Over the course of the past two months, Beyond Wrestling decided to try something new. They held a Tournament in November called the “Tournament for Tomorrow”, an eight person single elimination tournament where the ultimate goal of the participants would be to win the tournament for the sake of exposure and gaining plus points in Beyond’s ranking system. The participants in the tournament are: ACH, Sugar Dunkerton, Aaron Epic, AR Fox, Drew Gulak, Johnny Mangue, The Pitboss, and Pinkie Sanchez.
Beyond decided to release one match from the tournament weekly with corresponding interviews over the course of several weeks. All the matches have been released. Below are my reviews of the matches, as well as links where you can watch the pre-match interviews and the matches (in their entirety). Enjoy!
Tournament For Tomorrow – Quarter-Final Round
ACH (0) vs. AR Fox (-1)
This is ACH’s Beyond Wrestling debut. ACH’s attitude shined through right away. He took control of AR Fox in the early going, and because of it was a bit overconfident. After hitting some of his bigger manuevers, like an axe kick in the ropes or a combo where he delivered a moonsault kick and a diving clothesline through the bottom rope, he would showboat or add a few unnecessary theatrics into the equation rather than capitalizing on Fox. His temporary loss of focus would catch up to him, allowing Fox to deliver a couple kicks to the head. Fox would maintain control for a few minutes before ACH came off the ropes and dropped him with a reverse STO. Unlike ACH, Fox wasted no time in between moves to capitalize or go for a pinfall. Sure, he’d high five a fellow wrestler if he happened to be on the floor, but in no way did Fox waste his time. Fox and ACH exchanged forearms in the ring after ACH broke out of a sleeper hold. Both men collided mid-air with dueling crossbody’s, essentially resetting the match. ACH flips up and begins his attack on Fox first. After a few stomps to the neck he sets Fox up in the ropes. He stalled for a little to long, allowing Fox to escape and ACH to fall to the floor. Fox followed him out with a springboard 450 splash. Fox however missed the top rope legdrop on the apron, bringing both men back to the ground. ACH did a kick flip off a wall to block a whip from Fox, then used the wall to assist in a reverse STO to Fox on the floor. The best part of that was the look on Sugar Dunkerton’s face who had a genuine look of “holy crap” and “I can’t believe that just happened” on his face. After a couple of boots, Fox manages to hit his signature kick flip moonsault from the ring apron. Back in the ring, Fox hits the Lo Mein Pain. ACH kicks out at two and everyone ringside loses their mind. ACH manages to hit the Mortal Kombat (a series of kicks as the opponent is trapped in the ropes) and a rope assisted Hero’s Welcome for the pin at 17:34. That was state of the art high flying wrestling mixed with psychology you rarely see these days. I’ve seen ACH twice before this match: a showcase match at AIW’s TPI and in a four way in ACW with Akira Tozawa, Arik Cannon and Gary Jay. This match blew those out of the water, and is one of the best matches in Beyond Wrestling’s history. In a tournament called “Tournament for Tomorrow”, there is no better way to start off then with two of the most talked about guys on the independent scene right now. ACH will breakout in 2012, mark my words. ***3/4
Tournament For Tomorrow – Quarter-Final Round
Aaron Epic (+4) vs. Drew Gulak (-1)
Drew Gulak’s time in Europe has served him well. Epic continuously went on offense in the beginning, looking for a hold on a position he could put Gulak in to gain the advantage. Gulak’s time in Europe helped further his knowledge of his positioning in the ring, as well as his ability to control the pace of the match and counter certain holds. Epic was no slouch either, as mid-match he was able to get in some counters of his own and more importantly, thwart some of Gulak’s attempts at alleviating a hold or escaping it altogether. Interestingly enough, the bell rang mid-match out of nowhere. This distraction allowed Gulak to kick out Epic’s left leg and once again take control of Epic on the mat. Gulak’s aggression picked up as he began to throw more strikes to Epic’s chest and contorted knee. Gulak became so angry at Epic when he grabbed an armbar that he took Epic’s leg and forcefully kicked the inside of it multiple times. Epic was able to grab the armbar again to escape Gulak’s leg hook, causing Gulak to grab the ropes and break the hold. Epic struggled to make his way to the ropes to break an Indian Death Lock. Even though he managed to get their, the damage seemed to be done. At this point, this match was all but a forgone conclusion. Epic however managed to catch Gulak off guard out of a wristlock, bringing him to the mat in a backslide for the pin at 11:28. Gulak was more effective in his approach to wear down Epic, but at some point he lost sight of his goal and became more obsessed with quick pinfalls then he was with being methodical. Because of it, Epic was able to take advantage of his frustration and pick up the win for himself. This was totally different than the first match, and the style difference between all these matches is really what will make this tournament speical.The match also had a great flow and story to it. If you ask me, I think Gulak is extremely underappreciated in his mat wrestling work and we have only just seen a little bit of Epic’s potential so far. **3/4
Tournament For Tomorrow – Quarter-Final Round
Jonny Mangue (-1) vs. Sugar Dunkerton (+3)
Jonny Mangue had spent a good portion of his Beyond Wrestling run with the Doom Patrol group, which aside from himself also consisted of Chris Dickinson (currently on the shelf) and The Pitboss, who Mangue has officially tossed aside after Pitboss interfered in Mangue’s match against Johnny Gargano at “Back in Flesh” in October. Pitboss was ejected from the building that night, but is in this tournament as well. Dunkerton gives Mangue a little guff at the bell, claiming Mangue doesn’t have anybody backing him up and that whether or not Mangue fails is all on him.
Dunkerton is able to take Mangue to the mat at first, talking some trash to Mangue how he doesn’t look like a guy who’s able to beat Gargano. That verbal jab motivated Mangue, who then took control and forced Dunkerton to grab the ropes to stop Mangue’s onslaughtMangue came here to prove that he does have the ability to win matches without his goons by his side while Dunkerton just wants a chance to be taken seriously, while also proving to Mangue that he was just as capable of taking on Gargano in a main event match. Mangue sends Dunkerton to the floor with a crossbody, angering Dunkerton. Dunkerton is able to bait Mangue to the ring apron where Dunkerton kicks his legs out. Dunkerton targets Mangue’s leg on the floor, slamming it against the floor and kicking out the inside of his thigh. Dunkerton continues to target his leg inside the ring. Dunkerton seemed to have the win with the Bow Chicka Wow Wow (his name for a lariat) when The Pitboss made his way out. The Pitboss shoved Dunkerton shoulder first into the ring post only to be chased out by Dunkerton’s fellow partners in crime, Aaron Epic and Pinkie Sanchez. Mangue was too busy recovering to thwart the situation. He does however ask the referee to check Dunkerton to make sure he’s good to go. Dunkerton proves he is by chopping Mangue like a mad man and then tackling Mangue’s bad leg out. Mangue and Dunkerton fight on their knees, each throwing hard strikes. Mangue headbutts Dunkerton into the Jaws of the Jaguar (a version of Masato Yoshino’s Sol Naciente). It’s unclear whether Dunkerton submitted or if the referee called for the bell, but either way the bell is called at 10:05 in Mangue’s favor. I like where they’re going with Mangue, poising him to break out from the shackles of the Doom Patrol and to bring him to the top on his own. Dunkerton also got a chance to showcase a lot of mat and submission work, something uncommon for him to do. It really goes to show just how well-rounded he’s become as a wrestler. Kudos to Mangue too for selling his leg like a champion. ***
Tournament For Tomorrow – Quarter-Final Round
Pinkie Sanchez (+3) vs. The Pitboss (+5)
Pitboss clobbers Sanchez with a forearm from behind as Sanchez poses on the ring apron. Pitboss throws Sanchez into the scattered crowd. Pitboss misses a big boot into some lockers. Sanchez gets hit with a haymaker, but then opens up a refrigerator door to stop a second. He superkicks Pitboss while he’s seated in a chair. Sanchez hops off a chair. Sanchez catches him and delivers a spinebuster on the ring apron. Pitboss press slams Sanchez back in the ring ONTO HIS HEAD. Pitboss brings him back in the ring and the referee checks to see if he should officially start the match. While Sanchez is busy jaw jacking with Denver Colorado, Sanchezhits a springboard DDT and demands the bell be rang. He only gets a two count. Even after taking a series of kicks from Sanchez, Pitboss managed to block the Shiney Hiney with a low spinebuster. Sanchez slips out of a German suplex attempt and knee strikes Pitboss in the face. Sanchez missile dropkicks Pitboss’ knee out. Sanchez manages to fight him off the ropes, allowing Sanchez to come off the top rope with bootiez4breakfast. He gets two with a Shiney Hiney. Sanchez drops him with an Ace crusher to counter a clothesline for anothr two count. Sanchez misses a moonsault, and Pitboss nails a lariat when Sanchez gets back to his feet. Pitboss again uses a spinebuster for a two count. Pitboss then hits Hell Awaits (a Dominator). Pitboss’ arrogant pin attempt allows Sanchez to kick out. He huracanrana’s Pitboss to block a second Hell Awaits for two. Pitboss boots Sanchez down in the corner following a splash. Pitboss shoves the referee out of the way when the referee tries to bring him out of the corner after a five count. The referee calls for the DQ at 6:54 (officially). I’ve been fairly critical of Pitboss in the past, but this was easily the best singles match I’ve seen of his. He and Sanchez had the benefit of the backstory to help them out, but even so the brawl at the beginning of the match and Sanchez’s exciting a varied offense helped. Had he worked the leg more, the story would have even been better, but then again we saw that previously during Gulak vs. Epic so it may have been for the best. Regardless, this was a very entertaining story driven bout. ***
The Pitboss continues to beat down on Sanchez until Sugar Dunkerton and Aaron Epic save him. Denver Colorado yells at Pitboss as he heads to the locker room.
Tournament For Tomorrow – Semi-Final Round
Jonny Mangue (0) vs. Aaron Epic (+5)
Mangue tried to end things quickly with a chokebomb pin, but Epic is able to kick out. Epic avoided a neckbreaker and delivered a superkick. Epic gets two with a leg lariat, and another two count with a gamengiri. Mangue reverses an Irish whip to the ropes. Epic sends Mangue to the apron and Fast Ball punches him to the floor. Epic only manages a two count back in the ring. Eouc puts Mangue in a modified Koji Clutch. Mangue breaks free and throws some strikes. Epic chops Mangue back to the mat. Mangue kicks and headbutts Epic as he hands in the ropes. Epic wisely ducks a clothesline and rolls Mangue into a DDT. Mangue locks Epic in the Jaguars’ Jaws when Epic goes for a pin. Epic luckily gets the ropes right away. Epic catches Mangue on the top rope. He counters a super chokebomb with the Iconoclasm for two. Epic hits the 2k1 Bomb for two once again. Mangue chokebomb’s Epic into a Jaguar’s Jaws variation. Epic rolls Mangue into a head kick. He follows witht he Fastball punch for the pin at 6:06. This was smart wrestling from both men. They went for their finishers early and quickly in order to save the most energy possible for the finals. Epic’s Fastball Punch was too much for Mangue, in addition to Epic wrestling an overall smarter match. They packed a lot into a short period of time. The rating on this would be higher if the match went longer, but I’m honestly glad it didn’t go longer because it added to the urgency of both men trying to win. **1/2
After the match, The Pitboss runs out and attacks Epic. Mangue hesitates to save Epic. Finally, Sugar Dunkerton runs in to chase The Pitboss off and check on his partner. One has to wonder what shape Epic will be heading into the finals.
Tournament For Tomorrow – Semi-Final Round
ACH (+1) vs. Pinkie Sanchez (+4)
A battle of a knuckle lock and backslides starts off the bout. Sanchez slips to the floor after ACH’s backslide fails. Sanchez crawls under the ring, but ACH is too smart to notice Sanchez trying to sneak attack him. Sugar Dunkerton barks advice to Sanchez from outside the ring when ACH takes control of another knuckle lock. They end up on the floor while still in the knuckle lock. Sanchez breaks it to slam ACH’s face into a steel chair. ACH uses the momentum of the ring post to clobber Sanchez with a clothesline. Sanchez however gives ACH a dragonscrew leg whip on the floor. He delivers a second one, sending ACH onto the chairs in the front row. Sanchez comes off the apron with a double stomp to ACH’s neck. Sanchez finally brings ACH back into the ring after throwing him into the wall. Not surprisingly, Sanchez works over ACH’s leg which could prevent him from hitting some of his more high-flying offense later in the match. This is also brilliant because Aaron Epic, Sanchez’s partner, also has a bum leg and is in the finals. If Sanchez meets Epic in the finals, he’s getting in the mentality of targeting his opponent’s leg. If ACH wins, Sanchez softened him up for his partner. ACH shows some signs of life, but Sanchez kicks his legs out to go right back to work. ACH kicks Sanchez to the floor and comes out with a pescado onto both Sanchez and Dunkerton. ACH foolishly hits a one legged kick off the ring apron, causing all of his weight to come down on his bad leg. Back in the ring, Sanchez kicks ACH’s knee when ACH goes for a missile dropkick. Even after Sanchez does more damage on ACH’s leg, ACH foolishly hits Mortal Kombat when he gets the opening for a two count. ACH’s moonsault kick also only gets him two. ACH throws some kicks until Sanchez gives him a rolling kick to the back of his head. Sanchez puts on a figure four, and when ACH looks to fight back, Sanchez rakes his eyes and releases the hold. Sanchez missing a moonsault elbow in the corner allows ACH to power up. Sanchez tries to harness the power of ACH’s Hadouken but fails. ACH’s various kicks only get him two. Sanchez gets the advantage on the top rope. He hits bootiez4breakfast and somehow ACH kicks out at two. Sanchez then hits the Burning Snicklefritz and ACH kicks out again. ACH ducks the Shining and hits two Shining Wizards (one to Sanchez’s face and one to his neck) to pick up the win at 18:38.
There’s no better combination than exciting action and fantastic storytelling. These two did an amazing job making ACH look like he was hobbled during the match and better yet making him look like a hero when he did pick up the win. There could have been a few minutes shaved off to make this even better, but as it was it was still really good. He still has one match to go, but I’d already say that ACH has been the breakout star of the TFT. ***1/2
Tournament For Tomorrow – Final Round
ACH (+2) vs. Aaron Epic (+6)
Both men are clearly hurt coming into this match. ACH charges at Epic right at the get-go. Epic sweeps ACH’s legs and takes him to the floor. Epic kicks ACH from the apron. ACH grabs Epic’s leg and chops away at Epic’s bad knee. He sweeps out Epic’s legs on the ring apron. ACH ducks Epic’s kick, causing ACH to connect his leg with the pillar in the building. Epic slams ACH’s leg onto the ring apron. Epic does some more damage to ACH’s leg on the floor. He chops ACH as he’s seated in a chair. He brings ACH back into ring after giving him a dragonscrew leg whip on the floor. ACH immediately goes for a crossface on Epic back in the ring. Epic hits ACH’s leg to force ACH to release the hold. Epic targets ACH’s opposite legs while trapping it in the ropes. ACH grabs the ropes to break a sharpshooter. ACH ducks Epic’s punches and lights up Epic’s chest and mid-section. He cracks Epic with his backflip kick. ACH double palm strikes Epic in the chest for two. ACH misses a 450 splash off the second ropes. ACH blocks Epic’s Fastball Punch. He delivers two enzuigiri’s to knock Epic off his feet. Epic trips ACH into a spin kick. Epic connects with the Fastball Punch for the pin at 7:03 and is the winner of the Tournament for Tomorrow. This wasn’t the best match in the tournament, but it was the most meaningful. It was about who had the most endurance and who was able to wrestle the smarter game when you’re in your third match of the evening and have already taken a beating. ACH and Epic were two stand-outs in this tournament and were two appropriate guys to have in the final match. Epic definitely deserved his victory and it’s good to see him breaking out. I hope this is not the last time we see of ACH on the East Coast. **1/2
Beyond Wrestling put two non-tournament matches from that day up for viewing as well:
Mikaze & Mark Shurman vs. Taka Suzuki & Elia Markopoulus
Brian Fury (-1) vs. dany only (+1)
Overall: I can not praise Beyond Wrestling enough for the way they structured their tournament. Releasing a match preview, interviews from both wrestlers and the match in full every week allowed Beyond to build the matches “quietly”. All the matches delivered in one way or another. The story of the matches built to the next one and carried a compelling story all the way up to the conclusion. The only question now is where Beyond goes from here. I don’t know, but I certainly will follow them along to find out. If you can’t be bothered to watch every match, I highly recommend at least checking out all of ACH’s matches as he was the true standout. But I promise you, everything listed above is worth watching.
Want more information on Beyond Wrestling? Check out their website and their YouTube channel which has tons more free matches that await you. You can also purchase DVDs from their website or from Smart Mark Video.