1984 Year in Review: Mid South Wrestling 17.02.1984

Mid-South Wrestling 17.02.1984

As we head to Mid-South, we are met with the tragic news of David Von Erich’s passing in Japan – noticeably, this is the first breaking of the news in any of the 1984 TV I’ve watched due to the nature of the taped TV during this time period. Bill Watts is not in attendance as he is in Texas with the Von Erich family, and the show is commentated on by Jim Ross and Boyd Pierce.

First in action on the show are the Mid-South tag team champions, Magnum TA and Mr Wrestling II vs Tom Lentz and Jerry Gray. Unsurprisingly, the champions control the match; Magnum showing off a backbody drop and a stalling powerslam, whilst Mr Wrestling II used a wristlock to keep his opponent grounded. Inevitably, the champions win, an impressive looking belly to belly suplex enough for Magnum to pick up the victory.

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In terms of in ring action, there isn’t a lot going on in this episode, especially as a large chunk of the show is taken up with footage from the previous week’s TV. However, we do get an intriguing couple of promos from a show ran earlier in the week in New Orleans. As Magnum TA and Mr Wrestling II were set to go and defend the titles, Grizzly Smith informed Magnum TA that he was the new Number One Contender for the North American Heavyweight Title, a fact that saw Junkyard Dog, the champion who was in the locker room as well, congratulate his next big competitor. When asked for his opinion though, Mr Wrestling II was outraged, feeling that Mid-South had passed him over and that he was the man that deserved the shot. In what may be a precursor of events to come, he promised that he could beat both Magnum TA and The Junkyard Dog. A very interesting little angle developing for certain.

The second match of the night was effectively the main event as Junkyard Dog fought Nikolai Volkoff in the 1st round of the TV Title Tournament. With Krusher Darsow in attendance, and a rope in Volkoff’s hand, JYD initially had his chain out to even the score. Terry Taylor, still at odds with the Russians, also joined the Dog down at ringside to even up the numbers game. As the bell rang, Darsow handed the rope to Volkoff, only for Taylor to take it away from him. This distraction allowed JYD to instantly pick Volkoff up and drop him with the Big Bump for the victory and to advance in the tournament. You could argue it is a bit of a shame that a tournament that was designed to offer a better standard of match on TV then delivers a ten second match, but JYD is the hot champion and Volkoff is definitely second fiddle to Darsow when it comes to the Russians. How far the North American Heavyweight Champion will go in a TV Title Tournament remains to be seen.

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This is probably the most exciting NWA debut of the year so far, as we finally get to see The Rock and Roll Express in Mid-South. Dale Veasey, not content with doing job duty in Georgia, partners with Pat Rose, but they are obviously no match for the newcomers. If anything, the speed of the Rock and Roll Express makes some of the moves in the match look awkward, as if the opposing team were really struggling to keep up. It is easy to see why the R’n’R were one of the big teams of the 80s, as they were really different from what a lot of other teams had to offer. I look forward to them crossing paths with the other teams in Mid-South…especially The Midnight Express, naturally.

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As the TV Title match was short, all the following matches were presented as ‘TV Time Limit’ matches, matches that were thrown on the card to fill in the gap. Therefore, it is unsurprising that a couple of these are little more than cheap squashes. Masao Ito is involved in one, as he fights John King. Total domination by Ito, though we finally see him starting to realise that he actually needs to pick up a few victories and DQs will get you nowhere in the long run. A splash is enough for the victory.

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Even after the break down of his previous tag team with Jim Neidhart, Butch Reed seems content to try and make his run in the tag team division work, as he teams with Buddy Landell to meet Lanny Poffo and George Weingroff – the very definition of a plucky underdog team. For a short match, this is fairly competitive, with the speed and agility of Poffo and Weingroff allowing them to occasionally outmatch the heel team. It is arguable that in some areas, Poffo is ahead of his time. It is just a shame that there is an awakwardness to his delivery sometimes that makes his moves look ‘off’ – a dropkick to Reed in the corner that seems to overshoot the target a perfect example.

In the end, Landell hits a cheapshot to the back of Weingroff, allowing Reed to hit him with the flying tackle before Landell lands the exclamation mark with his swinging elbow drop. It will be interesting to see whether this heel team stays together for the foreseeable, as I do like the meshing of character and style that the two bring to the ring.

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The final match of the night sees Krusher Darsow versus Steve Brinson. This, like the Ito match, is little more than a chance to show off Darsow. He controls the match methodically, before making Brinson submit to his over the shoulder backbreaker.

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A decent enough show, though more for the storylines furthered than the action in the ring. The TV Title Tournament is still wide open, yet we have potential dissension amongst the tag team champions and a debut team that are set to really test many of the Mid-South stalwarts in the year to come.

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The Modern Way: Money in the Bank 2015

Maybe it is just me, but I feel like WWE on PPV/supershow are on a bit of a roll. Sure, I’m not going to pretend that everything is mind-blowing and amazing, but they feel a lot more consistent and focused. Additionally, we are seeing matches that are interesting and novel with wrestlers who aren’t always pushed as the top, top guys getting a shot to show the fans what they can bring to the table. This trend continued with Money in the Bank 2015 where, outside of a match or two, everything bought something of value to the table.

Money In The Bank Ladder Match: Kofi Kingston vs Roman Reigns vs Neville vs Randy Orton vs Sheamus vs Dolph Ziggler vs Kane

This type of match is always going to live or die by the quality of the entrants, the quality of the spots, and the mini-storylines that are weaved into the fabric of the match to make it more than just ‘my spot, your spot’. On the whole, I feel like this was a success, with enough going on to keep in interesting for the majority.

Due to the nature of the match, a play by play account would always be difficult, so a focus on key spots is probably the best way to attack this contest. Kofi Kingston is a brilliant heel, breathing life into a character who I couldn’t have cared less for in recent years; his attempts to steal the title at the start, and The New Day run-in to help him attempt to win were two particular highlights. I especially enjoyed the moments that saw Kofi and Neville meet in the ring – one can only imagine the potential quality of a match they might be able to put together.

Speaking of Kofi and Neville, the Kofi/Neville sandwich on the ladder was a good, if a little cringe-worthy, spot. The inclusion of Neville opened up the opportunity for newer spots, highlighted by Randy Orton’s RKO on a falling Neville. Neville is OVER. I didn’t necessarily imagine he would have the same impact on a larger scale, but the crowd feel like they are enjoying him – he has a moveset that is impressive, and a fair bit of charisma to go with it. Hopefully he maintains this upward trajectory. Not to be outdone by the high-fliers, it was hard not to be impressed by Reigns’ no hands dive to wipe out the wrestlers at ringside.

The Wyatt interference was an interesting way to go – Reigns was the expected winner, and to have him cheated out of it, and to then have Sheamus win (with a valiant attempt by Neville to halt the Irishman’s ascension) makes it fairly unclear where they will go with the booking. They need to do more with Wyatt, so maybe a feud with Reigns might offer that opportunity. A Sheamus/Neville feud might not be too bad an idea either – the big bully taking on the young upstart. I’ve seen a mixed reaction to Sheamus since the end of the show, but I personally have enjoyed him as a heel. When the time comes for him to cash in will be the interesting question – I can see him simmering along in the background whilst the inevitable Lesnar/Rollins feud wages on.

Nikki Bella (c) vs Paige for the Divas Title

Once again, I can’t fault what the women in the Divas division are trying to bring to the table in the WWE, yet it still feels a little bit too little, too late. Despite the admirable efforts of Nikki and Paige, an injection of new blood is sorely needed.

Paige’s fiery promo at the start segued nicely into her start in the match as she nailed Nikki with a cannonball senton and an electric chair drop on the barrier outside. However, the majority of the match saw Nikki take control, using a variety of wear down holds to keep Paige grounded. A near fall off of a Ram-Paige following a blocked Rack Attack was a near fall, a moment where I did feel Paige might wrestle the title away from the champion. This seemed the obvious way to go, yet once again, Twin Magic does for the Bellas. A nice little touch with the Dusty Finish, although it would be considered poor booking at any other time – Brie gets pinned by Paige, only for the ref to realise she pinned the wrong Bella. A forearm and a Rack Attack later, Nikki retains the title.

The title needs to come off of the Bellas, but probably not to Paige. Paige needs time to rebuild herself, as she seemingly is always one step behind the Bellas. This could be the perfect opportunity to bring up a woman or two from NXT to bulk out a division that clearly needs some bulking up and revitalising.

Ryback (c) vs The Big Show for the IC Title

As someone who skim reads Raw reports and only really watches the big shows now, this angle doesn’t really make sense to me, and I don’t really get the point of the Miz’s involvement. This is one of the lower points of the show, mainly due to how little time it was actually given more than anything. The ragdolling of Miz at ringside was pretty funny, but the match has barely even got started before The Miz attacked The Big Show to cause the DQ finish. Guess we are heading towards a three way match in the near future – can’t imagine that would offer much more, though Miz as a designated bumper might make the match somewhat more interesting.

Kevin Owens vs John Cena

I think – and as a man whose memory is slowly addling away over time – I preferred this match to the first match. There were elements of the match that genuinely put a smile on my face as I watched – Owens channeling Cena, as well as Cena’s myriad new moves that he busted out to try and defeat the NXT Champion. This made the finisher overkill that I felt in the first match more bearable, as there was another level to the moves that the wrestlers were willing to use to try and get one over on each other. A reverse suplex from Cena was stolen from my backyard wrestling days, clearly, whilst the Code Red, though almost botched, was thoroughly impressive.

The best part of the match was Cena’s obvious desire to win to the point where he was getting in the face of the referee. There has rarely been a wrestler who is able to make a match feel ‘big time’ in the same way that Cena does; from his selling to his mannerisms, Cena makes you know how important the match is.

The later stages of the match started to veer towards finisher overkill again, only for the finish to feel like it came out of nowhere. It felt like it took less in the end to defeat Owens than it had before, though I guess the cummulative effect of all the additions to Cena’s repetoire caught up with Owens. The right man went over in this instance, and we can all prepare for the rubber match. Owens attack after the bell was good heeling, and a way to further make him a wrestler that people want to hate, rather than choose to cheer.

The New Day (c) vs The Prime Time Players

I had conflicting views on this match. I’ve loved The New Day, not having seen their initial stretch were they were getting a lot of X-Pac style heat from fans, yet I also love me some Prime Time Players. I would have liked to see The New Day have a longer run, but with the one man advantage not a factor in this match, the booking did make sense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see The New Day grab another title reign within fairly short order.

As for the match, it was perfectly acceptable wrestling. Darren Young was cut off early, and The New Day worked him over with aplomb. Big E, in particular, is a beast and it is scary to see how strong the guy is. The slapping abdominal stretch was also a thing of genius on his part.

The match centered around O’Neill’s hot tag, and when he got in, he cleaned house unsurprisingly. The Big E spear to the outside on Young did leave the more vulnerable New Day member in the ring and O’Neill finished Woods off with a sitdown spinebuster. Whether The New Day deserved to hold onto the belts for longer or not, it is hard to begrudge The Prime Time Players a run with the tag titles.

Seth Rollins (c) vs Dean Ambrose in a Ladder Match for the WWE Title

You have to admire both Rollins and Ambrose for their ability to work outside the constrains of gimmick matches. The Lumberjack match that looked more like a Falls Count Anywhere match was a starting point, and a Ladder Match that didn’t center at all around ladder spots for the sake of ladder spots was a refreshing difference. That’s not to say there weren’t any, or that the match wasn’t suitably violent – the spots just meant a lot more. I also feel that, after spending a lot of time not really playing to his strengths, WWE have allowed Ambrose a chance to re-build himself into a more legitimate contender. Acting like a face T-1000 will do that for you.

Following initial control by Ambrose, prolonged parts of the match were closer to an assault than a competition, as Rollins destroyed Ambrose’s knee and took every opportunity to brutalise his opponent with chairs and ladders. As a method of building sympathy for Ambrose’s character, the match worked wonders; every time you felt like Rollins had to win, Ambrose was able to fight back for one more opportunity, one more swing at the gold. Rollins’ violence escalated as he got more desperate – the powerbombs into the barricade two particular highlights – and the sitout powerbomb onto the chairs at ringside a particularly violent exclamation point. Yet, Ambrose still managed to fight back.

The close nature of the finish allows the possibility of a return. I’d even argue that the match was booked perfectly from a forward planning perspective – Rollins looks strong because he defeated Ambrose without any Authority help, yet Ambrose is still lurking in the background, ready to become a challenger whenever he needs to be one. They could become this generations’ Dreamer vs Raven, or even Santana vs Martel (…you decide), with a feud that never truly goes away but can be relied on to bring the goods in the future.

Outside of Ryback vs The Big Show, MITB 2015 was a good supershow. Where Ambrose goes from here is the question I’m left with. Rollins vs Lesnar, Reigns vs Wyatt, Sheamus vs Orton/Neville – doesn’t leave Ambrose many options. The momentum has been built, the WWE just need to make sure they don’t let it fizzle out.

WCW Saturday Night Interactive! : 04.05.1996

Marcus Bagwell vs The Giant

With a shortened WCW Saturday Night this week, the options were very much few and far between. The choice of the people ended up being a match between Marcus Bagwell and The Giant – a match that was never originally meant to happen. You see, the initial main event of the evening was due to see Lex Luger face off against the new WCW World Champion, The Giant, in a world title match (The Giant having beaten Flair on Nitro). As the show begins, Dusty and Schiavone are joined by Bagwell, who is there as the proverbial cheerleader, telling the fans that he believes in Luger, even though Luger is going through one of his ‘suspicious face’ runs.

As the main event is due to begin, a visibly concerned Bagwell hits the ring and explains that he hasn’t seen Luger yet. It is hilarious in some ways watching Bagwell play the sympathetic face, as he just has a look that screams heel. Apparently, Luger was a ‘charity golf event’, so that might explain why he is not there. The lack of Luger doesn’t stop The Giant heading down to the ring and demanding a match with Bagwell.

On the recommendation of someone, I’ve started to dig into WCW 1992, and the first show from WCW 1992 saw Bagwell being offered a shot at Steve Austin’s TV Title, turning it down, and getting his ass handed to him by The Dangerous Alliance. Fast forward four years, and little has changed about his character. He still seems very ‘aw shucks’ in his delivery, still the young man who will get there, by gosh. He tries to turn down The Giant several times, before a crack at his courage is enough for Bagwell to take off his waistcoat and meet The Giant one on one.

Considering this is only the third match on the card, and lasts a little over a minute, this card seems devoid of actual wrestling. Bagwell begins by rocking The Giant with several punches, before both men hit the ropes. Bagwell ducks a couple of clotheslines, and launches himself at the big man with a crossbody block. Like a watermelon hitting a wall, Bagwell splats to the ground; The Giant unmoved. Two chokeslams later, and that is the match.

Bagwell is in danger of getting more abuse from the world champion, only for Lex Luger to finally make his appearance, still wearing his golf clothing as Dusty is so helpful to point out. The Giant heads out of the ring, leaving Luger to ponder what might have been over a fallen Bagwell.

Elsewhere on the broadcast – Benoit defeated The Barbarian, The Steiners defeated The State Patrol, and Alex Wright defeated Billy Kidman. Also, I caught a glimpse of the ‘Blood Runs Cold’ promo video, so I only probably have to wait a year for the debut of Glacier.

Making PROGRESS: Chapter 3

PROGRESS hits the trilogy as we enter into Chapter 3. The big names are still there, vying for the right to call themselves the best that PROGRESS has to offer, yet we also get to see some of the best the UK indy scene has to offer enter the PROGRESS ring.

Noam Dar vs Paul Robinson

I think PROGRESS have stumbled onto a great formula here – stick Dar in the opening match for guaranteed gold. He is also guaranteed to get the fans fired up, as they like nothing more than abusing Dar. Paul Robinson, a wrestler I saw in the flesh as one half of the Swords of Essex, is the replacement for MK Mckinnan. I’m pretty happy with this, as Robinson interests me far more than MK. This does mean that the match does, in places, feel like it has been thrown together a little, but with two wrestlers like this, it is definitely a solid outing.

Dar’s assault on Robinson’s knee (and other joints) sees Dar control the majority of the match. The wrist and knee stamps just make Dar look like an arsehole, coupled with such heelish moves as the chewing gum in the mouth and a good old thumb to the eye. The match as a competition picks up as soon as Robinson is able to utilise his speed, nailing Dar with a tope and a springboard forearm. A wheelbarrow kick by Dar is followed swiftly by a superkick from Robinson, and the match is a better offering as they trade moves. The airplane spin/northern lights suplex is dished out by Dar, whilst Robinson nail a picture perfect blue thunder bomb to get a close fall.

In the end, it is the risk taking nature of Robinson that costs him the match, as he lands hard on a missed legdrop off of the top rope. A fisherman suplex, followed by a brutal fisherman buster, isn’t enough for Dar to win, but he grabs a leg on the kickout and locks in the leg grapevine for the tap out victory. Dar is slowly moving up the ladder – does that mean he’ll no longer be in the opening match? Colour me unhappy.

Xander Cooper vs Mark Andrews

In terms of opening my eyes, these two men have arguably impressed me the most, both as characters and as wrestlers. This is for the Scarlo Scolarship title, Xander having attacked Andrews at Chapter 2. There is some fan interaction/stalling at the start, followed by Andrews taking control, utilising his speed to keep himself one step ahead of the challenger in the match. His momentum is stopped, however, as Cooper hits him with a kick to the face, following up with a dual action neckbreaker, the first to Cooper’s knee, the second to the mat.

Cooper controls the match at a more methodical pace, yet never truly looks like he gets Andrews in a position to take the title off of him. Indeed, Andrews is able to fight back, dropping Cooper with several kicks, a full nelson atomic drop (Bubba Bomb) and a springboard crossbody block. Andrews than lands one of the most amazing, yet also confusing, moves I’ve seen in a wrestling ring – a standing 540 (…I’m not good with math, that might be wrong…), landing head and back first on Cooper for a nearfall.

Even though the champion was in control, Cooper opportunistically nailed an STO to allow him to head to the top rope. He missed the resulting moonsault, but then dropped the champ with a violent straitjacket backstabber. Only the champions presence of mind allowed him to keep the belt, as he rolled to the outside. The resultant pinfall was also stopped by a foot on the rope, Andrews too hurt to kick out. Thinking he clearly needed to up the ante, Cooper tried to hit him with an avalanche straitjacket backstabber, only for Andrews to block it, knocking Cooper off of the top. One shooting star press later, and the champion has retained. A good match from two impressive wrestlers who I am really growing to enjoy.

The London Riots vs The Bastard Squad

The Bastard Squad are the team of Danny Garnell and Darell Allen, a name gained via a vote before the card (a very good name at that). Unsurprisingly, with the Riots in the match, the fight starts off with a brawl, The Bastard Squad taking initial control as Allen nailed a nice armdrag followed by a huracanrana. The match heads to ringside, and a Fire Thunder Driver on the floor has Garnell in a lot of trouble, garnering a ‘holy shit’ chant out of the crowd. A chair is stolen by the Riots off of a fan at ringide, only for Allen to hiptoss one Riot into the other, destroying the chair in the process!

As the match settles down, the Bastard Squad take control in the ring. Lynch and Garnell trade chops, before Garnell drops him with a beautiful german suplex and a DDT. Allen uses his speed to continue the charge, knocking both Riots down with a missile dropkick, before monkey flipping one into the other. A standing submission is locked in by Allen, only for a facebuster to finally see The Riots take over in the match.

As I expected when the match was announced, Darell Allen is the face in peril, as we see a second rope foot stomp and an exploder suplex from the Riots. They effectively cut the ring in half, cutting off several attempts by Allen to make the tag. Finally, Allen is able to make the hot tag to Garnell, and Garnell works over both members of the Riots, including nailing a beautiful swinging DDT off of the second rope. A wiffed top rope move by Garnell allows Lynch to nail him with a spear, before launching Allen off of the top rope with an overhead belly to belly suplex.

The ref loses control of the final portion of the match, with all four men fighting around the ring and ringside area. In an attempt to repeat the missile dropkick from earlier, Allen heads to the top rope but is caught coming off by the Riots. Allen is thrown in the air and unceremoniously dumped in a sitout powerbomb. Three seconds later, and The Riots are victorious. Not content with that, they pillmanise Garnell’s leg, before offering up an open challenge going forward. A suitably hard hitting match, with the correct guys going over. It will be interesting to see who they end up facing further down the line.

Jon Ryan vs Jimmy Havoc

Fresh from his defeat against one of his former trainers in Chapter 2, Havoc faces another trainer of his in the form of Jon Ryan. The ring introductions promise no hardcore and no blood, with Havoc also promising in his inset promo to prove how good he is as a technical wrestler. In the early feeling out process, that is exactly what he does, as he has Ryan on the mat (allowing him to give him a quick spoon in the process), before sending him to the outside. As Havoc goes for a tope, however, he gets nailed with a frying pan by Ryan for the DQ victory…

…or at least it seems. Havoc is busted wide open, but grabs the microphone and implores the owner to allow them to continue the match with No DQ rules. With the immortal words ‘fucking kill him’, the match restarts.

What follows is a car crash of brutality and violence, something that I really wasn’t expecting and was hard to watch, yet even harder to look away. Kendo sticks, cheese graters, staple guns, pins and barbed wire are all used to damaging effect. Ryan wipes out an ironing board with a powerbomb to Havoc. Surgical gloves get stapled to both Ryan and Havoc, whilst Havoc also gets a staple shot to the groin for his troubles. Havoc even finds time to whip out a bat covered in nails to further damage to Havoc’s lacerated forehead.

Havoc comes close to victory late on, with a death valley driver onto the thumbtacks getting a close fall, and a double foot stomp onto the barbed wire board. The finish, though, is outrageous. Ryan plants Havoc with a package tombstone piledriver on the nails, before holding on and throwing Havoc head and neck first into the barbed wire board with a wheelbarrow suplex. The three count is inevitable, as is the standing ovation.

That was…different.

Rob Cage vs RJ Singh

After the interval, this match feels like it is designed to be a bit of a break, with the tension and drama of the Havoc/Ryan match still fresh in the memory of the fans in attendance. Cage has a chance to become part of RJ Singh’s team, though he promises to give all Singh’s possessions to the fans if he does. Initially, Cage takes control in the match, using his weight advantage to manhandle Singh. With so many people at ringside, it isn’t surprising when they get involved, Singh dropping a distracted Cage with a neckbreaker.

Still, Cage is able to fight back, hitting a fireman’s carry into a lungblower, a belly to belly suplex and a shining wizard to both Singh and one of his entourage (who I couldn’t quite make out the name of). However, there are two men at ringside watching Singh’s back, and as Cage goes to the top rope and the ref is distracted, The Director pushes Cage off of the top rope. This leaves him easy prey to the Ethnic Submission, leaving Cage no choice but to tap. A decent, if unspectacular match – I’ll be interested to see Singh in matches of more importance before I truly make a judgement on him.

Stixx vs The Lion Kid

A re-match from a surprise upset during Chapter 2, Stixx looks to avenge his defeat against the Lion Kid. He isn’t messing around either, as Lion Kid is assaulted before the bell. The fans in attendance and the viewers are informed that Kid has picked up a knee injury, but has decided to still compete, which sets the tone for what is to come.

What follows is dismantling of Kid by Stixx, with several hope spots from Kid which are made even more difficult to pull off due to the injury. This is a well booked match, as you get to see Stixx do what he should do, brutalise Kid, whilst Kid build real sympathy with the crowd. Stixx wraps Kid up in a single leg crab, swings him around in a single leg swing and even has the opportunity to lock on a top rope anklelock when blocking a comeback attempt by Kid. The closest Kid comes to victory is with two quick flash pins, but it is only a matter of time before he is defeated. Stixx eventually puts Kid out his misery with a crucifix bomb. Whilst not the best match, a well booked match, and a match that rebuilds Stixx, yet also makes Kid look good in the process.

El Ligero and Nathan Cruz vs Greg Burridge and Dave Mastiff (Marty Scurll the guest referee)

The only complaint I have here is that the ending feels all too telegraphed from the start. Ligero is the number one contender to Cruz’s title, so has no real reason to work with him. Also, Scurll doesn’t like Cruz or Ligero, so can only really be a ticking timebomb waiting to go off against the heel team.

Still, with the quality of wrestlers in this main event, the match is good and enjoyable in equal measure. A lot of it does centre around Ligero and Cruz’s lack of team work – Ligero refuses to tag in early in the match, allowing Cruz to be worked over by the two faces. When Ligero finally gets into the ring, he is caught in a stalling suplex by Mastiff, made even worse by Burridge poking him with a foam finger.

I love Mastiff. Big men who can move, but also use their bulk in their offense are some of my favourites, and Mastiff is able do that with aplomb. He drops both men with a double suplex after a failed tag team move, before launching Ligero with a deadlift German suplex. He is stopped with a lungblower, yet later on, manages to block a crossbody block off the top rope from Ligero just by standing there – an excellent spot that got a laugh from me.

Inevitably, Ligero annoys Scurll by pushing him away before hitting Mastiff with a suspended top rope foot stomp. Scurll counts to two, and then refuses to count the three count. Seconds later, he refuses to count a pinfall for Cruz. A miscommunication sees Ligero hit Cruz with a massive superkick and in current Ligero style, he shrugs and walks off. Cruz is out, but a cannonball senton in the corner by Mastiff puts the exclamation mark on the victory for the faces.

With the title match at the next Chapter, there is still time for more Cruz vs Ligero interaction, Ligero interrupting a Cruz promo at the end of the show for a pull apart brawl. The title match should be exceptional.

I felt that this show lacked a little from Chapter 2, though I’ve never quite seen something like Ryan and Havoc. What PROGRESS is doing, whether this show could match up to Chapter 2 or not, is offering shows that are worth watching, and genuinely offer highspots on every card. Onwards and upwards to Chapter 4!

Weird Wrestling from the Interwebs Episode 4: Abyss, SJK, Team Supreme and Matt Hyson vs Steve Corino, Southern Discomfort, Spud and Teddy Hart

Abyss, SJK, Team Supreme and Matt Hyson vs Steve Corino, Southern Comfort, Spud and Teddy Hart

Like most sports, there is always an argument to suggest that wrestling is better served up live than on TV, DVD or streamed into your living room. If ever there was a match that summed up this necessity to be somewhere live, it is the ten man elimination match that headlined 1PW Invincible. Admittedly, I barely knew what the hell was going on watching it with a commentary team; I can only imagine the confusion of a lot of the fans in attendance.

It is fitting, as I attempt to further develop my modern interest in UK wrestling to be taken back, through a randomiser, to one of the bigger players in the Indy scene of the mid 2000s. 1PW were well known for having some of the best UK talent, but also bringing in talent from the US, and this is perfectly highlighted in this most random of elimination tag team matches.

The match actually begins as a tag team encounter: Spud and Teddy Hart vs SJK (Corey Graves) and Matt Hyson (Spike Dudley). It is told to us that Hyson was due to be Spud’s partner in a tilt at the Tag Team Titles, only for SJK to pay him off. In return, Spud hired the walking oven glove Teddy Hart (seriously, his outfit is hideous) to get revenge. The match sees Spud worked over before a spinning DDT allows him to tag Hart. Hart hits the obligatory flying moves (a pretty looking springboard moonsault wiping out both men) before Team Supreme hit the ring. This is followed by Southern Discomfort, then Abyss, and finally by Steve Corino (looking a little on the chunky side). At this point, the smoke in the ring makes it literally impossible to make out what is going on, the referees have no idea what to do and the commentators can’t work it out either.

As the smoke clears, it is decided that this would be an elimination match, with falls counting anywhere. This might as well have been the point where the cameras switch off, as the action is impossible to follow. Luckily for Spud, the highlight of the match is caught as he hit a somersault plancha off of the top of the balcony – a very impressive move in a match that felt too bitty to bring any real quality.

To add to the confusion, Hyson and Abyss start beating each other up, overspill from a TNA feud, and Hyson is eventually pinned off camera after being hit with a Black Hole Slam. We can only guess it is Tracy Smothers who gets the pin, as he then allows himself some time to dance as his music hits. Unsurprisingly, Smothers walks into an Abyss chokeslam to even the match up at 4-4.

Poor Jack Storm. The next elimination has the most painful and cringeworthy move of the night – one that looks like it could have been a lot worse than it seemingly ended up. Chris Hamrick struggled to lift up Jack Storm whilst on the second turnbuckle, but seemingly jumps anyway, planting Storm with a piledriver. It looked rough as hell, and is the end of Storm’s evening. Hamrick doesn’t last much longer, an SJK lungblower followed by an Abyss torture rack bomb doing for him.

Dave Mastiff, in a former life as Dave Moralez, is the next to be defeated, as Hart hits a Sky Twister Press-esque move, before Spud drops the Five Stone frogsplash (great pun) to eliminate both members of Team Supreme. Hart is a little too arrogant though, and instead of pinning SJK after a bearhug into a DDT, he heads to the top ropes. A shooting star press gets nothing but knees, and SJK pins him. To add one last confusing footnote to this match, Corino knocks Harts foot off of the rope during the pinfall.

The world’s biggest Black Hole Slam is enough to pin Spud, Abyss swinging him around a good 7 or 8 times before dropping him. Abyss then seems to disappear, leaving SJK and Corino to duke it out in the middle of the ring. Corino has the upper hand, nailing SJK with a nice suplex and a lariat. As he sets up for another lariat, Abyss returns with a steel chair wrapped in barbed wire. Corino takes a strong chairshot and is busted wide open. A chokeslam onto the steel chair is enough, and almost in a form of poetic justice, we actually miss out on the three count, just to gift wrap the overall confusion of this match for all.

In terms of an interesting line-up, this match has it all. Looking into the future, you have WWE announcers, TNA alumni, some of the cream of UK talent…and Teddy Hart. Yet, as a spectacle, I can only hope that it was better live. It became a rush to eliminate everyone before the end, with no real opportunity to develop anything. There were a few holy shit type spots, but other than that, it was just a confusing mess, that was never really helped by the guys commentating either.

This has always been a match I’d seen on paper and wanted to watch, for many years. Now, I realise that I’d never really missed anything.

Making PROGRESS: Chapter 2

There is an unwritten rule that anyone who is interested in media of any form generally understands; the sequel is often worse. However, there are exceptions to the rule (Aliens, Terminator 2, Rocky 3/4, Empire Strikes Back – all arguments that could be made, not necessarily my opinion). To that list, you can add PROGRESS Chapter 2, as they were able to take the blueprint of the first chapter and cram the show full of even better matches, characters and gimmicks to make it head and shoulders above the first show – and the first show was pretty damn awesome.

Without further ado, here is my review of Chapter 2.

Stixx vs The Lion Kid

The best thing about this watchthrough of PROGRESS from the start is the opportunity to see new talent from the UK that I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing before. In the opening match of the night, both wrestlers are new to me; a rugged heavyweight with a hairy chest called Stixx, and a skinny guy dressed in his pajamas called The Lion Kid (having looked him up on Twitter, I can say now that the outfit has definitely improved).

There are one of two ways matches like this could, and arguably should, go. You either have the bigger guy steamroller the little guy, or the plucky underdog winning from fighting underneath most of the match. Luckily, we are treated to the former. Stixx has a range of excellent power moves, and after falling victim to a 180 degree huracanrana, takes over with a ringpost powerbomb after catching a leaping Lion Kid. Stixx bullies the smaller man, stamping on his hands and throwing him around the ring with ease. I particularly liked the backbreaker into a gut breaker, as well as the crossbody into the corner, Stixx showing good agility for a man his size. Naturally, all of Kid’s flurries involve him using his speed to counter the power of Stixx, and he lands a nice double springboard dive and a flying headscissors off of the top rope. Finally, The Lion Kid is able to outsmart Stixx, locking him up in a pinning combination for a surprise (at least in my eyes, as I expected Stixx to win) victory. A good start to the show, and the precursor to string of well booked matches that persists throughout the card.

Wild Boar Mike Hitchman vs Mark Andrews (champion) BWC Scarlo Scholarship Title Match

For me, this match might have stolen the show. Maybe it was based on my expectations – neither of these men have ever crossed my radar before – and it isn’t a knock on any of the other matches, but these two just tore the house down in my eyes. Polar opposite in looks; Mike Hitchman’s long haired stockiness matched up against Mark Andrews’ finessed physique and (arguable) good looks.

The men exchange holds at the start of the match, which surprised me due to my unfair expectations based on Hitchman’s looks – I just didn’t expect him to be a particularly technical wrestler truth be told. However, he is very technically sound and the men show that they are both equally adept when it comes to grappling. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting back into watching the UK Indy scene is when I see new spots, or old spots I haven’t seen for a while, and I got a cheap laugh out of Andrews tripping Hitchman on the drop down, a move that I think should happen more often (though we do see it later on in this show as well)

Andrews takes control, and nails a perfect looking apron moonsault. In terms of looks and polish, Mark Andrews feels like he has something going for him with regards to his wrestling future (a statement backed up by his recent work with TNA). Hitchman is no slouch though, and when he takes over, he takes over. An apron DDT is the start of a string of power moves designed to wrestle the title away from Andrews; he nails him with strikes and a beautiful dragon suplex after reversing a pinfall. Andrews gets short-lived respite following a Kidman-esque powerbomb reversal, but Hitchman is not to be denied, nailing Andrews with a spear in the treee of woe position, a turnbuckle exploder and a package piledriver that I thought would be the finish.

Showing the mark of a true champion, Andrews is able to dig deep and fight his way back into the match. It looks like he has made the ultimate mistake when he riskily attempts a shooting star press that misses, but Hitchman is punished for going to the well one too many times, a package piledriver being reversed by Andrews to allow him to retain his championship. His celebration is short lived however, as Xander Cooper runs in – connecting the dots, I can only assume that they are feuding since Andrews seemingly took his title away. Later in the show, it is announced that the two men will meet at Chapter 3 – a great match in the offing there.

Naom Dar vs Darell Allen

It is good to get an opportunity to see both men again – game losing efforts the order of the day in Chapter 1. My suspicions about Allen are confirmed early on, as he did dislocate his shoulder on the over-rotation of his 450 splash in the triple threat from Chapter 1; indeed, his arm is still taped up. Dar is his usual charming self towards the crowd, and this should be fun.

Dar does the little things incredibly well to help build his character and create heat. His interactions with the crowd and the biting and joint manipulation of Allen makes it incredibly easy to dislike him, even with a local boy opposite him in the ring. The majority of the match focuses around Dar attacking Allen’s legs, setting him up for his leg grapevine finisher. Similar to The Lion Kid, I feel Allen works best as a plucky underdog, and this is the position he is booked in throughout this match. Dar is aggressive, headbutts and strikes peppering Allen’s body and kicks to the knee used as a quick way to stop Allen getting any momentum.

Only when Dar is disgusting enough to try and stick his chewing gum in Allen’s mouth do we see Darell begin to fire up – he positively nails Dar with a superkick to the back of the head. His comeback is short lived however, and Dar smashes Allen’s knee with a top rope foot stomp. A kick to the face is followed by the leg grapevine, leaving Allen little choice but to tap. A decent match, booked smartly to really play to the strengths of both men.

Jimmy Havoc vs Danny Garnell

In my time reading about PROGRESS, the name that has constantly come up is Jimmy Havoc. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to see him in the ring as he goes up against his trainer, Danny Garnell. Once a spoon is removed from Jimmy, we are able to begin.

The trainer/trainee relationship gives us a good built-in storyline, as Garnell outwrestles Havoc in the opening, and a couple of comedy spots have Garnell talking Havoc through spots. The first meaningful moves see Havoc launch himself over the top rope, showing agility that is deceptive for what appears a bigger guy than some of the high-flying wrestlers on the roster.

The match is made by Havoc’s bumping and Garnell’s willingness to chuck him around the ring. A stiff as hell clothesline shows a sign of things to come, and after a suspended 2nd rope DDT, Havoc is nailed with a release German suplex, a half nelson suplex, and a spiked snapmere, all bumps taken neck/head first. I cringed and popped all at once – then tweeted Jimmy to offer him up my kudos. It was an insane sequence of moves from Garnell, and an insane willingness to sacrifice your body by Havoc.

Havoc also brought his own moves to the fight, a particularly pleasing lungblower from the second rope the highlight. I also liked his use of the crossface – whilst Havoc was a fan favourite, the crossface is an easy heel submission and could transition into an important facet of his repertoire if/when he turns heel. The trainer/trainee relationship is evident in the finish, as Garnell rolls through the crossface and pins Havoc for the three count. A very good match, and I look forward to seeing more from Havoc. Garnell, for his credit, more than held up his end of the bargain also.

The London Riots vs Velocity Vipers

I’ve seen TLR once before, and they offer a fairly no-nonsense approach to tag team wrestling. The Vipers are new to me as a team, though I was surprised to see Will Ospreay, who I know better as one half of The Swords of Essex. Ospreay is a wrestler that continues to grow, so it is interesting to see him still quite early on in his career.

This is always going to be a question of speed vs power, highlighted early on by Esmail’s somersault senton over the top rope. Power initially wins out, with Ospreay rocked with an uppercut as he tries to join Esmail in flying out of the ring. A slam that lands Viper on Viper further cements Riots’ control. They continue to bully the smaller Vipers, and even a ‘house on fire’ tag to Esmail is cut short with a superb spear by Lynch.

The match is unfortunately disrupted (possibly also cut short) by an injury to Esmail, who lands awkwardly following an exploder suplex. As he is carried to the back, Ospreay begins his comeback, getting a near fall with a Code Red and using his speed to take it to the bigger men. He takes one too many risks however, and misses an impressive double rotation moonsault. This leaves him easy prey to a Riots lariat, and the Riots pick up the victory. A match that was building up nicely – shame about the injury curtailing the latter end of the match.

El Ligero vs RJ Singh vs Greg Burridge to become Number One Contender to the PROGRESS Title

Whilst is does feel a little bit arbitrary as to why this is a Number One Contender match, it does promise excitement with a nice mix of styles and gimmicks on display. Burridge is hilarious throughout the match, his jokey nature possibly detracting from a very impressive technical style. RJ Singh and his entourage is the easy heel for the fans to dislike, and eats some double team action from Ligero and Burridge early on. Burridge even finds time to whip out his dice, only to be on the receiving end of a tag team testicular claw.

An STO from Singh is soon followed up by a Burridge corner clothesline, knocking Singh off the apron whilst nailing Ligero across the chest. The match is a mile a minute, and even RJ’s entourage takes the brunt of some attacks, the Director getting face humped by Burridge and his furry dice, whilst Ligero lands an expert somersault plancha to take out both men in the entourage.

As the match heads towards a conclusion, we get another cheap laugh as Singh locks on the ‘ethnic submission’: the camel clutch. His attempts to win by submission are thwarted, and it is Burridge who gets closest to taking the victory, locking Ligero up in a beautiful submission. This isn’t enough, and it is Ligero who takes the victory, a cheeky handful of tights a surprising addition to the pinning combination. Even Ligero is willing to go to extreme lengths to get a shot at the PROGRESS Title.

Nathan Cruz (champion) vs Marty Scurll in a Two out of Three Falls match for the PROGRESS Title

The two men who duked it out in the Fatal Four Way at Chapter 1 are back to main event Chapter 2 as Marty Scurll aims to wrest the title off of Nathan Cruz.

As the shows progress, my notes tend to get shorter and shorter as I want to focus on what is going on. This is never looking to be a play by play run through of everything that happens, but certain spots are worth mentioning. Both men trade holds at the start, with Scurll coming out on top and bossing the early stages of the fight. A missed suicide dive (which looks like it takes out a few audience members ) turns the tide, allowing Cruz to get back into the first fall – a slingshot back suplex a particularly clever twist on an oft-used spot. When Scurll takes back control, he shows off his strength with a stalling suplex that has Cruz in the air for fifty seconds! There is continued back and forth which leads to a brawl on top of the turnbuckle. Scurll, rocking Cruz with strikes, drives him into the mat with double knees off of the top rope in an awesome looking spot, leaving him easy prey to the Hangover, putting Scurll 1-0 up.

The second fall is all Cruz. He isn’t a flashy wrestler, but what he does, he does well. The fall is built around Cruz’s attempts to get Scurll counted out. There are a few teases of this finish, none closer than when Cruz hits a fireman’s carry slam onto the sound desk. With the help of the fans, Scurll is able to beat the count (I’d even pre-emptively noted this being the countout to make it 1-1 – hastily crossed out following Scurll’s return). Finally, Cruz is able to reverse a Scurll attack and plant him with a tombstone. 1-1 and we head to the final fall.

The last fall shows each man moving through the pain and the tiredness to try and get that final pinfall or submission that is needed. Tired strike exchanges show each man summoning up that last ounce of energy to take out the other guy. A teased Double KO follows, both men eventually up at 9. Cruz shows that he would do anything to keep the title, low blowing Scurll before getting near fall from a German suplex. A following release German suplex just seems to piss Scurll off, the challenger rushing Cruz and slapping on the figure four. Cruz is so desperate to win, he even uses the referee as a shield to block a flying attack from Scurll. With the ref out, he plants Scurll with a fireman’s carry into a sitout slam, before grabbing a chair to put the finish beyond doubt. The number one contender, El Ligero, heads to the ring to stop this nefarious assault, grabbing the chair out of Cruz’s hands. A superkick from Ligero misses his target, nailing Scurll in the face…and Ligero shrugs and walks off! Cruz, ever the opportunist, pins Scurll and the groggy referee has another wherewithal to slap the mat three times, giving Cruz victory in his first title defence,

Every match brought something to the table on his show – there were no duds. From Hitchman and Andrews tearing the house down, to the PROGRESS debut of Jimmy Havoc and the El Ligero heel turn (?…if that is what we saw), the show begins the build to Chapter 3 nicely – and I, for one, look forward to watching.

Building an Empire: Episode 5

We return for another episode of the column that looks at the development of the WWF as they looked to take over the world on the shoulders of Hulk Hogan. When we last left off, Hogan had been involved in a couple of battles with The Masked Superstar, but two bigger challenges stood on the horizon for the champion: ‘Mr Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff and Big John Studd.

Vince McMahon is initially joined by Hulk Hogan before what would arguably be the biggest defense of Hogan’s WWF Heavyweight Championship tenure against Paul Orndorff. Hogan is on fire for this short promo, talking about how he has been ‘hanging and banging’ in preparation for the match, and that MSG is his place and Orndorff isn’t ready to take him on.

I’m looking forward to seeing more Hogan vs Orndorff matches across this project, as I feel that they have really good chemistry – not only from this match, but from other (higher profile) matches I’ve seen the two have. It helps because the WWF position Orndorff almost as Hogan’s equal. Whilst the matches against The Masked Superstar never had a clean finish, Hogan never seemed in danger of being defeated. Against Orndorff, that threat seems all too real. He has the physicality to match up against Hogan, coupled with a sounder technical game which makes him a real threat. For a ten minute match that doesn’t do anything above and beyond what you’d expect, it just feels bigger than anything Hogan has been involved in so far. When Orndorff drops him with the piledriver, fans in attendance worry that Hogan will be defeated and lose the title. Though I’d normally hate the idea of a man kicking out of a piledriver, Orndorff’s cocky nature before the pin adds some kayfabe understanding to why the piledriver doesn’t put Hogan away. A second attempted piledriver is reversed, the back body drop sending Orndorff outside to the concrete floor. A ten count later, Hogan has retained his title – but nothing is truly settled. A return match has me excited, and this happened almost thirty years ago!

A bloodied and bitter Orndorff with Vince McMahon claiming a conspiracy and a slow count on the pinfall after the piledriver. The blood coming from the mouth adds to the promo, and we know that we haven’t seen the last of this feud.

Almost a month without any action, we get an update on Hulk Hogan’s popularity. Vince McMahon tells the fans that ‘Hulkamania is running wild’, and it is hard to argue, as we see video footage of the crowd reaction when Hogan comes down to the ring to fight The Iron Sheik for the WWF Title.

Meanwhile…

Whilst this column has mostly looked at Hulk Hogan, we begin to see the segue into the build for Wrestlemania 1, even this far in advance. Naturally, Hogan eventually becomes a huge part of the build for the event. However, the wheels are set in motion by one of the most famous angles in wrestling history.

I’ll be honest, this is the first time I’ve ever watched it in full. What makes this angle work, a subtle little thing, is the dropping of the coconuts on the table by Piper. I’ve always assumed that they coconut must have been doctored in some way, but this little act adds that suspension of disbelief that wrestling angles always need. He drills him with the coconut, and the fall through the backdrop always looks arguably more painful. The racial element of the promo is uncomfortable, but is understandable during the time period, and we are left hoping that Snuka gets his hands on Piper sooner rather than later.

Heading back to Hogan, and we see a clearly irate champion talking to Mean Gene Okerlund. It isn’t quite clear as to what he is referring to, but he promises Okerlund and the fans watching that he could beat Studd. During the interview, mention is made of a match between Hogan and Studd that will be set in a fifteen foot high steel cage. Hogan also addresses a lot of his vitriol at ‘Rodney’ Piper, seemingly Roddy’s evil twin brother. The first potential chink in the armour of the champion?

Whether it is the first major chink in the armour of the champion or not, we do see his first loss in highlight form. Having hit Studd with a big legdrop (using the ‘wrong’ leg, which makes it look more painful if anything), Hogan follows him out to ringside after Piper pulls his charge to the floor. Not content with posting Studd, Hogan begins to beat on Piper, allowing Studd to roll back in the ring and pick up the victory by countout. Hogan eventually runs Piper and Studd away from ringside, and is outraged when he realises that he has lost. An interesting finish to the match, although it is hard to gauge the quality of the match from such a short cross section. I do feel that Studd doesn’t look as impressive in size and stature when he stands next to Hogan, which fairly negates the idea of him as a giant. However, I also believe that a more mobile Studd (considering I’d only seen him a couple of years after this) is much more entertaining prospect.

Following the announcement of the cage match, there are two ways an interview with the heel could go: they could be happy or scared. Piper and Studd going the scared route is funny, neither man happy that Studd might end up falling off of the top of a 15 foot high steel cage. Piper’s high pitched squeal perfectly gets across how put out he feels by this, though they finish the promo promising to defeat Hogan and take the title.

Another match where we only see highlights, which is a bit of a shame as I would like to have seen more. What we do get is sections of what looks like a heated, engaging brawl. Unsurprisingly, it is the race for the door rather than a race to exit over the top rope that becomes the order of the day, Studd consistently being stopped from making his way outside of the ring by a Hogan that was clawing onto his title by his fingernails. Both men bleed heavily, adding to the drama. The ending comes a bit out of nowhere, as Hogan drops Studd with a clothesline, nails the big legdrop and heads out of the door. It feels like his finishing sequence is still yet to be fine tuned in the same way it was in a few years time. Studd isn’t completely out of it, and grabs at Hogan’s feet, only to eat a couple of vicious boots to the face. Hogan exits the cage and wins the match, only for the brawl to continue outside of the ring. As far as booking goes, I liked this – it keeps Studd still a viable contender, yet gives Hogan a big victory. Believe me, we’ll be seeing a lot more Hogan vs Studd as this column progresses.

That’s it for this week – Hogan’s two big feuds are simmering away nicely, but there are yet more names on the horizon waiting to take him on. Who will be able to stop The Immortal One?