I’m not doing full reviews of shows anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m not watching independent wrestling anymore. In order to give myself something to do and still maintain a consistent viewing of independent wrestling, I’m going to continue putting out mini-reviews of shows. They won’t contain star ratings, but you all can still get a sense of what I think of Â a show just on the short reviews. I added NXT Arrival to gush about it this week to two indie shows and two Ring of Honor shows.
ISW Burger King of the Ring 2 (11.16.2014)- Iâ€™ve not been the biggest fan of the two ISW shows Iâ€™ve watched in the past. Whether it be because the characters are clicking with me or because the actual wrestling was better, I had a ton of fun watching the tournament and the King of Crazy championship match. Iâ€™m torn with what I think was the best match, Either it was the opener between Tabarnak De Team and the BFFs (Jigsaw and Gran Akuma) or the aforementioned KoC match involving Chris Dickinson and Pinkie Sanchez. Akuma and Jigsaw need to team up more as they play well off each other and made TDT look dominant while also having a great match. Really the whole first round made for an easy watch with some wacky antics you might see out of Chikara. The Badd Boys versus GLAAD Boys was both an interesting match and social commentary. Sanchez and Dickinson was like car crash wrestling, perfect for the venue, company, and title. TDT looked dominant against a smaller team in Shynron and Kitsune. The latter definitely need to be a regular team. I was not a fan of the ISW title match at all. Izzy Deadyet and Buxx Belmar had a purely disgusting match with all sorts of spit and other bodily fluids spilling around the ring. The finals involving the Food Fighters defeating TDT was a great way to cap off the night. Having the Danbury, Connecticut crowd into the show as much as they were makes a huge difference for ISW. They got behind the Fighters and made the moment feel that much more special. A very fun show that really captured the bizarre Chikara vibe that I think they want to and apply for themselves. (B-)
CZW 15th Anniversary Show (2.8.2014)- I really only watched this show to see AJ Styles and Drew Gulak despite what I knew would be a finish that would annoy the piss out of me. Despite the awful finish, Kimber Lee hitting Styles in the back of the head with the belt, everything beforehand was very good. Gulak has such a presence in the ring. Hereâ€™s the thing. Gulak likely isnâ€™t â€œat the levelâ€ of AJ Styles, but his confidence and skill set absolutely made this a believable championship match. Gulak is so awesome right now. The four way number one contenderâ€™s match was very similar to a lot of four ways. Lots of movez and no psychology. Fox became the number one contender for the CZW championship, and I hope he becomes the champion when their match takes place. Joe Gacy and Shane Strickland started the show off, and I was surprised how much I liked the match. It didnâ€™t suck! Strickland won. I still think the guy needs a tour of Japan or something to become a more complete wrestler as opposed to just a spot guy. The Beaver Boys defended their tag titles against Murdererâ€™s Row of Alex Colon and Azreal. This was supposed to be a rubber match but no Bandido Jr. The match was okay but Colon being the replacement took something away from the meaning of it. Glad the Beaver Boys are getting a real chance to showcase themselves. Danny Havoc and Drake Younger had a pseudo death match to send the fans home happy after the screwjob finish in the world title match. Not my cup of tea but it was a nice bonus for the hardcore CZW fans. Devon Moore defeated Matt Tremont because why not. Itâ€™s funny how Iâ€™m not even that big of a fan of Matt Tremont but can totally see how CZW is completely blowing his potential as a draw for the promotion by having him job month after month. A significant step up from January but not exactly a memorable show either. (C+)
For a full recap plus additional perspective on the show, read what Chris GST had to say.
ROH State of the Art (2.8.2014)– Itâ€™s very tough for me to say a house show DVD is worth 20 dollars in the current environment, but this was a pretty fun show that didnâ€™t really have a bad match. The two clear highlights were the last two matches as Adrenaline Rush actually got a victory over the world tag team champions reDRagon. Just as what happened last time they were in San Antonio, the crowd was way into ACH as a performer and really embraced the finish. A great match between these two teams and itâ€™s easy to see that ROHâ€™s biggest failure truly is not pushing AR sooner. The main event of Kevin Steen versus Michael Elgin versus Jay Lethal versus Tommaso Ciampa was a fun sprint with Steen earning a world title match. This main event definitely elevated the rest of the show and was a fun spotfest level ending to the show. Cedric Alexander and the Decade also had a great deal of interaction throughout the show. First, Alexander lost to Jimmy Jacobs in what was a good match. I just wish Alexander didnâ€™t look like such an idiot. He hit a backbreaker, spent too much time looking at Roderick Strong, got speared and the pinned. Iâ€™m glad Alexander has something to do but after all the losing heâ€™s done, the guy really needs to get some victories as opposed to spending most of the feud losing out to Decade members. Later on, RD Evans kept his undefeated streak alive against Roderick Strong in what might be ROHâ€™s best comedy angle in a long time. Tons of fun as the crowd is really embracing Evans. Also, Roddy Strong is doing some of the best mic work of his career. I donâ€™t know how it happened, but Strong being a douchebag bully might finally be the type of character which will allow him to get over as a heel. (B)
ROH 12th Anniversary Show (2.21.2014)- Top to bottom one of the ROHâ€™s better in-ring efforts. Again not a bad match on the show. The six man tag of the Decade wrestling Mark Briscoe, Cedric Alexander, and Adam Page was a good undercard effort that showcased Alexander. I feel like Adam Page only gets booked when ROH remembers they have him under contract. Matt Taven/Silas Young and Michael Elgin/Raymond Rowe werenâ€™t bad matches, but they werenâ€™t special either. Jay Briscoe and Michael Bennett was perfectly acceptable. Tommaso Ciampa and Hanson was exactly the type of match which should be showcased on television, a short brawl with two big guys just beating each other up for our entertainment. My only major problem was Hanson no selling Ciampa a bit too much in this seven minute match. Adrenaline Rush and reDRagon had a similar match to the one they had in San Antonio. Because AR really didnâ€™t haveÂ a chance in hell and havenâ€™t been built like contenders, I couldnâ€™t really buy this match as anything except good wrestling. The finish of having Kyle Oâ€™Reilly catching ACH in a cross armbreaker after an Air Jordan has been done in PWG before. Points lost for creativity. Points gained for execution as the visual always pops the crowd. AJ Styles had his second straight very good match against Jay Lethal. Very similar to the Strong match if not a bit smoother. Just a good match and not much else. Chris Hero and Adam Cole was going along swimmingly until the finish. Todd Sinclair being bumped and having Cole visually tapping was unnecessary and especially coming off what Nigel McGuinness said about â€œsports entertainmentâ€ finishes, this finish was also hypocritical on ROHâ€™s part. The story and pace were still solid. Cole and Hero playing clear roles and having a good face/heel dynamic made a difference too. Cole is one of the best things about pro wrestling today even if some of the booking isnâ€™t always as strong. I appreciate Cliff Comptonâ€™s bumping in the main event, but the match with Kevin Steen was a paint by the numbers street fight that had no business being the last match of the 12th anniversary show, main event or not. I thought this was a far better show than Final Battle from both an in-ring and booking perspective. (B)
NXT Arrival- I donâ€™t usually review WWE shows, but this show is definitely worth talking about for a number of reasons. Overall, this came across like a major league independent wrestling show moreso than a WWE Raw or Smackdown. NXT Arrival also felt like a big deal with three matches I was very much looking forward to seeing. When Sami Zayn and Cesaro walked out, I knew the rest of the wrestlers would have a hard time trying to top them. Little did I know they would put on one of the best matches Iâ€™ve seen from WWE in a couple of years. From an in-ring perspective (and believe me their in-ring and booking are experiencing cognitive dissonance from each other) this was the best match Iâ€™ve seen in a WWE ring since John Cena and CM Punk from Money in the Bank. The crowd was with this the whole way. Maybe Iâ€™m biased, but these wrestlers brought genuine emotion and told a story. I wish Zayn had gotten a couple more hope spots, but those are nitpicks. Also, given Cesaroâ€™s push in WWE, the creative dictated that Zayn had to lose even though the story probably should have dictated a babyface victory. I donâ€™t think there was any shame in losing because a large audience got to see how good Zayn is. This was an incredible way to start the show, and I had goosebumps toward the ending because it was that damn good. If youâ€™re a wrestling fan, I would argue you NEED to see this match because itâ€™s everything you could want as both an independent and WWE fan. There was no way to top this match, so having a Mojo Rawley squash was the way to go. Iâ€™m not sold on him at all, but I appreciated seeing a video package focused on his character followed by a short match. This is how you bring new fans into a product, which I consider NXT to be for a lot of WWE fans. The Ascension/Too Cool tag title match wasnâ€™t great wrestling, but the right team won and again showcased themselves for a new audience. Then there was the NXT womenâ€™s title match, which while not great by any means, was the most important womenâ€™s match in WWE history. A video package did a better job of building this match than any other womenâ€™s match in WWE over the lastâ€¦ seven years? Eight? Paige is going to be a star in WWE. Sheâ€™s got the personality and the wrestling ability to wrestle circles around the other women in the company. Emma did her job as well and because of a character video package, I felt like I knew her far better as opposed to just seeing her on Raw and Smackdown. I loved the submission finish with Paige winning. If Emma is going to be on the main roster, she pretty much had to lose here. Given Emma hasn’t gotten a push yet, she could still afford to lose. As far as the main event goesâ€¦ Bo Dallas sucks. This is a huge show, and Dallas does absolutely nothing interesting or take even one “big show” bump. Adrian Neville tried, but thereâ€™s no way this ladder match comes off well unless both participants are willing to play ball. I walked away being happy for Neville but disappointed the match didnâ€™t turn out better. Overall, this was a great showcase for NXT despite some problems with the live stream (B+)