Monday, December 31, 2018

The Wrestling Revolver's Holiday Hangover: A few thoughts on my last wrestling live event of the year

Revolver seems set to cement a place as a new focal point of wrestling in central Iowa and that's good news for the independents in general and Iowa in particular. I will almost certainly continue to nitpick their use of Iowa (or more accurately, lack of use) talent, but they also continue to bring a ton of talent to Iowa that we wouldn't normally ever see without at least a trip to Chicago.

Here's my bullet point thoughts on Holiday Hangover.

Zachary Wentz in his natural element.
All Photos featured on this page are by the amazingly talented Photos by Manning.
  • DJ Z is an amazing high flyer and it turns out, so is Gringo Loco, a dude I've never seen in action before Friday night. But Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz are now on another level. They've traveled around the world twice over and I cannot help but think their work with the OWE kids and CIMA has helped them to strengthen their game. I expect 2019 to be an even bigger year for the unit. 
  • The first three of the four first round title tournament matches were just okay. Jessicka Havok versus Matthew Palmer was a classic beatdown with her just destroying him before he pulled the old Eddie Guerrero fake chair shot move, only to get beaten down even more. Larry D versus Rich Swann was competitive but with Larry's positioning in Revolver it seemed like his victory was a foregone conclusion. No JT Dunn, so the three way became Trey Miguel vs. Ace Austin vs. Clayton Gainz. I was more than okay with this as Gainz seems set to have a solid wrestling career, even if his ring name is one of the worst since Flex Kavana. 
  • Tommy Dreamer took Brian Cage's place against Shane Strickland and showed why he's such a talented ring psychologist to the fans in attendance. It wasn't a first time match-up I ever expected to see but it was a heck of a lot of fun. Strickland is an amazing talent and working folks like Dreamer will only make him that much better.
JT Energy confronts Manders-Claus!
  • The return from intermission gave us the only few moments with any Iowa-based talent in action as Manders-Claus (Steve Manders handing out prizes in an awful Santa outfit) came under attack by the debuting JT Energy. Manders took Energy out quick and finished his rounds, but if the Revolver really wants to ingrain itself in Iowa wrestling, I really want to see it actually use the local talent in significant ways. 
  • I was surprised to see Kimber Lee before the event selling her wares. She's an amazing talent that I can't help but feel WWE dropped the ball on and I hope she returns for more Revolver shows, maybe as an announced talent next time. She got to show off some of her skills in the six way scramble open against champion Caleb Konley, Manscout Jake Manning, Madman Fulton, Ace Romero and Dirty Andy Dalton (also a last minute replacement.) They put on a great spot-based match frequently built around how they could use the tent Manning of course brought in. Konley stole the win in a bout way better booked than the mess in October.
Kimber Lee.
  • Jake Manning and Caleb Konley are rockstars in their roles with Highspots. They're hocking wares, maintaining cameras and/or on commentary for various parts of the show, and still take time to be really great talents in their match. So much of what they do is behind the scenes and I don't think they get close to enough credit for their talents.
  • I think the Christmas Death Match between Jimmy Jacobs and Arik Cannon was pretty much doomed to fail from the start. Half the people there didn't seem to know Cannon despite him being a regular Midwest guy for over a decade (including in Des Moines' own 3XW.) Jacobs brought out a few of the same spots he used back in October's death match and it all just came out feeling a bit redundant. It was a fun callback to see him pull out the trusty spike I haven't seen in years though. 
  • OVE versus ACH and the Besties in the World (or the Super-Besties) was apparently a bout the six men talked about for a long time in advance of it finally happening. ACH is a fun talent and knows how to play a local crowd, but if the rumors about his future are true, I'll be curious to see how he can play to a large audience. He was lost in the shuffle in ROH and I worry it might be the same for him wherever he proves to go. But the spectacle the six men put on here was worth the price of admission alone. A ton of talent all in one ring at the same time is always something to love. 
  • The main event was built around an angle from the start and that hurt it. With Palmer out due to "injury" Strickland was the only member of The Crew left standing. He put on an entertaining battle with Trey Miguel and Larry D, but the end came with a ref bump. With the ref down, Larry takes out his opponents and covered for a pin as a new ref hit the ring. Only the new ref stopped his count and attacked Larry, pulling off his shirt to show he was a freshly shaven Matthew Palmer. He stole the pin and the victory and gave The Crew their second main event win over the last two shows. It will be interesting to see how they play out that story in the shows ahead. 
  • Matthew Palmer landed maybe two moves for the entire show and still exited as the most hated heel in the promotion and the new champion. He's just an amazing heel and it's fascinating to watch him in action. He's a Texan guy with history in Inspire Pro and Wrestle Circus, but isn't a guy that is much more than a blip on the indies. But damn if he isn't pure greatness as a top heel. I got a special kick out of his pre-match promo against Havok, where he ranted about how women shouldn't be allowed to wrestle, an interesting note from a man whose Twitter handle name recently listed his last name as Palmer-Moon.
  • The company isn't back to the Val Air until early March, but with six shows planned for Des Moines this year, I'm excited to see what else they have in store for the future. 
  • If Sami's focus on talent has shown me anything with the crowd reactions at the Revolver, it is that Larry D and Matthew Palmer are both incredible independent wrestling talent that need to have more eyes on them. 
New Revolver Champion Matthew Palmer. 

Overall another great show from the Wrestling Revolver. Promised talents at the next event included John Morrison and Daga among others, so it will be very interesting to see what the future holds for the company in the new year.

To watch the show, stay tuned to the Highspots Wrestling Network as it usually goes up within a week. For more on the promotion, visit And stay focused on this site to see some of these same names in the Top 100 wrestlers of 2018!  

Thursday, December 13, 2018

It's that time of the year! Voting for the Year End Talent Countdown is now open!

For the last three years, The Wrestling Deep End has closed out the year with a countdown of the Top 10 wrestlers of the year as voted on by you, the incredible readers of this blog. This year we're expanding things though as we will officially build a Top 100 list of wrestlers! Only the Top 10 will get the detailed entries you see every year, but as part of the event, we will also run down numbers 100 to numbers 11, in order, with highlighted comments from you, the voters.

Here's how the process works: 

  • You make a list of every wrestler you've enjoyed from the calendar year 2018. The list can be as short as twenty (20) talents or as long as one hundred (100). Your favorite wrestler is ranked first, going all the way down to one hundred. 
  • Ranks should be based on entertainment factor inside the ring. It does not need to be rated on nebulous conceits of what makes a good or bad match, but all rating should be based on things that happen in front of the crowd at the venue. 
  • The list covers both male and female wrestlers.
  • Talent from any promotion in the world is eligible, as long as they wrestled in the calendar year 2018. 
  • Tag teams must be separated. If you feel like a tag team is on equal footing for the year, you may lump them together. If you feel one talent has brought more to the team than the other, you may put any number of other talents between them. But all tag teams must be separated. 
  • I encourage the support of local independents in the list. If your local indie features talent rarely seen elsewhere but that you consider top tier even if only in that indie, vote for them as such. If you want to eschew every major televised promotion in favor of smaller local companies or the affiliates or whatever, feel free. This list is as much about recognizing talented stars wherever they may come than solidifying the star power of the world's top stars in their top promotions. 
  • Commentary on talents you choose is greatly appreciated and will likely be featured on their vote page. (In the case of #11 through 100, it might often be the only text for each.) This is a chance to share why you think each talent deserves the position you've given them. 
  • All votes should be sent to wwfmegs{at} or left as a comment on this post. 
That looks like a lot of rules, but it's really not. Just send in your lists between now and Christmas Day. The list will launch just a few days later starting with #100 and counting all the way down to your pick for the best wrestler of 2018! 

I cannot wait to see your votes! 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Not even a limited roster can slow them down! SCWPro "Season's Beatings" in review!

One of the things I love about SCWPro is that they schedule their events well in advance. For someone working at a retail company with schedules a month in advance, it's very handy to be able to put in for nights off well ahead of time. It also creates issues though when another company in the area comes out and schedules on the same night. AAW's final show in LaSalle, Last Call, also landed on December 8th, which meant a lot of the company's talents were gone for the night. Connor Braxton, Joeasa, Deonn Rusman, Sensei Bock, Dante Leon, Sage Cainan and current tag champion Steve Manders were all in LaSalle, most of them working in a battle royal. But despite a third of their regular talent away for the night, Season's Beatings turned out to be a solid end of the year event.

The night opened with JT Energy and Jah-C, Vicious and Delicious, the now former tag team champions. It came as no surprise they weren't happy with the fans or the loss of their belts. They were ready to take it out on anyone they could. Their opponents came in the form of two long time SCW talents: King Steven Youngblood and Latin Thunder. The King of Scott County and the luchador did some of the best work I've seen from either man in a fairly brief opener, but Vicious and Delicious were just far too wily to lose to a makeshift team on this night.

The second match opened with Johnny Wisdom stalking to the ring, angry as ever. His opponent was a newcomer to the company, Derek Wolf. A student of Josh Raymond, a long time veteran who made his SCW return later in the night, Wolf tried hard to fire up the crowd fast. But despite his size, Wolf never really got going. Watching him, I'd guess he's a guy that is used to working as a heel in his young career, as he didn't quite have the visuals down to play the good guy. Wisdom brought the match to a merciful finish, but Wolf swore he'd be back for a rematch. I wouldn't mind seeing the kid get another chance at the promotion, just as I'd like to see more from his mentor as well.

Robin Steele came to the ring for his match without his compatriots Asa and Rusman. But his opponent Jimmy Thomas also didn't have his Sensei Bock in his corner. Instead the two men went it alone. Thomas works his student gimmick really well and he sold the vicious beating he took from Mason Beck days before just as well. He put on a valiant effort against Steele, who despite the fact that I'm anything but a fan of his gear, seems to be coming along well as a young competitor. He seems to be settling down and didn't let his desire to be a fast moving high flyer derail his fundamentals here, which seems like the routine problem of a lot of the Black and Brave students.

I've been a bit down on QC Cup holder Bradon McBride in a few of my reviews. But he showed me why the company entrusted him with the title in his defense against Shain Bender. McBride and Bender set out to steal the show. The two worked a fast paced match with a ton of big hits and big moves, but despite their speed, both men did everything in their power to keep it from turning sloppy as such matches, especially with young talents, can do. They put on an incredibly strong undercard match that I expected was going to lead to intermission after McBride used his valet Miss Olivia to secure the win yet again.

Mason paused with a
cold stare the entire time
while the kid got this
picture of him. 
Instead it lead into one of the two big matches announced ahead of time: a brutal battle between the young Travis Titan and Mason Beck. Beck is a Midwest indie stalwart, a long time talent who much like fellow SCW star Shane Hollister deserved a ton more recognition than he got in his career. Beck comes out cold and angry and never turns off for a second. Even when he's interacting with the crowd, it's often to taunt them at how much damage he's done to their favorite.

Last month, Beck decimated Titan but lost to a surprise roll up during the beat down. This month he wasn't able to destroy Titan and the two men fought a fairly even contest. Titan has sworn to make Beck tap to his Titan's Cross finisher and his focus on that move ultimately cost him the victory as he kept going for it instead of trying for more pinfalls after his big moves. He took two brutal Beck bombs and his Not-Samoan spike before Mason picked up the win.

Coming out if intermission, SCW likes to bring a fun match so it was no surprise that JP Finger and Jared Thumb made their way to ringside to battle angry Frenchman Val Eden and his new partner Timothy Legrand, a poor man that feels like he might have just been roped into Val's angry Frenchman gimmick as I didn't hear him say a word, in French or otherwise. Eden and Legrand got more offense than Eden did last time around, but this was mostly a showing for Thumb and Finger to have some fun. I remain impressed by the fundamentals beneath the comedy, as so often young stars working comedy styles are covering up a lot of inefficiencies in talent. I see none of that here and honestly hope a few indies might give them a chance to shine against the likes of Colt Cabana, Jake Manning or Kikutaro.

If you haven't seen SCW,
you haven't experienced
Krotch. There's no one
quite like him in wrestling.
As I mentioned Josh Raymond made his return to SCW and my memories at Season's Beatings. He hasn't wrestled too regularly to my knowledge since mounting injuries ended his run as one half of the House of Truth tag team in ROH, where he and the late Christin Able mostly served as silent killers for Truth Martini. As he emerged from the back to take on Krotch, he made it clear he would be anything but silent here. Instead he worked a fun little gimmick where he declared the ring his safe space and demanded fans cheer for him whenever he was in said safe space. It got him over as a heel fast with the Walcott crowd and I honestly love the idea of a wrestler triggered by booing as a gimmick. Krotch picked up the clean win, but I really do hope we get more than a one off appearance by Raymond here to fill the card. He worked a fun gimmick and I wouldn't mind seeing him take on some of the younger SCW talent. Heck, I suspect the aforementioned Thumb & Finger could have some fun with him.

Valentina Loca paid a visit to the ring to declare herself once again without competition in an SCW ring. But this time it wasn't so much her pleading for the company to bring in more female talent, but with a level of pride that she rid herself of her former partner Rahne Victoria. Val's a great talent on the mic, but I'm itching to see her actually wrestle a full match at Walcott.

With all the previous matches out of the way it was time for the main event as Shane Hollister once again defended the SCW title against Xander Killen. The two men have traded barbs on Twitter over the last few weeks as the straight edge Killen has called Hollister a drunk and a deadbeat dad. In a taped segment from before the show, Killen berated Hollister's stepdaughter and her friend about her Dad's future fate, so it goes without saying that this feud is heated.

The two men put on a match just as brutal and heavy-hitting as the one last month at Insurgency. But I realized I would have a front row seat to some of the storytelling with Hollister's daughter just a few seats away. Killen derided them more than once, but often to his own detriment as it gave Hollister time to recover from the damage Xander did.

The brutality continued for what I'm fairly certain was one of the longer main events I remember seeing at an SCW show. Ultimately it proved too much for both men as they both fell to a ten count for a no contest. Shane Hollister demanded a Last Man Standing bout with Killen in response, a match immediately made by Marek Brave for the next show in January.

Here's where I'll throw in my one tiny booking gripe, as a Last Man Standing match would have ended in the exact same way if both men couldn't answer the ten count. It might have served their purpose to set up just a typical Street Fight instead, but they brought one of those to Walcott at just the last event, so I can understand the reason they avoided it here.

But beyond that tiny gripe, Season's Beatings was a well-booked clean-flowing great way to spend ten dollars. From top to bottom, everyone seemed to know this was their chance to shine on a card with far less talents than the usual SCW show. And with a large crowd out on a perfect December night, here's hoping everyone that did make the show got to home with a few more dollars in their pockets!

SCW has a month off before they return with their next Walcott event on January 18th, their annual 20 man Prestige Rumble. With that match and the continuance of the Hollister / Killen feud, it looks to be a barnburner. For more on the promotion, check out their official website.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The beginning of an Iowa dynasty? SCW Hawkamania VII: Anger Rising in review!

Despite SCW running the much nearer Iowa City six times before I attended Hawkamania VII, I hadn't managed to actually get to a show at the Wildwood Steakhouse and Saloon. I found the venue's layout incredibly odd upon arrival, complicated by the fact that I didn't arrive far enough in advance to guarantee myself a place to sit! But while I cannot comment on the food at the place, I will say SCW put on a heck of a show.

Hopefully, they will get a 2018 Pat Angerer picture for his next appearance...
The night kicked off with two young stars I was thoroughly impressed with the night before: DDT's Rekka and Naomi Yoshimura. They would not disappoint tonight either as they went up against the reunited team of Dante Leon and Sage Cainan. The DDT contingent were on point for their spots. Dante is an incredibly gifted worker whose look I simply don't understand. It's a strange thing to say about a high flyer, but Sage feels like he just needs to slow down a bit as he missed a few cues in the match. It seemed clear he knew it as well, as he seemed flustered by match's end. Thankfully the energy he, Dante and the DDT boys brought made up for any missed spots in the match. The four men warmed up the crowd like no one's business. The energy of the room after Dante and Sage picked up the win was almost electric.

Latin Thunder and Johnny Wisdom received an unfortunate spot following that match. The two men decided to go old school, with Wisdom's strikes against Thunder's grappling and mad dropkicks. Thunder picked up the win in a fairly brief encounter, a bit of a surprise after Wisdom's win at the previous show.

Sensei Bock made a change leading into the next two matches, swapping out his bout and that of his protege Jimmy Thomas. This put Bock in a QC Cup contenders match while Travis was up against Mason Beck. Beck's been booked as a monster at the last few shows I've attended and this was no different. Though Thomas isn't much smaller than Mason, his fear at the site of his foe quickly made him seem it. Thomas tried to mount offense but the angry Beck dismantled him in a brief match.

Bock didn't appear at ringside for that battle, but popped back up as the contenders match was next. His opponents were Chase Holliday, the first I've seen of this Black & Brave graduate though he's been around a bit, and Shain Bender. I barely mentioned Bender in my Insurgency review. He wasn't particularly impressive in that tag bout, which the other three men seemed to carry far more than he did. That changed here as he played the sole babyface against two villains. He showed off a bit more fundamental wrestling here, as well as some impressive flying. He still needs a ton of seasoning, but he's got potential.

The next match took the new unit of Joeasa, Robin Steele and Deonn Rusman and pitted them against Joeasa's long rival Connor Braxton, the SCW champion Shane Hollister and Travis Titan, a man that picked up a shock win over Mason Beck last show. The match was wild and chaotic as a good six man brawl should be. Things turned a little rough when a loosened rope caused Rusman to slip and take a nasty spill against the rear ropes. He looked visibly dazed for much of the match afterwards, but to his credit he held up his end as the big man of the heel team. The face squad had a ton more experience as Hollister's years in wrestling is probably three or four times that of the heel contingent combined. But the real story here was interference by Mason Beck on Titan as well as Hollister's ongoing rival Xander Killen. With two of the three faces out of the ring, Joeasa and his crew triple teamed Braxton for the win.

That top half of the show featured two of the night's three matches. The second half of the night got off to a slow start with a battle for QC Cup between current holder Braden McBride and the rather interesting Corn Boy, a feral character that is just really in love with corn. Despite the weird gimmick, he seems to be over strong with the Iowa City crowd. SCW does alright with goofy gimmicks, whether it was Bobbi Dahl, Steven Youngblood or the team of Thumb & Finger, but Corn Boy might be a bit too out there even for me. McBride has done little to show me why he should be holding the cup, working the most basic heel-with-valet gimmick. The match wasn't bad, but it didn't lift off the second half to much of a start either.

Xander Killen took on Krotch in the semi-main event. This one showed some solid storytelling as Killen targeted Krotch's neck and dissected the fifteen year veteran for the rest of the match. He took out Krotch even as he stopped a few times mid-match to call out SCW champion Shane Hollister. Hollister would eventually appear, but only after Killen started to attack the already injured Krotch post-match. Killen ran for the hills, with my assumption that the two men will have a payoff sooner or later, perhaps say... at the next show?

The show's main event had been hyped for several months now. Iowa Hawkeye and Indianapolis Colt veteran Pat Angerer hosted that event, but Vicious & Delicious targeted him for scorn. This set up a match between Angerer and fellow Hawkeye veteran Steve Manders against JT Energy and Jah-C of Vicious & Delicious. Manders win over both men in a six man tag at Insurgency made it a title bout. SCW hyped it as their biggest main event ever and the four men set out not to disappoint.

I really don't know how much training Angerer had going into the bout. But whatever work he put in at the Black and Brave Wrestling Academy and with Manders was clearly enough. Though his segments of the match were somewhat limited, it was clear he knew how to bump and to land some good hits. Vicious and Delicious played up their status as three time SCW tag champions, using every wily veteran move they could as they fought to dissect Manders. But when Angerer did come in he was a house afire and with his size, his bowling over Energy and Jah was perfectly convincing.

I came in expecting a screwjob finish of some kind, perhaps Valentina Loca (who was in attendance but didn't perform) aligning with her former foes in Vicious & Delicious. Instead, the Hawkamaniacs landed the clean win in the middle of the ring right after Angerer hit a big Stunner. The two men celebrated with Angerer's kid and a couple Steveweisers post-match.

Two Iowa Hawkeyes becoming tag team champions in Iowa City was pretty much guaranteed to ignite the crowd, but the great match made the celebration afterwards that much more special. What their victory means for the future of the SCW tag team titles I cannot guess, but it seems clear we'll see Angerer team with Manders again to defend them.

While the last show topped Hawkamania VII in shear impressive matches, I cannot imagine a single fan went home disappointed after a great show. If you're interested in seeing some highlights, a local QC sports show filmed it for Youtube. While the quality isn't spectacular, it shows off just how hard working these stars, young or veteran, actually are.

SCW returns this Saturday, December 8th with their final event of the year Season's Beatings in their home base of Walcott. That being said, they've got a full slate planned in 2019 with two to three shows a month for much of the first half of the year. For more, check out their official website or follow them on Twitter.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Extravagant action, big matches and DDT superstars! 3XW Winter Wars 3 in review

Much like SCWPro, 3XW has been running in Iowa for a decade now. And much like SCWPro, their initials now really don't mean anything. But I finally had a chance to see them live and in person for Winter Wars 3 on Friday. The company has started to recruit an old school star for each show, and this one was no different as Glacier of all people made his 3XW debut!

The night kicked off with a "pre-show" match featuring Xander Killen and Barbosa. Barbosa is a pretty standard Latin heel with the added gimmick of combing his groomed chest hair. Xander is featured in pretty much every one of these articles, so hopefully you recognize his name by now. He's becoming a very solid star for SCW and getting his feelers into other companies in the Midwest now. Like at CEW, he plays the face here again and it doesn't feel as natural for him. Perhaps I'm just used to him being such a great asshole heel at SCW shows, but it feels flat when he's trying to rile up the crowd. This was nothing special and it's a shame that Killen didn't get to show off a bit more.

The show opened with Jah-C (or Gyasi, depending if the company phonetically spells it or not) battling Sentai. Sentai hasn't worke SCW since I came back, but he's a tiny man working a masked Asian wrestler gimmick. He's alright in the ring, but he pales against Jah. This worked as a better opener than the pre-show match, but both men didn't really push too hard in the bout.

Things picked up as "Supafli" J Fowler took on DDT star Naomi Yoshimura, an amazing talent at the end of his excursion. Yoshimura is built like a ton of bricks, reminiscent of Daisuke Sekimoto which is never a bad thing in my opinion. He worked as a great base for Fowler's high flying while getting to show off some technical precision of his own. As a foreign star in for a one shot, Yoshimura took the L here, but I'm very curious to see where he and his partner in crime end up doing in DDT upon their return.

Kara Noia (rhymes with Paranoia, get it?) made her 3XW debut, but her scheduled opponent Brooke Valentine was injured. She was replaced by Nathan Edwards. Nate plays the crazy asshole well, although misogyny in these matches never feels necessary these days. This was my first time seeing the Minnesota-based Kara, but she impressed me after a slow start to this one. I'll be curious to see her in action if she pops up in anymore East or Central Iowa indies anytime soon.

The second DDT contest pit Jaysin Strife against the other DDT star, Rekka. Rekka is actually a ten plus year veteran, but he only really started to work after leaving his native Taiwan to train with DDT. Strife is the consummate Iowa independent wrestler. He's always in great shape,, works a highly active style that is fun to watch and somehow never seems to get much attention from any larger promotions. He's been at it for years and years and doesn't seem to get much recognition for it. They put on what might have been the match of the night in work rate, though they fell a bit behind in the pure fun category. Strife picked up the deserved win, but Rekka impressed me greatly as well.

The first half's main event featured Gil Rogers teaming with Glacier to take on Devin Carter and JT Energy. Rogers (as Rory Fox) and the pair have been feuding for a few months now, but this one offered the big payoff with a great guest appearance by Glacier, a bit heavier but still in great shape in his fifties. Rogers, Carter and Energy carried much of the match because of it, but it didn't lack for Glacier's involvement. Energy looked like a million bucks, Gil looked like a man that loves wrestling above all else and Glacier and Carter mostly came along for the ride. Gil got the pin, but I suspect this storyline might still have some legs, Glacier or no.

Never thought this would be a sight I'd see live.
Image by Photos By Manning. 
After the intermission, things kickoff with SCW announcer and 3XW manager Alex McCarthy out to cut a heel promo and introduce a 5 minute challenge with Moondog Bernard. The challenge is answered by Sensei Bock, inexplicably a babyface here in his 3XW debut. No sign of the cowardly heel he plays so well in 3XW. Instead he beats Moondog with a surprise running kick and a roll up. He doesn't win the five minute challenge though, as Moondog jumps him from behind and leaves him laying in a heap on the ground in the aftermath.

By this point, we reached the two hour mark on the event already, which is approaching the limit for any show without a full bar and food service available. So marked the beginning of my biggest problem with 3XW's show: the length.

Jeremy Wyatt and Steve Manders wrestled an uneventful but very solid match that the long time 3XW regular Wyatt eventually won after wearing Manders down. Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett, The Besties in the World, made their 3XW debut to challenge the Desire Boyz for the tag titles in a surprisingly short battle to feature two high flying guest stars. Neither match did much to ignite the crowd (although the Besties did alright with the "Truely, Madly, Deeply" singalong.) The fan energy at the arena was waning, with two big matches left on the card.

Chainsaw King challenged Jon West for the 3XW Pure Championship in the semi. West is a large guy and Chainsaw King is an actual giant. Dude is not indie wrestling big, but just big overall. He can still move well in the ring though, and he brings an unorthodox off kilter style that makes him more than a one note face-painted kill machine. (See the Desire Boyz in the previous match for that gimmick.) West is a long time 3XW guy and a solid if unremarkable talent and the two put on a heck of a match. A more fired up crowd would have eaten up just two big hosses hitting big moves. It lit up the crowd a little, but the gig was already up there. Fans started to make their exits during the match, especially those with young children. It's a shame, because King and West did some solid work. King's come a very long way since I last saw his uncanny doppelganger die in a Chikara ring.

The main event was a ten man survivor match with Mad Dog McDowell's Heavyweight Championship on the line. The survivor would win the title, which immediately made me wonder what happens if more than one team member survives on their side. Does it then become more like a cibernetico? I have no idea because 3XW didn't bother to explain the rules beyond this live, which was probably a wise decision for myself and the other bleary eyed fans.

Mad Dog's face contingent featured his sometime tag partner Redwing the Barbarian, Donnie Peppercricket and the team of Midwest Blood: Johnny Ruckus & Lars Metzger. The heel team had rich snob and top heel Niles Plonk, Iceman, Jaden Roller, Duke Cornell and Seto Kobara. I'm not going to do a play by play rundown of who was eliminated when. With the majority of the cast being 3XW regulars I've never seen, I was a bit frustrated when the talent I did know (Cornell, Roller, Peppercricket) were all eliminated fairly early. Ultimately it came down to McDowell versus Plonk, which honestly could have easily just been the main event. Plonk stole the win and became the 3XW title. He promised to bring some class to Des Moines as the crowd filed out into the night.

I'm pretty sure I was the most focused man for that main event, but despite the fact they ran through much of the cast of characters rather quickly, it was already way too much way too late. The show ran three and a half hours, which was just a bit too long for the crowd on hand, myself included. (There's a reason WWE starts four hour shows at 6 p.m.)  It makes me feel bad, as I know the folks in the last three matches worked just as hard as the folks in the first half of the show. But at eleven matches, with very little to cool the fans down or warm them back up, the flow just fell flat at night's end.

Still, I'll heap high praise on the scope of the card and the talents working their butt off to put on a good show. A mixed up second half with a bit more of the high flying of the first half might have helped overall, but in the end none of the matches stunk the place up. Fowler / Naomi, Noia / Edwards and Strife / Rekka were all great bouts well worth checking out should they come to 3XW's Youtube channel. That's a pretty solid win, honestly.

3XW's next event is on December 14th, which will wrap their events for the year. Dates for 2019 start on January 11th, all in Des Moines. Check out 3XWrestling on Twitter or Facebook for more details forthcoming!

Monday, November 19, 2018

A wrestling 'Insurgency' in Walcott!

It was Survivor Series weekend, but I didn't sit down to watch either WWE event this weekend live. With a day job and a side gig writing for this site, a half dozen other places and a new novel in the works something has to give. But I wasn't going to miss out on an event from the fine folks of SCW if I could help it. So while many were glued to their televisions, I rebelled from the World Wrestling Entertainment machine and traveled to scenic Walcott, Iowa for Insurgency.

For my troubles, I got to watch one of the best events I've ever seen from the company.

The night opened with a banger though. A six man tag match pitted the QC Cup holder Braden McBride and the tag team champions JAH-C and JT Energy (better known as Vicious & Delicious) battled ex-Iowa Hawkeye, "The 1" Steve Manders and the veterans Krotch and Latin Thunder. Their next event features a big tag match between Vicious & Delicious, Manders and another former Iowa football star making his wrestling debut, former Indianapolis Colt Pat Angerer. So it was no surprise that while everyone got a chance to hit a big move or two, this was mostly about Vicious & Delicious and Manders. That didn't stop Vicious & Delicious (quickly doing their best to be SCW's "Best Bout Machines, with all apologies to Kenny Omega) from showing why I'm far from the only one high on this pair of excellent young talents. Manders ultimately managed a double pin on both tag champions, an easy set up for Marek Brave to make the tag match coming up for the titles.

After a rollicking start, "The Cajun Kid" Sage Cainan made his return to the company looking much improved from the previous times I've seen him in action. He went up against the veteran Johnny Wisdom, one of the last few old guard members of the roster left. Wisdom plays a classic heel so well that he pulls down heat whenever he enters. His style is also based on a lot of strikes and suplexes with a handful of submissions mixed in, basically the moveset of every create a wrestler in every wrestling video game I've ever played. Wisdom is a joy to watch. I've never heard his name outside an SCW ring, but if you ever have the chance make sure to go check him out for just a really great old school beat them down guy. A bit surprisingly, Wisdom did pick up the win, hopefully setting up a bit of a push for him going forward.

Val Eden made his SCW debut next. His tights declared him as a Parisian, and he clearly came with a cocky French men gimmick right in place, not speaking a word of English. This brought out his opponent King Steven Youngblood, one of the earliest SCW wrestlers, and still a regular with the company. He's spent months as a villain (nicknamed "Burger King" by the fans) but has since turned babyface. He took offense that Eden didn't speak the King's English and proceeded to squash the young star in short order. An ignominious debut for Eden, but he'll probably get more chances to shine in the future.

I mentioned a few weeks ago in my review of a CEW event that Deonn Rusman really impressed me as a young developing talent that looks like a million bucks and moves far faster than his power wrestler look hints. I'm not nearly as high on his regular SCW partner Robin Steele. I mean I inherently take Robin as a heel because of his need to sport attire from some of the weakest anime out there, but he still feels a bit sloppy in the ring. The pair took on a more makeshift unit of Steele's former partner Shain Bender and the favorite of every teenage girl in Walcott, Dante Leon. Leon gives me hopes for Steele as I remember his first few matches where he was just as sloppy. While Leon works a super fast style flying around the ring, he's really tightened up a lot since those days. He's earned some higher spots on the cards as well, and picked up the win for his team here as the clear veteran even with only a couple years under his belt. He wasn't the one to hit the most impressive move of the match however as Rusman and Steele landed a Doomsday Destroyer on Bender that was perhaps the most picture perfect finishing move I could imagine.

The last match before intermission brought out SCW champion Shane Hollister to make an open challenge. His opponent from just a few weeks earlier, Xander Killen, made his way to the ring to take it. After seeing him as an inexplicable face at CEW, the boos seemed right for the young star. He cut a blistering promo on Hollister, the kind of twisted truth promo that can just cement a young heel. The two men proceeded to put on an exposition of fantastic wrestling. I watched Killen debut in the building just a few years before. He's grown by amazing leaps since that day. Much like Energy and Rusman, I see great potential in him. The match ultimately ended with two referees counting for both men and a double pinfall. Hollister kept his title but we have a clear set up for a rematch between the two, though whether that comes at the next Hawkamania or at their final event of the year Season's Beatings, I have yet to find out.

Sensei Bock has been working the same cowardly heel "teacher" hiding behind his student pretty much since he first debuted. It works well as though I don't know how old Bock actually is, he looks about fifteen years older than the Black & Brave class he arrived in. He's been working a regular storyline with another talent, Jimmy Thomas, where he's trying to teach Thomas the ways of Bock Kwan Do. This basically amounts to a lot of tag matches where Thomas does all the work. That was the case here as they faced the fun loving duo of JP Finger and Jared Thumb (a.k.a. Thumb & Finger.) Thumb and Finger have become the solid comedy act of every SCW show, though their basics are rock solid behind their fun loving. They picked up the win over Bock (a bit of a surprise as I expected Thomas to eat every pin for his team) and perhaps are working their way towards a shot at Vicious & Delicious.

A war between veteran Mason Beck and upstart Travis Titan has been brewing for months in SCW. It came to a head in the semi-main event. Titan started with an early flurry, but the match soon became just a vicious beat down by Beck. He excels in that atmosphere, ripping apart his opponent before stopping to jaw jack with the crowd. Ultimately, he sealed his own fate when he refused to get a pin to continue his beating on Titan. When he stopped for a bit too long to antagonize the crowd, Titan was able just enough to roll him into a small package for the surprise one two three. Beck proceeded to destroy Titan, both referees and the Black & Brave students on security before the locker room cleared out to pull him to the back.

The main event was a no disqualification street fight. I watched Connor Braxton end one long standing feud against Eddie Machete in such a match. This time he sought to end another long feud with Joeasa. Joeasa has developed immensely since his early days as Joe Acer. While I sometimes find ethnic gimmicks a bit tiresome, he's used it to cement himself as a strong heel. He's been working a lot of tags outside SCW with Deonn Rusman and both men were in a stable just a few months ago in SCW. But Joeasa knows how to handle himself as a singles star and got to show it as the smaller heel against Braxton. After an extended barn burner for that Braxton / Machete street fight, I expected more of the same here. Instead I got a surprisingly short match, but an eventful one. The two men flew around the arena. A copious number of chairs, cookie sheets and a kendo stick all came into play. But it was Connor Braxton that upped the ante with thumbtacks. Unfortunately for him, no one taught him the age old rule of thumbtacks in wrestling: if you bring them out, you're going to get them in your back.

That aforementioned connection between Rusman and Joeasa came into play as Rusman and Steele hit the ring to join him in beating down on Braxton. The three men hurled Braxton into the thumbtacks before Joeasa pinned him for the victory. As a company devoid of any factions for the first time in awhile, it seemed clear we might have a new power trio in Joeasa, Rusman and Steele.

Thus ended one of the strongest wrestling events I've attended live. I've stressed before how important it is to support independent wrestling. It's incredibly easy to do with a promotion as steady and solid as SCW. Though they don't bring in the big blockbuster stars groups like Revolver and AAW do, they manage to tell compelling stories month in and month out.

Their next event heads a bit closer to home for me with Hawkamania VII: Anger Rising in Iowa City on December 1st, followed a week later by their year ending Season's Beatings back at Walcott. Weather providing I plan to be back at both events as I continue my wrestling treks across Iowa. If you drop in to one of the events and see my ugly mug, feel free to stop over and say hello. For more on both events, check out @SCWPro on Twitter or the company's official website.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

It's the spookiest day of the year and rather than wreak (Halloween) havoc, I decide I would just drop a great snapshot from last year to prove how lucky a certain Mister Brooks is, and that we're truly missing out in the world of wrestling...

I guess we should call her Chun Lee?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Wrestling's original reality star comes home, or one afternoon in Walford

On the road to... Central Empire Wrestling: Road to Bridge City Tour
Sunday, October 21, 2018, Walford, Iowa

Despite Cedar Rapids being the second largest city in Iowa, we have a strange lack of independent wrestling nearby. We might get a spot show from one of the Iowa indies now and then, but even then, it's often in the surrounding environs. SCW runs their Hawkamania events every few months in Iowa City, a half hour drive, for example. And the Oskaloosa-based CEW runs Wild Hog Saloon in Walford, a town about fifteen minutes from Cedar Rapids. It is very strange to me that there's an indie that runs in a town of just over 10,000 like CEW but there isn't one in a city a dozen times larger.

But CEW was kind enough to come nearby to Walford, although since I was visiting family and friends for the Pro Wrestling Revolver show the day before, I actually left that morning from their home base of Oskaloosa to see the company near my home. I'm familiar with a couple of the CWE talents from appearances (under different names) in NWL and because several are Black and Brave graduates that also regularly work SCW.

The opening match pit the clearly unloved Brandon Wallace, a CWE regular I know nothing about, against Xander Killen, a two year pro from the aforementioned Black and Brave and SCW. It was a rather basic opener with both men doing some great work to warm up the crowd. It was also fascinating to me to see Xander Killen play the babyface role and do it rather well. He's generally one of the biggest assholes in SCW, one that loves to trade insults with fans, so I was taken aback when he came out to cheers. But he seems to fill the good guy role admirably, though I think he would probably agree he falls more naturally into the heel role.

Another pair of CEW regulars, the tag champions D & T Dynasty, took on a much less veteran team but a pair I knew from SCW: Joeasa and Deonn "Iceberg" Rusman. The heels from Black & Brave are just a great looking pair, but their teamwork wasn't nearly as strong as the wily veterans. I do see huge upsides to both Joeasa and Rusman though. Iceberg especially looks like a million bucks. He continues to grow match by match he could have a huge future in a lot of promotions worldwide.

The "Battle of the Booties" closed out the first half of the show as two hard-butted combatants fought it out in the ring. "Supafli" J Fowler is another CEW veteran and Oskaloosa native. His opponent JT Energy is arguably the best breakout talent from Black & Brave so far. He's mastered his heel work admirably and has shown an ability to fly about the ring. The low ceiling at the event made flying pretty much an impossibility, but Fowler and Energy definitely put on the most high action battle and the clear match of the day. Energy stole a win with a roll up after interference by his Yum Bucks partner Jaden Roller, but don't let his heel tactics hide the fact that he's a star to watch in the next couple years.

The semi-main event featured Curt Gannon, a Kansas City son working as the "Suplex Cyclone". Considering he's built like Taz makes the gimmick make sense. He went against Shawn Nautilus, a native of my own birthplace, West Union, Iowa, and a veteran around the state. He happens to be huge, standing over six and a half feet, so that doesn't hurt. But he's also a pretty solid big man, whether he's working as the straight up evil and angry Nautilus here or the affable Cousin Gator as part of the tag team stable Guns & Beer, which is how I saw him in SCW. Gannon looked like a solid competitor, but sadly this was built to be a show of power by Nautilus. Shawn pretty much ripped him apart before scoring the pin.

Rory Fox targets Jaden Roller's main weakness: his powerful pigtails.
Image credit: Rory Fox on Twitter.
Rory Fox first made a name for himself on an episode of MTV True-Life entitled "I'm a pro wrestler" years before even Tough Enough. Since that time he's worked all across the Midwest, made appearances as a jobber on WWE and pretty much lived the life of a veteran indie wrestler. He's also a native son of Walford, so CEW's visits to the city are homecomings for him. Fox main evented the show against Jaden Roller, accompanied to the ring by his Yum Bucks colleague Energy. Both men are CEW regulars, which made it a bit harder for me to get into this one, even though I knew Fox from an appearance or two on NWL television. They put on a pretty decent match, but without being a regular fan of the company I didn't have the connection to make it feel like a really great main event. I feel a bit bad marking this as the weakest showing of the show, but for me, it just didn't have the fire of the first half of the card.

Overall though, it was a pretty solid two hours of entertainment. One more match might have made me feel like I got my money's worth a bit more, but that's really nitpicking. The show was a solid mix of longtime Iowa talents, CEW regulars and young up-and-comers getting a chance to show their skills to new audiences. That's honestly what great local indie wrestling should be.

CWE next runs their Oskaloosa home base on November 3rd, followed by the planned super show Bridge City Slam in Ottumwa on January 5th. For more on the company, check out their website or social media.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Iowa goes hardcore, or, A series of painful events

On the road to... Pro Wrestling Revolver: Tales from the Ring
Saturday, October 20, 2018, Des Moines, Iowa

The Wrestling Deep End pops in and out to comment on the world of professional wrestling and has now for several months. One thing I hope to re-focus it towards is actual stories about the weird and wild wrestling events that happen throughout Iowa and the surrounding environs. These will be chronicled a day or two later in a series of articles I'm calling "On the road to.." First up, I visited the biggest promotion Iowa has going: Pro Wrestling Revolver.

I'm still not quite sure what encouraged Sami Callihan to bring his promotion Pro Wrestling Revolver to central Iowa. But the Revolver has been going for over a year and a half now. It seems clear that the Revolver has also been a success for Callihan and company, as they promised Tales from the Ring starts regular bimonthly appearances by the company at the historic Val Air Ballroom. The venue has been a live event center for Des Moines for decades and while I've heard of late its lost a lot of the historic concerts it held for years, that it's become a great venue for combat sports or say... professional wrestling.

I've become something of a fan of David Starr in the past year, so I'm not even going to pretend I wasn't excited to see him wrestle in the opening three way dance against Rich Swann and Trey Miguel. The match was treated as a somewhat light hearted contest between three babyfaces, with a lot of fun little spots to warm up the crowd. Miguel was the surprise here to me. I've heard of him a few times, but this was the first time I'd seen him in a full match. He's a great young high flyer and held his own against two way more seasoned veterans.

David Starr and Trey Miguel impressed in their three-way. Credit: Photos by Manning.
Colt Cabana wrestled "Manscout" Jake Manning in a battle pretty much everyone knew going in would be a fun comedy battle. Manning is an Iowa native, so this is something of a homecoming him, but sadly his scout handbook wasn't enough to keep him from a tough fall onto his own pitched tent. And that's no sexual innuendo. He literally brought a tent to the ring that Cabana threw him through before getting the pin, zipping Manning inside and doing his best Undertaker impression.

The tag team title match was a weird mix of talent for me, none of which I have ever seen live. The Rascalz are a pair that I'm still not quite sure why they aren't a regular fixture of any televised wrestling show. Both Wentz and Xavier have made Impact appearances, but neither have been very regular of late, and they've never appeared as a team. Despite that, they are one of the best teams in wrestling today, being both the inaugural Revolver tag champs but also PWG tag champs. The Besties in the World are pretty much known throughout the Midwest, being AAW regulars and dominant in the late, lamented NWL. The Night Ryderz are a team I pretty much only know of by their name, but they looked like beasts against their opponents. With three strike and aerial heavy teams in this one, it proved to be exactly the type of match you would expect from some of the world's best high flyers. The Rascalz came out the winners though, and here's hoping they remain mainstays of Revolver until their inevitable signings at somewhere huge.

JT Dunn and "The Zombie Princess" Jimmy Jacobs wrestled in a Coal Miner's Glove match to close out the first half of the show. Jacobs is pretty much a Midwest legend at this point, but this is somehow the first time I saw him live. Dunn is a Beyond regular and works the smarmy dude gimmick like a pro. He's been known to give lap dances to women wrestlers, so of course he started this battle with one for a Zombie Princess. It ended with a nutshot from Jacobs, and that may have been one of the least brutal spots of a heavy-hitting fight. This basically became a TLC match (albeit with plywood boards instead of actual tables) but it would be the loaded glove that brought the end of the match. Jacobs hit a Superman punch with the glove followed by a spear through another wood board to end the match and send us to intermission. A local favorite of mine with I suspect a huge future in wrestling, JT Energy, even got a shout out from the crowd mid-match, making me really want to see Dunn vs. Energy in a battle of the sleaziest.

Marko Stunt versus Ace Romero. Photographed by Robert "Mouse" Bellamy.
After picking up a t-shirt from the aforementioned Mr. Starr at intermission, I made sure to get to my seat in time for the "David and Goliath" match between Ace Romero and Marko Stunt. I've never seen either in action, but came into this one with an open mind. Romero is a 400 pound, five year veteran that's way more athletic than first impressions might give. Stunt has exploded in the last couple months (even making it to the over budget battle royale for ALL IN.) It's amazing when you consider just a matter of months ago, he was just a random IWA undercarder. But standing 5' 2" and "a lot less" than his opponent in weight, he's a dude willing to take some wicked bumps and pretty much what it takes when you're a talent that makes Rey Mysterio look huge. After starting the bout with a fan-called-for motorboating (look it up, kids) the two men had a crazy fun match, with Stunt taking some brutal hits, but ultimately hitting some fun somewhat-believable spots to end the match with David once again taking the win. OVE came out to give Stunt his props, and offer him any match at the next show. While that show has a Revolver title tournament, I personally hope for Stunt and Romero to continue their act as a tag team against the Rascalz.

Ace Austin defended his Scramble title in the next match, which featured about a dozen folks in all. I understand the idea behind the belt, a way to show off a bunch of young talents fighting for the eyes of fans, but I question its execution. The match was stacked with students of the OI4K Academy understandably, but it bothers me how little local talent they use in the matches. Generally only one or two Iowa talent make it into the Scramble, and this was no different, with former Iowa Hawkeye (and maybe the most active Iowa indie star) Steve Manders and the just freaking huge Chainsaw King (whose resemblance to Chikara's Deucalion is only coincidental I'm sure) as the only Iowa regulars. While SCW was also running on Saturday, it feels like a shame they didn't even invite a single CEW talent into the scramble despite borrowing their cage. Like any scramble match, this was built around people getting their spots in. They stole the TNA gauntlet format for this one with entrances done Royal Rumble style, which pretty much allowed everyone to show off their moves before it became a six way scramble (with both local talents eliminated.) Impact and Highspots regular Caleb Konley stole the win and Austin's title in something of a shock roll up. Konley is a talent that's grown on me since he was an EVOLVE regular a few years back. I'd like them to start building a storyline around the Scramble matches with the more regular bookings and Konley is definitely a great talent to make that happen.

Walter in Des Moines was crazy enough, but to see him against PCO was nothing short of amazing. The two big men have both had star making years, which seems crazy for a 12 year and a 31(!) year vet. Neither man disappointed in a bout built around brutal hits and ring-shaking power moves. In a night built mostly around high flying, this featured a lot more power and technical wrestling, though PCO still flying around like he did ten, twenty or thirty years ago is amazing. Walter ultimately took the win, but PCO was the one we're guaranteed to see the next time around. Jimmy Jacobs booked himself in a battle with PCO at the next show, currently the only announced match for Holiday Hangover on December 29th.

The Cage of Horrors was less an actual cage and more a "let's throw some dangerous things around the ring and two cage walls." But built around two teams and eight exceptional talents, it was never in doubt it would be nothing short of pure insanity. OVE of Sami Callihan, Dave Crist, Jake Crist and adjunct member "Legendary" Larry D took on Team Palmer of Matthew Palmer, Jason Cade, Shane Strickland and a mystery partner. Amusingly, the only man I hadn't seen wrestle in this match was villainous leader Palmer, a former regular around Texas that has been waging war with Sami across multiple Revolver events. Entrances were done War Games style and things kicked off with Jason Cade just brutally opening up Dave Crist seconds after the match began. Crist bled buckets throughout the match, and in a battle with as many chairshots, boards and barbwire as this one, it was maybe the most uncomfortable bit for me.

Rich Swann probed to be the mystery partner, setting him as a new heel for the promotion. I actually quite like Swann as a baddie and he wasn't afraid to get as violent as the more experienced death match wrestlers here. Strickland looked impressive, even if a lot of his high-flying ways were left for other days and other shows. OVE just work amazingly as a unit, something anyone that watches Impact knows, but ultimately the numbers turned against them. With Palmer locking his legs and Strickland putting a crossface on him using barbed wire, Sami tapped to give Team Palmer the shocking win to end the night.

I was a bit surprised by the heels taking the W at the end of the night, but with regular appearances being Revolver's future, it makes a lot of sense to keep the feud between the units alive heading into the title tournament. And with Tommy Dreamer announced to be in the house in two months, I expect more hardcore violence at that event.

It took me a year and a half to finally make it happen, but I can say I'm nothing but thrilled with my first Pro Wrestling Revolver experience. Literally the only complaint I could make was that on a 40 degree Iowa day, the air conditioning was running inside the venue. The place was deathly cold by the end of the main event. Even an hour drive back home at the end of the night with the heat blasting didn't quite get the chill out of my bones.

But that's a small price to pay for great wrestling. Revolver's shows are all recorded by and available from and can be watched on the streaming Highspots Network. Take some time to check them out if you're not anywhere near Iowa (or their alternate home, Dayton, Ohio) but if you are local, their shows are probably the best use of twenty bucks for entertainment anywhere in the state. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Revolver in the next year.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

In the end: thoughts on ALL IN two weeks removed

I talked about the importance of ALL IN a week ahead of the event. Now almost two weeks removed, I finally can talk about ALL IN as an event.

The show started out with an interesting opening bout. MJF and Matt Cross came in without a match and they answered the reason by facing each other one on one. This was smartly done after the Over Budget Battle Royal on the pre-show. The two men played a rather simple story: the cocky heel working the arm against the high flying veteran. But the simple battle allowed them to keep the crowd hot as they built up to a fine shooting star press finish.

The first Bullet Club appearance came from the celebrity wing as Stephen Amell emerged to face Christopher Daniels. Unlike other matches, the announcers over-looked the whole "framed for murder" angle from Being the Elite. Yet the two men spent the match showcasing how naturally gifted Amell is an athlete. His wrestling was far from perfect, but with Jerry Lynn as ref and the ring veteran as his opponent. Ultimately Amell's anger would prove his undoing as he brought a table into the match only to go through it. A Best Moonsault Ever served as the final nail through the coffin to give him his first wrestling loss.

Don Callis left ringside to allow injured Women of Honor Tenille Dashwood and Mandy Leon to join commentary with Ian Riccaboni and Excalibur. This was my first time seeing Dr. Britt Baker in action. Chelsea Green came in working a combination of her indie and her Impact personalities with a great Two-Face look. The veteran Madison Rayne and the arguable queen bee of indie wrestling Tessa Blanchard rounded out the four corner match. Tessa comes off a title victory on Impact just days before, so the young powerhouse already came in with momentum. Yet much of the match served as more of a spotlight for Baker and Green. Those two women seemed the primary focus, with only Rayne getting the short end of the stick in storytelling. Ultimately Tessa powered through for the win and showed why she deserves every ounce of attention on her right now. WWE made a huge mistake not signing her when they could, as I suspect she's going to make huge waves through wrestling into 2019.

Brent Tarring was the only commentator I wasn't familiar with coming into this match. Turns out he worked on OVW, in fact calling Cody's very first match. His arrival served to intensify the big fight feel as we moved into the NWA Worlds Heavyweight title match against Nick Aldis. Both men came with an entourage, Cody with his wife Brandi Rhodes, DDP, Tommy Dreamer and Ray "Glacier" Lloyd. (I won't pretend how happy that last name makes me.) Aldis came in with Jeff Jarrett, Shawn Daivari and two men that have become key to NWA: Tim Storm and Samuel Shaw.

Suddenly the pitch of the arena picked up as a fight months in the making was happening. The announce team and the crowd didn't hide from the importance of Cody making a run at the title his dad held on three separate instances. Instead they pushed that narrative as the two men brutalized each other in a mix of modern wrestling and old school Southern style. Cody wrapped himself in a crimson mask as the two battled, but neither man would fall to the other's finish. Ultimately, he would turn a sunset flip attempt by Aldis into a deep cradle to score victory and become the next NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion.

I've read a few complaints about the placement of this match as fourth on the card, but I really think it serves this bout well. While this is arguably the most momentous match on the card, Aldis and Cody don't bring the insanity of the later matches on the card. Their straight up styles work well together, but would have seemed like a bit of a slow down after any of the other matches on the card. By placing it here, it feels like a huge bout but also sets up the fact that from here out, this is a true supercard, filled with dream matches and big bouts for the rest of the night.

Hangman Page went into easily the biggest match of his career against a star also appearing on his biggest stage ever, Joey Janela. Page admitted publically to the murder of Joey Ryan, a long running story on Being the Elite 48 hours earlier. He expressed a hatred for anyone or anything called Joey. Hangman Page came in as a man possessed. His current storyline might be somewhat silly, but it has done wonders in giving him a full-fledged character to build his character around. He showed that several times in the match as both his boots and the infamous phone found their way into the match. He picked up his win after putting Janela head first through a table.

Of course the story for Page continued as a wall of men in penis costumes opened the return of Joey Ryan. Ryan brutalized Page once again before his army carried him from the arena. That's a sight you will never see in WWE.

Two storylines from Being the Elite combined in the ROH championship match. Flip Gordon snuck into the Over Budget Battle Royal to win his way onto the ALL IN event. Meanwhile, Jay Lethal suffered an injury that caused him to routinely delve back into his Black Machismo personality. Brandi accompanied Flip to the ring, while Jay Lethal came to the ring in a classic Macho Man jacket accompanied by "Leaping" Lanny Poffo, his "brother from another mother". Lethal had some fun character work, especially confusing Brandi for Miss Elizabeth repeatedly. We even gave a few Mega Powers references between the two stars.

And that was really what this match was about. It showed why Lethal deserves far more praise for his work around the world and why Flip deserves a higher place on the ROH card. Ultimately, Lethal retains, which leads to maybe the weakest bonus segment of the night, where Bully Ray assaults both men leading to Colt Cabana coming out and hitting a Shield style powerbomb with Gordon and Lethal.

In a dream match for myself and many others, Penta El Zero Miedo took on Kenny Omega. This one proves hard to describe, but both men brought the A games they were knew for well ahead of this match. Both men destroyed the other, but with the IWGP Heavyweight champion in this battle, the winner seemed clear from the start. Omega hit the One Winged Angel for the decided victory after a hard fought contest.

Of course, his night wasn't done. After the lights went out, Penta was back on his feet, only he grew a couple inches. A disguised Chris Jericho assaulted Omega and landed two codebreakers before he promised to see the champ on the Jericho Cruise.

The semi-main event was designed as a star-maker and Marty Scurll didn't disappoint in his role. He went toe to toe with Kazuchika Okada in an epic encounter that builds beautifully on both men's move sets. The All In umbrella to stop the Rainmaker was inspired, as was Scurll following it up with a Rainmaker of his own. Ultimately, Scurll showed his toughness and Okada took him seriously, as he delivered two straight Rainmakers to get the pin over The Villain.

The main event was truncated for time because of the broadcast, but honestly, it doesn't show. The six men are perfect for a fast paced match, so each team throwing all of their biggest bombs at the others in an eleven minute car wreck actually worked rather well. While I'd like to have seen more spots with Kota Ibushi and the Young Bucks jelling, ultimately they put on an impressive match with Rey Mysterio, Rey Fenix and Bandido.

In the end, I suppose one can look at ALL IN as just another pay-per-view. But it was also a one shot for the ages and a huge money-maker for a ton of talents and a ton of Chicago businesses. It remains to be seen if the event will be repeated next year or not, but I'm hoping we will see it again.

The world needs shows that can rival WWE's draw. Cody and the Bucks proved that was possible without sacrificing great wrestling and solid storytelling.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A veteran, a rebirth and an underdog! The Mae Young Classic lives again!

Image credits for this article:
If WWE has shown anything over the past two years, it is that their tournament events are well worth a watch. Whether it was the Cruiserweight Classic (an event I would like to see again) and the first Mae Young Classic, WWE has proven it can write compelling storylines out of the thirty-two person single elimination tournament.

With the finals announced for WWE Evolution, the show can waste no time with thirty matches to air in the upcoming eight weeks between now and then. With an entirely new (and much improved) announce team of Michael Cole, Renee Young and Beth Phoenix, the call is spot on.

The first round kicks off with Tegan Nox, a British talent with tons of upside that missed the last year to injury, and Zatara, Zartan's evil sister. No, that's Zarana, sorry. The Chilean luchadora Zaranna, one of the best wrestlers in the southern hemisphere. As much as I'd like to see more of Zatanna, this match was a foregone conclusion before it opened. Nox picked up the big win with her shiniest wizard. She moves on to face the winner of Isla Dawn & Nicole Matthews.

The second match brings the first return from the last MYC, Rhea Ripley, the Australian star that was eliminated in a bit of a shock to Dakota Kai. But the young star goes against another very new talent (and a personal favorite of yours truly) MJ Jenkins. This one was really built as a style battle between the fun-loving Jenkins and the intense powerhouse Ripley. Rhea controlled all the early goings of the match, but when Ripley pauses to taunt, it only fires up MJ. Jenkins comes back with some hard strikes of her own. But much like, the previous match, the announce team made the results of this one a foregone conclusion with their heavy focus on Rhea Ripley. MJ Jenkins goes down to a powerbomb, but the knowledge she's now at the Performance Center gives me hopes she can have a bright WWE future. Rhea takes on the winner of Kacy Catanzaro and Reina Gonzalez.

To quote Kid Rock quoting ZZ Top, she has legs & she knows how to use them.

I'm a bit surprised Lacey Lane kept her Ember Moon-esque look, just as I'm a bit surprised they mentioned her Performance Center signing. Vanessa Kraven is just a great power wrestler and against the much shorter Lacey, it creates a fun bout between the two. Vanessa acts as a rampaging beast on the indies, but here she works the more traditional WWE monster style. And despite all the power Kraven brings to the ring, the hometown girl hits a Crucifix Bomb to steal a win from the giant. She'll go on to face the winner of Jessie Elaban and former Undisputed Era dupe Taynara Conti.

The main event of night one pitted the Portuguese Killer Kelly against arguably the greatest still active joshi wrestler in the world today, Meiko Satomura. Killer Kelly is a great talent with a strong future in NXT UK, but seriously, she's facing down Meiko freaking Satomura. I respect the awe all three of the announcers hold for Satomura in their introduction of her, which instantly makes her feel like the big deal she should always be. Yet Killer Kelly was allowed to show how physical she could be, as she delivered some devastating strikes to the joshi veteran. Ultimately though, Satomura showed her fighting spirit and demolished her with a death valley driver a few minutes after hitting the move of the night, a flipping double kick to the back of Kelly's spine. She'll move on to face down one of two veterans in Mercedes Martinez and Ashley (Madison) Rayne. I like Madison, but Meiko and Mercedes has to be a dream match for more than just me.

It takes years to build that level of intensity on a headlock.
Overall, the first episode was very solid. Though the announcers telescoped the winners for eagle-eared fans, they never failed to get any talent's names wrong or forget any moves. Outside a few bad ADR post-recording spots, the first hour of the tournament gave some great wrestling and awesome talent. Like a thousand tournaments before it though, the really story will be to see what comes from the tournament. With Satomura present, it remains to be seen whether WWE will build a relationship with Sendai Girls like it seems to have started with NOAH. Which of the stars from the tournament will immediately hit WWE and NXT television? All that remains to be seen as we have seven weeks of action ahead of us!

What were your highlights from week one of MYC2? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 27, 2018

ALL IN: the most significant wrestling event in the last 15 years

A lot of words have already been written about ALL IN, the Young Bucks and Cody-produced mega-show. It sold an unprecedented 10,000+ tickets, unheard of for an indie show up until this point in history. It continues Nick, Matt and Cody's slow change of how wrestling storytelling works. And its card has been named incredibly underwhelming by a ton of critics.

I'm not going to break down the card too much, because I am not sure I will even be watching the show live on the 1st as I have a bunch of other Labor Day weekend plans. But all the critics that have ran down the card have missed the point. ALL IN sold out its entire ticket base without a single match announced. Just the roster of talent managed to do that. Being the Elite, the weekly show the Young Bucks produce every week, scores over 200,000 views every week from a subcriber list of approximately the same size. All it took was one twentieth of that base to make this event a rousing success.

Of course, those same people might decry that the same feat can't be repeated if ALL IN doesn't produce the biggest card possible. This of course ignores the fact that ROH and NJPW have just repeated the over 10,000 number for yet another show without a single announced talent. That show will come Wrestlemania weekend and will be at a venue that served as a WWE stronghold for four decades, Madison Square Garden. Times are changing, folks.

I question how many of these critics actually pay that much attention to the work the Young Bucks have put into the build on their weekly show. It always seemed likely the card would be built around matches for every member of the show's cast. Hence Cody fighting Nick Aldis for the NWA title, Hangman Page fighting Joey Janela, Marty Scurll getting a match against former IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada, the Young Bucks and Kota Ibushi teaming to take on a lucha trio consisting of Bandido, Rey Mysterio and Rey Fenix, and of course the once in a life time bout between Penta El Zero Miedo and Kenny Omega. They even built a storyline to give Stephen Amell his first singles match ever against a true ring general, Christopher Daniels. Jay Lethal has become a Being the Elite regular of late as well, so his ROH title defense doesn't come as a surprise, nor does the pre-show appearance of ROH stalwarts, the Briscoe Brothers. They built the show around people they know having battles with people fans want to see. And that's just what they're delivering, which is why all the talk of a lackluster card makes little sense.

My pick for match of the night on September 1st.
The measure of success for ALL IN was accomplished way back in July when they sold the show out. By any stretch of the imagination, it has become an important point in the history of the business. It drew interest from Chicago area cable station WGN America, and now has a network broadcast preshow, something no other wrestling company has been able to boast since Heat left Spike TV in 2005. It already looks capable of shattering independent wrestling pay-per-view records as well and ROH has already talked about an uptick in new subscribers for their own streaming channel, which will also air the event.

The show is a success by any metric before a single wrestler steps into the ring at the Sears Centre. Cody and the Young Bucks took a huge gamble, one that looks to pay off in major dividends come September 1st. And they have likely created the possibility of an independent super show for years ahead.

Independent wrestling has never been stronger in the United States. One way or the other, every fan that travels to a bingo hall or community center or armory to see their favorite stars needs to realize what this means for the industry they love enough to support on the smallest level. The sport of kings has a future even without WWE. And we should all be proud of that.