On June 9th, 2012 IWA Unlimited presented its first annual 1UP Tournament with a variety of talent from the independent professional wrestling scene. The idea behind the tournament was to find the one wrestler with unlimited potential. The winner of the tournament will receive a shot at any IWA Unlimited title within the next year. With that said, let’s see how the tournament played out.
Opening Match: First Round: Gary Jay vs. Gunner Franks
They begin with some chain wrestling and trade control on the mat. Jay kicks Franks to the apron but runs into a clothesline. Franks hits a delayed vertical suplex. Jay connects with a flying double stomp followed by a flying elbow drop. Franks catches him with a knee to stop his momentum. Jay hits a stunner out of the corner and lands a dive to the floor. Franks answers with a nasty german suplex on the apron. Back in, they trade strikes and Jay hits a michinoku driver for a nearfall. Franks responds with a superplex from the middle rope. Jay blocks a charge and comes off the middle rope with a swinging flatliner for a nearfall. Franks recovers with a big lariat for the win at 7:09. The crowd rallied behind Franks because they were more familiar with him, but Jay brought the excitement in this opener. They didn’t have much time to flesh out the action yet I thought this match actually worked better as a more back and forth encounter. I hope to see Jay back in IWAU. **½
Match #2: First Round: Jimmy Karryt vs. Alex Castle
Castle avoids a charge from Karryt and low bridges him to the floor. Castle connects with a punt from the apron along with a facewash kick on the floor. In the ring, Castle lays in more kicks. Karryt avoids a lariat and connects with a gamengiri. He hits a backbreaker. Castle blocks a charge with a yakuza kick and hits a uranagi. Castle applies a japanese stranglehold variant for the victory at 4:54. I could see these two having a quality match but it wasn’t meant to be here. The contest accomplished its goal of making Castle look dominant at the very least. *¾
Match #3: First Round: Matt Cage vs. Zakk Sawyers
Sawyers attacks before the opening bell. Cage connects with a leg lariat and lands a nice dive to the floor. Back in, Cage hits a suplex and a slingshot senton. Sawyers answers with a backbreaker and takes control. Cage looks to make a comeback but falls victim to a modified rydeen bomb. He catches Sawyers with a mule kick and DDTs him into the turnbuckles. Cage connects with double knees and a lariat. He hits a leaping russian leg sweep but runs into a roaring elbow. Sawyers lays in a sliding forearm for a nearfall. He hits a 2k1 bomb after a nice exchange but Cage won’t stay down. Cage hits a stunner coming into the ring. Sawyers escapes a crucifix for a two count and rolls through a crossface attempt. He connects with a hard elbow strike. Cage surprises him with a rollup once again and applies a rear-naked choke for the win at 9:47. Sawyers proved to be a great foil for Cage, as Cage received a chance to highlight his offense while Sawyers just looked to pick his spots with various strikes. They established a good flow early on and the finishing stretch was filled with smart counter wrestling. On a packed card, these two made the most out of their ten minutes and truly showcased themselves. ***
Match #4: First Round: Marek Brave vs. A.T. Brooks
Brave using “Call Me Maybe” as his entrance theme was a sight to behold. He does not endear himself to the crowd before the match. Brooks connects with a series of punches and Brave retreats to the floor. Brooks misses a plancha and Brave hits a uranagi onto the apron. Brave takes over in the ring until Brooks hits a lungblower. He follows with a springboard back elbow and a basement dropkick. Brave hits a blue thunder bomb but gets caught by a flying crossbody. Brave sneaks in a rollup while holding Brooks’ tights for the victory at 4:25. Brooks is really starting to come into his own and he’s looked great in the ring over the past few months. It didn’t take long for Brave to turn the crowd against him and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the next round, where he’ll hopefully be able to wrestle a longer match. **
Match #5: First Round: Reed Bentley vs. ACH
Both men try to wrestle the match at their desired pace early on. Bentley connects with a series of forearms but ACH comes back with some of his own. Bentley wins the forearm battle but falls victim to an innovative sit-out suplex. ACH is able to match him in the striking department and they trade blows. Bentley hits a fisherman buster. They exchange kicks and Bentley finds success with a butterfly suplex. ACH dodges a forearm and connects with a spinning heel kick. ACH locks in a cloverleaf for the win at 6:20. This was an abridged version of a terrific match. ACH fought most of this contest from behind as he couldn’t come out on the winning end of the forearm exchanges. However, once ACH brought out various kicks, he found the opening he needed to win the match. This match featured a lot of solid strike-based action and it was only held back by time constraints. **½
Match #6: First Round: Joey O’Riley vs. Danny Cannon
They avoid each other’s kicks until O’Riley connects with a stiff superkick that almost gets a three-count. Cannon avoids a 450 splash and lands a dive to the floor. He german suplexes O’Riley into the apron. In the ring, O’Riley connects with an enzuigiri but Cannon responds with a springboard gamengiri. Cannon finds knees on a standing shooting star press. O’Riley misses a standing shooting star press of his own. They both connect with clotheslines and fall to the canvas. Cannon lays in more kicks and goes up top. O’Riley follows him up and hits a spanish fly. Both men are down. O’Riley hits a stroke but misses a phoenix splash. Cannon comes off the top rope but eats a superkick. O’Riley connects with a roaring mafia kick for the victory at 6:39. These two spent seven minutes just trying to one-up each other (no pun intended). Their explosive offenses meshed well together and the crowd was vocal throughout the entire duration. I think O’Riley was the right choice to advance but I hope to see Cannon on a more permanent basis in IWAU. **¾
Match #7: Dog Collar Match: Scott Parker vs. Blake Reed
The only way to win this match is to touch all four corners of the ring consecutively. Reed lost his hair to Parker last month at Code Black and they’re looking to settle their rivalry here. They trade punches on the mat. Reed chokes Parker with the chain around ringside. Parker gains the advantage with some punches and takes control in the ring. They cut each other off from trying to touch the turnbuckles. Parker low blows Reed with the chain. Parker takes off his collar and touches the turnbuckles, but the referee tells him that it doesn’t count. He chokes Reed with the chain. Reed avoids a leg drop from the middle rope and hits a samoan drop. Parker brings a weapon into the ring but gets taken out. Reed puts the collar back on Parker for some reason and touches all four corners for the win at 8:58. They were content to go through the motions and I haven’t seen these two try anything different in their feud, which looks to be over. For a heated rivalry, Reed went for the victory way too quickly and it seemed like they had difficulty filling nine minutes worth of meaningful action. *
Match #8: Semifinal Round: Marek Brave vs. Joey O’Riley
Brave insults O’Riley and the crowd before the match. O’Riley catches him off-guard with a roaring mafia kick for the victory in ten seconds. So much for me seeing what Brave could do in a longer match.
Match #9: Semifinal Round: ACH vs. Matt Cage
Now we’re talking. They trade control on the mat and find themselves at a stalemate. Cage connects with an enzuigiri and hits a leaping russian leg sweep. ACH answers with a basement lariat and a slingshot stunner. They charge at each other with forearms. Cage connects with a lariat but ACH lays him out with a death valley driver into the turnbuckles. Cage blocks a charge with a superkick and hits a spinning neckbreaker for a nearfall. ACH spears him. Cage fights off a cloverleaf so ACH tries a few quick pin attempts to no avail. However, it is Cage that catches ACH with a backslide for the win at 12:49. Don’t let the lack of play by play fool you. The first five minutes of the match featured some terrific mat wrestling that nicely led to the back and forth action that was found throughout the rest of the contest. Despite Cage being a crowd favorite, the fans warmed up to ACH during the course of the match and gave him a nice ovation afterwards. These two successfully delivered a worthwhile exhibition for its place in the tournament. It goes without saying that I hope to see ACH back. ***
Match #10: Semifinal Round: Gunner Franks vs. Alex Castle
Castle charges at the opening bell with a forearm and hits a sit-out slam. Franks catches him with a knee strike to the head. They exchange forearms. Castle connects with a mule kick but gets taken down by a lariat. He recovers with an implant DDT. Franks fights off an ace crusher and applies a dragon sleeper. Castle escapes the hold and hits an ace crusher for the victory at 3:54. Castle has been winning his matches very quickly tonight and looks to be the strongest heading into the finals. I actually think Franks came out of this contest for the better, as he managed to take the fight to Castle, even if only for four minutes. Short matches have been a trend on this show, but that’s the breaks with a one-night, twelve-man tournament. **
Match #11: Evan Gelistico and Pierre Abernathy vs. Cash Bordin and Knight Wagner
Wagner takes down Abernathy with some inadvertent help from the referee. Bordin connects with a running knee strike on Gelistico and monkey flips him across the ring. He follows with repeated lariats in the corner and hits a bulldog. Abernathy catches Bordin with a kick from the apron and the Submission Squad isolate him. He connects with a missile dropkick on Gelistico and makes the tag. Wagner lands a flying crossbody onto both of his opponents. Gelistico plants him with a TKO for a nearfall. The referee gets bumped at some point here. Bordin hits an implant DDT on Gelistico but there’s no referee. Jimmy Karryt runs out and hits a snapmare driver on Bordin. Gelistico covers him for the win at 9:46. This match had some nice exchanges amidst other awkward moments of miscommunication. The Submission Squad were a lot of fun, however, and I’m glad they were able to pick up the victory over a makeshift team, especially since Bordin looks to be moving on to a feud with Karryt. **
Match #12: Final Round: Elimination: Joey O’Riley vs. Matt Cage vs. Alex Castle
Along with Christian Rose, these three men have been the focal point of IWAU this year. Cage’s ribs are taped. They show respect for each other at the opening bell as the crowd chants “all of you.” Cage teases a test of strength and then kicks Castle out of the ring. He connects with a basement dropkick to the back of O’Riley’s head. O’Riley answers with a corner lariat and a flying crossbody. Castle clotheslines O’Riley on the apron but gets caught by a missile dropkick from Cage. The Kentucky Buffet have a nice exchange where they trade rollups to no avail. Castle spears Cage on the apron and low bridges O’Riley to the floor. He follows with a rolling senton from the apron. Cage adds a dive of his own. In the ring, O’Riley connects with an enzuigiri on Cage and lands a handspring moonsault. He catches Castle with a standing spanish fly. Castle responds by suplexing O’Riley into the turnbuckles. Cage and O’Riley superkick Castle. Cage hits a shoulder-capture suplex on Castle for a nearfall. O’Riley plants Cage with a beautiful slingshot DDT. He adds two knockout kicks but Cage won’t stay down. Cage recovers with a tiger driver on O’Riley for a two count. Castle and Cage seem to form an alliance and unload a barrage of kicks on O’Riley. He looks to fight back with a phoenix splash but misses. The Kentucky Buffet follow with more tandem offense and Cage eliminates O’Riley after a tombstone. Castle connects with a yakuza kick and starts targeting the injured ribs with various kicks. He blocks a stunner and hits a half nelson slam. Cage finds life by synching in a rear-naked choke, which is how he defeated Zakk Sawyers earlier in the night. Castle powers out of the hold and hits an ace crusher for a nearfall. Castle applies a japanese stranglehold to win the 1UP Tournament at 20:13. The final match in the tournament was fittingly the match of the night. These three men obviously know each other very well and I love when IWAU gives these kinds of matches time to fully play out because they always tell a great story. O’Riley looked like the biggest threat in the first fifteen minutes so the Kentucky Buffet smartly overwhelmed him with double team offense. Then, Castle went to work on Cage’s injured ribs and was able to defeat his partner. Everything clicked in this match and it was a great way to end the first annual 1UP Tournament. Castle will receive a title shot at any time in the next year and I’d have to think he’d be gunning for Christian Rose. ***¾
Castle says that he’s never been more beat-up than he is right now but it’s worth it. Cage congratulates him for how far he’s come and calls him the next IWAU Heavyweight Champion. Cage says that this is his last night in IWAU and thanks everyone in the promotion. Danny Cannon interrupts and tells Cage that he can’t leave because he wants to face him one more time. The crowd chants “one more match.” Cage accepts Cannon’s challenge for next month’s show.
Overall: IWA Unlimited presented its first annual 1UP Tournament and I would have to consider it a success. While the tournament could have been trimmed down to cut down on the sheer number of matches and to give contests more time, there was a nice mix of IWAU and outside talent. ACH, Gary Jay, and Zakk Sawyers are all examples of outside talent that made a great impression during the tournament. As far as the in-ring quality was concerned, Matt Cage brought it on this show with solid outings against Sawyers and ACH as well as being apart of a terrific main event. I’m also glad that the tournament came down to Cage, Castle, and O’Riley, as they were able to establish the 1UP Tournament as a viable annual event with a fantastic finale. There’s also a worthwhile bonus match included showcasing Christian Rose. While not everything on this show worked, there’s enough value to give the 1UP Tournament a recommendation.
Ryan Rozanskii has been a professional wrestling fan since he was six years old. His first memory of it comes from witnessing Scott Hall win a sixty-man battle royal at WCW World War 3. Of course, that was before alcohol became a problem for Scott. Speaking of alcohol, Ryan is a youngster…not even old enough to consume alcoholic beverages. However, Ryan has used swear words to describe how much he loves Pro Wrestling Ponderings. That is something he’ll never try again, due to the risk of possibly being grounded by his parents. Some people compare Ryan to Butters from South Park. Currently, that comparison has yet to have any legitimacy.
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