“Interviews With A Hero: The Chris Hero Story” Deluxe Edition Review

Interview

This DVD includes two interviews; an older interview conducted in 2003, and a new interview conducted in 2011 shortly before Hero reported to the WWE Performance Center.

Volume 1; 2003: Hero looks and sounds so different here. His trainer, who Hero does not speak highly of, got into the wrestling training game because they accidentally purchased a wrestling ring instead of a boxing ring. A couple wrestlers set him on the right path and he grew as a wrestler by stepping in the ring with people like Logan Caine, Dana Blackheart, and others around the Ohio and Indiana area. Getting to Indiana allowed him to meet Nate Webb, Matt Stryker, which led to better training with Les Thatcher in HWA. He talks about his favorite aspects of wrestling, watching tapes, and how it affects his lifestyle. Dave Prazak hated him at first due to Hero’s original wrestling name of “The Wifebeater” and seeing him as a backyard wrestler, but became one of his biggest advocates and helped him get into companies like IWA Mid-South. This leads to talk about going to wXw and holding some training camps in Europe. Hero has mostly positive feelings on his feud with CM Punk, admitting some matches weren’t great, but overall has fond memories and feels they clicked. Colt Cabana interrupts Hero’s stories of Tracy Smothers, all positive. He then goes on to explain why IWA Mid-South is his favorite company to work. Hero even had positive experiences working with XPW. He talks about goals and the internet’s effect on pro wrestling. Some anecdotes and word association end a fun interview. Hero covers a lot of ground in 55 minutes.

Volume 2; 2011: Rob Naylor interviews Hero and breaks down the interview into digestible bites, going company by company, which is good because this interview is seven and a half hours long.

IWA Mid-South: Hero expands upon what was said in his previous interview. This is the company where he found his footing and learned how to wrestle longer matches. He delves more into his feud with CM Punk, not just on the matches themselves, but their interpersonal relationship and how they viewed one another. There’s some fun side stories about some gross and funny moments in matches Hero saw during his time with the company, including a thick bat Bull Pain used that he has in his possession and shows the camera. He talks about his “Highland Curse” where he never won a match in Highland, Indiana, while doing so also recalling fondly his feud with Arik Cannon. Naylor runs down some names Hero encountered in his time with the company, leading to stories about Ian Rotten, Trik Davis (one of Hero’s trainees), Eddie Kingston, and some of the guys he faced in “dream matches” (AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson) because he was a poster boy for the company. His matches with those at the top of independent wrestling is what he feels led to people on the internet arguing whether or not he belonged in Ring of Honor. Naturally he has some fun Ian Rotten stories, but ultimately speaks well of Rotten based on how he was treated by him and because of the opportunities he gave to many people in wrestling, while also understanding that Rotten made poor decisions and caused the company’s reputation to fall.

CHIKARA: Hero talks about meeting Mike Quackenbush through IWA Mid-South, leading to Hero being in the main event of the first ever CHIKARA show. Hero and Mike had a lot of similar wrestling interests and philosophies, which led to Hero relocating to Pennsylvania and becoming a co-trainer of the CHIKARA Wrestle Factory. There sadly isn’t much to say about the short-lived CHIKARA/CZW joint school. Talks of training with Skayde and Milano Collection AT lead to recalling his matches with them in CHIKARA and the 2005/2006 Tag World Grand Prix tournaments

Word association is where you hear more of Hero’s more expanded thoughts. He has nice things to say about everybody mentioned in the word association portion of the interview, leaving the two most controversial names for last: Mike Quackenbush and Shane Storm. He likes and respects lot about Quackenbush as a trainer and wrestler, as well as admiring him for growing CHIKARA on his own, but some personal interactions between them caused a riff and eventually a falling out. If you don’t know the Storm story, it involves a girl, so you can probably fill in the rest yourself. Animosity and a much busier schedule caused Hero to leave the Wrestle Factory and then CHIKARA altogether shortly after. Hero also believes CHIKARA students are trained to be wrestlers for CHIKARA but their characters and personalities don’t translate to wrestling outside of the company. One of his prouder moments as a trainer was helping Equinox turn into Vin Gerard, leading to Gerard receiving more opportunities outside of the company.

CZW: Hero’s start in CZW was a bit rough, with some matches he wasn’t all that proud of, and pressure from IWA Mid-South in how he was portrayed there. Eventually he found his way back for a run he was much more pleased with, where he won the Iron Man title, then the tag team titles with Claudio Castagnoli. He had fun feuding with BLK Out, but eventually the poor management and attitudes of some of the other wrestlers made CZW an unfun environment. He calls Justice Pain one of the worst wrestlers he was ever in the ring with, citing his recklessness and a particularly careless moment with Drake Younger as the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Shortly after, Hero left the company in an awesome Loser Leaves CZW match with Eddie Kingston (in which both the winner and loser ended up leaving, naturally.) He did come back once under the DJ Hyde regime which sounded fairly uneventful. Hero mentions a mock music video Matt Cross, Jonny Storm, and others filmed to the CZW theme song.

PWG: Hero debuted for PWG at the Tango and Cash Invitational tag team tournament in January 2004. He wrestled here and there from there through 2006, then in 2007 got to sink his teeth into a feud with Human Tornado. I loved that feud and was happy to hear Hero was proud of it as well. It was a little tough because people loved Tornado, so Hero had somewhat of an uphill battle as the babyface. That led to Hero becoming PWG World Champion. Some fans turned on him during his reign because he kept defeating many beloved wrestlers and there was no plans to turn him. One match that was particularly difficult was a four way with Eddie Kingston (whom he had issues with and got into a fight after the match), Low Ki (whom he had minor issues with, but chewed out Hero backstage in front of everyone after the match), and Necro Butcher (girl problems prior to the match, which Hero tells in great detail.) He loved his match with PAC when he was champion, recalls the epic battle with Akira Tozawa at BOLA 2010, and getting to wrestle Rob Van Dam at a WrestleReunion show.

Ring of Honor: Before even stepping foot in ROH, Hero had his fans and detractors online commenting about whether or not he should be in the company. At the 2005 TPI for IWA Mid-South, Hero defeated Bryan Danielson, who at the time was the ROH champion. Gabe brought in Hero in January 2006 for Danielson to get his win back, leading to Hero becoming the head of the CZW vs. ROH feud, which led to him becoming a full-time roster member. He recalls in great detail some of the matches over this time. He speaks very fondly of Sweet N’ Sour Inc. in 2007, but wishes ROH had TV around that time because he feels their skits were tailor made for TV. The antics of Sweet N’ Sour Inc. were getting popular, so to remain hated, Hero changed up his style to be more strike based, slowly conditioning the audience to buy into matches where he won with boots and rolling elbows and re-branding himself as “That Young Knockout Kid”, a nod to Mike Tyson. When Adam Pearce took over, Hero got comfortable in voicing his concerns because Pearce was “one of the boys” and it ended up hurting his reputation amongst the ROH office and almost cost him his job. Things took an upswing for him in 2009 when he changed his look and worked hard both in and out of the ring to change people’s perceptions. He had a handful of key singles matches that year against Jerry Lynn, Lance Storm, and KENTA, before reforming the Kings of Wrestling with Claudio going into 2010. Hero touches on three big parts of their 2010 run: feud with the Briscoes (where he was knocked loopy by Papa Briscoe), their match against the Motor City Machine Guns (plagued by TNA politics and an uncooperative crowd), and the World’s Greatest Tag Team (who feared a poor reception, but became enamored with ROH after their first match.) He liked the philosophies Jim Cornette and the WGTT brought to the company as it allowed for members of the roster to gain some new perspective. He had high hopes for Sinclair Broadcasting purchasing the company. I wonder if that’s changed.

Hero gives thoughts on the passing of both JC Bailey and Larry Sweeney to close things out, but it’s not truly the close, as they found more film and were able to discuss other topics!

Japan: The conversation is mostly focused on the Summer of 2009. Hero felt he had his breakout singles match against Go Shiozaki in Korakuen Hall in June 2009. That Summer is also where he faced Takiyama in a singles match and shifted from his superhero gear to short trunks. Sadly, the highs of the tour were soured when he was present for the death of Mitsuharu Misawa. He gives NOAH a lot of credit for offering him and Claudio many opportunities and wrestling in Japan is something he cherishes.

Miscellaneous: Hero talks about some humorous tales from the 2010 Gathering of the Juggalos and explains what the experience was like, transitioning into talking about some of his wrestling idols, which include Sean Waltman, Johnny Saint, Skayde, and the man Hero considers to be the best wrestler of all time, Eddie Guerrero. He also has some peers he admires, like Claudio, El Generico, and guys who made it to WWE (CM Punk and Evan Bourne) at that point. Funny how those names flipped. He wraps it up talking about getting held up at the Australian border incident that ended up on a reality TV show, a humorous story about accidentally stomping on a 50 year old ring announcer, and a thank you to the fans.

Smart Mark Video has two versions of this interview available on DVD. The Deluxe Edition includes the following bouts:

Matches

IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship
CM Punk (Champion) vs. Chris Hero vs. Colt Cabana

IWA Mid-South “Christmas Carnage 2001” – Charlestown, IN – 12.8.2001

Punk has been champion since 12.5.2001 and this is his first defense. Dave Prazak is in Punk’s corner and Nadia Nice is in Hero’s corner. Cabana takes a seat outside while Hero and Punk trade wristlocks. Hero trips Punk into a lateral press. On their feet they trade hammerlocks. Punk sends Hero outside near Cabana. Cabana and Hero bring Punk ringside and volley him between them with punches. They throw Punk back in, only for Punk to roll right back out. Hero and Cabana now exchange holds with Hero controlling Cabana in a side headlock. Cabana shoulder blocks Hero down. Hero catches Cabana coming off the ropes with an armdrag and keeps hold of the limb. Caban responds with a Japanese armdrag and a hiptoss. Hero kicks Cabana away. Both men kip up into a top rope dropkick from Punk. He puts the boots to both men and attacks them in opposite corners. He springboard dropkicks Cabana to the floor. Punk springboard crossbody’s onto Cabana. Hero corkscrew plancha’s onto Punk. Despite this, Punk is able to regain control once back in the ring. Hero reverses Punk’s tombstone attempt and drives him to the corner into a tree of woe. He tackles Punk upside down, then trips Cabana into a dropkick to Punk. Hero spears Cabana in the opposite corner. He misses Punk who slips off the ropes, but turns right into a clothesline from Cabana. Punk gives Cabana the Big Ending for two. Punk tosses a trashcan at Hero, who catches it and throws it at Punk as he comes in with a springboard maneuver. Cabana and Hero tie up Punk in the ropes and dropkick chairs into either side of his head! Cabana slams Punk onto a chair. Hero sets up chairs in all four corners between the top and middle turnbuckles. Cabana and Hero pick up Punk like a battering ram and send him head first into all four chairs. Cabana and Hero fight over a pinfall on Punk. Cabana spins Punk into a gutbuster from Hero. Cabana sunset flips Hero for two, and Hero jumps up and lariats him down. Hero gives Punk the Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex for two thanks to Cabana breaking up the fall. Cabana and Hero fight for a waistlock. Punk joins the waistlock chain which results in Hero German suplexing Cabana and Punk simultaneously. Punk barely breaks up Hero’s pin on Cabana. He slams Hero and ascends the ropes. He comes off the top with an elbow drop. Cabana pulls Hero out from under Punk before a pin is triggered. Hero kicks the ropes to crotch Punk as he climbs the ropes again. Hero brings Punk down with a super reverse powerbomb! Punk ends up with Hero on the top again. This time, Cabana sunset bombs Hero, who superplexes Punk! Dazed and tired, the three men trade blows with one another. Hero suplexes Punk out of a double chicken wing. Cabana gives Hero the Colt .45. Punk breaks the cover and gives Cabana Welcome to Chicago, Mother Fucker. Prazak cheap shots Cabana on the apron as Hero fights from beneath on Punk with punches. He drills Punk with the Hero’s Welcome. Prazak puts Punk’s foot on the ropes. Nadia chases him around ringside and into the ring. Punk powerbombs Nadia! Hero drops Cabana with the Hero’s Welcome. Punk stops Hero from getting a pin, but Hero is able to halt him in the corner. This time however, Punk brings down Hero with the Pepsi Plunge onto Cabana! Punk pins Cabana to retain the title at 25:04. Despite this being featured on a Hero compilation, Punk was the star of the show here with his trash talking and fans outright hatred of him. While the match was a bit rough at times, they did well incorporating all three men as best as they could without having one person out of the picture at all times. Some of the moves here remain spectacular, and the finish was logical with one big move affecting both of Punk’s opponents. I’m sure in 2001 this was highly regarded, but even sixteen years later I thought this was enjoyable. ***

IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship
Chris Hero vs. Homicide

IWA Mid-South “King of the Deathmatches 2003, Night 1” – Clarksville, IN – 8.1.2003

Hero has been champion since 7.12.2003 and this is his third defense. Hero rolls to the corner to avoid Homicide getting a submission on early. Homicide brings him back down in a hammerlock and drops the knee onto Hero’s left arm. He jams the arm across his shoulder. They fight over a wristlock which Hero turns into a cravate. Homicide trips Hero and goes for a STF, but Hero is close enough to the ropes to avoid it being applied. Homicide slaps Hero a few times and hits the floor when Hero is close to taking over. When Homicide comes back in, Hero crunches his knee, causing Homicide to roll right back out. Hero aggressively uses his British style of wrestling to get Homicide into a rollup for two, whipping the fans into a frenzy. Homicide gives Hero props before locking up. Homicide chops Hero in the corner, and Hero returns the favor when he takes Homicide to another corner. Homicide ends a chop battle with a poke to the eyes. They trade armdrags until they each go for one at the same time. Homicide again pokes Hero in the eyes. Hero responds by chopping Homicide to the corner. Homicide lands a headbutt, but Hero forearms him in the face. Homicide back elbows Hero to the mat and pulls him up by the hair into a snapmare. He kicks Hero in the back four times and gets a two count from it. Homicide dizzies himself by giving Hero two headbutts, leaving both men grounded. Hero ducks a back elbow and gives Homicide a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. He follows up with a belly-to-back suplex for two. Hero gives Homicide his own back kicks. Homicide goes to the eyes to end a strike exchange. He gives Hero some Kawada kicks. Hero strikes him away and delivers his own headbutt. Homicide dropkicks Hero the floor. Although Hero ducks a baseball slide, Homicide sends him into the ring post. In the ring, Homicide slams Hero into a top rope double stomp. Homicide follows up with a face wash knee. He comes off the middle turnbuckle with a tornado DDT for two. Hero ducks Homicide shots and blasts him with a trifecta of vicious forearm strikes, bringing Homicide to a knee. Homicide holds onto the ropes to avoid a powerslam and gives Hero a swinging neckbreaker for two. Hero goes for a slam. Homicide counters with a 2k1 Bomb for two. Homicide misses a top rope headbutt. Hero lands a few more shots to Homicide’s forehead. Hero follows up a rolling neckbreaker with a powerslam for the closest nearfall of the match. Homicide fights out of the Hangman’s Clutch. He kicks Hero low, ties up his legs, and pulls back on Hero’s hair so he can’t get on an STF. Hero gets the bottom rope to break. Hero rolls to the floor after taking another back kick. Homicide follows with a tope suicida into the third row. In the ring, Hero release German suplexes Homicide. Homicide knocks him down with a lariat. Hero boots him down. Homicide kicks him low and drills Hero with the Cop Killa! Hero rolls to the floor so Homicide can’t go for a pin. Homicide attacks Hero outside before bringing him back inside the ring. He goes for a cover but Hero gets his shoulder up just before three. Hero fights out of another Cop Killa attempt, and Homicide resists another Hero’s Welcome, busting open Hero’s nose. Hero successfully hits the Hero’s Welcome the second attempt. He forearms Homicide in the back before locking on the Hangman’s Clutch. Homicide reaches the ropes. Hero pulls him back into the middle of the ring and reapplies the hold. Homicide taps out at 26:22. If you shaved of 10 or so minutes, this could’ve be a classic title match. The approach of two guys going for submissions, picking up the aggression as the match evolved into strikes and head shots, then going back into submissions once the damage was done and seemingly nothing could keep either man down for a pin, is great. It’s just hard to keep any match intriguing for 26 minutes, especially on a show where the crowd (who admittedly was very hot for the beginning and end of the match) is here for blood and guts. That all said, both guys worked hard, looked great, and I had fun watching them beat the heck out of one another. ***½

Chris Hero vs. B-Boy
IWA Mid-South “Stylin & Profilin” – Salem, IN – 12.20.2003

Hero controls B-Boy by the head at the start. B-Boy goes after the left leg. Hero resists a half crab and converts into a wristlock. B-Boy tosses Hero overhead while holding onto his arm. Hero trips B-Boy into a forearm lock. B-Boy wraps his legs around Hero’s head. Hero headstands free into a side headlock. B-Boy reverses, and Hero wiggles his way out of that. Hero grabs a cravate out of a double knuckle lock and releases when B-Boy falls into the ropes. He takes some time on the floor before cleanly breaking a lock-up with Hero in the corner. The second time, Hero forearms B-Boy in the jaw. He tries it again, but this time B-Boy blocks and clocks Hero with his own forearm strike. Hero rolls B-Boy into an Indian Deathlock. He converts into an arm lock which B-Boy quickly escapes thanks to the ropes. Hero armdrags B-Boy thrice before rolling him into a crucifix pin for two. B-Boy gets his foot on the bottom rope to break a front chancery. B-Boy snapmares Hero into a double stomp. Hero does the same. B-Boy then snapmares Hero into two double stomps and a senton! The two exchange forearms until B-Boy shuts Hero down with an elbow strike. B-Boy applies pressure to Hero’s neck and shoulders in a butterfly lock. Hero goes for the Hangman’s Clutch but B-Boy gets the ropes before it’s even close to applied. B-Boy puts on a modified Camel Clutch, trapping Hero’s right shoulder around his head. B-Boy fights out and throws Hero by his hair head first into the mat. He goes for the Facelift but Hero turns him inside out with a lariat. He fires up with more shots before landing another lariat and a big boot. Hero drops B-Boy with a brainbuster for two. He delivers a pair of headbutts in the corner. B-Boy holds onto the ropes to avoid the Cravate Cutter. B-Boy at Hero, and this time Hero catches him with the Cravate Cutter for two. B-Boy fights for and successfully delivers a Death Valley Driver. Hero catches B-Boy on his shoulders. He goes the Hero’s Welcome. B-Boy takes him down to a knee. He tries the Shining Wizard. Hero ducks and goes for the Hangman’s Clutch. B-Boy stops and puts him in a Rings of Saturn. Hero brings B-Boy to his feet and uses his hips to break free. He brings B-Boy back down in the Hangman’s Clutch. B-Boy crawls to the ropes. Hero attempts a leg-capture piledriver. B-Boy counters with an arm-cross piledriver for only two! Both men struggle to stay on their feet as they continue trading shots. B-Boy knocks down Hero in the corner and hits the Facelift. He follows up with the Shining Wizard for two! Hero counters B-Boy’s suplex with a release suplex. He muscles up B-Boy into the cloverleaf piledriver. The Hangman’s Clutch is applied. B-Boy’s arm drops twice. He somehow gets to the ropes again. He gives B-Boy the Hero’s Welcome. He tries a second time but B-Boy kicks out his leg. Another Shining Wizard connects. Hero hits the Hero’s Welcome. Both men’s arms lay across each other as the referee counts 3, resulting in a double pin at 22:24. Like the previous match, this went long for no real reason, and while the action was good, the match itself would’ve benefited from being more compact. This ending worked well as a middle chapter to their trilogy, but as a standalone match on a compilation does not work well. ***¼

Chris Hero vs. Samoa Joe
IWA Mid-South “A Shot of Southern Comfort” – Highland, IN – 5.29.2004

Joe double wrist drags Hero out of a double knuckle lock. Hero backs Joe to the corner but does not strike. The crowd is split between the competitors as they exchange wristlocks. They go to the ground momentarily before trading chops and forearms. Neither budge as they shoulder block one another. Hero manages to knock Joe down and applies a front facelock. Back on their feet, Hero and Joe cautiously throw kicks to each others’ legs. Joe brings down Hero in a side headlock. Hero escapes into a headscissors while twisting on Joe’s left arm. Back on their feet, Joe slaps Hero while Hero chops Joe! Hero chops and forearms Joe in the corner. Joe responds with repeated chops. Hero takes him down by his legs and throws more forearms, but Hero has to break due to them falling into the ropes. They slap, elbow strike, and forearm one another, with Joe knocking down Hero in the corner. Hero reverses a whip and knocks down Joe with a back elbow. Joe fights out of a cravate and kicks Hero’s left leg before delivering a headbutt. Hero escapes a corner STO the first time, but Joe drops him on the second attempt. Joe drops a knee across Hero’s chest for two. When Hero shows signs of life, Joe takes out his legs. Hero absorbs some knee shots and nails an enzuigiri to buy some recovery time. Hero takes Joe down with a rolling neckbreaker and lands a senton splash. A big lariat earns Hero a two count. Joe side steps a corner attack and powerslams Hero. He puts Hero in a cross armbreaker. Hero rolls backwards to the ropes to break. Hero tags Joe with a rolling elbow. He throws off his elbow pad and hits the ropes. Joe scoops him up into a Death Valley Driver for two. Hero swings Joe into a Cravate suplex that almost sends Joe out of the ring. Hero stomps on the ribs before putting Joe in the Hangman’s Clutch. Joe grabs the ropes to escape. Hero picks up Joe, looking for the Hero’s Welcome. Joe looks for a sleeper to counter. Hero escapes that and hits the Hero’s Welcome. He goes for a second but Joe dumps Hero on his head out of a Saito suplex. He rolls Hero into the Coquina Clutch. Joe chokes Hero out at 14:19. The atmosphere here was off the charts. The fans were going nuts from the start, roaring for the strike exchanges which helped pick up the intensity, all leading into a beautiful crescendo with Joe keeping his winning streak in tact by choking out Hero. This also ties nicely back into the interview where Hero discussed “The Highland Curse.” For the atmosphere alone, this is a must watch match. ***½

CZW Iron Man Championship; No Time Limit
Chris Hero (Champion) vs. Alex Shelley

CZW “High Stakes 2: Afternoon Show” – Philadelphia, PA – 9.11.2004

Hero has been champion since 5.1.2004 and this is his second defense. After trading holds, Hero grabs a cravate which Shelley rolls out of. Shelley sweeps the leg and applies a top wristlock. Hero escapes, but Shelley takes him back down and puts Hero in a pendulum stretch. Back on their feet Hero goes back to the cravate. Shelley tries putting his bodyweight on Hero for a pin but Hero resists. Hero grabs his legs resulting in Shelley frantically going to the ropes. Hero attacks Shelley in multiple corners. Shelley uses both feet to kick Hero away. He snaps off a pair of armdrags and holds onto Hero’s left arm. He gets shot to the ropes. Shelley comes off the middle rope with a back elbow, then drives the back of Hero’s head into his knee for two. Hero drives Shelley’s wrist into the top of his head before tossing Shelley by the wrist overhead. He drops a knee onto Shelley’s left arm and stomps on his wrist. He hammerlocks Shelley’s arm before giving him a backbreaker for two. Shelley fires back with chops from his good hand and drops Hero with a neckbreaker. Hero dropkicks Shelley in the small of the back. He holds onto Shelley’s arm while headbuttting and kicking at it. Shelley sends Hero into the second turnbuckle with a headscissors. Shelley goes for a tornado DDT. Hero holds onto the arm and spins out Shelley into an arm-capture STO. Hero does more damage to the arm until Shelley hits him with an enzuigiri. After a spinwheel kick, Shelley drops Hero with Panic in Detroit for two. Shelley misses a top rope knee drop. Hero cravate suplexes Shelley for two, but he holds onto the wrist. Shelley rolls Hero into an attempted Border City Stretch, but Shelley’s injured arm won’t allow him to hold on. Hero attempts the Hero’s Welcome, but Shelley counters into the Golden Gate Swing for two. Hero knee strikes Shelley. He captures the arm in a hammerlock for the Hero Sandwich. He then puts Shelley in a modified Hangman’s Clutch, causing Shelley to tap out at 11:34. The wrestling here was very sound and logical, but not all that exciting and the crowd never seemed to get into it. Even though it’s a match I don’t see myself going out of my way to watch again, I can appreciate the story they told. **½

CZW Iron Man Championship
Chris Hero (Champion) vs. Super Dragon

CZW “High Stakes 2: Evening Show” – Philadelphia, PA – 9.11.2004

Hero has been champion since 5.1.2004 and this is his third defense. Both of these men wrestled on the Afternoon show; Hero defeated Alex Shelley (see above) and Super Dragon won a four way So Cal showcase against Excalibur, Bobby Quance, and B-Boy. Dragon does damage to Hero’s knee on the mat. When Hero rolls to his feet, Dragon armdrags him right back down. Hero ends a wristlock exchange by kicking Dragon in the stomach and applying a side headlock. Dragon trips Hero into a front chancery. Hero escapes, so Dragon forearms him in the face. Hero responds, leading to a battle of forearm strikes and chops. Hero drops down and Dragon double stomps on his back. He mows down Hero with a back elbow, then brings him down in a hammerlock cradle for two. Hero avoids a corner attack, sending Dragon shoulder first into the ring post. Hero gets in some shots on the floor before bringing Dragon back inside. Hero does a bit of damage to his legs before hitting a flip senton for two. Dragon shows signs of life with forearm strikes, but Hero knocks him down and lands another senton for two. He drives the back of Dragon’s head repeatedly into the canvas. Dragon armdrags his way out of a cravate and knocks down Hero with a forearm, giving himself time to recoup. Dragon unloads a violence party in the corner before pulling Hero into a short-arm clothesline. He butterfly suplexes Hero for two. Hero tries an eye poke, but it doesn’t affect Dragon due to his mask. He half-nelson suplexes Hero for two. Hero fights out of the Psycho Driver. Dragon sends him to the floor with an enzuigiri and follows with a tope con hilo. Inside, Dragon misses a top rope double stomp. Hero dumps him on his head with a Regalplex for two. Dragon catches Hero with a boot from the corner. He tornado DDT’s Hero into a butterfly lock. Hero grabs the ropes to break the hold. Hero catches Dragon on the top rope and brings him down with the Cravate-O-Clasm for two. Dragon trips Hero and hooks him for the Curb Stomp. Hero frees himself from the position and goes for a powerbomb. Dragon resists, so Hero throws forearms to his back and kicks to his head before trying again. He muscles up Dragon into a powerbomb, then puts him in the Hangman’s Clutch. Dragon crawls to the ropes. Hero goes up top. Dragon grabs his legs and climbs up to the middle rope. He brings Hero down with a butterfly superplex! He crawls on top of Hero for a two count. Dragon comes off the top with a curb stomp to the back of the head for another two count. Dragon goes for the Psycho Driver. Hero counters with the Hero’s Welcome! He reapplies the Hangman’s Clutch and Dragon taps out at 19:42. I have the same thoughts about this match as I do the Shelley match above; technically good, but a quiet crowd kept this from being anything remarkable. **¾

Chris Hero vs. Arik Cannon
IWA Mid-South “Put Up or Shut Up 2005” – Midlothian, IN – 8.19.2005

While it looks like things will start with a lock-up, they go right at it with forearm strikes. Hero knocks him down with a back elbow. Cannon kicks out Hero’s leg. Hero ducks the Glimmering Warlock and dropkicks Cannon to the floor. They chop one another around ringside. Cannon ducks a rolling elbow and sends Hero face first into one of the ring posts before sending him into a sea of chairs. Back inside, Cannon spears Hero in the corner and lands a senton splash for two. He weaves Hero into a vertical suplex. He captures Hero’s arms while applying a chinlock. Hero becomes angry when Cannon begins striking him in the mid-section, causing him to turn over and deliver repeated forearm strikes to the face. Cannon backdrops Hero to the floor to stop his onslaught. The two men disorient one another with headbutts ringside. Cannon pokes Hero in the eyes to stop him. Cannon misses a chop, hurting his hand on the ring post by mistake. Hero looks for a powerbomb on the floor. Cannon instead backdrops him onto chairs. In the ring, he snapmares Hero into a back kick before putting on a modified grounded Octopus stretch. Hero fights his way free. Cannon holds the ropes to counter a powerslam from Hero. He does more damage to the mid-section, including two sentons, which fires Hero up! They trade chops. Cannon dumps Hero on his head with a Saito suplex. Hero fires himself up to hit one himself, resulting in both men laying. Hero chops Cannon in the neck to bring him to the corner. He whips him across the ring and follows in with a leaping forearm strike. He folds up Cannon with a powerbomb, then turns him over in the hopes of getting on the Hangman’s Clutch. Cannon gets the ropes right before it is applied. Cannon maneuvers Hero into Total Anarchy. He holds on and delivers a brainbuster for two. Cannon kicks Hero in the face a few times. Hero kicks out his leg and goes for the Glimmering Warlock himself! Cannon ducks, but Hero does pull off an exploder suplex. Hero misses a top rope double stomp, but rolls through and knocks down Cannon with a big boot. Hero nails the top rope double stomp the second time but doesn’t even get a one count! Cannon hits a step-up enzuigiri thrice, but Hero remains on his feet. Cannon slaps Hero. Hero blasts him with a haymaker for the pin at 19:35. This did a good job planting the seeds for Hero’s turn the next month at the TPI. You could sense between the two of them that winning the match was so important, because it was definitive proof as to who amongst them was the tougher competitor and better wrestler was. The crowd was into the action at the right times, and the way the match built, a haymaker serving as the finish worked for me. Cringeworthy commentary aside, this was really fun. ***½

Chris Hero vs. Milano Collection AT
CHIKARA “Little Creatures” – Reading, PA – 10.21.2005

AT cleanly breaks a lock up in the corner. AT wins a wristlock exchange and trips Hero down. He puts on a leg submission. As Hero goes to break, AT rolls him up for two. Hero turns a wristlock into a cravate. At reverses and snapmares Hero into a headlock. Hero tries multiple tactics to escape but AT manages to hold onto the maneuver. Hero breaks free and dropkicks AT when AT drops down. Hero attacks AT’s neck and then places his entire body weight on it. Hero rolls him up for two. Hero vices AT’s neck with his forearms. AT escapes and schoolboys Hero for two. Hero catches him with a rolling elbow for two. Hero ties AT’s arms in his legs, then pulls AT’s legs behind his head. AT manages to escape but eats a low dropkick for two. Hero boots AT. AT cartwheels to evade a strike and delivers a clothesline. Hero goes to the middle rope but gets caught with a dropkick. AT hits a back senton for two. Hero lights AT up with various strikes before suplexing him overhead with a neck vice. He hits the Hero Sidekick for two. AT blocks a suplex. Hero instead hits a cravate neckbreaker for two. AT kicks Hero when Hero goes to the apron. He hits a delayed dropkick in which the force brings Hero back into the ring. Hero blocks a piledriver and drops him with a wrist-clutch fireman’s slam. Hero misses a double stomp. AT misses an enzuigiri, allowing Hero to take him down and apply the Hangman’s Clutch. AT manages to get the ropes. AT hits a superkick. He goes for the AT Lock but Hero shoves him into referee Bryce Remsburg. Hero low blows AT while Bryce is gaining his bearings. Hero rolls up AT for the pin at 16:14. Even before the finish, something here fell a bit flat. The action was good, creative, and AT’s comeback was done really well, but that ending for what was at the time a somewhat heavily hyped contest is truly a disappointment. **¾

IWA East Coast Heavyweight Championship; Ladder Match
Chris Hero (Champion) vs. Dick Togo

IWA East Coast “Shoots and Ladders” – South Charleston, WV – 4.5.2006

Hero has been champion since 4.6.2005 and this is his fourth defense. Hero sweeps out Togo’s leg out of a wristlock exchange, applying pressure to his knees and ankle. Togo reverses out into a front facelock. Hero grabs a toe and ankle, then locks Togo’s knees and feet around his legs. Hero puts all his bodyweight onto Togo’s legs while pulling back on his arms. Togo flip kicks his way out of the hold and gets back to his feet. Hero tries picking up the pace but Togo punches him in the face to stop the momentum. Hero meets Togo on the floor where Togo throws a ladder at his face. Togo sends him back in the ring, which only allows Hero to dropkick the ladder into his face. He goes for a pescado, only to land on the ladder which has ended up propped up between the guardrail and apron. Togo props the ladder up onto the guardrail and places a now bloody Hero onto it. Togo hits a tope suicida onto Hero! In the ring, Togo whips Hero into the ladder. He hits a Complete Shot as Hero comes out of the corner, then rides the ladder down out of the corner onto Hero! Despite the damage done, Hero is able to knock Togo off the ladder as he begins to climb. He slams Togo back first onto the ladder. Hero headstands into a twisting senton for two. Hero slingshots the ladder into Togo’s face. Hero begins to climb the ladder when Togo knocks him down with several punches. Hero dropkicks Togo off the ladder and into the ropes. They trade strikes until Togo superkicks a ladder into Hero’s face. Togo props up a second ladder in the corner. Hero ends up backdropping Togo onto the ladder, hurting Togo’s ankle. Hero dropkicks the top of the ladder into Togo’s throat. Hero is close to the title when Togo uses the other ladder to knock him down. Both of them climb up their respective ladders and end up knocking each other down. Hero lands on the floor. However, he springboards in onto the ladder while Togo climbs the other! Hero shoves Togo’s ladder down and yanks down the championship to retain the title at 20:52. Some people fear foreigners using excursions to the U.S as “vacations”, but Togo worked his ass off here and took as much of a beating as he dished out. Hero matched his intensity and wrestled like he had something to prove against the beloved veteran. Smartly, Hero worked over Togo’s knees and ankles, which worked to his advantage in retaining the title. I know these two would wrestle over a decade later in EVOLVE, but this was a great gem to uncover. ***¾

wXw 16 Carat Gold Tournament 2007 – First Round
Chris Hero vs. Claudio Castagnoli

wXw “16 Carat Gold Tournament 2007, Night 1” – Essen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland – 5.4.2007

They trade control on the mat to start. They trade armdrags until Hero brings down Claudio with a dragonscrew leg whip and snaps his ankle. Despite Claudio trying to kick him away, Hero does it again. Claudio rolls outside, but gets more abuse done to his legs once he comes back inside. Claudio turns the tables by dropkicking Hero’s left knee out and doing considerable damage to his leg. When Hero begins to fight back, Claudio gives him a one-legged Giant Swing for two. He goes for it again but Hero kicks him away with the other leg. They end up trading forearms until Hero backslides Claudio into a dragonscrew leg whip. Hero ducks Swiss Chin Music and kicks out Claudio’s leg. Hero then goes to the apron. He comes back in with a springboard tornado clutch for two. He puts on a half crab which Claudio breaks using the ropes. Claudo weaves under an Irish Whip and hits the Match Killer for two. He then puts Hero in a half crab. Hero himself gets the ropes. Claudio stomps on his leg before attempting the Ricola Bomb. Hero comes off his shoulders with an armdrag and blasts Claudio with a big boot. Claudio responds with Swiss Chin Music. Hero kicks out and hits another big boot for two. Hero comes off the second rope with a boot that drives Claudio into the canvas. Claudio gets Hero on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a neck-tie headscissors. He then nails a European uppercut for two. The Ricola Bomb gets another nearfall. Claudio converts into the Horse Collar as soon as Hero kicks out. Hero rolls his way free and puts Claudio in a cloverleaf sharpshooter. Claudio reverses back into the Horse Collar submission. Hero reaches the bottom rope to escape. Claudio gets Hero on the top turnbuckle again. Hero headbutts Claudio to the mat and comes down with a double stomp to the leg. Hero turns him over in the cloverleaf sharpshooter again. Claudio taps out at 20:39. This took far too long to get interesting. All the leg work in the beginning was dull and uninspired, and while it worked in the end, it was not worth sitting through it all just to get to where they were going. These two had a series of matches in 2007, and aside from one or two matches, none of them were that great. Their lack of chemistry as opponents in singles matches confounds me. **½

Lucha de Apuesta; Hair vs. Mask
Chris Hero vs. Equinox

CHIKARA “The Sordid Perils of Everyday Existence” – Hellertown, PA – 11.17.2007

If Equinox loses he must unmask and if Hero loses he will have his head shaved. Equinox doesn’t step down from Hero’s initial shove. Hero stomps on his foot and shoves him down. Equinox gets a couple quick nearfalls. He snaps off an armdrag. Hero chops him to block a toreador. He gets in a few stomps. Equinox goes back to armdrags. Hero catches his headscissors attempt and delivers a side slam. He tosses Equinox off of his shoulders and into a senton. Hero stretches out his neck, arms and legs across his back. Hero tosses Equinox to the floor and comes off the apron with a stomp. Equinox dropkicks Hero into the wall. Equinox charges. Hero pops him up, causing Equinox to land on the ring ropes. Hero gets two with a folding press. He suplexes Equinox out of a cravate. Hero tears a portion of Equinox’s mask. Hero taunts Equinox for it while Bryce reminds him that tearing off the mask would be a disqualification if done before the match concludes. Equinox fires back with forearms. He gets in a boot. Hero chops Equinox but Equinox absorbs them. He throws a flurry of forearms. He blocks Hero’s boot and rolls him into a Magistral cradle for two. Equinox comes off the second rope with an ardmrag. He hits a standing shooting star press for two. Hero catches him with a rolling elbow. He releases him out of a suplex for two. Equinox boots Hero to avoid a corner attack. He comes off the second rope with a headscissors and dropkicks Hero to the floor. Equinox armdrags Hero into a few rows of chairs! Equinox avoids being whipped into a railing. He instead uses it to give Hero a neck-tie headscissors. Back in the ring he gets two with a huracanrana. Hero rolls through a crossbody. He suplexes Equinox out of a cravate. He gives him the Cravate Buster for two. Equinox comes back with a tornado clutch. Hero catches him with the Hero’s Welcome. Equinox kicks out! Angry, Hero tries a cravate suplex. Equinox backslides Hero to block, but unlike last night, it only gets two. Equinox drops him with a reverse DDT. When Hero kicks out he locks on the CHIKARA Special. Hero kicks Equinox in the side of the head to escape. Quackenbush on commentary states that Hero should not know that counter. Hero throws some forearms and powerbombs Equinox. He then puts on the CHIKARA Special himself! Equinox taps out at 17:04 and must be unmasked. This match is quite historic for setting the stage for CHIKARA’s future, but what people seem to forget was how good the match itself was. Both competitors should be proud of their work. If Hero didn’t help make Equinox look good, and Equinox didn’t work his ass off, Vin Gerard’s run wouldn’t have been the hit character he was. It’s fitting that Equinox put up the biggest fight he would in what would be his final match as that character. ***½

Overall: This is one of my favorite shoot interviews ever. Hero comes off as honest, self-aware, and willing to admit and own any past mistakes he may have made. The interview also leaves very few stones unturned, so no matter which company you followed Hero in, you’re going to hear the subject you’re most interested in covered and learn quite a bit more beyond that. The match collection itself is good, not great, with the Dick Togo bout being the only one reaching potential “must watch” territory. The interview itself gets my highest possible recommendation, with the Deluxe Edition DVD recommended to the biggest Hero fans who may not be familiar with his earlier career.

You can purchase just the interview on DVD here and the Deluxe Edition here.

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