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.