Before we get into this review, I feel the need to discuss expectations within independent wrestling. There are certain companies for whom certain things are expected. When I buy a PWG show, I expect a ton of wrestling and multiple matches to hit four stars. As part of that ambiance, I love the electric Reseda crowd and Excalibur’s sometimes wonky commentary. But it’s PWG. Even more than a company, it’s a feeling and an atmosphere. Put PWG in the Hammerstein Ballroom without Excalibur on commentary, and you’ve got a Ring of Honor show with Joey Ryan on the card. Just imagine if wrestlers started swearing in the middle of Chikara shows or think about AAW shows that don’t take place in Berwyn. Something just feels off.
Walking into Olde Wrestling- An Extravaganza of Wrestling Exhibitions, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, there was some buzz coming out about how unique an experience this was for all the fans. For me, this show isn’t about star ratings but about capturing the atmosphere of a pro wrestling show in the 1920s. This means my expectations for matches change. I don’t want to see the super indie style exhibited here. This is an occasion where a slower pace and lack of movez are not only encouraged but mandatory to grab a more authentic experience. Obviously, it can’t be pure because to ask anyone to wrestle “1920s” style and abandon the modern style is impossible. However, if I saw multiple superkicks and dives, I can’t say I’d be too happy.
Based on everything involved with this show, it’s clear the people put a lot behind it. The little touches made all the difference. The wrestlers wearing different style tights and incorporating different gimmicks is great and a huge part of its success. However, what made the event a little extra special were things like having a newsboy run around selling scoops, vendors dressed up in 1920s style clothing and selling items at those level prices. I loved the microphone being hung by a ceiling on a rope for a person to push and pull. Pedro De Luca behaved like an old man and used his old timey voice to further enhance the experience. Even the referees wore bowties. Jake Clemons in a bowtie! But to me, the most significant part of the whole experience, honestly even more than the matches, was the Ragtime band.
We’ve become so used to either generic public domain music in so many indies that I think we’ve lost the significance of music in wrestling. It can really make a fun event something a bit more. Someone like Bryan Danielson is a much bigger star for having come down to “The Final Countdown” than whatever generic music he came out during his initial ROH run. The Ragtime band at this event provided live music. Thanks to some great production, everything came across loud and clear. Being able to hear guys come out to different tunes added much to an event which already felt authentic in its own right. If you can’t at least smile at the “Mexican Hat Dance” being played for Louis Lyndon before the Lucha Lubre showcase or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for Dasher Hatfield, then this probably isn’t the DVD for you. The Ragtime band even interacted with Juan Francisco de Coronado as he demanded classier music. The band playing something akin to the fail horn was very amusing and gave the show even that much more character.
We’re about 500 words in. I guess I should talk about the matches, right? Honestly, it’s tough to really assess matches on a regular scale because the goals are so much different. How can I ask a match to be one thing in 2013 when in reality it’s something else completely to replicate the experience of being at a show in the 1920s. That’s why I don’t feel comfortable necessarily rating each match, but I will at least discuss some notes and overall thoughts on each.
Gregory Iron defeats ‘Burly’ Bill Taylor.
The tone of the show was set from the start as Bill Taylor was driven in a 1929 Dodge. Taylor walks out. The driver holds his hand out for a tip. Taylor walks away and heads over by a child. He holds the child upside down and shakes him loose for change. Taylor goes back and tips the driver. This is a contender for best heel maneuver ever. I am ever more amused by the idea that Taylor felt the need to tip the driver but steal from a child to do it. Iron was cited by Derek St. Holmes as suffering from the Spanish Flu instead of cerebral palsy. The idea of kayfabing his disability is an interesting but relatively harmless choice in my opinion. There were a lot of roll-ups and flash pins on this show, this match starting the charge. Given pinfalls probably came off bodyslams back in the day, I’m not dinging these guys as much as I would a regular independent. Who knows? Maybe ROH using them so often is an homage to this simpler time. Iron and Taylor incorporated some shenanigans and bullrope.
The Fabulous Blonde Brothers (Jack Verville Blonde & Tripp Cassidy Blonde) defeated The Red Scare (Anatolay & Nikolay with Baron Doroshov) and advanced to face the third and final tag team, The Jollyville Jeepers (Clean & Jerk)
The Jollyville Jeepers defeated the Fabulous Blonde Brothers.
I don’t know who the evil Russians were but given the 1920s saw the first Red Scare, there of course had to be foreign villains on the show. The Blondes behaved like all-American boys while the Jeepers are better known as Russ Myers and T-Money. The racist parts of the 1920s are whitewashed away for the purposes of this company…probably for the best.
Thunderkitty defeated Penny LeClare via forfeit.
Thunderkitty defeated Nicolas Valentino in the $1,000 open challenge after Valentino defeated two previous opponents.
Handling this a bit out of order. Thunderkitty’s opponent never came out, so Valentino taunted her by implying she should be working in a textile factory (fighting words if you ask me) or making him a pie. Later on in the show, he beat a couple of jobbers before offering 5k if Thunderkitty could beat him. She did and when she opened the bag, all that as there was a t-shirt. 1920s heel tactics really are so much better than 2013 ones. Thunderkitty is obviously a centerpiece to the promotion as she is in fact a throwback character. Valentino came across quite well and fit in with the overall atmosphere. I liked that even this company was able to naturally incorporate intergender wrestling.
Marion Fontaine & Jervis Cottonbelly defeated Columbus Cruncher & Jeremy Madrox
Fontaine and Cottenbelly are a perfect team. Cottenbelly is another guy whose style fits in extremely well with a company like this, even moreso than Chikara or various other Wrestling is promotions. This was definitely the best actual in-ring match of anything on the first half. I’d love to see these two become a regular team in Chikara when that company comes back as their double teams were fluid and they felt like a natural team.
Louis Lyndon defeated Juan Francisco de Coronado
Probably the one match that didn’t feel as authentic as the others. I get what they were trying to go for but Lyndon’s offense is so naturally exciting that incorporating him into the 1920s is almost too difficult. Also, de Coronado wearing pink tights struck me as odd too. Would men even wear pink during this time? Would he get away with it being a “foreigner?” These are the sorts of questions which lead you, the reader, to think I think way too hard about wrestling sometimes. Lyndon had the one and only suicide dive.
The Lobby Legislators of an Anti-Saloon Land (Senator Cameron S. Sheppard & Representative Gavin Q. Volstead with Judge Hugo Lexington Black) defeated The Moonshin’ Men of Appalachia (Chuck Taylor & Jock Samson).
Sheppard is best known as Cameron Skyy, Volstead as Cameron Quinn, and Hugo as Rickey Shane Page. Seriously, RSP WORE AN ALL-WHITE SUIT. THIS WAS MANY MANY BUYS. The idea of these guys being a part of the temperance movement during an era when prohibition was in place tickles me. Having them wrestle Jock Sampson and Chuck Taylor was an outstanding choice. Taylor and Sampson drank Moonshine and dumped some of the remaining liquid on their opponents after losing. I know having feuds in this company will be tough if they’re not running every month, but I hope we see these two teams interact in the future. Also, if there’s anyway to involve Arik Cannon and Josh Prohibition, then this absolutely needs to happen.
Big Sue Jackson claimed to have won the Best in Stache competition, however Inky Scoops (official Extravaganza newsie) claimed his paper held the real results. Mr. Scoops, with the help of head of concessions, Rory O’Henry McHenry, put Sue Jackson through a concession table.
What are the odds there would be a table spot on this show and RSP wouldn’t be involved. Jackson and Scoops’s interactions throughout the DVD were highly entertaining and worked for what it was trying to be. Not high art but fun times.
Dasher Hatfield defeated Jeff King
One of the unfortunate aspects of Chikara’s hiatus has been not seeing Dasher Hatfield on a regular basis since he really is a very good in-ring performer and character. The match with King was very good and told a solid story. King frequently went for the deadly bearhug. It is the 1920s after all. It was a great chance to see the old-time timey baseball player on this show. I can’t even imagine a show without him or Thunderkitty.
Matthew Cross defeated Robert Evans 2 falls to 1 to be crowned the new World Champion of Professional Wrestling.
Cross played a caveman; thus, he’s played a caveman, Spartan, Castro impersonator, and failed WWE superstar. This was for the world championship of some company never to be named. Evans played his role as a bit of a snoot well. I’m almost we got to see these two wrestle on a show like this as opposed to a regular indie show since otherwise we’d be in danger of a major styles clash.
I want to mention two other aspects to the DVD, one which was a major plus and the other my only real complaint about the DVD presentation. Derek St. Holmes did commentary on the whole show by himself and really added a lot to it. His knowledge of history, both wrestling and in the real world, helped out the show a great deal. This is one of the rare cases where having one person call the action in a post-production environment was a plus instead of a negative.
There were some clips of things that happened before the show and during intermission. It was all done newsreel style and fit in well with all of the other elements. What broke the momentum a bit was airing the actual matches in color. My knowledge of video production is limited, so I wonder if the scratching and black and white are too complicated to do for the entire 2.5 hours. I honestly think the show would have felt even more real and attuned to the times with everything being in black and white (at the very least).
This is not a company I want to see 10-12 shows from per year. Running one or two of these and making them feel special is more important. This is a nice change of pace show which may also not be for everyone. Honestly, I think this show comes across way better live based on what I saw. I hope I can make it to a show one day. If not, these DVDs to capture some of the fun. This was genuinely one of the better experience I’ve had watching a show this year even if there were no four star matches. I encourage everyone to at least give Olde Wrestling a chance. Some tremendously hard work went into putting this together, and it really shows in everything from the wrestling to the production and even to the packaging.
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