of his career in Mexico. Throughout the 2000s he worked for a plethora of promotions, across the globe: CMLL, Dradition, Toryumon Mexico, Nu Wrestling Evolution, HUSTLE, and Zero-1. During this time he held few titles but did have an impressive 291 day reign with the NWA International Jr Heavyweight title. He worked in a few of Tajiri’s short-lived promotions in the early 2010s before finding his home with Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2013. He held tag gold in the junior division twice with Kenoh, but his January 7th 2017 Korakuen Hall victory has provided him with his first singles reign in the company.

It was suggested that I should illustrate some of his backbreaker variants, which is quite difficult to do without having GIFs. In the future I will try to make GIFs. For now, I will try to describe my favourite variation, which is when he stars with his opponent iin a Fireman’s Carry position and then flips them over his head onto his knee in a sickening looking backbreaker. He does it with such speed and snappiness that the change of position makes it genuinely look more wild and dangerous than a regular backbreaker, even though the bump is essentially the same.

Okay, then, to top it off, here’s some more videos:

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#DiscoveringWrestling #014 – The Arrogant Atheist in Mexico

With his time in Middle Kingdom Wrestling behind him, and hot on the heels of losing his biggest championship ever, “The Arrogant Atheist” decided he needed to reinvent himself and moved himself and his family down to Mexico, to see if the grass is greener on the other side. After a few matches in small, indie Lucha Libre promotions Dalton Bragg has caught the eye of Asistencia Asesoría y Administración talent scouts, has attended a tryout for the AAA, whom most of my  readers will likely know as the partner of Lucha Underground, and is set to debut in a dark match for them on March 31st. I had the opportunity to catch up with Bragg and ask him a few questions on the cusp of his, potentially, biggest match to date.

NC: First of all, congratulations. Things have been working out great for you since you moved to Mexico. All momentum towards your intended goal.That’s one hell of a gamble to have pay off, moving your entire family to another country without any guarantees. How does it feel to be given this opportunity by AAA?

DB: It feels like a breath of fresh air. I feel like The Arrogant Atheist is finally going somewhere he can stretch his wings. A place where I will finally receive the recognition I deserve. It’s time that Dalton Bragg showed everyone that he has what it takes to make it in the best wrestling promotion in the world.

NC: Do you know whom your dark match debut will be with?

DB: No.

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Dalton Bragg at the AAA tryouts.

NC: Oh! A mystery opponent! How exciting! Okay, moving on then. What was it like to go through the AAA tryout? 

DB: The AAA tryout was an example of how superior I am to any other talent. Hundreds of hopeful luchadors were forced to watch on helplessly as it became more and more obvious that I was the greatest person there. The TV camera crew seemed to forget that there were other wrestlers there as they began to interview me a 7th and 8th time while others waited for their 1st turn. I look forward to being announced as the winner.

NC: What do you think you need to do, at this point, to make it to the next stage of your career, and how do you envision the next step of your career? 

DB: Dalton Bragg is going to continue to refine his look. I will always look for ways to improve my gear, and I am constantly working on improving my physique and conditioning. After I prove that I belong on the AAA stage in my dark match, I expect they will continue to put me higher and higher on the cards, ask me to travel the country with them and eventually I will win every championship belt they have.

NC: Who do you most want to wrestle on the AAA roster? 

DB: I can’t wait to make it so LA PARKA can never do that goofy dance again…

NC: Now that you’ve performed in the USA, China, and Mexico, what can you tell me about them? What is your favorite place to Wrestle? What does the way the audience and wrestlers interact tell you about pro wrestling in each place?

DB: Mexico is easily my favorite place to wrestle. Chinese fans don’t understand wrestling and it takes a lot of work to get them to interact. In the US, half the crowd is really into [it] and interacting while the other half is tentatively and quietly watching while checking their phones… In Mexico, even a small show is a big deal. Every single person is completely invested and it’s obvious that Lucha Libre is a major part of their culture.

NC: Finally, as the first ever MKW champion how did it feel to lose your title to The Selfie King Hong Wan, someone whom you helped to train?

DB: Losing my MKW title was very clearly a screw job by the heads of MKW. They couldn’t stand that a non-Chinese national was the first ever Champion and they worked very hard ever since to make sure I lost that title. Once it became clear that there was no one who could defeat me, MKW resorted to paying off a referee to fast count me, ensuring a Chinese national could finally hold the title. No one can seriously believe that a rookie like Selfie King could possibly beat me in a fair fight. Obvious screw job. That MKW [championship] still belongs to me.

 

With the future looking bright for Dalton Bragg with AAA, and Vampiro’s connections with local #TorontoWrestling I wonder if we’ll ever see “The Arrogant Atheist” brought up to Canada, like Vampiro is doing with other AAA and Lucha Underground stars? Only time will tell, and I look forward to seeing how Bragg’s career develops as he continues to take risks and change himself in pursuit of a lucrative Pro-Wrestling career.

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#DiscoveringWrestling #011 – Bulletproof Mascaras: the Great Fight North! #TorontoWrestling Coverage

On Sunday March 5th I hauled my already tired ass over to Lee’s Palace to behold the joint spectacle being put on by local promotion Lucha TO (a.k.a. Lucha in the 6 or LIT6) and the visiting Kaiju Big Battel. Now, before I get any further into this review, I need to specify that this show was unlike anything I had ever seen before and rating the matches proved just how subjective wrestling can be, as it was clearly not designed to be what other Pro-Wrestling tries to be. This was a spectacle which had more in common with your average tokusatsu film than with most other wrestling promotions. The show proved at times to be overwhelming and difficult to keep track of, and ,while I expected some of what I saw, at times I felt lost amidst the absurdity of it all.

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Promotional materiel for the event grabbed from Lucha TO’s website.

Lee’s Palace has a unique atmosphere, and I can easily understand why it has become the home of Lucha TO, much in the way Les Foufounes Electriques has become the home of BATTLEWAR in Montreal. It is a hard rock/punk edged concert venue with little seating and very dim lighting, the perfect hole in the wall for mayhem to occur. It is grunge and punk and obnoxiously loud, indoors and out if you count aesthetics, and makes for a strikingly different wrestling show experience. The performers often entering the ring via routes through the audience. I can imagine this making for amazing moments later in the promotions lifetime, when it has had more opportunities to craft an identity, diehard fans, and homegrown stars… but if you want to enjoy your wrestling from a seated position it is best to get there remarkably early.

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Look at that nasty board!

Match 1: Barbed-Wire Mouse Trap Death Match – “White Trash” Matt Cash vs. Warhead

In a bid to hype up LIT6’s hardcore sister promotion Deathproof Fight Club, the first match on this absolutely bonkers card was an insane conceptual hardcore match, seeing a barbed-wire board with mousetraps glued to it spelling out “LUCHA” in all caps being balanced precariously upon two chairs in the centre of the ring, a joint effort by both men. They circled it, as if trying to determine how to begin this psychotic daredevil sideshow experiment. Hands were forced down into the mousetraps before any wrestling had even been done, and quickly the match evolved into slams and a mini baseball bat that appeared to be covered in tacks. “White Trash” botched a corner cannonball in the most bizarre and dangerous looking way, somehow bouncing between the ropes and his opponent and winding up with a terrible landing in a tight space. The match ends with Warhead picking up the win with a death Valley Driver onto the board.

My biggest take away from this match is that Warhead has a lot of charisma, and I wonder if he can work non-death match bouts or if he’s one of those performers who works well in their niche but doesn’t have the fundamentals down to work without all the extra accoutrements of hyper violence.

Grade: C
Musical Interlude 1: Black Cat Attack

This band put on a pretty good performance. The aggressive female-fronted metal really fit the vibe of the venue and show in general, up to this point. During their set a bunch of cool cardboard buildings were set up in the ring, only to be taken down again before their set ended. Just a weird little moment there. Only negative thing i could really find about their performance was that the male guitarist sounded kind of bad when he tried to provide clean vocals.

Match 2: Carter Mason vs. Super Bigote

Carter Mason has a great set of entrance attire and his persona is full of swagger, making the referee take his entrance coat off of him just because he can. Following that entrance should have been hard, but Super Bigote enters to the Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right to Party and the crowd is immediately hyped and on his side. The match would have been, overall, unremarkable had it not been for one hell of a high spot that saw Super Bigote launch himself, in one motion,  out of the ring, up a staircase, and between bar counters right into the crowd to land on Carter Mason. It was such a tight space to land in that i could hardly believe it was being done. Nevertheless, Mason comes out on top after a sequence with a DVD.

Grade: C

After the match, Dr. Cube and his minions emerge to storm the ring and try to take over Toronto!The diabolical Doctor cuts a hilarious and brilliant promo mocking Canadian culture and butchers the national anthem before a hero arrives…

Match 3: Unicorn Party vs Mongor

So, I’ll be frank and admit that my presuppositions on how to grade and evaluate matches all went out the window at this point and I had to pick up the pieces again. It took a moment for me to readjust and understand exactly what Kaiju Big Battel was all about and how to modify my understanding of Pro-Wrestling to properly adapt it to this new milieu. Thankfully I am already a huge Tokusatsu nerd, and am familiar with the fact that men in awkward to move in monster costumes have based their lumbering mannerisms on the top wrestling stars of a given decade. My grades for matches in which performers wore outfits that clearly restricted their visibility and movement are more lenient than they otherwise would have been, and as the bulk of the show was based on comedy performances you may not have the same ratings for matches as I gave them if you don’t get, or don’t like, what Lucha TO and Kaiju Big Battel are doing here.

Mongor’s costume left him the least agile of the two, and Unicorn party’s costume left him the most bizarrely sexual completely clothed individual I have ever seen. The match was populated mostly by haymakers, clotheslines and axe handles, but also involved cardboard buildings as weapons and Unicorn party getting turned on by being spanked by Mongor’s one giant hand. In the end Unicorn Party picked up the victory in a ridiculous bout.

Interesting to note about Kaiju Big Battel is that their matches are accompanied by live commentary and a soundtrack broadcast through the venue’s PA system, so you don’t have to wait to watch the show again for your play-by-play and colour.

Grade: B-

Between matches Dr. Cube came out and a deal was struck that, moving forward, it would be a Best of Five series for control over Toronto, and dr. Cube was aiming for this territory to become his dominion.

Match 4: Merle Skeeter vs Burger Bear

By this point, while I still wasn’t rating matches as easily on the fly as i would have been if they were anything other than Kaiju Big Battel, I had learned what it was that I would need to understand to provide fair criticism and commentary on the matches. This match featured a great Raven-esque drop toe hold with buildings instead of chairs to impact the target and a bunch of totally cartoony wild swings like stereotypical Tokusatsu monsters. Merle Skeeter picked up the win by injecting Burger Bear with the Zika virus and pinning him. Dr. Cube’s forces are up 1-0.

Grade: C+
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These promotional images are really great. Lucha TO have their A game on.

Match 5: Genetically Modified Jellyfish Stinging Bananas Death Match – Hell Monkey vs Space Monkey

The two competitors started the match with a shoving contest to determine who was the dominant Alpha Male in this mutant monkey mayhem. Then they dueled each other using their tails as swords. Through the match both of these great apes tried to Monkey flip each other with no success, and they both tried to throw each other into the pile of deadly bananas in the corner, mirroring spots between them often. Space Monkey nailed a beautiful Michinoku Driver on Hell Monkey and went on to win the match when he came out the victor of the Monkey flip duel, landing Hell Monkey on the stinging bananas placed delicately in the middle of the ring and following that up with a solid clothesline. Very entertaining and unique match. The score is tied at 1-1 for control over Toronto.

Grade: B+
Musical interlude 2: So Sick Social Club

This was an unfortunate set, in my opinion. I’ve seen So Sick Social Club before, opening for the Insane Clown Posse, and they were really great at that show, I have watched all their music videos, and seeing them again was a big selling point for me to go to this show. But this set, something was off. The vocals sounded bad, the guitar player seemed to be having difficulties getting his instrument to work right throughout the set, and the topless girl seemed out of place and unwelcome at the show. I have heard many complaints about this set, from friends and acquaintances in attendance, who all label the band terrible.

Match 6: Superwrong vs. Evil Uno

Evil Uno, a wrestler I’ve seen perform countless times, really camped it up with a cartoonishly heel performance at this show, where he took on infinite underdog Superwrong. Superwrong seemed to be looking to ditch his losing ways by dancing-and-dodging the majority of Uno’s attacks, until Uno applied a testicular claw and brought the might monster low. Superwrong worked hard to come back from having his dong manhandled, hitting the evil one with a nice snap suplex onto some buildings and doing some good dance fighting where he peppered Uno with bionic elbows. However, it was all for naught as Superwrong made a classic mistake and knocked himself out by trying to land a splash from hilariously far away, leading to Evil Uno getting the pinfall, a huge bag of cartoon money, and Dr. Cube a 2-1 lead! Oh No!

Grade: B-
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Some crazy red-eye! I bet it’s because he’s mind-controlled!

Match 7: Freddie Mercurio vs. Kikutaro

Freddie is introduced as the brainwashed slave of Dr. Cube, a hero forced to do his evil bidding via the nefarious square one’s control over time. As Dr. Cube explains that he will not let Freddie go spurts of Bohemian Rhapsody play and Freddie starts reacting, trying to break free from the Dr’s control via the power of Queen. If you haven’t guessed by now, yes, Freddie Mercurio is a lucha libre version of Freddy Mercury. His opponent is first introduced as French Toast, a man wearing a giant waffle mascot outfit, but quickly French Toast is replaced by legendary Japanese comedy wrestler Kikutaro.

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From Kikutaro’s twitter, @kikutarosan

The match started with Kikuatro getting some good arm drags in on the fabulous Freddie Mercurio, but quickly the tide turned with Freddie stomping-and-chopping to the rhythm of “We will Rock You”. Stomp-Stomp-Chop, Stomp-Stomp-Chop! Eventually Kikutaro accidentally throws the referee into Mercurio during a series of blocked charges into the corner and somehow both men simultaneously chokeslam each other, providing one of the best comedy wrestling moments i’ve ever seen live. Kikutaro wins the match after hitting a rad Shining Wizard on Mercurio after the mustacioed one missed a moonsault. The score is tied at 2-2.

Post match Kikutaro breaks Dr. Cube’s clock and Freddie Mercurio is a tecnico once more.

Grade: B+
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Look at that crazyness in ring!

Match 8: DeSean Pratt + American Beetle vs. Erebus, the Evil Sea Turtle + John Greed

The match starts with some good, athletic indie style brawling between Pratt and Greed. Then erebus and American Beetle tagged in and Erebus had the upper hand, mauling Beetle pretty hard before the he made a very American comeback with a big boot and leg drop combo all wrestling fans should find familiar. Next Pratt and Greed were back in with a high pace sequence into a huge lariat and pinfall attempt where John Greed looked remarkably dominant. Erebus rolled over and splashed people repeatedly with his spikes, and then did that spot where you put a garbage can on someone’s head and then hit it, only using cardboard buildings. It was sold wonderfully. A ref bump leads to a 3 on 2 handicap against the heroes until Unicorn Party arrives to become the new guest referee. The face team makes a comeback and DeSean Pratt hits a great spinning DDT and 450 Splash for the win. The score is now 3 to 2 in favor of the forces of good. Dr. Cube has been defeated, and we can all rest easy with the benefits of our universal health care.

Grade: B-

All-in-all, a fascinating show that defied all of my expectations, even going in knowing that this would be hokey and filled with awkward to move in monster costumes. The lack of seating at the venue was disappointing, and the lighting really could have been better for my ability to take photos. Otherwise the vibe in the venue was spot on for this kind of promotion. Vampiro was slated to make an appearance with a special announcement but, unfortunately, had a last minute flight cancellation and couldn’t make it. I hope I get to meet him eventually.

Kikutaro, sadly, seemed to me to be largely ignored and under-recognized by the fans around me. Which is a shame because he was in arguably the best straight wrestling match of the night, and was one of the major reasons I attended the event.

Have you been to a Lucha TO or Kaiju Big Battel show? Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

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