The final show before WrestleMania saw FIP serve up a snappy, but great card of action at the Hardy Tailgate party.
Yes, we buried FIP for their reboot in January – deservedly so – but this show was like night and day to that chaotic show. We opened with some slightly Broken Hardys in the ring, complete with some cheap shots (that are awkward in hindsight) at the Meekmahans. Misdirection! Brother Nero sings the Obsolete song, and that’s your cheap pop over with.
We get a parental guidance warning ahead of the start of the show, which was labelled as SADDLE UP on the graphic despite the company calling it Establish Dominance everywhere else. Your ring announcers are Kaci Lennox and Timothy Barr (or Baaa, as the on-screen font they used really can’t distinguish between capital A and Rs), and yes, Timmy’s still a sweary, star-rating troll, to the point where Kaci seems a little uncomfortable.
Uncle John’s Friends (Sami Callihan, Dave Crist, Jake Crist & AR Fox) vs. Keith Lee, ACH, Michael Elgin & Sammy Guevara
Uncle John’s crew was swelled by the addition of Jake Crist here, whist Darby Allin was forced to watch from ringside due to injury. Priscilla Kelly – she of Austin Theory stalking on the EVOLVE/WWN shows – was also there, with an upside down crucifix on her forehead.
Sammy Guevara’s crew was accompanied by Aria Blake, whilst the camera showed us the two big lads tentatively negotiating down those same rickety “steps” that ACW used earlier in the day.
This was the main event, so FIP’s pulling a Saturday Night’s Main Event on this Sunday afternoon, and this match started with all eight men ripping into each other from the off, before we settled down to Fox and Elgin in the ring, with Elgin decking AR with a discus punch. Big Mike takes an enziguiri before diving AR one of his own as a slingshot into a slam follows.
Jake Crist comes in and hits a neckbreaker before ACH took a break from his anime to hit a double stomp on Jake, only to take a stunner and an RKO from his brother Dave. Keith Lee keeps up the spots with a massive pounce on Dave, before Sami Callihan decides to boot him hard in the face.
Guevara takes a backdrop to the outside by Callihan as a series of kick leads to a Jake Crist tope into a table. A Space Flying Tiger Drop sends Guevara to the floor, as AR measured up for a tope con hilo of his own! Oh my God, Big Mike’s gonna fly… but Priscilla Kelly gets in the ring to stop him… Aria Blake distracts Kelly, and we end up with Priscilla being powerbombed onto the pile on the floor!
Aria and Priscilla fight to the back – going up those makeshift steps – as Callihan and the Crists worked over Elgin on the inside, but Mike ends up overcoming them all with a double suplex before AR Fox joined Jake with the Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo. Callihan kicks Elgin and goes for a Go To Sleep, before Keith Lee invited Sami to Bask in his Glory. Which in this case was a double axehandle to the chest of the sometimes-Spacecat.
Guevara rushes back with a shooting star press to Dave, but AR Fox kills Sammy with an Ace crusher out of the corner. Fox’s crossbody’s caught and rolled through by ACH, who goes all John Cena on us, but now Jake hits an Ace crusher and some kicks as the spot fest rolled on! The Crists tried to take on the big men, but ate a Super Collider and some superkicks instead before Guevara flips himself into a spike tombstone for the win. That was nuts, and quite great – spotfests can be hit and miss, but this was a LOT of fun. Go out of your way to see this! ****¼
FIP World Heavyweight Championship: Dezmond Xavier vs. Fred Yehi (c)
Fred Yehi heads through the crowd, rather than deal with those steps, and we start with Xavier swerving away from some holds from Yehi… then some stomps.
Xavier’s doing a lot to avoid taking a bump onto the hot mat, which I don’t blame him for, and now he tries for a snapmare, but Yehi stays up… only to take a dropkick as the champion rolls to the outside… for a faked out dive from Dezmond. Yeah, it’s too early for him to risk crashing into tarmac!
Eventually Yehi hits a stomp on Xavier, who eventually gets tripped for a dropkick as Yehi’s on the offensive. He’s one of those guys who’s always relied on for good matches, and Yehi’s continuing to produce the goods – somehow falling into that bucket of guys who doesn’t get the hype he deserves.
A gutwrench suplex takes down Xavier for a near-fall, and it seems that the heat’s starting to affect these guys as the pace slows down noticable. Xavier hits a 619 around the ringpost before getting a two-count out of Yehi, before a Koppo kick took the champion down hard. Yehi backdrops Xavier then goes back to the stomps as he pulls him up into a Fireman’s carry, but it’s an Exploder into the corner that does the damage, before Yehi slips in a snap German suplex before a head-and-arm choke forces a quick tap-out. That seemed to be a rather quick tap. A decent enough match, but the abrupt ending definitely hurt it. ***¼
FIP Florida Heritage Championship: Jon Davis vs. Martin Stone (c)
These guys have had a pair of decent matches earlier in the year for the title, but I’m not quite sure why Stone’s defending it again after beating Jon Davis twice… Keith Lee tries to watch this inconspicuously from the curtain… and failed miserably.
Davis hits a pop-up powerbomb early before Stone follows in with a punch as they quickly head to the outside for a spot of crowd brawling. Stone shoved his challenger into the ring post, then was thrown into a table as the mobile camera wandered around the handful of fans who were present. Stone’s left laying on what must be a hot tarmac, but he rebounds with some chairshots to Davis, who then throws one back in his face. Back in the ring, a stalling suplex takes down Stone for a two-count, before a uranage in the corner a la Samoa Joe takes the champ down once again. Once he’s back to his feet, Stone tries to fight back, and sends Davis down with a drop toe hold as the pair exchange blows to keep things even.
There’s a glorious visual of Stone backing out of a Davis RKO – leaving the challenger grasping at thin air – before an Ace crusher of his own gets Stone a two-count. Stone keeps up with an Exploder after Davis leapt off the top rope, but Davis takes down Stone for a deadlift bucklebomb and a spinebuster to nearly win the title.
Stone gets a roll-up in the ropes – but the referee initially refused to count, forgetting the no-rope break rule in FIP – before a Stone-KO collects another two-count. Davis blocks a side suplex then comes back with another pop-up powerbomb, rolling into a German suplex before a big lariat proved to be enough to win the belt. A fun match – a wild mix of crowd brawling and hard hitting action as the feud between these two finally comes to an end. ***¼
After the match, Stone grabs the belt… but only so he can say sorry to Davis for “being a prick” and hand over the title to him.
So, with FIP putting the big three matches first, we’re into the section of the show where folks are going to start leaving to make that one-mile trip to WrestleMania… cue a slowly-thinning crowd!
Austin Theory vs. Caleb Konley
I’ll thank Arnold Furious and @scanelee for pointing out that Theory looks like “baby Baron Corbin” – and at 19 years old, Theory is certainly one of those guys that WWN are looking to get out there.
There’s nothing on the line here, so they just do a wrestle, with Theory and Konley switching holds before a roll-up gets the youngster a near-fall. Konley sidesteps an armdrag attempt as the kid flops to the mat, but Theory comes back with a roll-through into a dropkick, then a slingshot double-stomp for a near-fall.
A superkick to the knee takes Theory out of the corner, as Konley starts to target that joint, and Caleb’s on the ascendancy here, sweeping the leg as Theory’s knocked off the apron to the outside. Konley keeps up with some chops in the corner, but Austin fires back with a roll-through into a Blockbuster neckbreaker, before a standing moonsault gets Theory a two-count.
Konley comes back with a palm strike and a back suplex, only to turn into some strikes as they keep going back and forth, before a springboard’s caught and turned into the Theory Driver (torture rack into a Blue Thunder Bomb) for a near-fall. A running shooting star press misses for Theory, who’s pushed down out of the corner as the double jump moonsault gets Konley the win. This was fine, but definitely suffered from being “just a match” after the headliners went on early. **½
We hear the disembodied voice of So Cal Val on commentary before the next match for some reason…
Priscilla Kelly vs. Aria Blake
These two had a match at that God-forsaken FIP reboot show, and Kelly’s out by herself since Uncle John’s Friends have buggered off. Aria Blake’s also on her lonesome, and is playing the Girl Next Door despite having an alliance with Candy Cartwright elsewhere in the WWN group of promotions. Alternate universes, eh?
Blake takes the fight to Kelly early on, but she’s quickly tripped into the corner as Priscilla tries to bite her rear end. Yeah… Kelly kicks Blake to the outside, and they’re fighting around the tables, and somehow Kelly’s lost Aria, who’s gone for a chair. They eventually have a stand-off with it, but Kelly throws it back at Blake’s head.
Aria’s forced to block a suplex onto the tarmac, as those picnic tables take a beating. Kelly sets up a chair and ends up kicking Blake into it, before diving off the apron with a Meteora onto Aria. Those poor knees, but yet that’s still only okay for a near-fall, before a series of kicks get Blake a two-count of her own.
Priscilla hits back with a spinning backfist before Blake counters into a reverse DDT for a two-count. Kelly gets a release half-nelson suplex on Blake, before a cross between the Angel Wings and a Ganso bomb gets her the win. This was a little better than their match in January, but again, the weird card placement is starting to bite here. **¼
Jason Cade vs. Anthony Henry
Oh God, it’s THAT wXw overdub again. They start with some back and forth, with Cade hitting a springboard armdrag before Henry replies with one of his own as the fast pace leads to a pair of dropkicks and a stand-off!
Cade kicks Henry below the belt, but remember, there’s no DQs in FIP, so that’s as legal as a headlock. A ‘rana takes Henry to the outside, but he returns to cut-off a dive attempt with a powerslam as Henry takes over with some strikes and a bridging German suplex for another near-fall. A leaping double stomp from Cade succeeds, and that helps him come back with a Tiger Driver for a two-count as he tries to end this early. Henry flips out of the corner into an elbow, but he surprises Cade with a Cheeky Nando’s – which Cade returns the favour on instantly. I’m expecting a Will Ospreay tweet right about… now!
Cade almost wins it with a 450 Splash, then goes into a series of forearms before he pulled Henry up into an enziguiri. They trade superkicks as Cade spills onto the apron, before a double stomp in the ring gets Henry a near-fall… he segues from the kick-out into an ankle lock, but Cade rolls through and springs off the ropes into a Destroyer!
Again, a Destroyer’s only good for a near-fall, as that joins reverse ‘ranas onto the list of cool looking moves that never wins matches. Henry comes back with some more kicks and a snap German off the ropes, before a brainbuster gets him a near-fall. He doesn’t segue into an ankle lock this time though, instead taking Cade to the top rope where he’s again superkicked free and takes a reverse ‘rana. You know what I just said? Yeah… Near-fall!
Cade tries to follow up with a Phoenix splash, but he misses as Henry immediately swoops for an ankle lock, before scissoring the legs to force the submission. Great stuff, and a fine main event. Both these guys are really, really good, and should be getting much more exposure than they are in the States. Or indeed, worldwide! ***½
After the match, Teddy Stigma heads out with a barbed wire baseball bat, just because. Stigma boots Henry then shoves away Amber Young, and apparently Stigma’s collecting Dontay Brown’s bounty from those earlier FIP shows. Yeah, I’d forgotten that was a thing too… and by forgotten, I meant blocked it out.
If, like us, you saw the FIP reboot show in January and swore off them, perhaps it’s time to think again? This show was an unexpected surprise, and showed that FIP is able to make the use of the talents they have without turning it into a car crash of a show. It also helped that, opening segment aside, we didn’t have any swearing, or indeed, any Timothy Barr, which meant that this wasn’t an uncomfortable watch.
As the final show before WrestleMania, FIP likely received some more eyeballs than they usually would, and on this evidence, they may well get a slight bump in viewers for their next show. FIP is definitely EVOLVE’s “smaller brother”, but it’s by no means the trash promotion it looked to be back when they relaunched.