January 7th, 2018 – DOA Pro-Wrestling: PORTSLAMDIA
@ Harvey’s Comedy Club, Portland, OR
DOA Pro put on a smaller matinee show at a comedy club called Harvey’s in downtown Portland, OR. I’m not too familiar with the Pacific-Northwest scene since we just moved here a few months ago. Did some googling a few nights ago and saw that this company was putting on a show very close to wear we live, so we decided to check it out. Honestly, my expectations were very low, and aside from an Northeast Wrestling event over the summer in New York, the last indie shows I’d been to were in the late ’90s and early ’00s and they were almost always awful.
We arrived on time and there were a number of ‘protestors’ outside the venue making a fuss that wrestling was happening on a Sunday. It was a nice gimmick that seemed to draw attention to the event, but because one of the guys was sort of smiling and wearing a cut-off dress shirt to show of his sweet guns I then knew it was going to be an angle at the show. Kind of clever, if not a little abrasive at first. They were like Right to Censor doing the Westboro Baptist Church thing, which in theory sounds funny on paper, but since it was such a small part of the show it felt a bit flat. More on that in a moment.
The ring was rather big for such a small venue. Harvey’s is a fancy-ish, dimly lit comedy club with giant framed photos of comedians I’d never heard of on the walls. With this set up, each side of the ring had two rows or so with some booths and tables for lunch behind them. The venue felt close to full with around 80 crowd members or so. The body was made up of a number of younger kids with parents, some older families out in front and a number of younger, hipper fan, often with beards and ProWrestlingTees.com paraphernalia. I didn’t know what to expect of the crowd beforehand but was pleasantly surprised with the PG feel. That’s an afternoon show for you.
The show starts and we’re greeted by two announcers: One guy, who I thought was a crowd member but was actually the lead play-by-play guy (he wore sweats and a beanie) and another very large Bruce Prichard lookalike with pajama pants and a Hawaiian button-down, who claimed to be a wrestler as well (this was ‘Top Choice’ Todd Royce). They gave us a run-down of the card peppered in with general wrestling-centric badinage, and then, as they were about to sit down to call each of the matches for the afternoon, the protesters–called Higher 5–interrupted stormed into the venue shouting about how there shouldn’t be wrestling on Sundays and no one is allowed to have fun. They held up handmade signs that I couldn’t read because the handwriting was either too sloppy or too small to see; I think one was a bible passage, plus one quip about rest holds on the day of rest. They jawed for a few and then another skinny wrestler came out in a shiny robe and sunglasses and a guitar and belittled the crowd. I didn’t catch his name but I assume he’s their leader or something.It was all very sports entertainment. The group then attempted to get the crowd to sing ‘Kumbaya’ until this big hoss looking fellow called Wade Hess came out. He asked for the guitar because he wanted to play a song and whacked Shiny Robe Guy over the head with it. He beat up the whole group and it was sort of awkward; I remember one spot where this one very unathletic member of the group sandbagged a one-armed power bomb type thing. It was a by-the-numbers WWE segment, but the crowd was sort of into it because they got a guitar spot, so.
1) Mike Santiago vs. Johnny Paradise. Solid opener from two guys who looked the part. They really looked like wrestlers, or what you think would come to mind when most mainstream people hear the term ‘pro-wrestling.’ This wasn’t very flashy but was technically solid. Both guys came off like they’ve been wrestling for a long while and were able to heat up the crowd without having to do too much work-wise, and that’s always impressive. The story here was classic heel vs. gruff macho babyface. Santiago worked the arm of a long time, got in some cheap shots while the ref wasn’t looking to the extreme dismay of some of the kids in the crowd. Paradise made a comeback made up of an entirely arm-based offense: punches, elbows, corner lariats. I thought one of his arms was supposed to be hurt? It wasn’t a huge deal as the crowd was surprisingly hyped on everything. Since these are big, stocky dudes I didn’t think it was totally necessary for Paradise do enzugiris or pesacdos, which he did. If they look great then sure, go ahead, but I felt some hesitation from his side in some of those bigger moves and didn’t think it added all that much to the match. It’s a matter of taste, I suppose. After not being able to finish Paradise off with any of his offense, Santiago eventually grabs the win with his two feet on the middle rope. Crowd was hot for this by the end. It didn’t blow the roof off but it didn’t need to; this match served it’s purpose and got the crowd invested in the card. Well done.
2) 6-Man Tag Team Match: ‘Rock God’ Ricky Gibson & 4 Minutes of Heat w/ Mr. Tubbs vs. The Northwest Express & Julian Whyt. This was the most over match on the card with tons of energy and general chaos throughout it. 4 Minutes of Heat and Ricky Gibson have these anachronistic bonehead gimmicks that were funny. They’re supposed to be trashy Southern wrestlers who cheat and fall down a lot. Northwest Express and Julian Whyt were crazy popular and had some of the younger fans jumping out of their seats. They were very smiley and enthusiastic and wore shiny blue tights. Like, really shiny. It was whole lot of energy and comedy spots, a lot of it sloppy, but none of it mattered because with the announcers calling the match, plus six wrestlers in the ring, plus two managers on the outside (one of them looked like Vik Dalishus, the other like a dolled up hobo from over on 6th & Oak). It all made for constant action. Again, everyone loved it, the ’80s guys were silly, and there was lots of silly crowd play. All kinds of fun was had.
3) Lucha Libre Match: Sonico vs. Kaine Jaiden. It felt like everyone spent all their energy on the match before this and didn’t really know what to make of this one. Sonico had this low-rent Penta 0M vibe with a bespoke black vinyl jacket (by ‘bespoke’ I mean it had to be a woman’s raincoat with the sleeves cut off). Kaine Jaiden was painfully eclectic in his ripping off 30 new wrestlers at the same time. He had Lio Rush’s hair and did Will Ospreay’s kneeling taunt as soon as he hit the ring. I figure this works when your crowd isn’t familiar with anything outside the WWE, but with both the internet not being a novelty like it was before the late ’90s and a good sliver of most indie shows filled with not Jane and Joe Schmoe’s but ‘smart’ fans, I can’t see how this is acceptable to do still.
So this was classified as a lucha libre match but it wasn’t two-out-of-three falls, so, uh, yeah I guess it’s because they’re lightweight flippy guys with colorful outfits. All right. Lots of jumping and kicking and whizzing around from the get-go; a cascade of stolen spots that looked OK at best. Jaiden kept biting Naito’s slingshot over the top into the corner spot. They flew to the outside pretty early. The best part of this match was the crowd play. The brawled a bit outside and Jaiden let a very happy kid chop Sonico, which was great. Sonico also later on did some back-and-forth with the announcers, which I remember being relatively funny. Once they got back in the ring the crowd was noticeably dead, either from the drain of the last match but more likely haphazard pace of this match. I hate conceding to the whole ‘Slow down, fellas!’ mentality but this match was an absolute prime example of a series of fast and sort-of-but-not-really impressive moves in no particular order. The crowd didn’t react probably because they didn’t know how to. The old ladies in the front row would have reacted the same way to either a snap mare or a reverse hurracanrana; at a certain point the moves meant almost nothing. Towards the middle of the match the started using all kinds of hope-spot type maneuvers, like Sonico using a snap dragon suplex for a worthless two-count. For a move that was a mind-blowing finisher to me in the late ’90s is now no more impressive than, I don’t know, a side salto suplex, is a shame. Jaiden did the Shibata style headbutt that once again confused everyone in the building who haven’t seen New Japan. I’m being harsh but I should mention that the crowd did heat up towards the end. AJPW/Masato Tanaka tit-for-tat elbow spot (second one of the show). Jaiden almost ate shit completely but saved his springboard enzugiri at the last second. Jaiden won with Destino.
This match followed no real logic and stunk of what’s wrong with the independents in that it was two guys blatantly ripping off a number of popular wrestlers. I don’t like saying that because it’s obvious that these fellows love wrestling, but it all came off as super-fans having a hobby match, which is fine, but throw in some of your own stuff once in a while. If you screw up trying something new I feel like there’s more room to fudge the spot, since, in theory, no one else has done it. Like I’ve already mentioned, it’s easier than ever for a casual fan to notice who you’re ripping off today. They seemed really young so I hope they get all of it out of their systems and become whomever they need to be in the future.
4) Fatal 4-Way: Dr. Kliever vs. Udo vs. C.J. Edwards vs. Eric Right. Dr. Kliever is like a wrestler from the Saturday Night Slammasters video game, which is something he should totally play up. He has a giant spiky mohawk with missing front teeth and is on the larger side, body-wise. He could absolutely extra on an episode of a sitcom that has a pro-wrestling themed episode. C.J. Edwards is a skinny flyer who turned out to be the most impressive wrestler in this jumble of a match. Udo, who was unfortunately not the much cooler singer of Accept with the same name, but a bizarre hybrid of Delirious and George Steele, with his in-ring work being closer to the latter. I think he was supposed to have a comedy gimmick, but I couldn’t hear anything he said when he spoke during his promos (which you can find over at DOAprowrestling.com). He was just a hairy white guy wearing a lucha mask and baggy pants. The last wrestler was Eric Right, who did the ‘I don’t have a gimmick’ gimmick, like a mix of Drew Gulak and whatever the hell Dolph Ziggler is doing now. He grabbed the mic and did his schtick until one of the babyfaceier guys attacked him. This match was a mess, and the most unfortunate thing about was that Dr. Kliever and C.J. Edwards don’t seem half bad, it’s just that it was all such a clusterfuck that no one could shine. I was confused when Right stood on the apron for a good portion of the match, towards the beginning, like he was waiting for a tag or something. Or maybe he was letting the other guys wrestle, but if that was the case he didn’t really tell the crowd that. The match was more comedy than anything else and featured a number of obviously rehearsed spots. There was a really corny quadruple headlock bit that didn’t get much of a reaction because the result was so predictable. It got some pity heat but that’s about all. Edwards did some explosive kicking and flying and I wish there was more of him in the match. Right then did a spot where they paused the match so that he could put on the ring announcer’s piano keys necktie and start doing jokes in the ring. Because they’re in a comedy club. Get it? The timing of this was super awkward and the jokes were these corny, ironic ‘What’s the deal with . . . ?’ jokes which either flew over everyone’s heads (especially the younger fans) or were taken as uncomfortably unfunny. Maybe the 205 Live writers were backstage. I didn’t understand why he didn’t go up onto the small comedy stage and tell his jokes from there, where the announcers were sitting. Dr. Kliever, the Saturday Night Slammaster, pinned Edwards with a Sky-High followed with a lateral press for the pin.
5) DOA Grand Championship Match: Ethan HD (c) vs. Schaff. Aside from his gym-class bully wrestling name, Schaff looked like the guy who is trying hard to make it in the wrestling business. He was huge, had nicer custom gear and was the only person in venue with a tan (it’s Oregon, so, you know, good on him for hitting up those tanning beds). He was really intense and got into fans faces and it all felt believable, without any personality stutters or hesitation. He came off like he knew exactly who he was. Ethan HD is a shorter guy but pretty stacked and kind of looked like Bobby Fish but wrestled more like someone in WWE, a kind of big muscley flyer. He played face but for some reason I feel like he’d be perfect as a cocky trash-talking heel, or even a cool antihero. Work-wise this was probably the best next to the Santiago vs. Paradise match. Santiago is actually Schaff’s manager or mentor or whatever. I wasn’t quite sure what the deal was with that because I couldn’t see where he got the food but for some reason I found really funny. Hard-hitting brawl with Ethan HD as the semi-high flyer and Schaff as the scary bruiser who can move. Ethan HD pulled off a decent Disaster Kick. Match went to the outside (no count-outs, I guess) and they brawled near the announcers. HD did a somersault senton off the tiny stage. I want to mention again that the atmosphere for this was primarily PG and during this bout Ethan HD dropped an F-bomb and I think I heard some other curses. Of course that’s not something that bothers me but it felt totally out of key with the rest of the show and added nothing more to the match. If the crowd were an older, rowdier bunch then maybe that’d fly, but it seemed like a mostly wholesome event. Take that for what it’s wort. Schaff hit a really nice looking suplex into a sitout power bomb for two. There were a couple more high spots with a sort of anticlimactic finish, but really this match was solid for what it was. They could have went on for another five minutes or so, but still, it worked. Good on both of them.
I had low expectations for this show, honestly, and that’s mainly because my experiences at indy shows in the ’90s (they sucked). This was solid, though. It wasn’t perfect, but everyone tried hard, the atmosphere was unique because it was at a comedy club, and the crowd was appropriately enthusiastic. It was good for what it was and I look forward to checking more shows out in the future.
For more information on DOA Pro-Wrestling, check out http://www.doaprowrestling.com