Saturday, March 31, 2018

WrestleCircus/Pro-Wrestling Revolver Midnight-ish After Mania Review

You thought WrestleMania Weekend was over?! Not so fast!!

WrestleCircus/Pro-Wrestling Revolver Midnight-ish After Mania
Orlando, Florida 4/3/17

In 2016, VIP Wrestling (an independent that I believe is based in the Dallas, Texas area) ran a show following WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium. When 2017 came around, there weren’t official plans for any of the promotions that came to the Orlando area that weekend to run an event after WrestleMania 33. Then, WrestleCircus (a growing independent promotion out of Texas) and Pro-Wrestling Revolver (Sami Callihan’s promotion) decided to put together a cross-promotional event right after the big event in Camping World Stadium. What did we get? Well, let’s find out….

1.) WrestleCircus Ringmaster Title - Brian Cage (with Melissa Santos) vs. Dezmond Xavier: ***1/2

Brian Cage, with Melissa Santos by his side, was representing WrestleCircus here as their Ringmaster Champion (I believe that’s their primary title), while Dezmond Xavier was presumably representing Pro-Wrestling Revolver. This was a super entertaining sprint that went about five minutes or so. Of course, with the match being so short, they had to pack in a ton of action if they wanted to make it exciting. Both men ended up doing a very good job in that regard. Cage ultimately retained his title.

Before the next bout began, Louden Noxious (the former Gavin Loudspeaker from CHIKARA and the ring announcer for WrestleCircus) had a brief interaction with Shawn T (I guess that’s his name?), who was the ring announcer from PWR.

2.) ACH vs. Martin Stone: ***

ACH came out to “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, which was pretty cool. I’m not exactly sure which promotion these guys are representing. Martin Stone might be a WrestleCircus guy, and I think ACH might represent both? I don’t know. Anyway, this was another entertaining five minute sprint, though it wasn’t quite as good as the opener. ACH would end up getting the win here.

After the match, Martin Stone did some air guitar stuff with ACH before he shook his hand.

3.) “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Shane Strickland: ***3/4

This was easily the best match on this card. Despite being tired from working several matches over the course of this crazy weekend in Orlando, both men really put forth effort in this one. There was some exciting action throughout, as Elgin showed off his power while Strickland used his speed and athleticism to his advantage. There was actually a botch with the ring bell towards the end of the bout (I think it was prematurely rung before the match actually ended), but they kept going, and Elgin managed to pick up the win.

4.) WrestleCircus Lady Of The Ring Title - Rachael Ellering vs. Angel Rose: **3/4

As the name (obviously) implies, the Lady Of The Ring Title is the WrestleCircus Women’s Title. Rachael Ellering came into this match as the champion, and successfully defended it against Angel Rose, who (at the time) had recently rose to prominence as a member of the newly reformed LAX in TNA/Impact Wrestling. This was a relatively decent bout. They ended up using some famous finishers at one point (such as the Stone Cold Stunner, The People’s Elbow, attempts at hitting the Pedigree). There really isn’t much else to say about this one. It was fine for what it was.

After the match ended, Angel Rose raised the hand of Rachael Ellering in a sign of respect.

Before the next bout, we got another verbal interaction between two ring announcers, and they seemed to be antagonizing each other.

5.) Mixed Tag Team Match - Sami Callihan & Jessicka Havok vs. The World’s Cutest Tag Team (Joey Ryan & Candice LeRae): ***1/4

I don’t have too many thoughts on this particular matchup. It was a relatively entertaining mixed tag team bout that featured a fair amount of comedy (which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering some of the participants involved). There was some solid wrestling as well, and the bout proved to be fun for what it was. Joey Ryan & Candice LeRae would score the win here.

6.) Jake Manning (with Samantha Heights) vs. Leva Bates: *

Before the match began, Manning took the mic, and mockingly asked the fans if they enjoyed WrestleMania 33. He said that his favorite part was when the women weren’t wrestling on the show, and this of course got booes. Manning then complained about the fact that a black woman (Naomi) won a title on the biggest show of the year. He said the only thing women are good for is “making his sheets warm” (oof). Manning then turned his attention to Leva Bates, and he said that he felt sorry for her. It was “past her bedtime”, Manning claimed, and added that he has no idea how Bates was going to do her chores in the morning. Well, I think it’s fair to say that Manning turned his misogynist character all the way up to eleven here.

Then, Leva Bates came out cosplaying as Sgt. Slaughter. Once the match finally got going, it wasn’t very good at all. It was easily the worst on this show. Manning accidentally took out Heights at the start, but he still managed to win. Bates then cut a Sgt. Slaughter style promo on Manning afterwards. This was pretty bad.

7.) Eight-Man Tag - Team WrestleCircus (Johnny Mundo, Sammy Guevara, & Extra Talented [Aaron Solow, Ricky Starks]) vs. Team Pro-Wrestling Revolver (Dave Crist, Curt Stallion, David Starr, & Zachary Wentz): ***1/4

After that Jake Manning/Leva Bates fiasco, we finally got back to some actual wrestling. Jake Crist was supposed to be in this match, but he apparently got sun poisoning (probably during the FIP event, which was outdoors, earlier in the day), so Curt Stallion took his spot. Johnny Mundo was playing his “Boone The Bounty Hunter” character here. Aaron Solow cut a promo before the match began, calling the PWR team a bunch of “Nickelback rejects”. He then added that they (I guess he’s referring to himself and Starks) have been “all over the network”, and are future Hall Of Famers. Solow then talked about he and Starks are teaming with a “movie star” in Boone The Bounty Hunter. This ended up being a pretty entertaining eight-man tag. There was some good wrestling throughout, but they also threw in some comedy. They did this skit in the middle of the match where Boone The Bounty Hunter found “contraband” on Zachary Wentz. Then, JT Davidson got hit with this “mysterious powder” and went crazy (I’m pretty sure it’s implied that it was cocaine, but it was probably just that powder that’s used all the time in wrestling matches). He put himself through two tables, and I think he gave everyone a spinebuster. The match came to an end when Boone The Bounty Hunter & Sammy Guevara hit Curt Stallion with a Double Spanish Fly off the top rope to win the match for Team WrestleCircus. This was certainly wacky, but it was a ton of fun to watch from start to finish.

Afterwards, Boone The Bounty Hunter “arrested” Zachary Wentz.

8.) WrestleCircus Sideshow Title/PWR Scramble Title - Scramble Match: ***

So this match is for both the WrestleCircus Sideshow Title (the midcard title in that promotion) and the PWR Scramble Title, which is usually defended in this kind of match. The format of this one basically followed the Royal Rumble formula. Two participants started, and there was a new entrant every thirty seconds. Eliminations occurred via pinfall or submission. The participants in the match included AR Fox, Caleb Konley, Tessa Blanchard, Palmer, Scorpio Sky, Jordan Lennox, Willie Mack, Lio Rush, Mr. 450, Rickey Shane Page, Davey Vega, Mascarita Dorada, Jeremiah, Trey Miguel, Andy Dalton, Suicide, and Jason Cade, who was the defending PWR Scramble Champion after winning it from AR Fox in a crazy multi-man Ladder Match at the Pancakes & Piledrivers event earlier in the weekend. As for the Sideshow Title, this was for the vacant title, as the previous title holder was….reddit (yes, you read that correctly). Anyway, this was one giant clusterf*ck, but for what it was, it was mostly fine. We did get some cool moments sprinkled throughout, such as AR Fox, Jason Cade, & Mr. 450 eliminated Willie Mack, Suicide, & Trey Miguel respectively with simultaneous 450 splashes. Eventually, it came down to AR Fox vs. Jason Cade, and AR Fox got the win to capture both titles.

AR Fox took the mic after the match. He said that he’s so proud of this weekend, and added that this (I believe he’s referring to all of the independent shows that took place over ‘Mania Weekend) is what pro-wrestling is really about. Fox said that these two companies define what wrestling is today, and proclaimed that titles he just earned are true championships. He promised to wear them proudly, but was then interrupted by Moose. He brought up that AR Fox just said that he’d defend his title anywhere and against anyone, and wanted a shot right now! Without hesitation, Fox accepted, and we have one more match!

9.) WrestleCircus Sideshow Title/PWR Scramble Title - AR Fox vs. Moose: ***

This was a wild sprint that featured some fun action throughout. It wasn’t quite as good as some of the sprints we saw earlier, but it was still enjoyable to watch, despite being so short. AR Fox would ultimately get the win to retain his title.

Afterwards, AR Fox & Moose shook hands. Fox then took the mic, and thanked the fans once again for coming out. He also told the fans to keep supporting both promotions. Sami Callihan came out and said basically the same thing, before telling everyone to leave so they could take the ring down before the venue kicked them out.

Overall: 7.0/10

For a show that came about on such short notice, it proved to be pretty entertaining, for the most part. Aside from one noticeable hiccup (Jake Manning vs. Leva Bates), most of the matches on this show were pretty solid, with Michael Elgin vs. Shane Strickland and Brian Cage vs. Dezmond Xavier being the standouts. I’m not sure what the viability is of an independent show right after WrestleMania in the future, but as this show proved, people will show up.

FIP Establish Dominance 2017 Review

FIP puts on a show in the middle of The Hardy's Broken Tailgate Party!

FIP Establish Dominance 2017
Orlando, Florida 4/2/17

This event took place as part of a “Broken Tailgate Party” hosted by The Hardys. In addition to that, there were a few other things that made this show incredibly unique. Not only did it take place in the middle of a street (which was obviously blocked off for the tailgate) in downtown Orlando, but it also took place on Sunday afternoon, right before WrestleMania. I thought it was very interesting to see a promotion run a show the same day as WWE’s biggest show of the year, particularly in the afternoon. It was a unique experiment, but if any promotion was going to give it a shot, it would be FIP.

1.) Eight-Man Tag - ACH, Keith Lee, “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin, & Sammy Guevara (with Aria Blake) vs. Uncle John’s Friends (AR Fox, Sami Callihan, Dave Crist, & Jake Crist with Darby Allin & Priscilla Kelly): ****

The show kicked off with a group of babyfaces teaming up to take on Uncle John’s Friends. Now originally, Darby Allin was scheduled to be in this match, but I believe he suffered some sort of injury during the primary WWN events (I’m guessing it was during his Anything Goes Match against Ethan Page at Evolve 81). Jake Crist ended up filling in for Allin, which made sense, since his brother Dave Crist was already in the group. In my review of FIP Everything Burns 2017 (which was the first show in this “new era” of FIP), I eviscerated the booking behind the formation of Uncle John’s Friends. However, I never had issues with those who made up the group. They’re all really good talents, fully capable of putting on strong matches. Well, they ended up having the best match on the show here against this team of babyfaces. It was a wild match right from the start, as the two sides started brawling all over the place with the Orlando Skyline serving as the backdrop. There was a ton of chaotic action in this one, and everyone involved had a chance to shine. Ultimately, Uncle John’s Friends emerged victorious after an assisted spike tombstone piledriver on Guevara. This was soooo much fun to watch!! I loved every second of it.

2.) FIP World Heavyweight Title - Fred Yehi vs. Dezmond Xavier: ***1/2

Well, we started off the show with an eight-man tag that I thought would definitely be the main event. Up next, we had another bout that I could’ve easily seen main eventing this show. I guess they decided to put all of the important matches first, so that if people decided to leave early to go to ‘Mania, they could at least say they saw the best matches. Fred Yehi was the champion coming in, and he successfully retained his title about catching Dezmond Xavier with a submission out of nowhere (it looked more like an Anaconda Vice than a Koji Clutch). This was a really good title match that featured some very solid action throughout. In general, Yehi had an underrated weekend in Orlando, as he had a number of strong performances across the various WWN events (this one included). Xavier looked pretty good here as well, with this being only a few months before he broke out (in a way) when got some expose on GFW/Impact Wrestling as part of their X-Division.

3.) FIP Florida Heritage Title - Martin Stone vs. Jon Davis: ***3/4

This bout pretty much confirms my theory about the layout of this show. Martin Stone (also known as Danny Burch in NXT) came into this as the champion, and had successfully retained against Jon Davis on the last two FIP events. Presumably, this was Davis’ last shot at the title. When the dust settled, this ended up being even better than the FIP World Heavyweight Title bout that came before it. This quickly turned into a brawl, as the two took their battle onto the street itself. They just beat the crap out of each other on the incredibly hot tarmac… the blistering heat!! It was certainly an incredible sight, that’s for sure. Eventually, they fought back to the ring, and in the end, Davis finally managed to the defeat Stone to capture the FIP Florida Heritage Title. This was just a fight, plain and simple. These two worked hard in conditions that weren’t exactly ideal, and they absolutely delivered.

Afterwards, Jon Davis celebrated with the title, but then Stone snatched it from his grasp. Stone then took the mic. He jarred with the fans initially, but then showed respect to Davis, saying that he earned the title.

4.) Austin Theory vs. Caleb Konley: ***1/4

If this was a normal FIP event, these next three matches would’ve been on earlier. Instead, because of the unique circumstances surrounding this show, they’re happening later. In this particular bout, Caleb Konley would end up scoring the victory over Austin Theory after hitting his double jump moonsault. I have to say, this result was a bit of a surprise. With Konley being mainly a TNA/Impact Wrestling guy at this point, I thought he was just being used here to put over a new top prospect in Theory. With that being said, I was happy to see Konley get the win here. While he is part of TNA/Impact Wrestling (as I previously mentioned) he was rarely used in his first six months or so with the company. It honestly felt like he fell off the face of the earth for a bit, but it was cool to see Konley resurface. I’ve always enjoyed him in the ring. As for this match, it was pretty solid from start to finish, though it didn’t really stand out. Of course, it was going to be incredibly hard (or next to impossible) for them to follow the three matches that came before, but in general, they still did a fine job.

5.) Aria Blake vs. Priscilla Kelly: **1/4

This was the lone women’s match on the show, and unfortunately, it ended up being the worst match on the card. That’s not to say that it was bad, however, as both women did put forth effort here. I think they were just victims of placement, as they weren’t going to follow anything that occurred beforehand (again, this show had a very unique structure). Priscilla Kelly ultimately got the win over Aria Blake in a match that was ok, but easily forgettable.

6.) Anthony Henry vs. Jason Cade: ***3/4

The main event of this very special FIP event ended up being a match with… real stakes to it. I’m guessing this would’ve been the opener under normal circumstances, but again, they’re in this spot because of the show’s inverted lineup. These two ended up having a really strong match that was about on par with the Martin Stone/Jon Davis FIP Florida Heritage Title bout from earlier in the card. Both men are incredibly talented performers, and they really got to show off what they could do here. There was entertaining action throughout, and these two seemed to have some very solid chemistry. In the end, Henry would score the victory after getting Cade to tap out to an ankle lock.

Overall: 8.0/10

I didn’t have high hopes for this “new” and “edgier” FIP after watching Everything Burns 2017, but after hearing some positive reviews about this show, I decided to check it out. I’m glad that I did, because I really enjoyed! All the crap that I associated with this version of FIP was nowhere to be seen on this card (aside from the reminder that Uncle John’s Friends is actually the name of a wrestling stable). It was straight up wrestling show with six matches that featured very little nonsense. Out of those six bouts, five of them were very good to great. If you have the chance, I would go check it out, because in my view, it was one of the most underrated shows during this big weekend in Orlando.

Beyond Wrestling: Caffeine Review

Donovan Dijak & Matt Riddle face off in the main event!

Beyond Wrestling: Caffeine
Orlando, Florida 4/1/17

1.) Keith Lee vs. Jeff Cobb: ***1/4

With two big guys like this, you know you’re in for a hoss fight. This wasn’t as great as I was expecting, but it was still a pretty solid opening contest. It went about ten minutes, and there was good action throughout (with both men showing off their power), though it didn’t really get to that next level. Lee would end up getting the win after catching Cobb in a victory roll (of all things), and the two men shook hands after the match.

2.) Deonna Purrazzo vs. LuFisto: ***1/4

This was billed as a “Women’s Wrestling Revolution Showcase”. For those who might not know, WWR is an offshoot promotion from Beyond that focuses primarily on women’s wrestling (as the name would indicate, obviously). I was actually looking forward to this one, since I know that both of these women are very talented wrestlers. They ended up having a very solid back and forth match that was about on par with the opener, in terms of quality. Purrazzo tried her best to keep LuFisto grounded, and at one point, locked her in the Fujiwara Armbar. However, LuFisto was able to escape the hold, and got the win after hitting a Tiger Driver. Then, much like Keith Lee & Jeff Cobb did after the opener, these two women shook hands following this match.

3.) Eight-Man Tag - Team Pazuzu (Chris Dickinson, Jaka, & TNA/Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Champions LAX [Ortiz & Santana]) vs. The Gentleman’s Club (Chuck Taylor & Orange Cassidy) & Team Tremendous: ***1/2

I pretty behind when it comes to watching Beyond Wrestling, but I was very aware of the stable known as Team Pazuzu. At the time, however, there had been some recent developments with some of his members. EYFBO were brought into TNA/Impact Wrestling (under the new Jeff Jarrett regime) and became part of the newly reformed LAX. They had only been with the company for a few weeks, but they had already capturing the TNA/Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Titles. They were pretty over with this crowd when they came out. As for the match itself, I thought it was a really entertaining eight-man tag. I got a good amount of time (clocking in at just over sixteen minutes) and there was a lot of fun action from beginning to end. There were some comedic elements here and there (mainly from The Gentleman’s Club & Team Tremendous), but this was mostly nonstop action. The only negative thing to say about this one is that it had a weird finish. Towards the end of the bout, Bill Carr accidentally hit Orange Cassidy with a Black Hole Slam. LAX takes advantage of this mishap, as they trap Cassidy in a Jackknife Pin for the victory.

4.) Sami Callihan vs. David Starr: ***1/2

While these two are technically part of the same group (JML), they’re not afraid to fight each other. This was a sub-seven minute sprint that was packed with nonstop action from start to finish. I’ve said this consistently in many of my past reviews, but it’s worth repeating. Sami Callihan’s best work is in sprints. That’s where he excels, and this particular bout was a perfect example of where he does well. This match was hard hitting, and filled with energy, which is exactly the kind of bout that this show needs (since it started just before midnight). Starr would ultimately get the win in this one. It certainly wasn’t a contender for match of the weekend, but I loved every second of it.

After the match, Sami Callihan took the mic. He said that, at this point, he’s wrestled nine matches over the course of this big weekend. Callihan proclaimed that this was part of the reason why he left WWE, so he could wrestle for great independent companies like Beyond Wrestling on ‘Mania Weekend. He put over David Starr, and the two left together.

5.) Mixed Tag Team Match - Joey Janela & Penelope Ford vs. The World’s Cutest Tag Team (Joey Ryan & Candice LeRae): ***

Up next, we had a mixed tag team encounter. Janela takes the mic. This went just under eight minutes, and it ended up being a relatively solid bout. Of course, you did get some intergender spots with Penelope Ford & Candice LeRae going after their respective male opponents. Of course, we did get some weird spots, like Ford trying to rip of Ryan’s chest hair. On a more serious note, both teams work together so well (both as actual teams, and in this match in particular), and it resulted in an entertaining. In the end, Janela would get the pin on Ryan following a splash off the top rope.

Afterwards, Joey Janela took the mic, and mockingly congratulates them on their efforts. Janela then proclaimed that, since he just pinned Joey Ryan, he should be awarded the DDT Iron-Man Heavy Metal Weight Champion. Bryce Remsberg (the referee for the Mixed Tag Team Match) then had no choice but to award Janela the title, and Janela says he’ll see Joey Ryan in Japan. Of course, Janela didn’t hold onto the title for very long, but you can follow the escapades of that title in the United States on YouTube.

6.) AR Fox vs. John Silver: ***1/4

This singles bout was very similar to the opener. It went right around ten minutes (in this case, just under ten minutes), and the action throughout was very solid, but as a whole, I was expecting this to be slightly better. Still, it was a fun match to watch for sure. Fox utilized his speed and athleticism, while Silver showed off some of his freaky strength. Eventually, Silver managed to put Fox away after hitting a Canadian Destroyer. This didn’t really set the world on fire, but as a whole, it proved to be pretty entertaining.

7.) Da Hit Squad (Dan Maff & Monsta Mack) vs. The Unbreakable F’N Machines (Brian Cage & “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin): ***1/4

While they’ve on the independent scene for a very long time, I’ve only seen Da Hit Squad a few times. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this bout, but it ended up being very similar to the Sami Callihan/David Starr match from earlier in the show. It was an absolute sprint that was packed with action. In hindsight, I suppose that was for the best, since Da Hit Squad probably aren’t physically capable of doing a long match. This was a hoss fight, but in the form of a tag team match. These four just through bombs each other for almost eight minutes, and it was incredibly entertaining to watch. Da Hit Squad getting the win here was a bit of a surprise, but they are Beyond Wrestling regulars, so I probably shouldn’t have been shocked.

Afterwards, the two teams shook hands.

8.) Donovan Dijak vs. Matt Riddle: ****

These two nearly got into it during Riddle’s entrance, and needed to be separated before the match could officially begin. The story here is that Dijak has been obsessed with facing Riddle again after he failed to beat him in the 2016 Tournament For Tomorrow Finals. I was expecting this to be a great match, and it met my expectations perfect. This was an awesome main event and a great way to close out the show. At just over eleven minutes, it was a little shorter than I was expecting, but it was still awesome to watch. There was plenty of back and forth action in this one. Both guys used every move in their arsenal in an attempt to put each other away. Dijak wanted this victory so bad, but unfortunately, he came up short against “The King Of Bros” once again. Once again, this was a incredible match from start to finish.

Overall: 8.0/10

This was technically the last show of the WWNLive Experience on this big weekend in Orlando, Florida (if you don’t count the Broken Tailgate on Sunday, which features shows from ACW & FIP). It wasn’t an event that really stood out amongst all of the other shows, but from top to bottom, I thought this was an incredibly consistent show. While the main event was the only bout that was truly great, the rest of the undercard featured several very entertaining matches, all in the ***-***1/2. Plus, the commentary (from Sugar Dunkerton & Veda Scott) was pretty solid as well. It’s unfortunate that this show got lost in the shuffle on this massive weekend, because it was a very enjoyable show to watch from beginning to end.

WWNLive SuperShow: Mercury Rising 2017 Review

A WWN Champion is crowned!!

WWN Supershow: Mercury Rising 2017
Orlando, Florida 4/1/17

Drew Galloway interrupted Lenny Leonard’s usual introduction at the start of the show. He mentioned an inspirational quote he found (“all it takes is all that you got”, or something like that), and said that guys like Ricochet & Timothy Thatcher were great, but the company needed eyeballs on it. Galloway brought the eyes to this product. Galloway said that he built Evolve into what it is today, before declaring that he had an epiphany. He didn’t just need to save Evolve, but WWN as a whole. He wanted to build up WWN as a brand, and the only way he could do that is if he won the WWN Title. If anyone tried to take his spot from him, he’d do to you what he did to Matt Riddle at Evolve 80. This brings out Riddle, who started brawling with Galloway almost immediately. Galloway got the upper hand until the rest of Catch Point made the save.

Galloway took the mic again, and says that he didn’t care what the fans thought of him. He tried to make his exit, but Keith Lee stopped him. Galloway said that this has nothing to do with him, but Lee backed him up towards the ring. Once he got in the ring, Galloway then proclaimed that Keith Lee was a guy he could get behind as the future of WWN. He told Lee to trust him, and asked him to stand by his side. There’s a long pause from Keith Lee, but he decides to give the former Evolve Champion a thumbs down. Galloway attacked, but Lee quickly responded, and took out Galloway with all of his finishers. Lee stood triumphant as Galloway rolled to the floor. Lee then took the mic, and said that WWN is his company now, and that the world belongs to him. Evolve is his home, and he had to dethrone the supposed king (Galloway) to claim the throne. He then calls out his opponents for the Four-Way Freestyle, which was a late addition to the card.

Timothy Thatcher was originally scheduled to be in this match, but when it was time for him to come out, Stokely Hathaway came out instead. He announced that Thatcher’s Night of Appreciation had been cancelled, but then proclaimed that Thatcher is now in the Battle of the Champions WWN Title Match. Darby Allin came out next, and said that despite not being medically cleared, he was going to wrestle anyway. Allin then got attacked by Ethan Page & The Gatekeepers, and afterwards, allowed one of The Gatekeepers (Blaster McMassive) to enter the match.

Well it was certainly very odd to see this show start out with a really long segment. However, there’s a reason why all of this happened. Apparently, Drew Galloway got a call from WWE, who wanted him to appear at ringside during the NXT TakeOver: Orlando event. Unfortunately, that show started shortly after this whole segment, which meant that Galloway had to miss his scheduled match on this show (he was going to be in the Six-Way Elimination Match for the WWN Title) so he could get to the Amway Center (in the horrible Orlando traffic) in time to make his appearance. Galloway would come back for a few more appearances on the next set of shows, but this pretty much signaled that he was done with Evolve. The story is that Galloway got this call just hours before this show started, so that forced a number of things to be changed.

1.) Four-Way Freestyle - Keith Lee vs. Jason Kincaid vs. Austin Theory vs. Blaster McMassive: ***

Even though it came about as a result of some last minute changes, I actually really liked the lineup of guys in this match. They all have unique qualities, and I was intrigued to see how they would mesh together in this situation. This only went about six minutes or so, but it ended up being a pretty entertaining opener. It was primarily a showcase for Keith Lee, who ultimately won, but the other three had one or two moments to shine as well. Nothing outstanding, but perfectly fine. The only other thing of note was that Priscilla Kelly came out to observe the match for a bit. They were obviously building up to something with her, but we didn’t quite know (at the time) where it was going.

After the match, Keith Lee took the mic again, and reminded everyone that WWN was his company, and that Evolve was his home. He then turned his attention to Kyle O’Reilly, and said that when they do face off (O’Reilly was coming in for the next set of shows), he’ll make sure that he basks in his glory.

Up next, we were originally scheduled to get Su Yung challenging LuFisto for the SHINE Title, but she wasn’t in the building. LuFisto came out and took the mic. She cut a promo noting that while Su Yung made a big scene at the last SHINE show, she didn’t even bother to show up tonight, and called her scared. LuFisto said nobody in the world could beat her, and this comment brought out Toni Storm. Looks like we have a new title match!

2.) SHINE Title - LuFisto vs. Toni Storm: ***1/4

Even though I enjoy Su Yung (mainly this “undead bride” character she has going), Toni Storm is a much better wrestler, and thus, she made an excellent replacement. The match itself was pretty good, though it suffered a bit because it was happening on short notice. If these two had time to fully prepare, this could’ve been even better. Alas, what we got was still very sold, and LuFisto eventually retained after hitting Storm with a Burning Hammer.

Up next, Trevin Adams (from WWN) & Jim Smallman (from PROGRESS Wrestling) came out to hype up the EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS Series that was happening on this show. Smallman did a shorter version of his usual intro speech on PROGRESS shows before the series officially began. Adams & Smallman would do the introductions for the representatives from their respective promotions.

3.) EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS: Match #1 - “All Ego” Ethan Page (with Flex RumbleCrunch) vs. Jimmy Havoc: **3/4

Out of the four matches in this EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS Series, this was probably the weakest of the bunch on paper. When the dust settled, it pretty much met those expectations. The early portions of the match featured some decent brawling through the crowd, and once they got back to the ring, we saw some….decent wrestling. Towards the end of the bout, Blaster McMassive came back out after falling to Keith Lee in the Four-Way Freestyle, and joined Flex RumbleCrunch in distracting Jimmy Havoc. This allowed Page to hit the Spinning Dwayne for the win. This was a fine match, but relatively flat as a whole. Evolve leads the series 1-0.

After the match, Ethan Page reminded everyone that if he didn’t get what he wanted, he would bring more chaos to Evolve. He then decided that he and The Gatekeepers were going to prematurely end Evolve’s relationship with PROGRESS right now. They go to beat up Havoc some more, but Darby Allin ran out to make the save. He cleaned house, and Havoc ended up hitting the Acid Rainmaker on Page.

4.) EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS: Match #2 - Catch Point (Chris Dickinson & Jaka) vs. The South Pacific Power Trip (Travis Banks & TK Cooper with Dahlia Black): ****1/4

It’s fair to say that The South Pacific Power Trip made a massive impression on wrestling fans in the United States with an incredible match at PROGRESS: Orlando the day before against Sami Callihan & Shane Strickland. Now, they’re taking on one of Evolve’s top tag teams in the form of Catch Point. While this wasn’t quite as awesome as the aforementioned JML/SPPT bout from PROGRESS: Orlando, it was still pretty fantastic!! It went about fifteen minutes, and featured some incredible action from start to finish. All four competitors involved worked very hard, and their efforts resulted in this being the match of the night (on this card, at least). The South Pacific Power Trip came off like absolute superstars, while Chris Dickinson & Jaka had (arguably) one of their best outings as a team. Travis Banks & TK Cooper would ultimately emerge victorious in what was an incredible tag team encounter. PROGRESS Wrestling tied the series at 1-1.

5.) EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS: Match #3 - PROGRESS World Title - Pete Dunne vs. ACH: ****

This was a match that I was really looking forward to seeing. Where else are you going to see Pete Dunne take on ACH? Even though it didn’t quite reach the quality of the awesome tag team bout that came before it, this was still a great singles encounter. I know some were down on it, but honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. A few minutes could’ve been shaved off, but as a whole, it still featured some really good action throughout. The last portion of the bout was particularly cool to watch, and definitely the best part of this title match. Even though the outcome was never really in question (Dunne wasn’t losing the PROGRESS World Title to ACH), they still managed to put together a very strong match. Again, I might be high person on this particular match, but I thought it was great. PROGRESS Wrestling takes a 2-1 lead in the series.

6.) EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS: Match #4 - EVOLVE Title - Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Mark Haskins: ****

Now this was the one match in the series that was a little….odd, mainly because Zack Sabre Jr. technically wrestles for both companies. Then again, he is the Evolve Champion, so if he had to pick between the two, he’d stand with Evolve. Much like Pete Dunne vs. ACH, the outcome of this particular bout (Zack Sabre Jr. retaining) was never really in question, but the match was still pretty great. It went just under twenty minutes, and there was some great wrestling from start to finish. This was another bout that most were down on, but again (much like the previous bout), I thought it was pretty awesome. There were some really slick submission exchanges, and some hard striking battles. Even though a few minutes could’ve been shaved off, and even though the selling could’ve been a tad better, I still enjoyed this. I’m probably the outlier, but that’s fine. Both guys are fantastic wrestlers, so it was no surprise to me that this ended up being great.

Thus, the EVOLVE vs. PROGRESS Wrestling Series ends in a 2-2 tie.

Afterwards, Zack Sabre Jr. took the mic. He talked about how he and Haskins are really good friends, and said that he’s proud to be a British Wrestler. Sabre then talked about how awesome it was to see Evolve & PROGRESS coming together for this big show, and closed by saying that wrestling is for everyone.

Before the main event, the actual WWN Title was officially revealed. It included side featuring all of the promotions under the WWN banner (Evolve, FIP, Style Battle, ACW).

7.) WWN Title - Battle Of Champions Elimination Match - EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Fred Yehi vs. Jon Davis vs. PROGRESS Matt Riddle vs. Parrow (with Drennen) vs. Timothy Thatcher (with Stokely Hathaway) vs. EVOLVE Tag Team Champion Tracy Williams: ***3/4

So this Six-Way Elimination Match had representatives from all four of the promotions I previously mentioned. While the representatives were pretty clear for EVOLVE (Matt Riddle, Timothy Thatcher, Tracy Williams) & ACW (Parrow), the representatives for FIP & Style Battle weren’t as clear (since Fred Yehi & Jon Davis had wrestled for both). With the changes to the main event that were mentioned at the start of this review, I was curious to see how this would turn out. Not surprisingly, the three members of Catch Point worked really well together to eliminate Parrow, Timothy Thatcher, & Jon Davis, in that order. Then, once it came down to the three Catch Point members, it was every man for himself. At this point, we got some more storyline stuff, particularly with Tracy Williams. He came off as very manipulative at points, and certainly showed signs of an eventual heel turn. This was further foretold when he rolled up Yehi from behind to eliminate him. Thus, it came down to Riddle vs. Williams, and as the match closed in on the thirty minute mark, Riddle locked Williams in the Bromission and forced him to submit to become the first-ever WWN Champion. This was a very long match, but generally, I thought it was a very good main event, though it definitely didn’t top the three bouts that came beforehand. I think everyone would agree that Matt Riddle was the right person to win, since he’d really become Mr. WWN over the previous year. There was very good action throughout, though the first half was dragged down a bit by the guys who you knew weren’t going to win. A few minutes could’ve been shaved off for sure, but again, this was very good as a complete package.

Afterwards, Matt Riddle took the mic and said that if you told him a year ago that he’d be the first WWN Champion, he wouldn’t have believed you. He said that he’s going to take the WWN Title and defend it every WWN promotion and all over the world, in order to make it a true World Title. Riddle proclaimed that he’ll defend it against Timothy Thatcher, his Catch Point brethren, and even Kyle O’Reilly. He thanked everyone as the show came to a close.

Overall: 8.25/10

I know a lot of people were down on this show at the time, with all of the changes that ended up happening, and the wackiness that resulted in the first-half, but as a whole, I genuinely thought that this was a really good show. It certainly wasn’t as great as Evolve 80 or Evolve 81, but it still ended up being a very solid event, despite everything that was working against it (which included going up against NXT & ROH). Once you got through those first few matches, the show really picked in the second half. Catch Point vs. The South Pacific Power Trip was easily the match of the night. From there, I think your enjoyment of this show is really going to depend on what you thought of those final three matches.

CZW Best Of The Best 16 Review

The Best Of The Best Tournament comes to Orlando, Florida!

CZW Best Of The Best 16
Orlando, Florida 4/1/17

For the first time ever, CZW brought one of their signature tournaments, Best Of The Best, to ‘Mania Weekend. It’s a tournament that focuses solely on great wrestling, as opposed to the death match style that CZW is known for. Normally, the opening round consists of triple threat matches, but with so many talents in Orlando for ‘Mania Weekend, they decided to use fatal four-ways in the first round.

The show started off with the Best Of The Best Trophy already in the ring. DJ Hyde (who didn’t get the negative reaction you would normally expect) came out and thanked everyone for coming out. Then, he introduced all of the competitors in the tournament, who all got in the ring for the customary pre-tournament photo.

1.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - Shane Strickland vs. Joey Janela vs. Lio Rush vs. CZW World Tag Team Champion Dezmond Xavier: ***3/4

The first opening round matchup featured four guys who are regulars in CZW. One person that caught my attention immediately was Lio Rush, mainly because he plays a much different persona in CZW compared to the other promotions he wrestled for at the time. He’s known as “Black Heart” Lio Rush, and I guess the backstory is that he turned into this darker character following a breakup with his girlfriend. Anyway, this ended up be a really strong opener. It didn’t go very long, clocking in at just over seven minutes, but they packed a ton of stuff into that short time frame! There was plenty of action, everyone had a chance to shine, and in general, the match was very energetic. In the end, Shane Strickland would pick up the victory to advance to the Semi-Finals.

2.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - Ricochet vs. David Starr vs. AR Fox vs. Jason Cade (with Veda Scott): ***1/2

Veda Scott is Jason Cade’s valet here….for some reason. This was actually very similar to the bout that came before it. You had four incredibly talents wrestlers packing a ton of entertaining action into a match that clocked in at just over seven minutes (according to, this was a mere two seconds longer). While I don’t think this was quite as good as the opener, it was still very entertaining to watch from start to finish. Ultimately, AR Fox would score the victory to advance to the Semi-Finals.

3.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Anthony Henry (with Amber Young) vs. Scorpio Sky vs. CZW World Tag Team Champion Zachary Wentz: ***1/2

I feel like this might’ve been the most diverse of the four first round matches, in terms of the different styles that were involved. The crowd didn’t appear to be that invested in this match, but as a whole, it was still very good. This did get the most time of the first round bouts, as it lasted around nine minutes. Much like the first two matches, there was really solid action throughout, and everyone involved had a chance to shine. Michael Elgin would emerge victorious in the end, thus advancing to the Semi-Finals. He looked dominant on his way to winning here, which was the right move from a booking standpoint.

4.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - Dave Crist vs. Jake Crist vs. Sami Callihan vs. Fenix: ***1/2

While the previous bout was probably the most diverse matchup in the first round, this one (the last of the bunch) was certainly the most….interesting. Essentially, Fenix was in a very awkward situation as his three opponents are all part of OI4K. This does carry over a bit from AAW, as Callihan had been feuding with The Lucha Brothers. In that regard, there was somewhat of a backstory. By this point in the show, the four-way was starting to get really repetitive, but that doesn’t mean the match quality decreased. This was another very solid match from start to finish, featuring a lot of good action. They didn’t rely on the whole “OI4K vs. Fenix” story that much, as the stablemates did go after each other at a number of points. This bout was the shortest of the opening round, lasting just over six minutes, but again, the wrestling was still good, so I guess there isn’t much to complain about. Dave Crist would ultimately get the win to advance to the Semi-Finals.

Afterwards, we got a weird little moment when Jake Crist got kissed on the mouth by Sami Callihan after Jake had offered him a handshake. That was….a very weird sight.

5.) CZW World Heavyweight Title - Joe Gacy vs. Brian Cage: ***1/2

The first non-tournament bout of the night featured Joe Gacy defending his CZW World Heavyweight Title against Brian Cage. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one, but when the dust settled, it ended up being…..another very good match on this card (I must sound like a broken record at this point). These two didn’t get a ton of time, as the bout only went about nine minutes or so, but much like the fatal four-way matches we just saw, the participants still managed to….get their shit in (as Brian Cage would say). These two went right after each other as soon as the bell rang, and this quickly turned into a hoss fight. They both went full speed ahead and just threw bombs at each other, which was pretty cool to watch. The crowd wasn’t fully invested in this match, but I thought the action made up for it. Eventually, Gacy caught Cage in a rollup to retain his title, which was a very flat ending to an otherwise fun title bout.

After the match, Brian Cage shook hands with Joe Gacy.

Before the next match started, we get a special video from CZW Wired Champion Johnny Yuma (who you might remember as one-half of the RockNES Monsters from PWG). He was basically upset that he wasn’t booked for the show, which I can totally sympathise with, since he’s a title holder in this promotion! Where is he?

6.) Ultimate Opportunity Scramble Match - Rickey Shane Page vs. Tony Deppen vs. Ethan Case vs. Ace Austin vs. Flip Gordon vs. Caleb Konley vs. Alexander James vs. Mascarita Dorada: ***1/4

This match was for an “Ultimate Opportunity Coin”, which will grant the holder any match of their choosing at any time, against any opponent, for any CZW title, with any stipulation. That’s a lot to take in (and it sounds like something straight out of CHIKARA or Lucha Underground), but it would certainly be massive prize for whoever managed to win this one. For the most part, this was basically the same type of match we saw earlier with the fatal four-way matches. The only difference was that this bout featured eight guys instead of four. The action was good, and it was entertaining to watch, but at this point, I was tired of seeing this type of match. Unlike a number of people these days, I don’t hate multi-man matches. They had their place on some cards, but five on one show is just overkill. Anyway, Rickey Shane Page would ultimately pick up the win to receive the “Ultimate Opportunity Coin”.

7.) Best Of The Best 16 - Semi-Finals - Dave Crist vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin: ***

I forgot to mention this earlier, but OI4K have a manager named JT Davidson with them. He’s mostly associated with The Crist Brothers, from what I can gather. This was the first of the two semi-final matches, and while it was a relatively fine bout from start to finish, I can away disappointed. It certainly wasn’t bad, but in my view, it ended up being the worst match of the night. There was a lot of brawling on the outside, and in general, it was wrestled at a more methodical pace. Compared to everything else on the show, it just didn’t catch my interest that much. Again, it was by no means bad. These two did a fine job, but when compared with the other bouts on the card, it just didn’t stand out. While some might see Dave Crist beating Michael Elgin (via a jackknife pin after countering an Elgin Bomb) as a big upset, it’s important to remember that OI4K are regulars in CZW. This was just a one-off appearance for Elgin, so him getting to the Finals wasn’t very likely.

8.) Best Of The Best 16 - Semi-Finals - AR Fox vs. Shane Strickland: ***1/2

It’s fair to say that this was definitely the more appealing of the two semi-final bouts. I went into this expecting these two to work well together, and when the dust settled, they ended up having a really good match (there’s that phrase again). This went about ten minutes, and while it wasn’t as packed with action (like some of the earlier bouts), we still got to see some cool stuff from these two. Aside from that, I don’t have much to add. A very enjoyable match that saw Shane Strickland punch his ticket to the Finals.

9.) Anything Goes Match - Special Guest Referee: Kevin Sullivan - Pentagon Jr. vs. Matt Tremont (with Stockade): ***1/4

It wouldn’t be a CZW show without a crazy hardcore match. Even though Best Of The Best focuses on great in-ring wrestling, it still usually has at least one deathmatch or some sort of wacky hardcore stipulation. Well, this was that match. When Pentagon Jr. made his entrance, he came out with a massive bundle of light tubes. As most of us probably expected, this was brutal and bloody. Tremont (who apparently is doing some sort of religious/cult leader gimmick, as he’s being referred to here as “Father” Matt Tremont) got busted open about a minute into this one (what a surprise, right?). All sorts of weapons were used, including trash cans, forks, doors, chairs, tables, and of course, the light tubes. Kevin Sullivan swept the ring while the action was going on, and in general, he seemed very….tepid in this environment. Once the shattered remains of the light tubes were scattered across the ring, Sullivan was actually afraid to slap the mat when pin attempts came up. Later Stockade tried to get involved, and Sullivan hit him with his trademark golden spike. Eventually, Tremont got the win after hitting a Death Valley Driver onto a pile of chairs. This was by no means spectacular, but it was something different on this card, which I guess is a good thing.

After the match ended, Pentagon Jr. shook hands with Matt Tremont. Then, a video package announced that on August 7th, Matt Tremont would be going one-on-one with Japanese hardcore wrestling legend Atsushi Onita!

10.) Best Of The Best 16 - Finals - Relaxed Rules Match - Dave Crist vs. Shane Strickland: ***1/4

After four separate fatal four-way matches, and two semi-final matches, we’re finally down to the finals of the Best Of The Best Tournament. At nearly fifteen minutes, this ended up being the longest match on the entire show. It was a good match as a whole, but it certainly didn’t meet the standards set in the first-half of the card. While the actual was relatively solid, the match was wrestled at a slower pace compared to what we had seen already. That was one item that hurt this bout a little bit. They did a decent job with the Relaxed Rules stipulation, but it wasn’t the best idea to put it right after a crazy Anything Goes Match. Then there were the shenanigans towards the end. Strickland accidentally kicked the referee, which allowed JT Davidson to attack Strickland. The “King of Swerve” was able to fight Davidson off, but then he got involved again. Davidson lifted Strickland on his shoulders, and allowed Dave Crist to hit his super cutter for the win. The interference in the final few minutes was just so egregious. The match was still pretty solid, but that finish left a sour taste in my mouth.

Afterwards, DJ Hyde got in the ring, and talked about how so many big names in wrestling today spent time in CZW over the years. He told the crowd in Orlando to give it up for Strickland, and then presented the 2017 Best Of The Best Trophy to Dave Crist, who then embraced Strickland. That was a very odd way to close out the show. Strickland just basically no sold the fact that he got cheated out of the tournament. If I were him, I’d be pretty pissed.

Overall: 7.75/10

Going into WrestleMania Weekend in Orlando, this show was getting a ton of buzz for the card it had put together. Did it live up to the hype? Well, in some ways, it did. In other ways….not so much. The first-half was easily the best part of this show, with the four opening round matches and the CZW World Heavyweight Title bout were all really good. I know that having multi-man bouts in the first round is part of what makes Best Of The Best unique, but seeing consecutive four-way matches did get tiresome (despite the fact that they all delivered). From that point on, the show was a mixed bag. With so many other multi-man matches already in the lineup, the eight-man scramble was unnecessary. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t have done it, but it didn’t need to happen on this show. Matt Tremont vs. Pentagon Jr. was good for what it was. Then there were the semi-finals and finals. While they were all relatively solid, it really felt like the tournament peaked in the opening round, with the match quality decreasing from there. I flat out didn’t like how the final ended, and it just ended the show on a bad note. As a whole, this event was filled with a lot of really good matches, and even though it was far from the worse show of the weekend, it didn’t leave a lasting impression either.