NOVA Pro Wrestling: Commonwealth Cup 2017 Review

April 14th, 2017

Opening Match:  First Round: Logan Easton LaRoux vs. David Starr
This proved to be a smart pairing since Starr is extremely talented at beating people up and NOVA Pro fans enjoy seeing LaRoux get beat up.  A lot of my thoughts on this show will be in the context of the one-night tournament structure, which can be quite difficult to pull off.  However, as an opener, this contest set the tone nicely with brutal strike exchanges and a fast pace to capture the crowd’s attention.  You cannot ask for much more out of a seven-minute opener.  LaRoux won in 7:16 with an ace crusher.  ***

Match #2:  First Round: Tracy Williams vs. John Kermon
Kermon has been wanting to test his skills against the best mat wrestlers available and Williams (of Catch Point fame) gave him a strong outing here.  They explored the typical themes that you would expect from a predominantly mat-based match, such as strategic use of rope breaks.  Williams (almost comically) had this fascination of targeting Kermon’s exposed bare feet.  The crowd gradually become invested and they nicely transitioned into more high-impact offense down the finishing stretch as time limit considerations came into play.  Kermon sticks to a certain style of contest to be sure, but he’s also very good about making that style interesting and non-repetitive.  Kermon won in 13:40 with a triangle choke.  ***¼

Match #3:  First Round: Chet Sterling vs. Alex Daniels
There was a really cool/smart moment in this match where Daniels did a cartwheel and immediately grabbed his knee afterwards, implying an injury.  However, Logan Easton LaRoux employed the same “fake injury” tactic against Sterling a few months ago.  So, this time, Sterling’s first reaction was to not believe Daniels.  In the grand scheme of things, this was a subtle touch, but it rewards consistent viewers and shows that Daniels may have been watching tapes to scout Sterling.  I don’t know if these two had the best chemistry together, but I do want to reiterate again how good Daniels is when he’s able to just let loose without needing to be a heel who constantly utilizes interference to gain advantages.  Sterling won in 7:06 with a frog splash.  **½

Match #4:  First Round: Tripp Cassidy vs. Arik Royal
No real effort was made to present Cassidy as a threat to Royal’s undefeated streak, which was fine because no one in the building thought Royal was going to lose in the first round anyway.  Cassidy’s execution was hit or miss throughout the match as well.  For those reasons, I think the shorter duration was the way to go.  Royal won in 4:34 with a pounce.  *

Match #5:  First Round: Bobby Shields vs. Jonathan Gresham
Shields has been quietly putting in strong performances since NOVA Pro’s inception.  He worked well with Gresham and they delivered a decent match for the time given.  Their willingness to let the action become silly at times was a strength in my opinion because the rest of the first round has been firmly serious.  This looked like a reasonable opportunity to have an outside talent advance to the semifinals, as the first three matches featured NOVA Pro regulars defeating outside talent.  However, I think those booking decisions come down to philosophical preferences and are probably beyond the scope of a reviewer without knowing the logistics at play.  Shields won in 8:28 with a gory slam.  **¾

Match #6:  First Round: Donovan Dijak vs. Tim Donst
Dijak was particularly angry on this night, which had me excited to watch this match from the start.  The story early on was Donst deliberately trying to anger Dijak in an attempt to turn the action into a brawl.  Donst, however, needed to be careful what he wished for because Dijak is a vicious human being.  The whole thing was enjoyable to watch play out.  Then the finish was tremendous.  Dijak attempted a springboard elbow drop and Donst somehow anticipated the move and countered into a crucifix rollup for the win.  Something about Donst willingly turning the match into a brawl only to change gears and catch Dijak with this insane rollup was pretty great.  There was a ton to like about this contest and I can comfortably say that this was the best first round match.  Donst won in 13:46 with a rollup.  ***½

Match #7:  Semifinal Round: Logan Easton LaRoux vs. John Kermon vs. Chet Sterling
The basic idea here was that Kermon and Sterling both despise LaRoux so they spent a good portion of this match teaming up on him.  That route certainly makes sense but it wasn’t overly interesting in execution.  The main problem was that Kermon and Sterling didn’t really stick to the plan despite knowing how manipulative and underhanded LaRoux can be in the ring.  In fact, Sterling eliminated Kermon, which easily allowed LaRoux to take advantage and catch Sterling off-guard.  The whole thing just seemed too easy for LaRoux to pull off when Kermon and Sterling should know better.  The action itself was fine but I think they had the seeds of an interesting story here that never fully came together.  LaRoux won in 8:37 with an ace crusher on Sterling.  **¼

Match #8:  Semifinal Round: Arik Royal vs. Bobby Shields vs. Tim Donst
Much like the previous semifinal match, there was certainly a story to be told here but the execution wasn’t fully there.  Shields flew around the ring like a madman trying to ensure that his stablemate LaRoux would win the tournament.  Since Dijak attacked Donst after their first round match, Shields spent the majority of this contest keeping Donst at bay while trying to put away Royal.  The issue was that once the action broke down and all three men were interacting, the exchanges weren’t cohesive.  Again, a reasonable idea storytelling-wise and the final round matchup of Royal vs. LaRoux is intriguing.  Royal won in 7:28 by pouncing Shields.  **

Match #9:  Brittany Blake vs. Faye Jackson
As far as non-tournament matches are concerned, this was a fun enough exhibition for this point in the card.  Jackson’s bubbly personality went over well with the crowd and after some early miscommunication, they ended with a fun finishing stretch.  Five minutes was not a ton of time, but eleven-match cards necessitate shorter matches like this one.  Blake won in 5:16 with a flying double stomp.  *½

Match #10:  Cutie and the Beast (Innocent Isaiah and Beau Crockett), Mecha Mercenary, Rayo, and Slade Porter vs. The Carnies (Kerry Awful and Nick Iggy), Alexander James, Ethan Alexander Sharpe, and Money Greene
This match was always going to have a difficult time capturing the crowd, being a ten-man tag team match before the main event of an eleven-match card.  However, they smartly let the Cutie and the Beast vs. Carnies feud carry the action and even did a callback to the Rayo/Greene feud while advancing the current Rayo/Shields feud.  The action itself was decent, as James and Rayo have been quietly delivering in the ring this year.  But the storyline stuff did a good job of making the match more interesting without overwhelming the action.  Given the position this contest was in, I think it ended up being a fun non-tournament showcase of some current feuds in NOVA Pro.  Iggy won the match for his team in 14:47 by rolling up Crockett.  **½

Match #11:  Final Round: Logan Easton LaRoux (w/ Alexander James) vs. Arik Royal
I should first say that having this as the final pairing made sense, as Royal is the unbeatable babyface and LaRoux is by far the most hated wrestler in NOVA Pro thus far.  The result of this one was rather shocking.  LaRoux defeated Royal in about six minutes to end his 12-0 undefeated streak at NOVA Pro events.  Look at the names that Royal has defeated: Chris Hero, Tracy Williams, David Starr, and Donovan Dijak.  Ending his undefeated streak in six minutes might seem odd, but ultimately I think it’s a trade-off.  NOVA Pro handled the undefeated streak itself quite nicely over the past year, but I think you easily run the risk of making Royal out to be a superhero and having the crowd become disinterested if the streak lasts too long.

Here, NOVA Pro sacrificed an exciting end to Royal’s streak in order to make LaRoux the new king of the promotion.  His night was pretty remarkable.  LaRoux defeated arguably the biggest name in the tournament in the first round, overcame two wrestlers that absolutely hate him in the semifinals, and then ended a twelve-show undefeated streak in the finals.  The booking moving forward will ultimately prove whether or not the trade-off was worth it.  However, for the time being, the booking is at least interesting.  LaRoux defeated Royal in 6:25 to win the 2017 Commonwealth Cup.  ***

-Show Grade: B-
You Need to See:
You’d Enjoy Watching: LaRoux/Starr, Kermon/Williams, Donst/Dijak, LaRoux/Royal
You Should Avoid:

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