#DiscoveringWrestling #020 – #TorontoWrestling reviews Smash Wrestling’s Have Ring Will Wrestle

I arrived at the Phoenix Concert Theatre a touch too early, and woefully underfed. With back-to-back shows to attend, I had an 8 hour shift of writing notes, talking to fans nearby me, and no food in my belly to look forward to. Thankfully the Phoenix has a Burrito Guy (okay, he also makes Tacos and Quesadillas) and while moderately overpriced (it is venue food, after all) the damn burritos this man cooks up were big and delicious. Burrito Guy saved my day. I had lunch and dinner from him, and would not have been able to focus on the proceedings had he not been there. If you have been to the Phoenix, you’ve seen him slinging his food, next time try it.

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Basically the best event logo they’ve had. The event T-Shirts are boss and I love mine. Buy one yourself!

Match 1: Brent Banks vs. Kevin Blackwood vs. Buxx Belmar vs. Scotty O’Shea vs. Sebastian Suave vs. Vaughn Vertigo

This match was a 6-Man Timed Entry Elimination Match. They didn’t explain the rules to the audience beforehand but it became readily apparent as they started with just Brent Banks and Scotty O’Shea in the ring, but Kingdom James, the manager of Sebastian Suave, came out and cut a promo and waited around at ringside for his man to come in. The big countdown clock also helped, once the next fellow was ten seconds away. I hate O’Shea’s ring gear more and more with every time I see him. Kingdom called it a wet suit. It does kinda look that way.

The match kicks off and Brent Banks makes a point of showing off how agile he is. He gets a gorgeous dropkick into the mix to take control of the flow of the match. The countdown pops up, sooner I think than anyone anticipated, and Vertigo hits the ring, taking quick control of the situation with his aerial stylings. The countdown pops up again and Buxx Belmar heads to the ring, somehow acting even weirder than before his injury put him out for years. Belmar takes down everyone, dropping them in a big dog pile in the middle of the ring, and does a splash on the pile. He then hits O’Shea and Vertigo with his very loudly proclaimed “Penis Attack!”, best described as a Shining Wizard face hump.Banks avoids being the victim of Belmar’s balls, and gains the advantage. The countdown timer pops up again and we are treated to the entrance of Sebastian Suave. Suave takes control of the ring and drops everyone. Suave ties O’Shea up but before he can eliminate the wet-suit wearing Hacker he eats a superkick from Brent Banks. That countdown timer comes up again and Kevin Blackwood storms down to the ring. He tries to clear out the competition, gets through most folk, bot O’Shea takes him down.

The match moves on and they go for the obligatory multi-man Tower of Doom spot out of the corner. I’m growing tired of this spot, it’s not fun anymore. Suave takes control of the fracas but eats a huge powerbomb from Banks. Everyone switches up, in and out of the ring, and in the chaos Buxx Belmar scores the first elimination on Vertigo, but can’t rejoice in his vioctory as Sebastian Suave wrecks him for the 3 as well. Four men left. Kingdom James announces a commercial break and some endorsement message plays on the “tron”, Suave stares at it and admires himself on the big screen. Usually these commercial break spots are a moment of rest for those in the ring, but Blackwood says “Fuck It!” and grabs Suave in a surprise pinning predicament to eliminate The Endorsement. Huge Pop from the crowd. Blackwood goes  on a tear, hits O’Shea with a Yoshitonic for one, but he keeps going. Blacwood sneaks a roll up on Banks during the fracas for 3 count and gets a nice clean hit on on O’Shea for 2.5. O’Shea almost puts Blackwood away with a corner cannonball. Scotty O’Shea avoids multiple pinfall attempts and ends up getting the final three count out of a nice Gory Special into a slam.

Good opening match with lots of energy brought out of the crowd, good way to psyche us up for the two back to back shows. Post match Tarik beats down Blackwood for just being the new kid on the block. It feels like Tarik is in the Gatekeeper role in Smash, running new blood through the meat grinder to establish them and see if they stick. Should be a good feud between them.

Grade: B-
Match 2: Well-Oiled Machines (Psycho Mike + Braxton Sutter) vs. Tabarnak De Team (Thomas Dubois + Mathieu St-Jacques)

The whole match starts with the Well-Oiled Machines oiling themselves up, followed by the crowd chanting for TDT to likewise oil up, so they take their flannel off and get their burly Quebecois selves nice and greasy. Of course, Psycho Mike and Braxton Sutter take this as an opportunity to jump them and beat down on them before the bell. but they make the terrible choice of gloating over their pre-match assault and wind up falling victim to an act of revenge. TDT stack Mike and Braxton on top of each other in the corner and brutalize them. TDT take control, tagging in and out, as they work over Psycho Mike. They just wreck him for a while.

The Well-Oiled Machines take control via shenanigans and Sutter lays into St-Jacques, beating him down but not securing the pinfall. Frequent tags keep the Machines in control until St-Jacques clears the opposition and gets the hot tag. Dubois is inand tosses Psycho Mike around, hitting huge moves. The Well-Oiled Machines spill out to the floor and Tabarnak De Team follow suit with stereo Tope Suicidas. The two teams brawl into the audience in what is easily becoming a trope at Smash shows. They work their way back, collectively, into the ring and when the opportunity presents itself St-Jacques hits a glorious Moonsault on Psycho Mike, but Sutter breaks up the pin. The Well-Oiled Machines next get Thomas Dubois into a pin, and he kicks out with both of them on top of him. St-Jacques comes in and DDTs both opponents. They go into a sequence where both teams tease their finishes but can’t follow through, TDT get the upper hand and slam Mike and Sutter into each other, then hit a Diving European Uppercut-Powerbomb combo for the win.

Grade: B-

Amusingly, between matches they have to get some crew in to  wipe down the ropes, as they were covered in oil from the previous four burly men.

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Having never seen either before, this image made me anticipate a much more even match.  That was a height joke.

Match 3: KC Spinelli vs. Vanessa Kraven

Vanessa Kraven is huge compared to KC Spinelli, and they play off of it, both for comedy and intensity. They start with comedy as KC tries to deal w/ the sheer size of Kraven, whom they introduced as “The Mountain“. It’s almost as if KC is stunned by the fact that a woman that large exists, standing across from her. Spinelli finds an oily patch of ropes, vocally drawing attention to it, and when the chance arrives she grinds Kraven’s face into the oily patch. Nevertheless, Kraven keeps derailing Spinelli with, needing just one hit to undue any amount of work Spinelli can do. Inevitably Kraven easily takes control with a series of damn thunderous chops. She gets to stomping on Spinelli, but they just look too fake and take me right out of the story they’ve been telling. Kraven makes up for her stomps with a pair of nice overhead belly-to-belly suplexes. The second one looks like it was a bad head dump. Brutal! She gets that corner cannonball everybody and their uncle is doing now and only keeps KC down for two. Both previous matches, and many more on this night, featured that exact same move. This one seemed kinda boring after the previous two, this one just didn’t  stand out. Kraven wins with a Chokebomb.

Overall, this match wasn’t bad, but it did nothing to really excite me and felt poorly placed on the card.

Grade: C
Match 4: Kevin Bennett and Franky TM vs. the Super Smash Bros (Stu Grayson + Evil Uno)

Before the bell a brawl breaks out and all four men spill outside the ring, and then Bennet’s cronies get involved. The Super Smash Brothers are overwhelmed and Bennett’s cronies hold them in place as Franky goes for a big ol’ Tope Suicida, but Uno and Stu escape just in time for Franky to wreck Bennett’s thugs. Then they just brawl all over the venue. They head back up the ramp and it’s impossible for me to see exactly what is going on. Then all of a sudden people are flying down the ramp section and there’s just chaos.

The SSB get back in the ring, dragging a limp Bennett and Franky with them and finally the bell rings, the match can now start. They go for a pin, and almost get a win right out of the gate, but Bennett’s cronies break it up. The biggest guy out there, Bennett’s personal security, eats an absolutely brutal slam onto the apron from Stu Grayson. He’s just so heavy looking, the force that must have had… I certainly wouldn’t have gotten up after that.

Once the fracas ends it’s Franky and Uno in the ring, very evenly matched. Uno tags in Stu who flies through the air, right into the loving embrace of Franky TM, who drops him hard in a great slam. Bennett gets in with Stu, but can’t secure the three count when he has Grayson down. There’s miscommunication and Bennett winds up ganking Franky, but the SSB can’t get the 3 either.

Franky cleans house, but he goes after Bennett, looking to take out many months of frustration and being Bennett’s bitch. Bennett’s cronies yank him out of harm’s way and then Franky gets abused by the SSB. He eats a series of knees and super kicks while tied in the ropes and takes a running knee-piledriver combo for the SSB to win.

Grade: C+
Match 5: Greed vs. Tyson Dux (c) – Smash Championship Title Match

Greed starts throwing down big hits right away, but Dux comes back and hits a huge corner Death Valley Driver. He only keeps greed down for two. The story of the match is technique versus brute force. There’s some even back and forth, each man laying furiously into the other. Grred keeps up well with the former Cruiserweight Classic competitor in Tyson Dux. They spill outside onto the floor. Greed gets the advantage, using his size and weight.

The crowd is oddly silent but they pep up when Dux gets to work suplex-ing and cutter-ing Greed. In the ensuing action there is one point where Dux’s pained expression is just priceless. I hope they got an angle on the camera that captures it for their streaming service. You gotta see it. Dux hits a big superplex on Greed, and transitions, turning the big man over into a Boston Crab right in the middle of the ring. Greed escapes and Dux tries to thwart him by going up top but the big man catches him and rams him to the turnbuckle. Again, it’s oddly quiet. Greed takes control and finally his his shirtless Bullfrog Splash (I coined that myself, at the show, get it? Because Greed is huge) but only gets two on Dux. The champ gets a huge brainbuster on Greed, only keeps him down for two. Dux picks him back up and gets another brainbuster for the final three count.

It was a good match but never really lit the crowd on fire. I’m surprised that ROH haven’t come knocking for Dux, considering the style he’s working these days and their dearth of talent.

Grade: B-
Match 6: Tarik vs. Kyle O’Reilly

The crowd is on fire when O’Reilly makes his entrance. There’s some nice chain wrestling to start. They go back and forth with technical style and O’Reilly does his sunset flip-arm bar spot. O’Reilly is in control and he does the weirdest twisting takedown. O’Reilly grinds on Tarik, controlling the flow of the fight, but it gets messy on the apron and Tarik winds up in control. Tarik gets a nice Vertical Suplex in, but only gets a two count out of it. His frustration grows and Tarik’s well established wild side comes out, he chokes O’Reilly multiple times with the ring ropes. It spills outside for a moment, but it quickly gets back inside and Kyle gets to kicking Tarik, but Tarik reverses with a Disaster Kick and gets 2 on O’Reilly. Tarik goes for a mount on O’Reilly but gets a leg bar for his troubles. They do a strong style strike exchange, and it looks like Kyle’s in control but Tarik counters with a huge drop kick.

Tarik looks to be in control and goes for his Backpack Stunner but gets choked. They brawl and O’Reilly gets in his signature combo before going into a huge sequence that nets him multiple submissions on Tarik, but Tarik gets to the ropes. He keeps up beating on Tarik but winds up eating a comeback Backpack Stunner, getting a two count on the former Ring of Honor World Champion. They exchange a series of huge big boots, do a forearm back and forth spot, and then Kyle gets the upper hand and unloads with dozen knees on Tarik. A final flurry of moves sees O’Reilly choking, kicking, and brainbuster-ing Tarik, who kicks out at two. O’Reilly catches him mid kick out and locks on an armbar for the tap out.

Grade: B
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They need to get more designs done like this for future shows.

Match 7: Michael Elgin vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

The crowd was hyped. They mix it up and play power versus technique to good results. They do a classic Greco-Roman knuckle lock test of strength spot, I haven’t seen one of those in a while. Made me smile. It was like comfort food for my wrestling soul. ZSJ goes to work on Elgin’s arm, binding him for days. I love the little touches Sabre does, grinding away at spots on Elgin’s arm with his elbow, bending his fingers back. For all the babyface treatment he gets, ZSJ is vicious and ruthless in the squared circle.

Elgin stops Sabre with a cutter, and uses his strength to put ZSJ down. They do the stalling suplex spot, full thirty seconds, each one punctuated by a chant. It gets elgin a two count. They go back and forth, do some strong man spots, and then ZSJ gets a great sweep and running PK for the two count. Elgin gets three German Suplexes on the Brit, but ZSJ dodges a lariat and ties Big Mike up. Elgin escapes and hits an Enzuigiri to try and take control but Sabre combos into a two count. Then they exchange strikes. Sabre kicks the crap outta Big Mike but eats a Falcon Arrow for his troubles. Sabre winds up getting a Jim Briggs Special on the top rope, but gets sunset bombed, hard. Somehow Sabre kicks out. Big Mike sells all the work ZSJ has done to his arm really well, and it was a bit of shame that he didn’t carried it over into the WCPW show, but the two don’t share continuity so there’d be no meaning behind it outside of for the audience members who attended both events back to back.

Big Mike gets out of submissions using power and the two brawl to the apron where Elgin hits a DVD. He then hits Sabre with an outside-to-inside Avalanche Falcon Arrow, gets two. Buckle Bomb and then Power Bomb and Sabre counters into a prawn hold. It’s followed by a lightning fast exchange between the two. it ends with Elgin hitting a Sit-Out Cricifix Powerbomb. He getsa two count and the crowd goes wild. Elgin goes for the Burning Hammer but Sabre flips out of it and gets a strong kick on Elgin. This leads into a flurry of action and Elgin gets the win with a sitout powerbomb.

Grade: A-

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

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The official event logo. Property of Ring of Honor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B
Match 5: Will Ospreay vs Cody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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

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

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

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He really does look like Uncle Phil…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: B-
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Psycho Mike hanging in there.

Match 2: Super Smash Brothers vs. Well Oiled Machines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 6: Sebastian Suave vs. Rosemary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: A

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

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This is the best picture I took that night.

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

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

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

Grade: A-

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

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#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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