Branching out beyond the safety of the American coastlines, Chairshot Classics begins to delve into PROGRESS. Harry starts the journey at the logical, with in depth coverage and finer details on what made the matches happen.
What I Watched – A Chairshot Classics Presentation
PROGRESS Chapter 1: ‘In The Beginning’
By Harry Broadhurst
Man, been a while since I’ve done one of these. Greetings and salutations all. My name is Harry Broadhurst. A little bit about myself: I am the host of the ‘Raw Reaction’ here on the Chairshot Radio Network along with Tony Acero and Andrew Balaz (one of the big wigs here at thechairshot.com). I’ve been a part of the podcast network since it launched as the Raw Reaction just celebrated it’s fifth anniversary back in April.
Back in the days when this website was still WrestlingSmash, I used to be the guy who did what Steven Mitchell does. I would review Raw, SmackDown, Impact and Main Event under the title of “What I Watched”. I did some DVD reviews for another website a while ago as well but those eventually slowed down when schedules changed. I’ve been wanting to get back into reviews and I figure that now that I have a bit more free time, I want to spotlight more independent companies that don’t usually get highlighted.
I spoke to Greg about this and we both agreed that one of the hottest promotions in the world right now is the England based PROGRESS Wrestling. While we were talking, the idea that there isn’t a lot available on the history of the company came up and we intend to change that. Jim Smallman and his crew have created some of the most buzz we’ve ever seen for an independent wrestling company. They have even gotten themselves noticed to the point that the WWE’s NXT is going to be partnering with PROGRESS when it launches NXT:UK. The WWE UK Championship has been defended in PROGRESS and multiple members of the active WWE roster have appeared on the shows, both before and during their times in the WWE itself.
Well, even a promotion as big as PROGRESS has a beginning. ‘In The Beginning’, to be specific. We go back to the twenty fifth of March in 2012 for this one. And this show helps set the stage for the first PROGRESS Wrestling Heavyweight champion to be crowned. Into the way back machine we go and it’s now time for ‘In The Beginning’ or PROGRESS Chapter 1.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: Due to the fact that Greg considers reviews to be opinion pieces, I am of the opinion that you should be able to form your own thoughts of the matches. Therefore, I will not be posting any of the finishes inside the review itself. But if you want to know, I will post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contest. The final show review will be after that, so if you want to read that without seeing results, I recommend scrolling to the bottom and moving up the page.
MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating. In addition, keeping with my run here with the Chairshot, I’m going to issue a ‘Final Reaction’ at the end of the reviews. Best match/moment, worst match/moment, Final Score and MVP (Most Valuable Performer).
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 1
‘In The Beginning’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: March 25th, 2012
Run Time: 1:55:45
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton and www.backbodydrop.com for some of the research that I did while working on this review.
*No opening promo from Smallman, which would become a fixture of the company. Instead, a quick graphic for the company takes us to a quick graphic for our opening contest.
*General Notes: The lighting for this venue is awful. At least a third of the ring is in relative darkness. Hopefully that gets fixed quickly going forward…the crowd is super hot for this show. The play-by-play announcer? Not so much. Not sure if he’s the same guy around to this day. If he is, he has improved tremendously. If it’s not, it’s easy to see why…commentary note: upon doing a bit of research, apparently it was Jim Smallman doing commentary in studio afterward under the name Jimmy Barnett. Makes sense that he would turn those reigns over, given his other duties with the company…setup is really weird with where they have the hard cam placed. You can clearly see monitors directly in front of the hard cam. One of them is clearly for music. The other looks like it’s set to Microsoft Excel…the ending graphics give all the information about social media presence. I can start including that stuff in the reviews if you guys want me too.
*Semifinal #1: Noam Dar vs. El Ligero
The Who: Yes, the Cruiserweight Classic’s (and now 205 Lives‘) Noam Dar as he is one of the guys who would move on to work for the WWE after getting some notoriety here in PROGRESS. El Ligero is a guy who fans of What Culture Pro Wrestling (WCPW from here on, though it is now known as Defiant Wrestling) are very familiar. I can’t say I’ve seen a whole lot of him personally, but I have heard good things
The Why: Semifinal match to help determine the first of four participants in the PROGRESS Wrestling title match later in the show.
The Match: I may be wrong, but I think Smallman is the ring announcer, which I believe is a job he still does to this day…the inset promos are a nice touch. Not something you traditionally get from what basically amounts to an independent show…crowd makes it very clear very early who they are rooting for in this contest…have to say, a little sloppier then I expected to open. I’ll chalk that up to nerves though…and the first dive out of the ring happens at the minute and a half mark. Yep, indie wrestling…at least to me, Dar is clearly the more proficient of the two. It really doesn’t surprise me that he has found his way to a WWE contract…Dar with a really nice airplane spin that he combos into a Northern Lights. Very well done…Ligero with what looks like a version of the ‘S.O.S.’ but coming out of it, Dar catches him with a good looking burning clothesline…the roaming cam is not the same quality as the hard cam, but it’s a lot less distracting due to the monitors…Dar with a leg grapevine for an extended period before Ligero gets the ropes. Luckily, the crowd doesn’t seem to mind it as they are still very into it, especially for Ligero’s escape…one of the issues with PROGRESS can be the fan’s snarkiness. Pretty sure I just heard a slur for homosexual chanted by them here. Not exactly the impression you want to leave with potential first time viewers. Little surprised that hasn’t been edited out…and there’s the finish. Solid little match to open. Nothing super groundbreaking, but still worth the time that it runs for. (ABOVE AVERAGE)
*Semifinal #2: Nathan Cruz vs. Colossus Kennedy
The Who: I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about Nathan Cruz. I don’t believe I have seen him compete before and if I have, I clearly don’t remember it. I’ve heard of him though. I can’t say the same of his opponent as this is the first time I’ve even heard of Colossus Kennedy. The name is definitely fitting though as the guy looks to be every bit of six foot five or six and three hundred pounds.
The Why: Semifinal match to help determine the second of four participants in the PROGRESS Wrestling title match later in the show.
The Match: That is a big boy in Colossus for sure…both men get inset promos for this match. Nathan comes off far more charismatic then Kennedy does. Nathan knows the character he wants to portray, whereas Colossus is just your average generic big guy…six foot six and three hundred sixty pounds. Really big boy by Indy wrestling standards…early chants from the crowd compare Kennedy to both the ‘Funkasaurus’ (that was a thing on Raw at the time) and Earthquake. Let’s not throw around the good name of John Tenta too freely, shall we?…Kennedy is a little clunky, so I don’t imagine he’s been wrestling all that long at this point. He does move well for a guy his size. He does a tabletop suplex (fall away slam position into a vertical) that looks really sloppy, though…they play up a pretty simple ‘big guy, smaller guy’ dynamic here. The crowd is into hating on Cruz, so it works. The ‘shit Zack Ryder’ chant does make me chuckle…the announcer attempts to put the crowd over as one of the most comedic he’s ever been around. He just says it so blandly that it loses meaning. To be fair (and I know I’ve ripped the guy twice already), he’s commentating by himself. Few can pull that off serviceably. Even fewer (Joey Styles and Lenny Leonard spring to mind) can do so and be entertaining…Kennedy impresses me with the selling of the leg, as he reverses Cruz into the corner. He then tries an avalanche but the leg gives out on him as he attempts to get across the ring…the commentator spent the entire match putting over Kennedy’s Lariat, even mentioning that his favorite wrestler to watch was Stan Hansen. So, it’s a little bit of a surprise that it’s not the finish when he hits it, as Cruz cleanly kicks out…and there’s the finish. I think the right guy wins here, as there is clearly a drop in talent between the two. The match itself is serviceable, but nothing you would remember by the end of the show most likely. They tell a good story but it never really gets out of first gear. (AVERAGE)
*Semifinal #3: ‘Loco’ Mike Mason (with Becky James) vs. Colt Cabana
The Who: Mike Mason and Becky James, I have never heard of. To give a visual comparison for fellow independent wrestling fans, the closest I could give you would probably be “Mr. Showtime” Scot Summers or Davey Richards. Colt Cabana, I don’t think I need to expand upon. Arguably the biggest competitor currently in independent wrestling at the time, Still to this day, Cabana is a huge draw on the Indy circuit, even if his appearances are a lot less frequent then they used to be.
The Why: Semifinal match to help determine the third of four participants in the PROGRESS Wrestling title match later in the show.
The Match: Cabana is one of those guys promoters bring in to give a local a marquee match against a name talent. That or he’s there to make people laugh. I’ll assume one of those is going to be the M.O. here…pre-match, Colt throws what I believe are tennis balls at Mason and Becky. Make your own jokes here…man, there is a noticeable size disparity between the two. Colt is not a huge guy by any stretch (he’s muscular but not tall), but he towers over Mason…it’s the not family friendly Colt this evening as he stands on the bottom turnbuckle, pushes out his groin and states “I do have a foreign object” or something to that effect…the crowd gets on the referee for not checking Cabana, but really, it’s the right call…Cabana stuffs his singlet with a tennis ball and the announcer quickly takes the ‘pleased to see us’ route…this is all before the opening bell, mind you…opening bell finally does ring and it’s tennis ball shenanigans…a series of tennis ball tosses with the crowd lead to a very snarky ‘this is wrestling’ chant as the announcer points out that Mason is a replacement for RJ Singh…it eventually breaks into a bit of a mat wrestling contest, where Cabana dominates…more shenanigans such as a dancing sequence and then an airplane spin that leads to Colt exclaiming “I’m getting so fucking dizzy”…James gets involved and Cabana tumbles through the ropes to finally put Mason in control of the contest…there’s a dog theme to Mason’s gimmick, but if I’m being honest, I’m not seeing a lot of steak to go with the sizzle thus far…a shoulder into the ring post turns the tide back into Cabana’s favor…it’s hard to describe Colt matches, because while there is a lot of stuff going on, most of it isn’t actual wrestling…Cabana gets the Billy Goat’s Curse (reverse Boston Crab) on, but Becky James gets onto the apron and distracts both Cabana and the referee…and that leads directly into the finish. As I said during the course of the match, Cabana matches make for entertaining experiences, but not a ton on the actual wrestling scale. This was basically Colt playing the hits of the kind of matches he would normally have. Mason could have really been anyone else in the locker room, outside of the shenanigans with the tennis ball (BELOW AVERAGE)
*Semifinal #4: Zach Sabre Jr. vs. ‘Party’ Marty Scurll
The Who: Where to begin here? Not that either of these guys need a formal introduction from me, but here goes: Sabre Jr. people will know from the ‘Cruiserweight Classic’, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and a host of other places. I think you can make the argument that Sabre is the best technical wrestler in the world. ‘Party Marty’ as he’s known here has become an international superstar in his own right as the ‘Villain’ Marty Scurll in many of the same places that Sabre Jr. frequents, with the exception of the ‘Cruiserweight Classic’, but that was due to Marty being under a NJPW contract at the time of that taping. Back here at this show in March of 2012, these guys were part of a tag team known as the ‘Leaders of the New School’. This is by far my most anticipated of the first round matches.
The Why: Semifinal match to help determine the fourth and final participant in the PROGRESS Wrestling title match later in the show.
The Match: Sabre Jr. points out that he ‘chuffing loves arm-bars’ in his pre-match promo. That may be the understatement of the DVD thus far…my intro to Marty Scurll was as ‘Party Marty’ in wXw (Germany), but man is it weird watching a Scurll match in 2018 and not seeing the ‘Villain’…even as early as we are here, you can see the ‘Villain’ in there. Especially with how he works the crowd. One of the most charismatic men in wrestling…noticeable differences for these two with the power game of Scurll and the mat game of Sabre. It’s an easy story to tell…and we have the first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant that would become a staple of the company going forward…despite not being as good as Sabre on the mat, Scurll more then holds his own. It’s easy to forget with the frat boy character he had at the time that Marty could really go…dead lift suplex attempt by Scurll countered into a rolling cross-arm breaker by Sabre. So pretty…Sabre really put the torque on an abdominal stretch variation. Despite being partners, they are definitely not holding back against each other…super high and tight on the Liger Bomb and rolled right into another arm bar variation. Scurll quick to the ropes, but man, did it look vicious…everything is so fluid between these two…and right as I type that, a pretty decent piece of miscommunication going into the double down, but they recover well enough from it…for all the praise he gets for being so technically gifted, Sabre’s kicks either look really good and don’t hurt or are legit stiff as all hell…and there’s the finish. A little surprised by the decision but given where they’d both end up in the company, not a complete surprise. That said, quite far and away the best thing on the card thus far. These two do not hold back, as they lay in the strikes and kicks. Not only that, but the ground game was on point as well. Multiple ‘This is PROGRESS’ chants are well earned here. Early leader in the clubhouse for best match in PROGRESS history. (VERY GOOD, CLOSE TO EXCELLENT)
*BWC (British Wrestling Council) Scarlo Scholarship Championship: Zack ‘Diamond’ Gibson vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen vs. Xander Cooper ©
The Who: I have not a clue who two of the three people in this match are. The names Darrell Allen and Xander Cooper mean nothing to me, as this is the first I’ve heard of both. Zack Gibson I am familiar, though. Zack was the winner of the UKCT 2, giving him a chance to take on Pete Dunne for the WWE UK Championship on Night 2 of the WWE UKCT2 special. He is no where near ‘Liverpool’s Number One’ here though. Even though he’s a heel (being announced from Liverpool drew boos from the fans, who wouldn’t know good ‘footy’ if it bite them in the ass), he has long hair here, looking nothing like what we would see of him in the WWE.
The Why: Triple threat, one fall to a finish (I think) for the BWC Scarlo Scholarship. Apparently, upon doing a bit of research, this belt was put together as a well to promote talent from the most reputable schools on the British scene.
The Match: Inset promos from all three before the match. As a Liverpool FC fan, I’m immediately biased towards Gibson. Much like I was during the aforementioned UKCT2…commentator mentions that there will be a BWC match on every PROGRESS show going forward. We’ll see how long that lasts…not sure what the hell that was supposed to be, but they managed to save it…‘Man for All Seasons’ is a pretty nice little nickname. Give Cooper credit for that one…seems weird to see a high flyer as a heel, but that’s what Cooper is. Allen is a high flyer as well, but he’s a baby face…sunset bomb out of the corner with a avalanche exploder gets the sixth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant and first of the match…and one of the fans informs Cooper that he sucks a large dick. Keep it classy, lads…this match is falling into that traditional three way troupe of two guys in, one man out. It takes away from the special feeling of a triple threat when there is rarely any interaction between all three…fans are definitely not with Cooper. I believe they are calling him the ‘drizzling shits’…Cooper is relatively fluid in the ring and works the crowd well. Curious if he’s still involved with wrestling…sunset flip/German combo is only the second or third spot since the start of the match to involve all three…Gibson looks surprisingly tall here to me. Wonder if I just didn’t realize it or if the other two are just that small…maybe just me, but Gibson kind of looks like CM Punk during his ROH days here…alright, I’ve never seen that spot before. Very innovative…some very cool looking rollups in the ‘fish out of water’ sequence…Cooper looks like he was going for a hammerlock DDT, but Gibson gets out and eventually into a flying lungblower…fans are turning around on Gibson here. They started booing the crap out of him, but now appear to be behind him. Ring work won them over…this is the match of the enzugiri. At least six of them…Allen botches a 450 splash, landing with his knees right across the chest of Gibson. Don’t think that was supposed to happen…and there’s the finish. For what is essentially a ‘student’s match’, this actually turned out to be pretty good. Nothing great from any of the three, but there are several innovative spots (I watch a ton of wrestling and even I saw some stuff for the first time here) and there is nothing blown to the point that it takes you out of the match. The finish is cheap, but given where the belt ends up, it makes sense that they’d go the way they did here. Color me impressed by all three lads here. (GOOD)
*Main Event: PROGRESS Wrestling Championship Staff (Not Title): Fatal Four Way Elimination: El Ligero vs. Nathan Cruz vs. ‘Loco’ Mike Mason vs. ‘Party’ Marty Scurll
The Who: The four men who were victorious in the qualifying matches earlier in the show. It is at this point that I realize spoilers are inevitable for this contest. My bad, ya’ll. This one’s on me.
The Why: To crown the first ever PROGRESS champion. Seems pretty obvious. It’s an Staff instead of a title. Pretty sure that would end up sticking around for a while if memory serves.
The Match: Smallman getting shitty about the fans calling the PROGRESS Staff a ‘Nazi Staff’ is by far and away the most entertaining that he ever is at commentary. It’s easily the most personality he’s shown, even with the unnecessary shot at Santino Marella thrown in…rolling flip dive over the ring post and to the floor by El Ligero. Impressive…and through the crowd they all go, as fans are already complaining about lack of visibility. It’s like a 1998 WWF pay-per-view main event…and some crowd interaction leads to a double chop on Cruz by Ligero and Scurll…upon thinking about it, definitely would compare Mason more towards Richards then Summers. Not sure if that’s a compliment, though…we’re focused on Ligero and Cruz, but you can clear as day hear Scurll shill his t-shirts and photos (12 and 3 pounds respectively). Ever the worker that Marty is…El Ligero gets the ‘ole’ chants in support. Makes me wonder if he’s any relation to that ‘Generico’ fellow who is now helping orphans down in Mexico…Ligero takes a backdrop out of a piledriver attempt on the stage. The building is a bar with a stage area, similar to the building CHIKARA has run in NYC before…hey, we’ve actually turned into something resembling a real wrestling match now. It only took us ten minutes to get there…why isn’t Mason disqualified for Becky pulling out the referee? If this is elimination, that seems like it would be grounds…shortly thereafter, a distracted Ligero is the first one gone…and then he immediately leads into the elimination of Mason…crowd is solidly behind Scurll here, but that’s no real surprise…Cruz keeps the edge for a bit, but Scurll gets an inverted fireman’s carry into a back cracker to put both men down…you’d think Cruz would have better conditioning here, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Scurll looks ready to go still, despite his match earlier being about twice as long as Cruz’s…‘Nazi Staff’ chants again from the crowd as Smallman moans about it on commentary. Still kind of funny, so, curious if it becomes a running theme…Smallman calling out John Cena for a move annoys me though. You are a little fish, Jim. Cena’s a shark…never understood the count the next number thing that crowds do on a double down…the ref bump looked terribly contrived. Just awful…visual fall for Scurll leads to him trying to wake up the referee. A low blow followed by a diamond cutter from Cruz gets two…and there’s the finish one last time on the evening. I think the who makes sense. The how even makes sense as well, as they set up Chapter Two. What I didn’t care for was spending the first ten minutes of this match to be spent brawling all around the small building (attendance was approximately 250) with bad camera angles and a ton of missed moments. Once we got into the ring however, the match itself was well worked and very easily sets up the way for things going forward into the company. Call the main event a success, but with some reservations. (VERY GOOD, OPENING KEEPS FROM EXCELLENT)
Semifinal #1: El Ligero pins Noam Dar with a in-ring rope springboard tornado DDT @ 12:01 (Above Average)
Semifinal #2: Nathan Cruz pins Colossus Kennedy with a sliding dropkick to the side of the head @ 10:40 (Average)
Semifinal #3: ‘Loco’ Mike Mason pins Colt Cabana with a chain shot to the head @ 10:06 (Below Average)
Semifinal #4: ‘Party’ Marty Scurll pins Zach Sabre Jr. with a deep cradle sunset flip @ 21:44 (Very Good+)
BWC Scarlo Scholarship Championship: Xander Cooper © defeats Darrell Allen and Zack Gibson when he pins Gibson after stealing the pin from Allen @ 13:43 (Good)
Main Event: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff: Nathan Cruz wins 4 way elimination match @ 26:04, last pinning ‘Party’ Marty Scurll with a sliding dropkick to side of head (El Ligero eliminated @ 15:16 via sliding dropkick from Cruz. Mike Mason eliminated @ 15:53 via roll-up by Marty Scurll) (Very Good)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
The biggest issue I feel is the venue itself. It does not translate well to video. Thankfully, it would get better I hear. But as I mentioned at the top of the review, when half the ring is in darkness, that’s a problem.
Another issue that I had is lack of knowledge on competitors. Yes, there were people I knew. Colt Cabana, Zach Sabre Jr., Marty Scurll, Noam Dar and Zack Gibson being the main ones. But of a 11 man roster, that’s less then half that I’ve previously heard of. Granted, the idea was to have PROGRESS focus on the future of British and not be a super Indy. I get that, but a few more big names for the debut at least (like they way they used Cabana) wouldn’t have hurt.
Jim Smallman has done a wonderful job for himself with where PROGRESS has gotten to. The one thing Jim Smallman should not be allowed to do ever again is commentary by himself. He has a few moments here and there, but by and large, the commentary is a major turn off. Unnecessary shots at big name talent, general indifference to what’s going on in the ring and worst of all, not being able to even hear anything Smallman is saying hurts the show from a audio prospective.
Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. does not disappoint. I raved and raved about it during the review, so I won’t do so again here. The main event is a very strong match once we get past the brawling throughout the arena. Fun for the fans in the crowd? Sure but there were those who were complaining about the lack of visibility. Fun for the guy at home with a Roku remote in his hand? Not so much. The triple threat match for the ‘students’ is actually pretty good as well and a fun story was told by it.
They knew they had to crown a champion and they did so in the very first show. A lot of companies make the mistake of postponing the crowning of a champion and it leads to drops in attendance because you don’t know who the marquee attraction of the promotion is going to be. Here, going into Chapter Two, you have a champion people will pay to see get beaten and a probable challenger that the fans will be willing to pay to see win the title. It’s brilliant marketing.
Overall, a pretty fun little debut for the company that would end up taking British wrestling by storm. PROGRESS would obviously have things that would need to be worked on, as I addressed above. But where does that leave us? Well, it leaves me looking forward to going back to check out Chapter Two. It hopefully leaves you willing to come back and check out the show in question here to see if you agree or disagree with me. It leaves PROGRESS at the start of it’s path to being one of the, if not thee, driving force in the resurrection of the British Indy wrestling scene. Finally, it also leaves me needing something to eat. It’s been a long review.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: Without a doubt, it’s a match and it’ll be the Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. match. Honorably mention to ‘Nazi Staff’ chant which drew a legit chuckle.
Worst match/moment: Moment here and it’s the setup. The lighting and the design of the arena was just awful. Made especially difficult with the opening to the main event.
MVP: I’m going to ‘Party’ Marty Scurll here. Despite the fact that he doesn’t walk out with the title, he stands out as the clear #1 guy for the company going forward. In addition, he was involved in both of the best matches on the show.
FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10
Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Catch you all for Chapter Two.
Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999
Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!
Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?
ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!
What I Watched #16
ECW Guilty as Charged 1999
Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL
Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)
Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)
- Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
- Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
- Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
- Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
- Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
- Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
- Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15
Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)
Super Crazy vs. Tajiri
Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)
John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent
So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)
Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley
Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…
The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)
TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm
Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.
The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)
Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer
The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of.
As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)
Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz
So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent.
The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)
THE FINAL REACTION
- Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
- Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
- Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
- MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.
It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.
So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.
What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018
Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!
Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.
I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.
What I Watched #10-B
ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018
Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL
Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)
Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)
- Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
- Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
- Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
- Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
- Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
- Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
- Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
- Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
- Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
- Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
- Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44
Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)
*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)
Over the Budget Battle Royal
*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)
Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross
*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)
Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)
*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)
Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard
*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)
NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)
*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)
‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela
*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)
ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon
*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)
Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.
*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)
Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll
*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)
Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio
*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)
THE FINAL REACTION
There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.
Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.
Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.
Overall Show Score: 8.5/10
MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.
And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.
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