Posts Tagged ‘WILPW’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: “Hangman” Adam Page Pt. 3

January 31, 2022

Kenny Omega had defeated Jon Moxley for the title at the Winter is Coming on December 20, 2020. The two had had a long and storied rivalry in both New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling. Their bloody rivalry had included Mox brutalizing Kenny Omega, causing damage to his confidence and ego. He needed a win and the two had a long and violent match. It ended with Kenny Omega winning with the help of his longtime friend and fellow Canadian Don Callis. Callis and Omega tried to frame the win as an accident at first but it was clear that they had conspired to cheat together so Kenny could be crowned AEW Heavyweight Champion. Callis took over The Elite as their manager s “the invisible hand” who had guided Kenny’s career from the start.

Omega became corrupt under the guidance of Callis and the Elite grew, bringing in old friends Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson. Callis spread through the group like a sickness, making them overconfident and more prone to cheating to win. They faced down anybody remotely good in AEW and remained victorious. Still, they had become a shadow of the dominant faction they had once been. They were the Patriots, hated in tainted victory. They feuded with Mox, the Death Triangle, and Eddie Kingston in some chaotic matches. Omega and Callis started to claim that nobody could beat them.

The Dark Order had become true friends and supporters to “Hangman” Adam Page. Their spokesman, Evil Uno, started to make public challenges. He would say that their friend Page could beat Omega and that the Dark Order would equalize the Elite’s numbers advantage. They were interested in a fair fight for their friend. Hangman would berate his friends telling them that they should not make challenges on his behalf. He was pursuing the Heavyweight Title but anybody could see that he was worthy if he just believed in himself as much as The Dark Order believed in him. Finally, they convinced Hangman to make the challenge himself.

After negotiation with Callis, it was decided that Hangman and the Dark Order would face Omega and The Elite in a five-on-five tag match. If Hangman’s team won, Hangman would get to challenge Omega for the title and Evil Uno and Stu Grayson would challenge The Young Bucks for the tag titles. If they lost, Hangman would be placed at the bottom of the rankings and would have to fight his way back up the ladder again. Hangman and the Dark Order made an entrance and fought a match befitting their heart and fortitude. However, the Elite cheated again and Hangman fell short again. Cheating or no, the opportunity he had fought so hard to believe in had slipped through his fingers.

Hangman told the Dark Order that he wanted to be alone again for a while to think. He did not blame them for the loss but he needed to collect himself. Members of The Dark Order reacted differently to this statement. Eventually, those differences caused a rift and eventual Dark Order civil war as the group’s frustrations boiled over. During this time, a lot of The Dark Order saw a lot of growth in their characters. The strife between factions continued until the anniversary of their leader Brodie’s death. At that point, Brodie’s widow and his oldest son convinced the group to get over their differences and reunite as friends.

Meanwhile, Hangman had disappeared and it was known that he had taken time off to reflect but also for the birth of his first child. He took a good long paternity leave instead of playing into The Elite’s plan of making him fight back through the undercard. His family was more important. However, somebody else decided to believe in “Hangman” Adam Page and this time it was All Elite Wrestling. They awarded him the final spot in a ladder match for an opportunity at the AEW Heavyweight Championship battle. The Hangman that returned was full of love not only for his friends and family but also for himself. He finally fully believed in himself.

Hangman started a campaign of revenge against his old friends in The Elite with the help of his new friends in The Dark Order. During a Halloween episode, the Dark Order pulled off an Ocean’s 11-esque trick which allowed Hangman to sneak attack The Elite, gaining momentum for his upcoming title fight. AEW Full Gear pay per view was the date. This was the perfect event for this match to happen for two reasons. It was the one-year anniversary of the last Full Gear which was the last time that Omega and Page had wrestled one on one where Omega had won. The name of the pay per view was also born from a joke that Hangman had originated on YouTube.

The championship match was not easy. Both competitors and their allies had brought everything they had to the battle but in the end, it was one on one. Page poured all of his heart into the match and refused to lay down for his old friend, Omega. They traded so many blows with Callis trying to cheat at every turn. Page had an answer for everything and he was doing it without The Dark Order. At the end of a long and brutal match, Page had Omega dead to rights with his signature Buckshot Lariat. The Young Bucks jumped up on the apron to interfere but they looked into their old friend’s eyes and decided to let him have it. This left Hangman to call The Dark Order to the ring to celebrate. A feel-good ending to an almost three-year storyline.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: “Hangman” Adam Page

December 6, 2021

When All Elite Wrestling started, a curious duo showed up at the very first payperview. They were Evil Uno and Stu Grayson and they claimed to be from The Dark Order. The two traveled with a gaggle of masked men known as The Creepers. They overwhelmed people with numbers with a vaguely goth luchador vibe. They acted like supervillains and established themselves as a major force right away. However, a group of losses caused them to fade into the background a bit. It was at this point that they started to act more like a cult. They put out commercials telling people that if they felt powerless or lost that they would be welcomed into The Dark Order. They quickly snapped up newcomers John Silver, Alex Reynolds, Alan Angels, and Preston Vance. They were reborn as 3, 4, 5, and 10 respectively and the Dark Order was to be feared again.

Around this time, the Dark Order started crowing about the coming of their Exalted One, their leader. They hinted for so long that their opponents were not sure if anybody was actually coming. Finally, Brodie Lee arrived and immediately devastated Cody Rhodes, a longtime member of the Elite and a fan favorite. He took the TNT Title from Cody and started to recruit again. He made entreaties to Anna Jay who was frustrated by a losing streak and The Dark Order gained its first female member (99). He sought out happy-go-lucky Colt Cabana and convinced him to join (8). The Dark Order was now nine-strong and cohesive. It was at this point that Brodie Lee turned his gaze to Adam Page.

When we last left Page, he was feeling lost and disconnected from his friends and therefore his own life. He had failed to win a singles title and he was on the outs with the one guy he won tag titles with. In fact, the Dark Order had tried to court Adam Page since almost the beginning. They let their intentions of recruiting him known in the first months of the company but it just never clicked. Either things were going well enough for Page to turn them down or they just did not connect somehow. However, Mr. Brodie Lee focused on Page, seeing him as a powerful ally that could be shaped to make the Dark Order even stronger. He poured on the charm and the force of his will on Hangman even while he was still tagging with Kenny.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to the Dark Order and FTR, Page and Kenny had their falling out and Page was finally completely severed from The Elite. FTR abandoned him as a drinking buddy now that they had won the tag titles off of him and Kenny. Kenny had then defeated him to become the number one contender for the Heavyweight Title. Meanwhile, the Dark Order had suffered some setbacks of their own. The Day after Christmas in 2020, Brodie Lee (real name Jon Huber) died in real life from a lung disorder caused by being suddenly immunocompromised. In the real world and in storyline, the Dark Order was devastated and struggled to rally in Brodie’s name. They returned to their efforts to recruit Page but this time, it came from a place of love and friendship. The cult was broken and they were now just a group of misfits and friends. Their unofficial and symbolic leader was Brodie’s eldest son who went by Negative 1.

Whenever Page was outnumbered and needed a hand, the Dark Order was there to defend him. He turned every offer to join up down as he felt like he was not ready to join up with anybody after the pain of losing The Elite. After a painful breakup, he was tentative to open his heart again. He knew the Dark Order was hurting too but he just could not bring himself to team up again. Slowly, they started to win the cowboy over and he began to be a little more accepting of their help against the overwhelming numbers of the Hardy Family Office. It seemed that both parties had warmed to each other. Page could not help but be charmed by the loveable antics of the former cult members and the Order was earnest about accepting another lost soul into their ranks. The friendship was pure and the Hangman became an associate but not a member of The Dark Order.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: “Hangman” Adam Page

November 22, 2021

All Elite Wrestling was born because Tony Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars co-owner and owner of TruMedia, took an interest in a stable of wrestlers known as The Elite. The Elite (at the time) was made up of Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and Adam Page. The five had become great friends through banding together in several different pro-wrestling organizations. They put on the biggest independent professional wrestling show the world had ever seen when they organized and put on All In in 2018. Over 11,000 people were in attendance and many more were watching at home. This is what brought in Khan and his money and these friends were suddenly part of a company of their own.

The Announcement

Kenny, the Jacksons, and Cody all decided to take executive positions in this new company. They all became Executive Vice-Presidents so that they would always have a hand in the creative direction of a company based on their hard work and the hard work of their friends and allies. Adam Page was the only one of the five who did not take an executive position. See, Page was known as “Hangman” Adam Page, a simple cowboy from Virginia. He wanted to prove himself. He had not won many championships in his career while his friends had each won dozens. The Jacksons are known as The Young Bucks and had won tag titles all over the world. Cody Rhodes is the son of legendary wrestler Dusty Rhodes and has won tons of tag belts and singles championships. Kenny Omega is a phenomenon in Japan and has won so many championships. Hangman had not yet built his legacy.

Championship Against Chris Jericho

So it was that he entered the Casino Battle Royale to determine who would face Chris Jericho (arguably the biggest star the company had at the time) in a match to be the inaugural AEW Heavyweight Champion. It was his chance to finally elevate himself to the level of his friends. He lasted until the end of the battle royale and he would face Jericho at the next pay per view, All Out. Unfortunately, as hard as Hangman tried, Jericho had his number at every turn and beat him for the title. Worst of all, it was a clean loss since Jericho had not cheated and pinned Hangman right in the middle of the ring. It shook Hangman’s confidence.

Hangman floated around for a bit, getting into a feud with “The Bastard” PAC while trying to support his friends in The Elite. Eventually, Hangman started to team with his friend Kenny Omega and the two actually won the AEW Tag Titles. This caused some friction because the Young Bucks were the established tag team in The Elite. The Bucks wanted those belts but Kenny and Hangman were hesitant to face their friends. The Bucks eventually won the right to face Hangman and Kenny. The lead up to the match and the match itself was not exactly friendly as the two teams both really wanted to win. After a brutal battle, Hangman and Kenny stood tall and the Young Bucks could not call themselves “the best tag team in the world” anymore. There was definitely tension within The Elite.

It was during this time that the pandemic truly hit and The Elite got into a big feud with Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle. The Elite expressed doubts that they could count on their old friend Hangman to back them up. Hangman seemed somewhat undecided after all of the bad blood between him and his friends. He had also taken to drinking more on air. He was not a sloppy drunk but he seemed a tinge sad with a whiskey glass in his hand all the time. Still, when the time came Page literally rode to the rescue in the Stadium Stampede match on his horse to save his friends.

Hangman then did serious damage to their friendship when he cost the Young Bucks a match which would have made them first contenders to the tag team belts. Page swore up and down that his interference was an accident but it was clear that he was worried about facing his friends and possibly losing his friendship and his first major championship belt. Their previous match had been very competitive and Page was obviously not looking forward to facing them again. For this, the Young Bucks expelled Hangman from The Elite even though Hangman was still teaming with their friend Kenny.

First contenders FTR sought to divide Hangman and Kenny further and they did it through alcohol. Page was a drinker but Kenny and the Bucks were straightedge. FTR started acting as Hangman’s drinking buddies, dividing Hangman’s loyalties somewhat and encouraging Page in his drinking. This inevitably led to FTR winning the belts by defeating Hangman and Kenny, causing all of the bad blood between the two to become even worse.

Hangman started making appearances at the commentary table where he assured everyone that he and Kenny were fine and would win back the belts very soon. However, without talking to Hangman, Kenny had entered into a tournament for a match for the Heavyweight Title and kept brushing off Hangman’s attempts to schedule a rematch for their belts. Hangman obviously dropped into a depression on screen and seemed to be more into drinking than wrestling. Still, he entered the same tournament as Kenny and the two faced off against each other in the tournament finals at Full Gear where Kenny defeated him. Hangman started to spiral even more.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Love That Danhausen

September 13, 2021

Since I have been getting back into the world of pro-wrestling, I have been once again scouring YouTube for my beloved weirdos. I love good technical skill but I am a sucker for a strange gimmick. These are the performers who are often polarizing like Orange Cassidy, Abadon, Alexa Bliss, and more. One of the names that has gained a cult following online is Danhausen and for good reason. The performer (named Donovan Danhausen) has created a compelling little weirdo and the gimmick is really going places.

Not much is known about Danhausen because he is shrouded in mystery and his answers in interviews are either evasive or made up on the spot. What we do know is that he comes to the ring with his face painted like a death metal musician, spooky leather pants, and extensive tattoos. He does not have the best physique but he is definitely pretty fit. He comes off as nerdy and awkward through his movements but is definitely capable of technical wrestling. Like other comedy wrestlers, if he was not good at wrestling, he would not be as popular. People buy into the weirdness but at the end of the day, he gets things done.

Danhausen speaks in the third person and often adds ‘hausen’ at the end of words in his sentences. He speaks with an odd, high-pitched voice that his performer describes as “a mix between Conan O’Brien and Mark Hammill’s Joker”. Danhausen is entirely focused on wrestling supremacy as a means to dominate the world and get sacks of cash. Everything he does is focused on that goal. As part of that, he does not care much for other pro-wrestlers. He often gets their name wrong either through apathy or as a psychological tactic. Either way, it definitely throws people off of their game. The only wrestlers that he manages to befriend are ones that he feels will get him closer to his goals.

For example, he has recently teamed up with the French-Canadian Frankenstein PCO. The two work well together. PCO is not the brightest barbarian but he can take a lot of damage and deal just as much to opponents. Danhausen is more wily and quick and the combination is really starting to turn some heads in the Ring of Honor tag division. Teaming these two popular misfits together seems odd at first but makes a lot of sense. PCO is not much of a talker, Danhausen cannot stop talking even during matches. Danhausen sees himself as an evil mastermind and PCO does not care as long as he gets to hurt people.

Let’s run through some other parts of Danhausen’s gimmick.

NO SWEARING!

Danhausen hates it when anybody on camera with him swears. It is not that he objects to swear words but he objects to what swear words do. If somebody swears in a YouTube video or on Ring of Honor episodes, that segment might be censored or cut. That means less money for Danhausen. Danhausen may be very evil but he is also very practical. He recognizes that demonetization has become a big thing on YouTube and other platforms and he wants to prevent it from interfering with him receiving huge sacks of cash (which he strangely calls “human money”).

Teeth

Danhausen carries a jar of human teeth to the ring. Nobody is sure where Danhausen obtains these teeth but he promises that they are ethically sourced. He has claimed that some were sent to him by actor/wrestler David Arquette. He may have stolen some from other people. The teeth understandably confuse his opponents who are not expecting people to bring teeth down to the ring. When he has his opponent down, he will often pour the teeth into their mouth and then hit them so that he has effectively knocked their teeth out.

Tequila!

Danhausen admires Pee Wee Herman. Herman is a great warrior in Danhausen’s eyes because he faced down a whole bar full of bikers once by performing a dance to the song Tequila by The Champs. Danhausen has adopted this warrior song for his own use. In the middle of a match, the music may start up which prompts Danhausen to dance like Pee Wee did. However, he adds in a few kicks to his opponent as he dances.

Adaptation to Weirdness

Danhausen is able to mesh with other strange wrestlers. He has fought the eternally lazy Orange Cassidy in the past. He has the aforementioned tag team with PCO. However, on the indy scene, he had two tag teams that really showed off his strangeness. The first was with WARHORSE whose name is capitalized for good reason because he is loud and forceful. The other tag team was with queer wrestler Effy who formed the tag team Gaytanic Panic with Danhausen. Danhausen adapts really well to the gimmick of whoever he is facing and alters his gimmicks to work with the match. Here are some examples:

WILPW: Another Summer of Punk

August 23, 2021

Almost seven years ago, I wrote about CM Punk. I was going through a difficult time as a fan. My emotions were still raw from Phil Brooks walking out on pro-wrestling as I wrote that blog post a mere ten months after Punk left. I had struggled because Punk had been my favorite at the time and I felt like I resonated on a similar wavelength with the guy. He was a comic book geek, a pro-wrestling geek, and just seemed to be very creative. As I wrote before, a lot of things came to light when Brooks was ready to talk about it. It was clear to me that he had suffered from burnout and physical ailments that caused his love of pro-wrestling to die. I did not realize how hard I took that.

Shortly after I last posted on the subject, I found more out from Punk’s own words. He walked out for a lot of reasons. The first and foremost reason was his health. He was suffering from broken ribs, injured knees, and multiple concussions. This was before the WWE’s current concussion protocol which is allegedly better at protecting against this. Looking back you could definitely tell a lot of this from his performance near the end of his WWE run. He looked tired and broken down at the time. He was also feeling frustrated by the way his career was going. He felt like WWE was holding him back. He was having a crisis of faith caused by all of his frustrations with creative control of his character and not being compensated for his sacrifices.

Punk and his friend Colt Cabana were sued for Punk’s statements against the WWE on Colt’s podcast. They were cleared of all liability. The lawsuit caused a falling out between the two friends. At the same time, I felt like I was struggling to find my own love of pro-wrestling again. I discovered NXT, a breath of fresh air in the WWE product. I began to search for content from other companies. In 2015, I started watching Lucha Underground and I was in love again. I began to see clips from Mexico and Japan and the indies in the United States. Slowly, my love for the product came back.

When All Elite Wrestling premiered, I was excited. I was well-studied on the independents that birthed the company. I finally gave up on watching WWE when they failed to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, sheltered sexual abusers, and kept killing the careers of performers I loved. Meanwhile, AEW had its problems (mostly Chris Jericho for me) but it was creatively fulfilling for performers. The company truly embraced the three-ring circus element of good pro-wrestling. There is something for everyone. I am a big fan of the goofy weirdos but also the amazing technical skill. As my love of the business reignites, I need to write about this company (and MLW).

On Friday, August 20, 2021, a hole in my fandom heart was repaired when CM Punk returned to pro-wrestling in the middle of an All Elite Wrestling ring. They teased it for weeks, they hyped up their audience, and I tuned in to watch live for the first time in a long while. They wasted no time and Punk came out right away. There were tears in his eyes as he looked out and smiled and my own heart swelled watching him be happy. He had found his love again. I am excited to see where it goes but that moment was worth it. Pro-wrestling is a strange business and it has its ups and downs but sometimes there are very pure moments worth getting happy over.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Local Indy Show

February 24, 2020

WILPW

So almost two weeks ago, I was invited by my mother to a local indy pro-wrestling show out in West Virginia where she lives. It turns out that an acquaintance of my mom and stepfather was involved in a promotion. They knew I might enjoy it and they needed a guide in their first foray into going to a live wrasslin’ show. I was immediately excited. I had been to a few live shows but Ring of Honor’s Best in the World 2012 was the smallest show I had been to. That was still national television. The show was this past Saturday so let’s run it down.

We traveled to Inwood, WV and got there well before bell time so that we could settle and take it all in. We got ringside seats (second row out of three) and we watched the ring ropes go up. We were at a National Wrestling League show at the Randy Smith Rec Center. I went in with pretty much no foreknowledge of any characters or storylines. The only performer I kind of knew was The Patriot from his brief 1998 run in the WWF.

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Show Open

The show opened with a young lady whose name I did not catch who was singing the national anthem. She briefly mentioned an attack she had suffered previously which had injured her eyes. This brought out a villainous British manager (the KR Superstar) who threatened to have the girl injured again. He was accompanied by his Tongan client Asaafi. The two villains were headed off by the appearance of The Patriot who sent the two heels retreating to the back.

First Match – Reggie Collins (face) vs. Sean Denny w/KR Superstar (heels)

Apparently, Sean Denny (one half of the Geordie Bulldogs) is the guy who injured the young lady in the first segment by spraying green mist in her eyes. He is a stocky guy working a British Hooligan gimmick. He was tough and great at working with his manager (KR Superstar again) to cheat. He was facing the tall and skinny Reggie Collins. Reggie was out of his element as the scrappy underdog unable to really get much going against the tougher man. In the end, Denny sprayed mist into Reggie’s eyes behind the ref’s back and Reggie had to get helped to the back by his tag partner Wes Rogers.

Second Match – “Safety First” Wes Rogers (face) vs. “Chesapeake” (I didn’t catch his name) (heel)

I was immediately struck by the heel being booed as he walked to the ring with the Maryland flag draped across his back. The West Virginia crowd was ready to let him have it. He hailed from Ocean City, MD and was working a lifeguard gimmick. He was up against Wes Rogers who was very focused on safety, a tall nerdy looking dude who looked kind of like Danny Sexbang. These two worked so well together. They were both working comedy gimmicks which led to a lot of great moments. The best was when <> went for his lifeguard whistle and Wes started beating the crap out of him with the whistle still in his opponent’s mouth. With each blow, the whistle sounded over and over. So great. Wes was able to put away his opponent after a competitive match.

Third Match – LA Starr (face?) vs. Willie Radical (heel)

This was the first match without obvious alignments. I figured out at some point during this match that these two are cousins. Apparently, they were tag team champions together until Radical betrayed his cousin/partner. This was a pretty heated match that went back and forth and Radical attacked before the bell. Starr seemed to regret having to hurt his cousin but Radical was not as hesitant. Sadly, I cannot remember who won but really nobody wins in these sorts of grudge matches. I liked both of these guys’ styles and enjoyed the match immensely.

Fourth Match – The Patriot (face) vs. Asaafi (w/ KR Superstar) (heels)

This was when I learned that The Patriot is a native of Inwood, WV the very place we were at. They did this bit at the beginning where The Patriot stole the Tongan flag. I never really bought into the nationalist stuff. At first, I thought Patriot was going to subvert expectations because he got the ref to help him fold the flag up neatly and respectfully. Then he rubbed the flag against his taint. He’s supposed to be the good guy. Once we got past that, The Patriot showed that he still has it and he is in phenomenal shape even in semi-retirement. Asaafi played the cowardly yet sadistic heel well and worked well with the KR Superstar to cheat at every opportunity. The match ended weirdly with The Patriot accidentally hitting the ref with a Stinger Splash in the corner which caused a disqualification … in favor of the Patriot? Wes Rogers came back out and helped The Patriot fight the KR Superstar’s two present clients.

Intermission

There was a raffle in support of pro-wrestler Andrew Staley, a young kid who is fighting cancer. We bought several tickets (it’s a good cause) and I ended up winning the drawing! I won an NWL t-shirt (my size!), a Jon Moxley/Tyler Black DVD, an AJ Styles DVD, a mug, signed photos of Kylie Rae (with AEW logo) and ACH. It’s funny that I got pictures of two wrestlers who famously left companies with globally televised shows who quit under mysterious/shady circumstances. I also won four ringside tickets. I can’t wait! I hope Andrew Staley gets all the help he needs fighting this thing and that he recovers.

D.A.D. Rules

Daniel Allen Dabrowski came out to the Family Matters theme song and chose to lecture the audience on their fitness. He recommended we drink Diet Coke and do about six assisted pushups a day. During his hilarious promo, he mixed up the names of social media terms and grounded his daughter who was ringside. Good stuff.

Fifth Match – “The Steel City Sex Pistol” Shane Malice (heel) vs. “The Red Prince” Tiberius Sykes (heel)

Getting me to boo a heel from Pittsburgh is a no brainer. Also, Malice reminded me of a young AJ Styles (before he was flat earther and a homophobe?). Seeing Sykes was great because it was the first person of color I saw at the event. He hailed from Baltimore and had the best gear of the night. The two were pretty much at the top of their game but Shane had an answer for pretty much anything Sykes had. Sykes posed too much and paid for it. In the end, Shane got a pair of brass knuckles confiscated only for Sykes to pull out a pair of his own. In the chaos, Shane hit Sykes with his own brass knuckles to end the fight.

Sixth Match – Antony Atom (face) vs. Doug Delicious (heel) – NWL Heavyweight Title Match

This was a really good match and obviously, these two guys are experienced. Delicious had a really, really good look as an arrogant and gruff pretty boy heel. He played a cowardly and devious heel who got so much reaction for very little work. Antony Atom is the current heavyweight champion working sort of a Spartan gimmick. He ran up against the muscular and intelligent Doug Delicious but refused to quit. He pulled out the victory and also fought off the post-match attack by Shane Malice who might be his next challenger. There was a really great story to this match that was so easy to follow and the crowd was hot for Atom and absolutely hated Delicious.

Seventh Match – Deuce Donatelli, Shorty Smalls, and Jimmy Cicero (faces) vs. Ethan Cross, El Maton Cizzko, and Cory Bush (w/ Humphrey J. Dupont IV) (heels)

Apparently, there was a gag where the faces replaced the heels’ entrance song with Baby Shark which led to the heels being furious and getting taunted. The Dupont Family obviously represented money and privilege and at the last minute, Humphrey substituted hired gun Cory Bush in for himself in the match. The blue-collar faces tried their best to fight against blatant cheating at every turn. I was impressed with how good Jimmy Cicero looked and he was obviously the faces’ top dog. In the end, the match broke down into chaos and Deuce was knocked out by a blow from Humphrey’s briefcase and then pinned. This set up a match between Cory Bush and Deuce Donatelli for the NWL Vista Championship.

Overall, I loved the show and our whole group definitely went home happy. I will be going back since I won those tickets but honestly, I would probably go back at some point anyway. The company has a lot of heart and apparently a lot of it is on YouTube.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Acquired Tastes

December 23, 2019

WILPW

Today I want to talk about those performers who kind of fill a unique niche in the business and therefore become kind of an acquired taste. In fact, plenty of people never warm to them. They have unique or strange gimmicks or are just so different from what we think of when we think of a professional wrestler. Since it is incredibly close to Christmas, I think I will start with somebody I consider a gif. I’m talking about “Freshly-Squeezed” Orange Cassidy.

I do not know much about Cassidy’s early career. All I know about is his current gimmick and the one that catapulted him to the top of the independent scene and now onto primetime network television. His gimmick (brought to life in PWG, ICW, Chikara, Beyond, and others) is that of a perpetually hungover slacker. He walks out to the ring in a faded jean jacket, slacks, a t-shirt of himself wearing his t-shirt, and mirrored sunglasses. He barely emotes and tries to get away with moving as little as possible. In tag matches, you can sometimes be tricked into thinking he has fallen asleep in the corner. He moves slowly and then hits his opponents with strikes that could not hurt a fly. However, the crowd and announcers always sell the strikes as if they were brutal and savage. Just when his opponents dismiss him, he either tricks them into losing or kicks it into full gear and kicks their butt. All without removing his hands from his pockets.

Of course, he has both fans and detractors. His gimmick is extremely meta since it relies heavily on the cooperation of everyone involved. To their credit, the crowds bought into it fairly quickly. He may not look like he is doing much but every move is defintely thought out and calculated to tell one long joke. It is the kind of joke that feels really good to be a part of. I admit that I did not get it at first but once I watched a couple of his matches, i had it. His detractors think that his act distracts from the so-called legitimacy of the sport at the heart of the story. They complain that his lackadaiscal attitude and behavior is a slight to the other performers who are working hard and risking their bodies in more athletic endeavors. Except that they do not see that his act also takes skill and athleticism. They do not see that he chose the gimmick not to insult his co-workers but to stand out but also make them look better.

Next, we’ll move on to the other example I have today. His name is Marko Stunt and he seems to be even more controversial than Cassidy is. The thing about Marko Stunt is far more simple. Marko started as a viral sensation that allowed him to make a name for himself on the independent wrestling scene. Marko is all of five feet and two inches tall. Of course, that means he is only slightly shorter than I am but there is a problem. This is incredibly short for a pro-wrestler. The average seems to be somewhere between 6 foot and 6 foot 8 inches which is tall for most humans. While I cannot find a billed weight for him, he is very skinny. He also lacks the defined muscles of the classic pro-wrestler. All of this adds up to make him look like somebody’s kid somehow wandered into the ring. In fact, that is the usual knock his opponents pull out when he comes out to the ring.

It is easy to predict that the knock on Marko Stunt is that he is too small to be a believeable threat in the ring. The size disparity is indeed a lot to take in but the thing is that we are talking about a fantasy version of a fighting sport. Sure the average performer has more than a foot in height and probably a hundred pounds on Marko. However, any match can be won or lost based on strength, athleticism, skill, and heart. Marko has a ton of athleticism, skill, and heart. He is absolutely impressive in the ring and moves quicker than some of the fastest people I have seen in the squared circle. His agility and processing speed allow him to do some things that I did not think were possible. With him flipping and flying all around the ring, I start to believe that he just might win after all. Now that he is paired with “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and Luchasaurus, he seems to be taking off a bit more in the public eye.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Internet Presence

September 16, 2019

WILPW

Obviously, the world of professional wrestling preceded the Internet and existed without it for a long time. In fact, the way pro-wrestling used to work was because there was no Internet and the communication within the community was really slow. Promotions could run the same exact matches in every town without worrying about spoilers. Everybody was shrouded in mystery because it was hard to trade notes on rumors and scraps of information that people could get. Everything was divided into territories and you had to constantly reintroduce characters from across the country to people. With the advent of the Internet, the business had to change and evolve. They struggled with it at first with particularly embarrassing segments seen in old WCW and WWF pay per views.

Nowadays, things have advanced to a whole new level. Companies like WWE use services like YouTube to put out extra content that occurs during commercials or after events are over to further storylines or highlight characters. However, what I am interested in here is how individual performers can use the Internet to further their own presence and improve their careers. The first example of it happening that I can think of is Zack Ryder who created his own online show called Long Island Iced Z where he produced his own content and was allowed to be goofy. It forced WWE to briefly accept his Internet popularity and use him more on the actual television shows. Stars like The New Day (through Austin Creed) have used YouTube to get their brand out better when they felt ignored by the WWE.

However, what really sparked this post is that I recently started binging the YouTube show Being the Elite. BTE was created by Matt and Nick Jackson who are collectively known in the business as The Young Bucks. The two brothers had joined a group called The Bullet Club (thankfully they have abandoned this name) and created a subgroup along with Kenny Omega called The Elite. They created their show on YouTube at first as a travelogue as they traveled back and forth from Japan and across the United States. It allowed fans to see a filtered version of who they were in real life and it often included their friends as well. They started showing segments of them goofing off in their hotel rooms, backstage, or going out on the town. They also used the show to get their catchphrases and character quirks out into the world better.

 

At one point, the Bucks had gathered together a group of good friends that included Kenny Omega, Adam Page, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, and Adam Cole. This is the point where they first started to further major storylines in the show. The Bucks and their friends were working across several separate promotions between New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and others. They used their YouTube show to knit together and flesh out their storylines between their various appearances. Their first major storyline was the infighting between Adam Cole and Kenny Omega who was the leader of the Bullet Club. It ended with them murdering Adam Cole which gave an in-universe explanation for his disappearance since Cole had signed with the WWE in real life. At that point, the show really took off as a travelogue, a sketch comedy show, and a platform for the furthering of storylines.

As time went by, new regular castmembers joined the show as they would regularly send footage to the Bucks to edit into the show. They added Brandi Rhodes, Scorpio Sky, Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels, actor Stephen Amell, Joey Ryan, and Flip Gordon. At some point, they even made a celebrity out of their translator/gopher in Japan who is named Masa. Flip Gordon, in particular, benefited from the show as he was new to the business and it allowed him to get his brand out there better. The show evolved further and they were able to solidify a lot of regular bits and running gags. I think my all-time favorite regular bit involves the members of So Cal Uncensored (Scorpio Sky, Frankie Kazarian, and Christopher Daniels) who regularly talk about every town they visit is the worst town they’ve ever been to and how much they want to get back to Southern California.

More recently, the show was used to launch the largest independent wrestling show in history called All In which included a lot of storylines started on Being the Elite. They rode that momentum and left Ring of Honor and New Japan to start their own promotion called All Elite Wrestling. Backed by billionaire Tony Khan and TNT, they are poised to create a huge splash in the business. Sadly, this meant that they had to leave behind their friends Marty and Flip who are still signed to Ring of Honor and Joey Ryan who decided to stick with independent wrestling. The prevailing thought is that Marty and Flip will join them once their contracts are up. In the meantime, Being the Elite has been flooded with the future stars of AEW like Sammy Guevara, MJF, Britt Baker, The Librarians, Chris Jericho, and so many more. Television for AEW stars up on TNT in October and the Bucks still don’t know whether or not they will continue BTE. They and their friends are executives in the new company along with their on-screen performer duties so the show might have to end out of necessity.

Until then, it is exciting to see where the show goes and I continue to binge past episodes. I also need to watch some of the spin-off show The Nightmare Family (starring Cody and Brandi). If the show continues to stick around, it will continue to innovate and entertain. It has done wonders for the careers of its cast and introduced future stars to people who may have never heard their names. It is a positive movement on a medium that can be very negative.

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 7

May 4, 2019

27 – Favorite NXT Match


Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
TakeOver: WarGames 2017

This was at a time when both Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream were new to the NXT scene and therefore were relatively unknown by the WWE Universe. In a short time, Aleister Black had earned a reputation as a brutal striker. With his Black Mass kick, he instantly obliterated his opponent and made them “fade to black”. He was clearly on the warpath toward the NXT Heavyweight Title and it was only a matter of time before he got his opportunity. At the same time, Velveteen Dream was extremely new and people did not quite know what to think of him. He was doing anything and everything to get a rise out of the crowd by being flamboyant and an instigator. He decided to confront Black to make a name for himself but Black’s indifference drove him insane until he was basically stalking Aleister Black. When their big match happened, it was less about winning for Dream but he just wanted acknowledgment from Aleister Black. He wanted acknowledgment from the NXT audience as well. Aleister just wanted to shut this man up and get him out of his face. The two went back and forth and Dream shocked the world by going toe to toe with a dominant performer. Finally, Black knocked out Dream and finished him off but before he left, he leaned down and spoke Dream’s name into a microphone. He gave the devil his due and so it ended up being a victory for both of them.


Matt Riddle vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black vs. Ricochet
NXT Television – March 20, 2019

With a week left to go until Wrestlemania weekend, the show opened with the bad news that Tomasso Ciampa was going in for neck surgery and his spot in the big TakeOver match was now open. That was the bad news. To make up for the sudden stop in a storyline years in the making, they decided to give the gift of a match for the honor of being in the main event. Getting to see all five of these guys in one episode was definitely special but having all of them in the same match was great. Their good conditioning made it so that all of them could keep going without as much of the usual rest periods during that match type. Riddle had not really gotten much of a chance to show his stuff and shined as an absolute beast. Dream got to mess with three of his past opponents and one future one. Aleister Black and Ricochet got their television farewell match as singles stars. Adam Cole got to show why he should be feared as a tough competitor and a fantastic opportunist. This was a great showcase for some great talent and made Cole a credible threat for his match with Gargano.

28 – Favorite NXT Takeover

TakeOver: New York (2019)

Proof that each TakeOver event is better than the last. While we were cheated out of the conclusion of the epic rivalry between Jonny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, there was still plenty more to love here. It started with an awesome tag match between the team of Aleister Black and Ricochet and the War Raiders. This was Ricochet and Aleister’s big sendoff as they would be off to the main roster the next night. Often when two giants face off against two smaller guys, the smaller guys get crushed. However, it was cool to see a highly competitive match between four potential hall of famers. Again, we got a similar story between Walter and Pete Dunne for the UK Championship. Walter is like a Terminator robot but Pete Dunne is a sadistic torturer and it went back and forth. Shayna Bayzler showed while she is still the champ by beating three women at once but Belair, Shirai, and Sane all got time to shine. Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole was a roller coaster that could have gone either way and made me happy. Velvet Dream vs. Matt Riddle stole the show as a great bout between two different personalities and two very different fighting styles. Riddle’s technical mastery and rage strength was no match for the sheer force of Dream’s will and resilience. Every match had me on the edge of my seat.


TakeOver: Toronto (2016)

First, we got Tye Dillinger during my favorite part of his career so far against Bobby Roode and both also got great entrances. This really felt like “The Great Entrances Takeover”. The Authors of Pain faced off against TM-61. It was a classic battle of two never say die high fliers throwing themselves at the big brutes to try and win but falling short. It was a shame that this was kind of the beginning of the end of TM-61 as a team. Mickie James made her return to the WWE after being a champ in TNA to face off against the undefeated Asuka. Asuka was a whirling buzzsaw of death but Mickey still gave the Empress of Tomorrow her first bit of trouble in a while. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was a brutal affair with Joe basically being Godzilla and Nakamura attempting to still win the day. Finally, DIY vs. The Revival stole the show. This was back when Gargano and Ciampa were on the same page and they truly had all of the heart in the world. At the same time, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder of The Revival were built to be a tag team together. On top of that, this was a tag match with three falls which saw both teams try to steal each other’s best moves and gut it out for the win.

Musical Gimmicks

April 15, 2019

WILPW

Obviously, music has been tied to professional wrestling for a long time. It started in the 1950s but really hit its stride in the seventies and eighties with the marriage of rock and wrestling. This basically amounted to music playing as performers entered the ring and when they won a match. Also, music was obviously used in promos and advertisements. Later, I heard stories about music videos that were produced for Smoky Mountain Wrestling to introduce new members of the roster. Music is a powerful force that can provide a lot of information through tone and lyrics in a short amount of time and minimal effort. Also, a performer’s entrance music fires the crowd up and lets them know who is showing up so they can cheer or boo appropriately. However, what I want to talk about today are professional wrestlers who are actually musical.

Though, I actually want to start with those gimmicks that were music adjacent but actually rarely showed much musical skill. As usual on these overviews, I will probably expose some gaps in my knowledge but enjoy the ride and educate me in the comments if you must. First in this group is the Honky Tonk Man. Honky was a master at making people hate him but he was also a guitar-wielding, Elvis-inspired performer. He hit more people with his guitar more than he ever played it. Speaking of hitting people with a guitar, there was also Jeff Jarrett. He was supposed to be a country music musician who wanted to use pro-wrestling as a platform to become a star as improbable as that sounds. He never sang a word and he broke hundreds of guitars throughout his career. Funny enough, his entrance song was sung by another wrestler Jesse James but the WWF never went anywhere with that. I also think of people like Jillian Hall who did a tone-deaf pop singer gimmick, squealing into a microphone to the delight of nobody.

But no, I am here to talk about those with actual skill. The first that I want to talk about is John Cena. Those who only know him as a meme or as a Hollywood personality might not know his past in the early 2000s. Back then, he changed from being a fairly normal guy into a white rapper gimmick. I am sure there are many who would be surprised to know that he was a very competent rapper. It started with him recording his entrance theme “Basic Thuganomics” and doing 8 Mile-esque rap battles on Smackdown. He was dubbed the Doctor of Thuganomics and then he recorded his album which included a lot of great tracks including the aforementioned “Word Life” and “Bad, Bad Man”. His rap career started to fade away as his gimmick evolved but he did record his now iconic theme song of “My Time is Now” which a lot of people might recognize from the popular John Cena meme. Every so often, he breaks out the rap and stretches those muscles. Just recently at Wrestlemania 35, he got back in his Doctor of Thuganomics gear and laid a rap down on Elias.

Who is Elias? Well, he is what happens if you take Jeff Jarrett’s gimmick and you actually give it to a talented musician. Elias started down in NXT as The Drifter Elias Samson. He was a drifting musician who played the guitar down to the ring and was booed for slowing down the action for an impromptu concert. Eventually, the songs he sang did their best to insult the crowd. He eventually moved up to the Raw roster where he continued to “drift” around, playing his guitar. Eventually, he proved himself to be a really talented pro-wrestler and a very talented musician. He sang a lot of impromptu songs to insult the audience and his opponents. Like Cena, he actually released an album Walk With Elias (which he claims is what WWE stands for). He continues to impress with his music but lately every time he tries to play he gets interrupted. He is getting more chances to show off his in-ring skill which is great.

Probably the most successful is Chris Jericho. He earned a reputation as an artist in the squared circle. He has constantly reinvented himself over and over to change with the times. However, all during his career, he was always a huge fan of heavy metal. He idolized all of the greats but his dream of professional wrestling came first. However, in a weird real-life twist on the Jeff Jarrett gimmick, his fame from being a WWE superstar started to get him attention from a lot of his idols in professional music. He started to make friends with a lot of these guys and they saw that he was as passionate about music as he was about pro-wrestling. He was not just some wannabe singer who might assemble a band as a vanity project. He wanted to be an actual heavy metal singer. He was able to put together a band named Fozzy which is still touring today. They have put out numerous albums and they play huge concerts and festivals all of the time. Now, he has been able to extend his pro-wrestling career by balancing it with his music career which will probably allow him to do both for as long as he wants.

There are plenty of people who sang their own entrance themes. Shawn Michaels re-recorded his theme song (“Sexy Boy”) with his vocals. R Truth raps his way down to the ring live, showing without a doubt that he has some skills. There was famously the West Texas Rednecks (a group in WCW) who sang a song called “Rap is Crap” which actually charted and was played on the radio. Tyler Breeze recorded a theme song which is an ode to his gimmick as a supermodel and an actual banging electronica song. Meanwhile, Mickie James has recorded two Country albums and is working on a third which is why she has been away from the ring for a while. I am sure this list will continue to expand as the years go by and the stars of pro-wrestling get better at diversifying their talents. We already have plenty of pro-wrestlers in Hollywood, why not some who get a Grammy eventually?

(Written on 4/10/19)


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