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

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

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

IWS-International-Wrestling-Syndicate-Scarred-4-Life-Scott-Jagged-Parker-Black-Dynamite-Championship-Match.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: C+
IWS-International-Wrestling-Syndicate-Scarred-4-Life-Brute-Van-Slyke-eXess-Big-Magic-Bob-Anger.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: C+
IWS-International-Wrestling-Syndicate-Scarred-4-Life-Mike-Bailey-Buxx-Belmar.jpg

These two are destined for greatness, and for very different reasons.

Match 5: Buxx Belmar vs. Mike Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
IWS-International-Wrestling-Syndicate-Scarred-4-Life-Bullet-Club-Young-Bucks-Tabarnak-de-Team-TdT.jpg

Honestly, I was hyped for this match for several months!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A
Conclusion:

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

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

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!

 

 

Advertisements

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

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

Match 0: Mark Wheeler vs. Benjamin Boone

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-
Smash-Wrestling-Support-The-Scene-Kaito-Kiyomiya-vs-Stu-Grayson-Pro-Wrestling-NOAH.jpg

Look at Kiyomiya’s intense death-glare.

Match 2: Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Stu Grayson

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

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

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

Grade: B-
NuclearConvoy-at-Smash-Wrestling-with-Kaito-Kiyomiya-Pro-Wrestling-NOAH-Support-The-Scene.jpg

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

Match 3: Scotty O’Shea vs. Matt Cross

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

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

The goddamn manliest beard on the show!

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

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

Grade: B
Smash-Wrestling-Support-The-Scene-Greed-Psycho-Mike-Rollins-Kevin-Blackwood-vs-Tarik-Sebastian-Suave-Braxton-Sutter.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-
Smash-Wrestling-Support-The-Scene-Kevin-Bennett-vs-Jay-White-NJPW.jpg

Man, Smash’s match graphics always look so well made!

Match 6: Jay White vs. Kevin Bennett

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

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

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

Grade: A-
Smash-Wrestling-Tyson-Dux-vs-Colt-Cabana-Championship-Match-Title-Defense-Support-The-Scene.jpg

Ladies and Gentleman, your main event of the evening!

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B+
Conclusion:

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

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

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!

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

18275228_10155091177486328_1636366151019243967_n.png

The official event logo. Property of Ring of Honor.

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

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

DSCN2370.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 5: Will Ospreay vs Cody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!

 

 

#DiscoveringWrestling #015 – 5 Reasons you should give IMPACT WRESTLING some bloody respect.

With their troubled history it is easy to lump blame and negativity miles high, like giant pillars of owl dung, upon IMPACT WRESTLING, but to openly wish for their failure and to take up the rallying cry of “Fuck TNA!” shows a fundamental lack of respect for the company’s high points, and what their legacy is. I’m not certain that I can convince everybody to give them some respect, but I hope to make some strong attempts to do so. So, in no particular order, here are 5 good reasons that you should give TNA some respect.

Honourable Mentions: It’s another place for the boys to get work and it disappearing would mean a lot of talented people looking for new work for one. Then there is the often brought up X-Division and how phenomenal it really was at its peak (and I’d argue the talent has always been stellar).

1) AJ Styles. For eleven years of his absolutely brilliant career, AJ Styles called Total Nonstop Action home. In TNA he held the vaunted NWA World Heavyweight Championship and Tag Team championship, the TNA X-Division championship, the TNA Tag-Team championship, the TNA World Heavyweight championship, and pretty much every other accolade the company could concoct. You’d be surprised to note that they never tried having him cross-dress for the KnockOuts titles. He moved all over the card, competing in all sorts of matches. Through TNA’s foreign partnerships, he wrestled in AAA, CMLL, NJPW, and Wrestle-1. The point is, he did everything the company had to offer.

Certainly not all of it was the best. Some of it was total shit. But some of it was brilliant, and all of it was AJ Styles putting his heart, soul, and body, into becoming the best performer he could be in any given booking circumstances. You can’t spend eleven years working in one place, and doing everything that can be done there, and not have you come out the other end undeniably affected by it. AJ Styles has certainly proved that he is self-motivated and insanely talented since he left TNA, but for those who were watching him develop in that company, there was never any doubt that he truly was The Phenomenal One. Without TNA giving AJ Styles all of that time, on air and in front of a television audience, for him to hone his craft, it is doubtful that he would be in the same position he is in now.

2) It was the first major point of exposure for a lot talent. The rosters of WWE NXT, RAW, and SmackDown! are now replete with talent that got their first major break with TNA. Samoa Joe,  Austin Aries,  and Bobby Roode all put on career defining matches and spent many years with a company that, at one point, was considered the upstart that might challenge the E one day. Sadly TNA had an addiction to insane booking and faded stars. Nevertheless,  countless other incredible talent all called the company home. To this day they continue to do so, more recently giving Grado a huge potential audience out of pretty much nowhere.

Even if we expect that IMPACT WRESTLING can never rise to that speculative challenger height again, as a company with high production values and fifteen years of establishing itself a fanbase, however degraded it may be from its heights, they can, and will, have an important role to play in many future stars careers. They’ve done it before and can, certainly, do it again. Just look at the names these two entries contain for evidence.

3) It was a place where people could reinvent themselves. I fondly remember seeing Christian Cage debut in TNA. I had grown frustrated with the WWE in how they were treating him, and his start in TNA was great. He was given an opportunity and proved himself to be what he had never been allowed to be before: the guy. Over the course of its ups and down, IMPACT WRESTLING even provided perennial tag team wrestler Bubba Ray Dudley/Brother Ray the opportunity to invent the Bully Ray character, one that gave him a solid storyline built around himself and a place in the spotlight as a world champion. Even unto today, with their post-separation actions inciting jeers and hatred from the wrestling community, this oft maligned company provided Matt and Jeff hardy the creative freedom and platform to create the #BROKEN gimmick that has launched them into a brilliant career renaissance. I am confident that if they had never left the WWE, there would never have been chants of DELETE! echoing across wrestling venues throughout North America, indie and WWE, at this time.

4) International Exposure. International cross-promotional events and talent exchanges dot the landscape of TNA’s rocky history. I first watched Hiroshi Tanahashi wrestle on a TNA pay-per-view, in 2006, against AJ Styles, a full eight years before the two would meet again in New Japan. The first NJPW full show I watched was Wrestle Kingdom III, which featured heavy involvement from TNA who were advertising it as Global Impact. I tried to find it online for a price I could afford at the time and came across the complete unedited version on a DVD sellers site and bought that. It was a bootleg burned DVD, but it was a launching point for me headfirst into Puroresu, right alongside the Fight Network’s English-announcing dub of Pro-Wrestling NOAH. It’s funny how things come full circle with Anthem now owning all of my original gateway drugs for Japanese Pro-Wrestling.

Their annual World X Cup tournament exposed me to wrestlers from AAA, CMLL, AJPW, and Dragon Gate. Their announce team was never shy to tell you who they were, where they came from, and what they had done in their careers outside of TNA. This stood in direct opposition, and for the most part still stands that way today, to how the WWE handle international talent. I loved Abismo Negro. I bought a CMLL show with a Team TNA vs Team CMLL match from that same DVD seller. I discovered Mistico and Averno. My tastes diversified and I fell in love with how Pro-Wrestling transforms across cultural contexts. I can genuinely say that if TNA had never existed, I likely never would have become the fan I am today. The fan who had the trip of a lifetime in Tokyo fueld by my desire to attend Wrestle Kingdom, the fan who has made friends with performers and other fans alike, the fan who wants to contribute something back to the art I love. Maybe I’m an extreme example, but I cannot be the only one whose spark was kindled in this way by TNA.

They had the prescience to blaze a trail into India. In securing themselves TV deals in the highly populated foreign market, scouting talent from the country to bring onboard to make the product attractive to said population, and having a hand in setting up the short lived Indian Ring-Ka-King promotion, they assured that they are an indellible part of the face of Pro-Wrestling to this massive market, right next to Dalip Singh and the WWE.

Now, in 2017, under new management, they have a talent exchange with NOAH. Based on the March twelfth GREAT VOYAGE in YOKOHAMA showing, it looks promising, at the least for the quality matches it has generated in Japan and giving more international exposure to potential breakout stars like Moose. Considering the absolute tear that Pro-Wrestling NOAH has been on under the NOAH the REBORN moniker, it certainly couldn’t hurt either company to put their best people together to generate interest in both brands and to forge a new reputation for IMPACT WRESTLING, one that highlights impactfuland internationally influenced wrestling and sheds the bad habits of its heritage. But, we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

5) Women’s wrestling. Before NXT and the Women’s Revolution was even a twinkle in Paul Levesque’s eye, TNA was putting on some serious women’s wrestling matches. The company dedicated far more air time to women’s wrestling than contemporaneous WWE did and it let its female talent go at it just as hard as the men. Gail Kim excelled in TNA. Her tenure in the WWE before heading to TNA had made me curious about her, but in TNA’s Knockouts division she truly shone her brightest and excelled far beyond what she had ever accomplished in the E.

Indeed, there was a general attitude in the way TNA treated its women that was a step up from the WWE at the time. In an era where the WWE would phase the Women’s Championship into the Diva’s belt, emblazoned with a delicate butterfly, TNA had both the KnockOuts Tag and singles titles and women routinely, to this day, compete in hardcore matches. They were ahead of the curve, by a long shot. It wasn’t always perfect, but it generally outclassed what the WWE was offering contemporaneously. Like everything with TNA, it went through its ups and downs, but it fueled and helped shape in me a desire to see more intense women’s wrestling. It was around that same time that I would first start to look into Joshi wrestling.

I also find it useful to remember that TNA didn’t come up with an angle making fun of the beautiful Mickie James for being overweight and calling her Piggie James on national television. So there’s also that. Yeah…

Look, I get it. TNA dropped the ball. They dropped it so hard that they lost it in the crust of the Earth. But somehow, amongst all that mess, they still managed to do some incredible good. The story of TNA and IMPACT WRESTLING is one of peaks and valleys. But no one ever seems to remember or care about the peaks, preferring to mock and throw verbal rocks at the company. They have done a lot for the industry, for the talent, and for me. Yeah, I stopped watching them when they got really bad, and every now and then I would check in to see how they were doing. It really wasn’t all bad, and learning to acknowledge and respect it for what it did right, well, it could go a long way towards helping them recover. Anthem is gonna need all the help it can get to rehabilitate this damaged brand, and they have a lot of cool talent and great archive footage to forge a new path with. Give them some credit. Tell them what you want to see more of, and leave the hate out of it.

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

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!

#DiscoveringWrestling #008 – My Journey to Japan for Wrestle Kingdom 11 (Part 3)

How could I go to Japan and not get a whole bunch of wrestling merch? Well, the answer is: I couldn’t! So, we’re gonna talk about all the cool things I grabbed, and where you can find similar things for yourself! Once you’ve got your feet on the ground in Tokyo, I’m sure you’ll love these places.

DSCN2326.JPG

Who says print media is dead? It’s just in another language!

At the merchandise tents outside of the Tokyo Dome purchases and  those inside Korakuen Hall, I procured my NJPW and NOAH Programs and my awesome Wrestle Kingdom 11 banner towel. Programs nowadays in Pro-Wrestling feel like such a thoroughly Japanese thing. Certainly thay have a history outside of just Japan, but I haven’t seen a true program readily available at pretty much any western shows. Sadly for me, but potentially beneficial if you wear a Medium or Large size T-Shirt, they had a tonne of gorgeous T-Shirts for sale at both shows. Sadly, the largest size I’ve seen is an XL, and a Japanese XL is a North American Large, at best. Being a 2XL prohibited me from getting any of the really cool shirts for myself. Obviously it is always good to buy merch directly at live shows, particularly for smaller promotions as it is a big driver of income for a lot of talent and promotions

The awesome Japanese Pro-Wrestling magazines are from Lawson convenience (konbini/combini) stores, but 7-Eleven or any other major konbini should have them as well. And while you’re there, get yourself some of their hardboiled eggs. You’ll never have a better, tastier hardboiled egg experience. I’ve tried to replicate it at home, and it’s proving impossible to get that velvety consistency to the yolk while ensuring the white is fully cooked… but I digress, we’re not going to talk about Yudetamago… yet.

DSCN2331.JPG

Aristrist, NJPW Shop, and BackDrop, respectively.

On my trip to pick up tickets for the January 7th NOAH Korakuen Hall show, I had just enough time to hit up one of the Suidobashi area stores. Since I had a specific purchase in mind, I chose to hit up the NJPW store, which is a short walk from Korakuen Hall, along with other famous Wrestling stores like Todokan. The NJPW store filled to the brim with cool shirts and hats, collectible card games and rather hefty title belt keychains. It is, regrettably but expectedly, overpriced in general, however it is also the only place you can find certain things reliably, such as my all-too-adorable Tana-kuma. I’ll tell you, I had a hard damned time picking out which of the Teddy bears I wanted most, as the Okada-kuma and Naito-kuma are equally adorable… and at ¥8000 each, I could only afford one. For the record, there’s also a Nakamura-kuma, but you’ll have to hit up eBay or another reseller at this point.

On this trip I also had the incredible pleasure to make my way to the physical boutique for Masahiro Chono’s Aristrist clothing line. I had been a fan of this venture of Chono’s since late high school when I first discovered it. I grabbed a slick black-on-black nWo hat, one of the few hats i have ever bought that fits my giant cranium properly, which has his cross-branding all over it. Very well made, and comparably priced to other boutique-type stores at approximately ¥5400 after taxes. Again, I was hit with the curse of nothing-fits. The year before a good friend who was attending Wrestle Kingdom did me the amazing solid of getting me a T-Shirt from his store, autographed by the man himself. Sadly, even at a 2XL from Aristrist I’m a bit hefty for s comfy fit. But that’s more due to my recent weight gain than an issue of it being small for a 2XL, as it is well within the parameters of shirts I used to fit into. So if you need an XL or 2XL and are on the smaller size of that range, Aristrist’s amazing designer clothes will fit you. But watch out, the awesome dress shirts and jump suits can often go up towards the ¥80,000 range.

DSCN2332.JPG

Check out those signatures!

On, literally, my last day in Tokyo I made the effort to swing by BackDrop in Akihabara. They import a lot of western stuff, like WWE and ROH T-Shirts and action figures, but also have plenty of NJPW merch, mostly t-shirts that wouldn’t fit me, but I did score a signed Young Bucks SuperKick party hat, and another one that fits my damn giant head, at about ¥4000.

As someone with varied interests, such as a love for mecha model kits, anime, and video game goods, Akihabara was easily my favourite part of the city. I loved exploring the arcades, cafes, stores, and restaurants. It felt like I was meant to be there. The fact that BackDrop was easily accessible and located right along a main stretch of the area, made it seem all the more like a place meant for me.  photo

On one night towards the end of my stay I ate at the original Ribera steakhouse, seated at a counter infront of the chef as he cooked steaks and handed them out to the at most 10 people who could fit in the restaurant. The steaks were tasty but nothing super tremendous. But the atmosphere was termendous. I sat under a picture of Bam Bam Bigelow, and surrounded by other photos of an absolute who’s who of Pro-Wrestling and MMA’s long and often intertwined history. I’d say it might be better to try the newer location, for likely more comfortable seating.

dscn2325

Warsman, Robin Mask, and Candian Man come home to Canada!

One of the best things about my trip was the awesome endurance of the Kinnikuman franchise. It seemed everywhere I went I ran into it. Whether it was S.H.Figuarts at every Tokyo Toys R Us, life-size replicas in Malls, an Aristrist themed figure in their boutique, an entire line of NJPW merch or, the holy grail, the little rubber figure themselves, Yudetamago‘s franchise followed me around on my vacation. , A good distance outside of Tokyo proper lies a hidden, dusty gem in Godzilla-ya.  I almost didn’t find this store, Google Maps tried to tell me it was in some poor blokes office when I relied on GPS, but it was destiny that I go there. I expected something much different. When I finally got to this toy store it was like someone had taken all the dustiness and crampedness of your grandparent’s attic and  shoved a cornucopia of retro Tokusatsu, Anime, and other toys into this mess and decided to place a cash register awkwardly balanced on a table.

Located in what appears to have once been someone’s fancy cabinet, in a drawer at foot level that stuck out just enough to make the already severely limited footspace inhospitable, was a mountain of retro Kinnikuman mini figures. Better known in the west as M.U.S.C.L.E.. In my excitement I shot my hand down and drew up one figure, In my hand lay Canadian Man, looking at him I knew I would have to wash him with soap to clean off the grime, but he had to be mine. What a treasure of a find!  Next time I’m in Japan I want to visit there again, with the aim of getting a complete set of Kinnikuman figures out of that drawer. But on a serious note, it really isn’t clean. My girlfriend has allergies and asthma and she literally could not stay in the store for longer than 2 minutes. Be warned.

20170114_133710

Part of me wanted to negotiate with the store owner to buy this life-sized Kinnikuman satue.

There rests one souvenir that only a handfull of people I know have, and you can’t buy this one anywhere, as it was a wonderful gift from a man I met there.

DSCN2328.JPG

Thank You, Fumi! I’m getting this framed!

Have you been to Wrestle Kingdom? Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!

 

#DiscoveringWrestling #006 – My Journey to Japan for Wrestle Kingdom 11 (Part 1)

For all of 2016 I saved money and laid plans for what would be my first epic wrestling vacation. I had set my sights on Wrestle Kingdom 11! When I boarded the flight from Toronto to Tokyo on January 1st 2017 with my Arena A level tickets for the Tokyo Dome in my carry-on I still couldn’t believe I was actually going. I have friends who have dreamed of going to Wrestlemania, but that wasn’t my pilgrimmage to go on. I love all wrestling, but I worship at the altar of Puroresu. Long had I been a fan of NOAH and New Japan, and this trip was meant to finally fulfil dreams. I could never have anticipated how truly amazing it would be.

But before I got the opportunity to go I would have to secure myself some good tickets to the event. This would prove to be a hurdle that was both complicated to navigate and simple to resolve. At first I wanted to go all-in for Wrestle Kingdom 11 and try to get the  50,000¥ seats with commemorative folding chair. These proved to be complicated to obtain, and were inevitably out of my grasp for a variety of reasons, but it was primarily a financial decision. Now, there are many ways to get tickets for Puroresu shows before you get feet on ground in Tokyo, and I have many opinions on them, but all of that is useless in acquiring these prestigious seats. Only members of the Team NJPW fan club are able to even apply to purchase these. They are sold via a lottery, wherein you put your name into a random draw for the number of tickets you want along with every other rabid NJPW fan in Japan and if you are chosen, you may then purchase the tickets. Far more people apply than there are seats for.

To illustrate how unfriendly this system is to foreigners who would genuinely love to attend, to even join the fan club you must have a Japanese mailing address (I had a friend in Japan agree to let me use theirs), have a Japanese credit card or make arrangements for someone to pay the bill through a convenience store for you, and tack on a fee for the year and wait to get your membership access emails. All of the sign-up forms are exclusively in Japanese, and Google Translate almost always rendered it cryptically hard to understand the meanings of sections. Now, all of this wouldn’t be so bad if the personal shoppers and other services like govayagin would do it for you, but convenient intermediaries simply refuse to help with it.

161028jamessnelgrove

Look at those beautiful tickets! Arena A, Bay-Bay!

Once i made the decision to purchase the best seats i could afford instead of the best seats in the house, my options became a lot clearer. I narrowed it down to one service in particular, after doing price and ease of use comparisons. My choice was a personal shopper service, personalshopperjapan.com, that wound up far exceeding my expectations. Yumi, the lady doing all the legwork for a very modest commission, was a pleasure to deal with. She provided quick responses and competitive rates and helped me to understand where in the arena my seats were, even going so far as digging up fan made seating charts for the floor seating at the Tokyo Dome – as there are no official Wrestle Kingdom seating charts – and translated it all too. Heck, after dealing with my anxieties about getting tickets she’ll probably do it all better and easier for you! I really cannot recommend her enough, and i am certain i will use her services again in the future.

No matter what seats you want, or can afford after paying for flights and lodging, they’ll be worth it. Sitting amongst that crowd was a surreal experience, and sharing excitement and emotions with the audience around me, across the language barrier, was a phenomenal experience. If you want to go, you should go.

And you might just get interviewed (That’s me at 7:39)..

Have you been to Wrestle Kingdom? Do you have any advice or questions? Please leave a comment here.

Don’t forget to Like my FaceBook page and Follow me on Twitter!