Two weeks later, the dust has settled… just about. So, what was there to be learned from the insanity of WrestleMania weekend? Apart from “please don’t run so many shows next year”?
Last year, we thought our schedule for WrestleMania weekend was insane – looking at eight live shows and a handful of others that were released on-demand pretty quickly afterwards. Of course, we’d go overboard, covering 22 shows in full across “WrestleMania week”, which still felt like we were scraping the tip of the iceberg.
Well, the big surprise for me was just how smoothly the IWTV.live (formerly Powerbomb.tv) service ran all weekend. Whereas the WrestleCon and WWN shows had their share of technical issues (with WrestleCon losing one of their more anticipated matches due to the internet in the building dropping; while WWN’s live streams throughout were plagued with dodgy camera and horrible sound quality at times). All of the IWTV.live shows were available for replay pretty damn quickly, to the point where you probably wouldn’t have needed to buy their shows on Fite “just in case”.
Elsewhere on the streaming side, it wasn’t a good night for the NJPW World service, as their platform struggled under the weight of the traffic they received for the G1 Supercard. We ended up giving up and going to our Fite order (which was fortunately included in the Fite Fest package), since the NJPW World stream was a good minute behind the Fite stream while somehow being blocky and full of buffering.
When there’s so many shows and not enough time to sit down and write them all up how we’d like, it’s a shame to just let them go to waste. Especially since we paid for the Fite Fest packages…
So, rather than not watch them, here’s our picks for the best of the rest of the shows we’ve not gone into.
Alexander Dean vs. J-Money – both these guys are from Ireland, and have been touring this match lately, including with a stop at the now-defunct NOVA Pro. Dean’s got a size advantage on Money, who wrestles with money stuffed into his tights for the whole match, all the way through to a nice victory roll finish.
Kevin Blanchard vs. Ophidian – not a world-beater of a match, but something very solid on a show which I came in with no expectations for.
Nick Gage vs. Matt Tremont vs. Green Phantom – I had to laugh at Phantom coming out and just doing his usual entrance while Gage was gnawing away at Matt Tremont. Things break down quickly as all three brawl in the seating area, with Gate throwing a tonne of tied-together chairs as the seating area suddenly became standing room only. Just be warned, this gets gruesome, because of course it does. You’ll never look at a carving fork the same way again.
As for the rest of it… it’s fine, but nothing you’d probably need to see, unless you’re on a quest to watch everything that makes tape. You know who you are!
WrestlePro vs. CZW
We were going to do a full review of it, but the “big lads three way” completely killed us. Which is a shame because the opener was decent (Matt Macintosh vs. John Silver).
This show had a few production issues, mostly when it came to the entrance and lower-third graphics (“Johhny Silver”, “KC Navaro”, “Jaxson Stone”, “Garry Jay”) – it’s hard to mess up so much when there’s so many resources available to double check. Like the guys themselves. Also, why the hell do you have a big video screen but only use a small bit in the middle? Pull the projector back and fill the screen! That was a bugbear across all of the shows at Rahway…
Leyla Hirsch vs. Kris Statlander was a match of two of the hottest tipped women on the US indys… problem is, they’re both on rather different trajectories due to how they’ve been aligned. Hirsch has a MMA gimmick, which means that there’s a lot of strikes and submissions… but not all of them look to land flush, and it wasn’t enough to get past a package tombstone. Decent, but out of this weekend, Statlander’s built up the most buzz.
Craig Steel vs. Matt Tremont was very plunder-iffic – but a match that just went way too long for an indy arena brawl. DJ Hyde vs. Anthony Bowens made me Google “what is a 5 tool player”, and wish that WrestlePro had booked him against someone who could actually go. It ends with a run in from some House of Glory guys as commentary feigned an invasion angle. Which I probably would have cared about had I been a regular CZW watcher. Seemed like the crowd didn’t give a toss either.
Overall, for a co-pro “battle”, this was a card that felt horribly unimportant and will be forgotten by most until they look for something new to poke fun at CZW with.
Impact United We Stand
Apparently live, this was a hoot to be at, with over 1,000 fans in attendance. Shame the crowd micing didn’t make it sound like that…
The opening Ultimate X was fine, but it perhaps would have been an idea to illuminate the X – or at least have it not so dark a colour it was hard to see! Production issues seemed to be prevalent, as backstage video was about a third of the volume as “live” stuff.
Rich Swann vs. Flamita started out fine, but for some reason the pace slowed down from that of a sprint to that of a common or garden PPV-length match… while still staying short. Jimmy Havoc vs. Sami Callihan was exactly what you’d expect, complete with your favourite, gruesome Havoc spots. On the whole, this was a decent enough show, but if you’re still averse to Impact after years of prior regimes, this isn’t going to pull you back in…
HOG Culture Clash 19
A sold out show here in Jamaica, NY, with a local promotion pulling the punters in… a Casket match is a weird choice of an opener, but it was a plunderiffic exhibition of two of their own. God damn that brainbuster onto the top turnbuckle by Smiley on Leroy Green though… and God damn the multiple buckle bombs, including that one that turned into a power bomb throw onto the walkway… Anthony Gangone’s rappers (and his Damien Demento-esque shoulder pads) are a sight, while his match was solid, even if we had to have the cheap finish against Robbie Eagles.
Yeah, it was a bit distracting hearing a discount Gilbert Gottfried on commentary…
The wacky LAX & Low-Ki vs. Muta, Penta and Tajiri match could have been an utter disaster, but was largely enjoyable, especially with Muta getting all his mists in to beat Low Ki. As for the rest, there’s not much that’ll grab you. Moving on…
AIW Slumber Party Massacre
On the whole, one of the better of the “in brief” shows we caught, but there is one match you need to drop everything and see, especially if you got this in a package and haven’t seen it yet… Dominic Garrini vs. Joshua Bishop. Basically an I Quit match that gets extra bloody, extra quickly, as Bishop brought some railroad spikes and used them on Garrini’s cauliflowered ears. Heck, there’s skewers to the ear too, which shot away the “hey, he looks like a Tough Enough-era Matt Cappotelli” vibe I got from Bishop… I’m not one to be won over by plunder matches, but if we were throwing stars at this, it’d be an easy ****.
Eddie Kingston vs. Shinjiro Otani is a weird choice of a match for this show, but it ended up being a bit of a cracker if you can get past the slow start. Both men end up throwing some bombs, but it’s that German suplex from Otani at the end that ended up really doing it for me!
Colt Cabana & Ethan Page vs. Space Monkey & MJF “Cabana” is a match that looks so weird on paper, but there’s comedy throughout as they play up the “MJF is Colt’s son” comedy that’s been played throughout the midwest. And, of course, “you are my sunshine”…
I know we’re not the only one who left this show until last. EVOLVE’s reboot in late 2018 really pushed the promotion away from our consciousness, and no, it’s not down to their use of folks who struggled to make NXT TV.
On this show, EVOLVE leaned in on that NXT relationship, as well as the presence of some DDT folks… but perhaps opening the show with Adrian Jaoude isn’t such a good idea if you aren’t the hardest of the hardcores? Anyway, he opened up against Harlem Bravado, which isn’t my idea of a hot opener. Jaoude won by submission, but showed little to make you think he’s troubling Full Sail anytime soon.
Curt Stallion, a recent WWN signee, got an entertaining squash in against Kazusada Higuchi… but Higuchi’s match against JD Drake on the other WWN show is so much better. You know what WWN could do here but not on any other of their shows? Patch in pre-tapes into the live feed – they had one here of Josh Briggs’ nasty injury on the last show. Beaver Boys vs. Leon Ruff and AR Fox continues Ruff’s growth in EVOLVE – having signed a deal, Gabe looks to be putting focus on him.
Unlike Darby Allin, who was on the outs with WWN this weekend… and despite having a blood feud against Anthony Henry (who looked like a grown up Darby with his facepaint), this just felt rather pedestrian at times, with a series of stomps to the head being what put Darby away. One day someone will put together a list of guys Gabe’s had and not done much with… and it’s going to be rather impressive. For some.
The rest of EVOLVE’s show is hit and miss – if you’re able to get past the “like hell are EVOLVE putting any of their titles on outsiders” thing (yes, I know the SHINE title traded hands later, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish), this isn’t too bad a card. Problem is, if you didn’t see EVOLVE live, you’re probably not watching this show, especially since they’ve already run again since ‘Mania weekend.
Outside of the “big boys”, on the whole the folks you expected to succeed did: those promotions who brought an authentic product to town mostly hit a home run. Your DDTs, your wXws, your Rev Pros… the big downfalls came from the copycats. Whereas the WrestleCon SuperShow works well since it’s the original, the US vs. The World card largely felt like an unneeded add on, while the Joey Ryan Penis Party came across like an uninspired attempt to cash in on the Joey Janela shows. While they didn’t go overboard on the theme, the show just felt like “another WrestleCon Supershow, but with penis costumes”.
Unlike last year, we didn’t end up getting sick and tired of any particular venue… I still shudder at the thought of the Ponchartrain Civic Centre. Across the venues that were used repeatedly, The Collective’s venue looked impressive from the off, but some of the lesser-attended shows exposed the set-up pretty badly – particularly when the stage seating was barely used. That being said, for fuller shows, the White Eagle Hall came across like a cauldron.
WrestleCon’s Hilton venue looked decent this year, but all of the WrestleCon shows were riddled by sound issues. Mostly, the fact that the crowd’s sound barely registered on VODs, which meant that a lot of these shows came across a lot colder than they were apparently live. It was an ongoing issue for a lot of shows, and hopefully something that can be taken away for 2020’s weekend.
Rahway’s Rec Centre is a long-standing venue for wrestling, and on the whole it was fine. Nothing spectacular, but perfectly serviceable for the shows they ran… Ditto the NYC Arena that STARDOM, HOG and others ran… La Boom’s a reliable venue for WWN, and it was no surprise that it came over well on TV this year. Only problem was, some of WWN’s live streams looked like crap, regardless of whether you streamed live or used Fite TV. Yet again, another reason why a sizeable group will do anything to avoid WWN’s streaming platforms on high traffic weekends…
So there we have it. Way too many shows that streamed live for any one man to consume in a weekend… and we managed to cover it all without even referring to IPW reportedly drawing only a dozen fans. Ah, god-damnit…