We take a look at the inaugural showcase event from the Nightmare Factory, as Cody Rhodes & QT Marshall’s training school paraded their first batch of trainees.
Hayden Backlund defeated Logan Taylor via submission at 6:56 (**)
Brooke Havok & Kat Spenser pinned Babie & Audina Divinity in 7:39 (*½)
Dom Damien won a battle royal in 6:12 (*½)
Hunter Knott & Rosario Grillo pinned Josh Breezzyy & Jacob Ryan in 7:46 (*½)
Carlie Bravo pinned Dean Alexander in 10:45 (***)
The Nightmare Factory in Norcross, Georgia is a new training school that’s led by coaches QT Marshall and Cody Rhodes. It’s the same venue that they taped a load of Dynamites in last year at the start of the pandemic… so by default, it’s got ties to AEW, but this particular group of trainees are almost all new to wrestling – so don’t expect these names appearing on Dark anytime soon!
We have a cold open with Cody reminding us that this group have only been training for 12 weeks, and this is everyone’s first matches. Get in on the ground floor, eh?
Lexy Nair is on commentary with a fellow who doesn’t introduce himself at all during the show, but I’m reliably informed it’s Ray Lloyd – better known as Glacier, or perhaps more apt as Coach Buzz Stern.
Hayden Backlund vs. Logan Taylor
Backlund’s dismissive, and he’s got no music. He’s also apparently related to Bob Backlund, so he’s listed as the guy to boo as he sits in the middle of the ring a la CM Punk that one time, while Taylor gets an overdub.
We open with a lock-up that goes nowhere, before Taylor pushed Backlund away from another lock-up. That seemed to annoy Backlund, as he slipped Taylor out of a Test of String… then powdered to the outside as we have a Benny Hill chase. Yakety Sax.
Back inside, Backlund misses an elbow drop as Taylor rolled in, before we got some ground and pound. A clothesline from Taylor takes Backlund down before Taylor floated over him in the corner and hit a slap. We’ve an overhead belly-to-belly from Taylor too, then another body splash in the corner. Backlund repeats the floatover, but seems to tweak his ankle on the landing – which commentary straight out called as fakery.
Of course Backlund’s ankle is fine, and he’s quickly back with a dropkick after he shot Taylor into the ropes. An Irish whip bounces Taylor into the corner, before a suplex dropped Taylor for barely a one-count. Hook the leg, kid! Another elbow drop gets a one-count as Taylor crucifixes Backlund for a near-fall, before he booted Hayden in the face ahead of a suplex… but Backlund countered into a reverse DDT.
Yet again, that gets Backlund a one-count, which pisses him off… he finally gets a two-count after some clubbering on the mat, but Backlund takes too long climbing the ropes and gets press slammed off the top rope a la Ric Flair. Taylor continues his comeback with some bumping and feeding clotheslines before a one-handed spinebuster dropped Black. Commentary tagged that as an “Olympic Slam”… that’s not it chief!
Now we get an Olympic Slam attempt, but Backlund counters into a sunset flip for a near-fall, before the Olympic Slam landed for another near-fall. Taylor’s got his straps down, then up, then he takes them down again, before another Olympic Slam is escaped… Backlund shoves Taylor into the referee in the corner, then hit a low blow before pulling Taylor down into a chicken wing – tagged the Bloodline – for the stoppage. A real solid debut match with Backlund perhaps showing more of the “evil” Bob Backlund than the white meat babyface Bob. Taylor looked good too for his first match in. **
Audina Divinity & Babie vs. Kat Spenser & Brooke Havok
For a debut match, Spenser and Havok got a big time entrance, driving into the arena. Havok’s the only one of the four women who have their name on their gear, which shows some foresight.
Babie and Spenser start, but Babie rolls outside and pours some lemonade on the car the good guys drove in on. There’s windscreen washers for that. Divinity shields Babie as all four women hit the ring… and then we finally wrestle as Spenser elbows out of a full nelson, then went to work on an armbar on Babie. Havok tags in and wrings the arm ahead of a Curt Hennig-ish neck flip. A flipping neckbreaker’s next from Havok, who loves to flip, and gets herself a two-count before Babie fought out of an arm wringer and tagged in Divinity.
Havok tries to charge down Divinity, but she laughs it off before a hair pull took Brooke down. Slams keep Havok down, but she slips out and tags Spenser back in as we’ve got the two taller halves of the teams in. Divinity backs out of a Test of Strength, then cheapshots Spenser before Kat came back off the ropes with a clothesline. Spenser throws Divinity into the buckles ahead of a headlock takedown… Divinity fights free as Babie kicks Spenser in the ropes. A dropkick has Spenser down, with Babie pulling her into the corner by the hair. Babie and Divinity exchange quick tags so they could stomp a mudhole in Spenser, before Babie stayed in and threw some punches from above.
Babie’s pushed into the ropes by Spenser… Divinity comes in and hits a Flatliner – which almost looked like she’d been clotheslined – before lifting Spenser up top. It led to a Tree of Woe as Babie returned to dropkick Spenser out of the Tree of Woe… then went back up for a splash off the middle rope for a near-fall.
Tags bring in Havok and Divninity – Havok’s clearing house before taking down Divinity with headscissors. She heads up top for a crossbody into both opponents. Shoulder charges from Divinity take Havok into the corner, but a superplex is fought out of… Babie returns to try and finish the move, but Spenser pulls her down with a crucifix bomb – which commentary dubbed the Finish Line – out of the corner, and that’s enough for Havok to get the win. For a first match, this wasn’t bad, but you could see the expected nerves. I’ve seen much worse from seasoned pros though, which is a good sign. *½
According to the YouTube description, this was an eight-man match featuring Cal Flahaven, Brian Andrews, KC Rocker, Mercury Peace, Dom Damien, Abraham Storm, Nan Botello and Luca Proctor. At least everyone got individual entrances, which helped them stand out a little. Storm cut a promo before the match, because she wasn’t happy with Dasha’s introduction of him. It’s a serviceable promo that saw him introduce himself as “the best fighter in the world.”
Storm hits a bunch of right hands early, before he got surrounded… so he tries to buddy up with the people he’d laid out, and gets bum rushed for it. Knees and big boots complete the shine on Storm, who’s then tossed out by everyone. Thanks for coming! Things get a little more orthodox for a battle royal, with commentary not calling much of it… Cal Flahaven dishes out a back body drop that turned into a pancake before he’s eliminated by KC Rocker.
Peace then powerbombs Rocker into Storm and Flahaven, who had stuck around at ringside… before Peace turned to face Brian Andrews. The big lads are interrupted as Andrews hits a hooking Flatliner… then turned his focus onto Luca Proctor. The big lads slug it out, but Peace sidesteps a charge as Andrews was helped out of the match.
Botello hits a bunch of suplexes, but then stops to go after Peace… who gets suplexed also. Botello then heads up top and hits a frog splash onto Peace, but gets thrown outside by Proctor. Damien tries to fire back, but runs into a Black Hole Slam before an attempt to throw him out was reversed. Proctor does the Shawn Michaels “clinging on” deal before a dropkick knocked him to the floor.
From there, Peace chokeslams Damien, then clotheslined him over the top rope. Damien lands on the apron, then low bridges Peace as he charged at him… and that’s the win. Battle Royals tend to be rushed and offer little for folks to get over – and it doesn’t help when commentary only refers to guys by nicknames and not what they were introduced as! This was alright, but what do you expect in a six-minute battle royal?! *½
Rosario Grillo & Hunter Knott vs. The Nice Guyz (Jacob Ryan & Josh Breezzyy)
The Nice Guyz get a special entrance as they burst through a frame with their names graffiti’d onto it. “They look like a giant happy meal,” reckons Ray Lloyd on commentary…
We get going with Grillo and Ryan, as Ryan works the arm early on before Breezzyy came in to drop an elbow to the arm off the middle rope. Arm wringers are exchanged as Grillo tagged out to Knott… but his double skedge backfires as he takes out his own man. Breezzyy knocks Knott down with a clothesline, then tagged Ryan back in as Knott was cornered for a series of chops.
Grillo trips Ryan in the ropes, as Knott retaliated with a clothesline… a tag brings Grillo back in for a double-team suplex for barely a one-count. Stomps to Ryan’s hand and arm come from Grillo. A Judo-style throw from Knott has Ryan in more trouble, before a DDT drew Knott a two-count. He followed that up with an elbow drop, before a sidewalk slam and a top rope elbow forced Breezzyy in to break up the pin.
An enziguiri from Ryan gets him time to tag out to Breezzyy, but he has to shove Knott to the outside… then watched on as Knott pulled Breezzyy off the apron. Grillo boots Ryan back down, but a double DDT from Ryan stopped their momentum as he finally tagged out to Breezzyy.
Breezzyy slams his way back in, dropping both opponents with bodyslams before Grillo was caught with a leg lariat for a near-fall a la Zack Ryder. Ryan takes care of Knott with a missile dropkick, but misses a plancha on the outside as we get a jump cut to Knott clotheslining Breezzyy for a near-fall.
From there, Breezzyy is set up for a Hart Attack, but Ryan stops Knott in the ropes before Grillo was slammed as the Nice Guys hit an elbow drop and a flip senton for a near-fall. Breezzyy picks up Grillo, but looked for a Twist of Fate… he’s pushed away as Grillo’s kicks knocks Ryan off the apron before Knott returned to hit a superplex, with Grillo throwing in a frog splash as Knott picked up the win. For debut matches, this was fine – Breezzyy looked like he had something beyond a gimmick, but this was very much a “first match in” sort of match. *½
Dean Alexander vs. Carlie Bravo
For our main event, Bravo’s got the red white and blue with him as he was introduced as “bad news and tattoo’d”. All while something that sounded like Audioslave played for his entrance…
So, with the flag and commentary hyping up Bravo as a Marine, we’ve a clear good guy, which made Alexander a defacto bad guy, although I’m sure he doesn’t hate America. Correct me if I’m wrong, Dean!
Alexander ducks under Bravo to start as Lloyd on commentary tells us Alexander is an experienced wrestler… but looking up Cagematch just brings up the Irishman with a very similar (albeit reversed) name. He takes down Bravo by the waist and goes for an early Magistral cradle for a one-count, before the pair patronise each other.
Bravo trips Alexander as he charged his way, before a right hand broke up an arm wringer. Bravo returns with some Dusty punches in the corner, before the pair exchanged chops that led to Bravo hitting a nice springboard ‘rana out of the corner. A cannonball followed to Alexander in the corner for a two-count, but Bravo takes too long going up the ropes and gets crotched.
He recovers to go for a crossbody, but Alexander catches it and turned it into a Downward Spiral for a two-count. Some stomps take Bravo into the corner, before a Hogan-ish big boot knocked Bravo down for just a one-count. Knees to the lower leg of Bravo follow, as Alexander maintained control, following up with a suplex for a two-count. More boots keep Bravo in the corner, with a fallaway slam from Alexander leading to a nonchalant two-count. Punches from the mount force the referee to separate the pair, while a pop-up uppercut kept Bravo on the back foot.
A Beele throw takes Bravo out of the corner, but he finally ducked a clothesline in the corner and retaliated with a tornado DDT. The pair trade punches in the middle of the ring, but Bravo goes bop and bang before he unloaded with clotheslines… with Alexander then rolling outside for a breather, just in time for Bravo to do a flip dive over the referee to the outside.
Back inside, a roll-through dropkick has Alexander on the defensive, but he boots Bravo out of the corner before running into a spinebuster. Bravo teed up for a cutter, but it’s blocked… so he goes for a handspring cutter instead for a near-fall. Bravo went for a scissors kick, but Alexander avoids it and returned fire with a back cracker, then a lungblower for a two-count of his own. Alexander looks for a Cross Rhodes, but Bravo countered out and lands the scissors kick, dubbed the Veteran’s Day Special, for the win! I don’t know how much experience Alexander had, but if this is Bravo’s first match (and even if it isn’t)… keep an eye on this guy going forward. Easily the best match and story on the show, with the pair looking real good for their ten minute slot. ***
Post-match, Bravo bowed to Alexander, then offered a handshake… it’s slapped away as the pair hugged instead… only for Alexander to catch Bravo from behind with a Cross Rhodes! That snake! Alexander puts the boots to Bravo as the Nice Guys – Jacob Ryan & Josh Breezzyy – make the save… but we’re not done yet!
Out come the Dark Order – 5, 10 and Anna Jay – to attack the Nice Guys. There’s a nice hook kick from Jay as 5 and 10 lay waste to Bravo, tossing him outside as they were clearly in no mood to recruit. The Nice Guys try to return, with Breezzyy hitting a leg lariat to 10, as bodies hit the ring to close the show with a big ol’ Parade of Moves – there’s a spinebuster from Luca Proctor to Breezzyy, while 10 just beat up Ryan like he was owed money. Mercury Peace runs out to make a save, but he stops to drop Proctor. Abraham Storm breaks up Mercury’s camel clutch, before Logan Taylor slid in to take him down with an Olympic Slam.
We’ve more! Brian Andrews is next to hit a hooking Flatliner on Taylor, while Dom Damien just hits an implant DDT on Andrews. Cal Flahaven hits a boot, only to get laid out by… Dasha Fuentes’ mic shot?! Sure, why not! That brings more of the girls out as Audina Divinity chased Dasha away, before Kat Spenser suplexed Divinity. Babie keeps it going with a ripcord lariat, before Rosario Grillo & Hunter Knott wandered out to chase her away.
KC Rocker keeps it coming with DDTs on Knott and Grillo, before the masked Nan Botello hit the ring… but Hayden Backlund knocks him off the top rope. Rocker’s caught with a Bloodline chicken wing by Backlund, before Brooke Havok elbowed Backlund ahead of an Acid Drop – dubbed the Brooke 182 – out of the corner… and that’s the end of a wild segment to close out the show!
If you go into this with any other mindset than “it’s a trainee show”, you’re likely going to be unfair. While the star ratings for this are low, you’ve got to bear in mind that this was a lot of the card’s first matches. Bravo vs. Alexander was by far and away the stand-out match of the night… That being said, I’ve seen much worse from folks with experience, so without wanting to put too much pressure on anyone, this was a very encouraging first set of steps from the current batch of Nightmare Factory trainees.