Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Greetings and salutations, everyone. Welcome back to the return of ’What I Watched’ now under the Chairshot Classics banner. The first four chapters of PROGRESS as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for What I Watched, obviously we’ll be continuing to cover PROGRESS. Eventually, I’ll get to a somewhat modern show. For other companies, once I hit 2005 on my watching of CHIKARA, I hope to start cover those here as well (the pre 2005 shows don’t have commentary and are (for me anyway) much harder to get through).
That brings us to why we’re here today. PROGRESS has just crowned a new champion at Chapter 4 in El Ligero, who tapped Nathan Cruz in the main event. Rather then do the immediate rematch, PROGRESS’ brass decided that instead they would do a bit of a ‘pick your poison’ situation as Ligero picks Cruz’s opponent and Cruz picks Ligero’s. There was another match revealed before the show as well, but I’ll save the mention of that for a bit later. In addition, the ‘Natural PROGRESS’ tournament continues, but we don’t know the participants for this Chapter. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what to expect for this show, so it’s looks like we’ll find out together. With that said, it’s into the way back machine once again, as we head to January 27th, 2013 as “What I Watched” presents ‘For Those About to Fight’ or PROGRESS Chapter 5.
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: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show. Going forward, I’ll have an archive to all of my previous reviews here on the Chairshot if you click on my user name.
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.
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 5
‘For Those About to Fight…We Salute You’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: January 27th, 2013
Run Time: 1:55:53 (Demand PROGRESS)
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton for some of the research that I did while working on this review. (http://www.backbodydrop.com)
*OPENING VIDEO: The first match that the opening video reveals is the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) taking on the Leaders of the New School (Zach Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll). That should be a lot of fun…RJ Singh has an open challenge as well…finally, we get highlights of the title match from Chapter 4 to show how El Ligero won the title and then it’s revealed that Nathan Cruz has picked Dave Mastiff to face El Ligero, while El Ligero has selected the debuting Rampage Brown as the opponent for Nathan Cruz.
*GENERAL NOTES: We return to the scene of the first three shows but with what appears to be a different setup. You can’t see any monitors in the frame, but the lighting is absolutely awful. Will not make a fun review if I can’t see stuff that happens…EDIT AT MATCH 3: the lighting gets a bit better as the show goes on, but still not what I’d call great.
*Once again, either Smallman doesn’t have an opening welcome promo or we skip it on the show. Shame, really. As I said time and time again, I really enjoy those in the future Chapters.
*Match #1: Stixx (1-2 as a singles competitor) vs. Danny Garnell (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: Stixx is coming off a loss in the triple threat at Chapter 4, where he was pinned by Dave Mastiff. He had split a pair of matches against Lion Kid before that. Danny Garnell was not at Chapter 4. His most recent match was a loss in a tag match at Chapter 3 where he and Darrell Allen were defeated by the London Riots. In his only previous singles match, Garnell defeated Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 2.
The Why: I haven’t a damn clue here. Makes zero sense to me. If Jimmy *cough cough* Barnett mentions something on commentary, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The Match: Before the match gets underway, Stixx lets everyone know that he, like Garnell, is originally from London but he moved away because London ‘is full of a bunch of pillocks’. Somewhere, William Regal smiles…opening bell goes here and gets a rousing ovation…Stixx impressed me in his last match against Lion Kid, but the first one was less then appealing. Garnell had a surprisingly good match with Havoc at Chapter 2…first topical reference from 2013 gets explained by Barnett and given the PROGRESS fan base, it’s no surprise that it makes light of a death. Highs and lows of these crowds…the ‘crowd counts the next number’ has run it’s course now but was still pretty fresh when this show happened…not the opening match you’d come to expect but technically proficient thus far…heavier shots finally start getting fired around the five minute mark. This is more what you’d expect from these two…first crowd expletive based chant at six and half minutes into match one. I would have had the under there…cravat with knee strikes and that’s more what I expect from this match then the opening five minutes where they basically stayed on the mat. Not saying they can’t do it, but not what you expect or want to see with two guys this size. You expect more ‘Hoss Fight’ here…Garnell busts out a nice looking Northern Lights for two…slingshot neck snap by Stixx. That was new and very nice looking. Also not what you’d expected from a guy who’s probably closer to two fifty then two hundred…I’ve never seen a crowd response so favorably towards exploder suplexes. It doesn’t happen but the crowd was ready to, pardon the pun, explode for it…Stixx gets two with a Black Hole Slam. Which I think was the move that did pin Lion Kid at Chapter 3…I don’t mean this is a terribly negative way, but this match has been pretty long for an opener…Garnell goes for a tornado DDT off the second buckle, but Stixx is able to counter. A series of reversals leads to Garnell attempting that same tornado DDT a second time and this time hitting it, which gives him the pinfall at 14:52…technically proficient, sure. But not especially enthralling. The match had it’s moments where I went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, but to me, it seems like it may have been a mistake having these two go this long in the opener. Closer to the first Lion Kid match then the second for Stixx and Garnell looks like just another guy here. Call it AVERAGE and mildly disappointing at that. (AVERAGE)
*Match #2: ‘Natural Progression’ Quarterfinal: Lord Jonathan Windsor (debut) vs. ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman (0-1 as a singles)
The Who: Lord Jonathan Windsor debuts here, looking like a very British Chuck Taylor. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Anyway, he appears to have a Blue Bloods gimmick a la 1995 WCW Bobby Eaton or William Regal. Mike Hitchman we saw before when he challenged Mark Andrews for the BWC Starlo Scholarship. He was unsuccessful in that match but he and Andrews had a barnburner. Happy to see Hitchman back for another opportunity.
The Why: Speaking of Mark Andrews, he advanced to the semifinals at Chapter 4. This is the second of the four quarterfinal matches. The winner of which will join Andrews in the semifinals and maybe face him. No release on the brackets to my knowledge.
The Match: Hitchman is now on WWE TV as part of NXT UK, but if you didn’t know it was the same guy, you’d never be able to tell. He looks so different here…opening bell goes and Windsor takes time to fold his robe…Barnett points out there’s nothing wrong with a Blue Blood gimmick as in twenty years time, you could be married to Jim Smallman’s daughter and own part of PROGRESS. Okay, that drew a legit chuckle from me…not sure if Windsor is big or Hitchman is just really small even by Indy standards…Hitchman gets tired of Windsor’s stalling and it leads to a DDT on the apron. Not sure that’s a spot I’d use in match two, but okay then…we go to the crowd brawling in the second match as well. It’s like an ECW show broke out…Windsor seems more concerned about posing then wrestling. I get that you are new, but this is a company that prides itself on ring work…fans seems to remember the Package Piledriver that Hitchman used against Andrews because they respond every time he goes for. So far, Windsor has had the counter, but one feels that won’t be the case forever…Hitchman once again goes the for the Package PD, but Windsor counters with a backdrop over. Hitchman hooks the legs on the landing and goes for the sunset flip, but Windsor sits out with a deep cradle and that’ll be a three count at 11:24…can definitely say I don’t agree with the who won here. Hitchman had a cracker against Andrews in his first appearance and if the winner of this match was to get Andrews in the semis, I’ve had loved to see them run it back. Windsor did absolutely nothing for me as the gimmick is just basically cheap heat and there’s not a lot of steak to go with the sizzle. Call this BELOW AVERAGE and it’s two matches, two misses thus far for PROGRESS Chapter 5. (BELOW AVERAGE)
*Match #3: Nathan Cruz (3-1 as a singles) vs. Rampage Brown (debut)
The Who: Nathan Cruz is the former champion, looking for a bit of redemption against the handpicked opponent of the new champion. One could argue that Cruz has been the guy who has meant the most to the company thus far, so seeing him in match three on the night is kind of odd. Rampage Brown makes his debut here. I don’t know much about him other then he had a brief run with NXT in the US before going back over to the UK and a run with WCPW in the UK as well.
The Why: Discussed it earlier but to reiterate, it’s part of the ‘pick your poison’ series with Cruz and Ligero picking each other’s opponents for the evening.
The Match: Before the match, Cruz announces that he has hired a bodyguard to deal with his Marty Scurll problem named Fug. We don’t see him yet, but Cruz claims he’s seven feet tall and two hundred and eighty pounds. That would be a very skinny bodyguard…the chyron for Cruz has him listed at 3-2. I’m guessing there are including the tag loss from Chapter 3, which I do not in singles competition. If you guys would like, I can keep a running archive of records at the bottom of the reviews going forward. Let me know what you think and I’ll add it in the future if so requested…second expletive based chant of the night encourages Rampage to ‘fuck him up’…opening bell goes here…Rampage is well put together. It’s easy to see why he got a developmental deal with the WWE…for a bigger guy, Rampage is pretty adept on the mat. Cruz tries a sunset flip off the second turnbuckle, but Rampage is able to roll through and escape into a Crossface. Thankfully, no Chris Benoit chants follow this time…think the sound may be a little off on this Chapter from a technical aspect. Spinal Tap kick sound happens shortly after the kick occurs…Rampage dumps Cruz to the floor with a back suplex and the around ringside brawling commences where Cruz surprisingly gets the advantage…for as much crap as the PROGRESS fans give him, Cruz is one of the smoother guys on the roster. He wrestles like a wrestler, not just a guy trying to string things together in the attempt to tell a story…Cruz has gotten a good portion of this match. A bit of a surprise given that it is Rampage’s debut but with Cruz being the former champion, it’s also understandable…sliding dropkick gets a series of two counts. Standard basement dropkick, not the sliding kick he pinned both Ligero and Colossus Kennedy with back at Chapter 1…ugh, headbutts. So not a fan of those…huge back body drop by Rampage. Looked really good despite the slight delay going to it…Rampage looked for a powerbomb but Cruz got out into a chestblower. Cruz looks to follow up and gets countered into a good looking series of powerbombs, first standard and then sit out for a very close two…Cruz hits Show-Stolen and much like Ligero did at Chapter 4, Rampage kicks out. It also gives our first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant of the night…Rampage catches a Falcon Arrow and looks to have the cover but doesn’t want it. That drives me nuts! 2 Cold Scorpio used to do that shit all the time and it’s stupid to me. The point is to win the match…Rampage then catches the Crossface a third time but Cruz finds his way to the ropes and then to the apron. Rampage tries to suplex Cruz back in, but Cruz lands on his feet and a O’Connor Roll with a hook of both the ropes and the tights gives Cruz the win at 15:27…that was more like it, PROGRESS. Very well contested match from the standard bearer of the company and a new guy who got a definite opportunity to shine. Cruz may pick up the win here, but the way he picks up the win is the story as it keeps Rampage looking good going forward for when he comes back. Rampage definitely impressed in what was I believe my first time seeing him and I look forward to seeing more, assuming he can curb the 2 Cold Scorpio aspect of not wanting the pinfall. Cruz bounces back nicely from the Staff loss and one assumes sets himself back up into title contention. GOOD match between these two here and finally something worth the time on the show. (GOOD)
*Post-match: We see Fug help Cruz to the back. He’s not nearly what Cruz claimed him to be. 6’8-6’9 maybe. The two hundred eighty pounds may be accurate though.
*Match #4: ‘PROGRESS Championship Staff’ – El Ligero © (3-1 as a singles competitor) vs. Dave Mastiff (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: El Ligero has just won the Staff at Chapter 4 as we established above. In doing so, he also got revenge on the only man to have pinned him thus far, as it was Cruz who eliminated Ligero from the four way at Chapter 1. Dave Mastiff has had two matches and two victories thus far in PROGRESS. A tag match at Chapter 3, where teaming with the now departed Greg Burridge, he pinned the then champion Nathan Cruz. Mastiff won a three way at Chapter 4, pinning Stixx after Cruz got involved in taking Marty Scurll out of the match
The Why: Two parts here. One, obviously, is that it’s for the PROGRESS Championship (Nazi) Staff. Second, it’s the second bout in the ‘pick your poison’ series for Cruz and Ligero, as Mastiff is Cruz’s handpicked challenge for the title.
The Match: It occurs to me that this is the fourth match and we’ve yet to see an inset promo on this show. They just vanished into a void of non-existence…hot start as once Ligero is introduced, he shotgun dropkicks Mastiff to the floor and follows out with a tope con hilo…Ligero goes for the guillotine early but Mastiff quickly escapes…once again, the PROGRESS fans encourage a good “Fing” up, this time in support of Mastiff…Mastiff counters a frankensteiner attempt into a powerbomb try but Ligero escapes into a second attempt at the guillotine. It’s about as successful as the first attempt…Barnett says that he described Ligero to an American friend as a mix of the ‘best of El Generico and the best of LowKi’. Not sure I agree that he’s at Generico’s level, but the point is understandable…wrecking ball dropkick by Ligero and he buries Mastiff under a pile a chairs, going for the count-out. Mastiff up at six and Ligero tries another dropkick, only to get flung wheelbarrow style into the ring post…stalling delayed vertical suplex by Mastiff goes for a full minute goes Mastiff brings down Ligero. Impressive in length but to be fair, El Ligero weighs like a third of what Mastiff does…Mastiff goes for a second but Ligero escapes into a rollup for two. Looked good…sound is definitely slightly off on this stream…sleeper (I think?) variation…out to the floor again, but only long enough for Mastiff to pitch Ligero back in. Smart. Can’t win the Staff by count-out. Wish more people would do that instead of letting opponents take the count…Mastiff goes for a Buckle Bomb but once again gets caught in the guillotine. Mastiff counters by putting Ligero on the top rope. The guillotine isn’t working, but bless his heart, he keeps trying…absolutely hate that corner hanging double stomp. Almost always looks so contrived no matter who is doing it…shotgun dropkick by Ligero is no sold and Mastiff hits one of his own, followed by a dead lift German to put Ligero on the floor again…Ligero finally gets the guillotine in with both guys on the floor and rolls back into the ring to try to take a count-out win. Mastiff breaks the count just before the ten…Ligero goes for the C4L but Mastiff stops him and gets a running Liger Bomb for a close two count and the second ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…Into The Void (corner cannonball) misses and Ligero goes up, leaping into a sixth attempt at the guillotine. This time, Mastiff flings Ligero overhead with a belly2belly variation. Mastiff tries to follow up with another Liger Bomb, but Ligero counters back into the guillotine. Mastiff tries to power out once but collapses and it’s a KO victory for the champion at 18:18…solid big match vs. little man contest but to be frank, nothing special here. A couple cool moves and a very impressive bit of dogged determination from El Ligero but if I’m being honest, I never bought that Mastiff was going to take the title from Ligero. Ligero’s deal with Cruz isn’t over and Mastiff hasn’t been around long enough to really establish much of a name for himself in PROGRESS. The fans kinda responded the same way I did as they got involved in the match here and there, but never for any significant portion of time. The match itself was GOOD due to the efforts of both men, but not must see by any stretch of the imagination. (GOOD)
*Match #5: RJ Singh (2-0-1) vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen (0-1-1)
The Who: RJ Singh comes in off consecutive victories, beating Paul Robinson and Rob Cage at Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The draw is a no decision in a three way where El Ligero pinned Greg Burridge to become number one contender at Chapter 2. Darrell Allen is looking for his first victory here in PROGRESS as not only does he have the 0-1-1 singles record (tapped by Noam Dar (Chp2), no decision in three way where Xander Cooper pinned Zack Gibson (Chp1)), he was on the losing side of a tag match at Chapter 3 as well and completely left off Chapter 4.
The Why: This one I have an answer for as well. It is an RJ Singh ‘Bollywood’ Open Challenge here. Adding to the intrigue of this open challenge is info that Jim Smallman gives us before the match during introductions that these guys are usually a tag team known as the Bhangra Knights.
The Match: Pre-match, Singh reads Allen the riot act, stating that they promised to stay out of each other’s way in PROGRESS and that while Singh has thrived, Allen has been something of a loser. Allen says in his (Allen’s) hometown of London, why don’t we find out if Singh really is King (which has been RJ’s catchphrase during this PROGRESS run)…bell goes and we’re underway…Singh has the edge early but it is pretty evenly matched…this is going to come down to a classic story of aerial vs. technical. Allen is more of a flyer whereas RJ likes to stay on the match…Director and Boudica again get on the apron, but Singh tells them to get down once again. I thought that pairing dissolved at Chapter 4…Boudica and Director do find themselves ejected and in a moment that’ll make Vince smile, the ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ song accompanies them doing so…springboard kick to the midsection. Called an enzugiri. It wasn’t, but I don’t know what the technical name is…Singh catches Allen with a version of the Tyebreaker that gets two (fireman’s carry into spinning facebuster over the knee). It looked good…this may not be the most PC thing to say but every time Allen takes a big bump, it looks like he’s trying to fellate himself…crowd very wittily chants ‘This is Bhangra’ instead of ‘This is PROGRESS’. Dug that…Singh loads up for a superkick, preceding it with a ‘I’m sorry. I love you’. The crowd and Barnett pop. The move is countered but the thought that counts…Allen up top and distracted by Boudica and Director on stage. Singh pulls Allen up the top and hits Widow’s Peak. Singh looks to apply the ‘Ethnic Submission’ (Camel Clutch, obviously) but Allen is able to pull Singh forward and trap him in a cradle for the three count at 9:56…alright, so I had some doubts. Singh has been pretty basic up to this point. Allen had a good performance in the triple threat at Chapter 1 but both he and Garnell were kind of just there for the match with the London Riots. With all that being said, it actually turned into a pretty nice little match here. There was a good amount of action thrown in with the story that they told and most importantly to me, I like that the story actually played into the finish with Allen knowing the ‘Ethnic Submission’ and having a counter planned. Call this one a GOOD showing for both guys and the best match on the card thus far, in my opinion. (GOOD)
*Post-match: Singh offers the handshake and instead, he and Allen hug it out. Shah Boudica takes not kindly to this and attacks Allen from behind. Singh pulls Boudica off of Allen twice, before Boudica slaps Singh in the face. Allen then superkicks Boudica in the back of the head. Allen and Singh then team up as a Samoan Drop-Blockbuster combination (called the Bhangra Buster, but for point of reference look for Cryme Tyme’s G-9) and looks like the Bhangra Knights will be a thing going forward in the tag division….as the Bhangra Knights are making their way to the back, the London Riots make their entrance, so me thinks that may play a factor in a future Chapter.
*Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) (3-0 as a team) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.) (Debut as a team)
The Who: London Riots are clearly the class of the PROGRESS tag division thus far. Wins over the Bastard Squad (probably done now that Allen is back with Singh), the Hunter Brothers and the Velocity Vipers (shame about Esmail’s leg) have led them to here, a main event level match. Leaders of the New School make their debut as a team here for PROGRESS, but it will not be my first time seeing them as a team. I remember getting into the European wrestling scene by watching wXw out of Germany and Scurll and Sabre Jr. were the wXw Tag Team champions for a while there. Scurll has been one of the biggest stars of PROGRESS thus far and in my opinion, Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. from Chapter 1 remains the best match in PROGRESS history to this point.
The Why: London Riots wanted competition, Jim Smallman decided to give them competition in the form of what many at the time considered to be the best tag team in Europe. Pretty straight forward here.
The Match: As per the usual, if I screw up Davis and Lynch, I apologize. They have stuck with the singlet and bikers gear, so once again, I should be okay…aw, Chris Roberts just got his first kiss. It was from Marty Scurll, but it still counts!…Davis is the one in the singlet. Now I know. Thanks Smallman, er, Barnett…Barnett lets us know that the Chapter 1 match between the Leaders was voted best match in Britain in 2012. That’s fair…Scurll spits his gum at Lynch. Well, with no Noam Dar on this show, someone had to be unhygienic…has that sit out butt drop worked for another then Rikishi in the last decade?…a little Poetry in Motion by the Leaders and then Scurll uses Sabre Jr. as a weapon to take out both Riots…off to an insane pace. Shit ton of action and we’re not even four minutes in yet…Scurll with a running bitch slap to Davis. Davis responds with a STIFF running body block. Don’t think he appreciated the slap…everything Sabre Jr. does is so fluid. With as many huge Indy names that ended up in NXT, I am stunned that Zach never got a shot there. I know he had a set of Japanese commitments, between NOAH and NJPW, but what could have been…believe the word to describe Sabre would be lanky. But he makes the most of it…apparently, I owe Rob Lynch and James Davis an apology. My Chapter 3 review got posted as I’m typing this and I apparently called them the Riot Squad during the course of that. They were facing the Bastard Squad and I just joined the names for a common WWE name. My bad…Lynch just knocks Sabre weak kneed with a forearm. Good lord…we’ve settled into a bit of tag formula here but as I’ve said before, it’s a formula because it works. Riots are hated and Leaders are loved. What better way to do this then to keep a member of the Leaders isolated and get the crowd to rally behind him…despite a pretty good experience gap, Riots are looking good in this match. Part of it is a master class from Sabre and Scurll as babyfaces, but Riots are more then holding their weight…I really hope Sabre Jr. is around more in PROGRESS in 2013. That war he had with Scurll at Chapter 1 was his only match for 2012. It would definitely make these reviews more fun to get to see more of the wizardry that Sabre possesses…tag finally made and Scurll comes in a house of fire…Scurll gets the Cesaro apron superplex that gets broken up by a bloody nosed Rob Lynch. A kick from Sabre caught him flush before the hot tag…gamengiri by Sabre Jr. into a DVD by Scurll gets two with another save by Lynch. It looked good…pop-up spear by the Riots and it looked really good. Last second save by Scurll…Riots look for the ‘District Line’ powerbomb but Sabre is able to get out and he chuffing loves putting people in cross-armbreakers. It’s broken up by getting Scurll powerbomb’d onto him…everyone down after a series of strikes and the crowd hits our fourth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…saves are coming hot and heavy here. I like it to a point, but let’s not get to the line of overkill…Sabre nails Scurll with a kick by mistake and the Riots take advantage with a really good looking Doomsday Device which Sabre kicks out of at two. That would have made for a good finish…shortly thereafter, the ‘District Line’ powerbomb does land (looking a bit rough but the point was there) and James Davis pins Zach Sabre Jr. at 20:07…VERY GOOD but not to the level are the previous Scurll main event matches in PROGRESS. The biggest issue I have here in that while the Riots had a good heat segment on Sabre, it didn’t break down nearly as much as I expected it to in the finish. Speaking of the finish, it looked slightly blown as I think Lynch may have tried a neckbreaker for the ‘District Line’ or he just didn’t get far enough out of the way. The big thing here is that it definitely establishes the Riots as the team to beat in PROGRESS as they take down the Leaders relatively cleanly. (VERY GOOD)
Post-match: London Riots don’t attack after the match as has been their tradition, instead heading to the back. Probably to fix Rob Lynch’s nose. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and lets us know that the first match they’ll announce for Chapter 6 will be a rematch of Chapter 4 as the Riots will once again face the Hunter Brothers, this time in a weapons match. Seems like an odd time to announce this with Sabre Jr. still down in the ring, but the show must go on, I suppose. Scurll goes to get a bit of mic time as well, but the show fades before he speaks and that’s a wrap for Chapter 5.
Match #1: Danny Garnell pins Stixx, tornado DDT off second buckle @ 14:52 (AVERAGE)
Match #2: Lord Jonathan Windsor pins Mike Hitchman, sit-down on sunset flip @ 11:24 (BELOW AVERAGE)
Match #3: Nathan Cruz pins Rampage Brown, O’Connor Roll with hook of tights and ropes @ 15:27 (GOOD)
Match #4: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff- El Ligero © defeats Dave Mastiff by KO, guillotine choke @ 18:18 (GOOD)
Match #5: Darrell Allen pins RJ Singh, leverage pin out of ‘Ethnic Submission’ attempt @ 9:57 (GOOD)
Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) defeat Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.), Davis pins Sabre Jr. after the ‘District Line’ powerbomb @ 20:07 (VERY GOOD)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
It picks up quite a bit at the end, so I can’t call it the worst of the five shows thus far. That being said, it’s definitely not mandatory viewing either. The issue that I find myself with is that I know what PROGRESS is capable of as it goes forward. When you go back and watch these formative shows, you can see moments of potential. But that’s all they are usually at this time frame. Just moments. Top to bottom, none of these shows have delivered a knock out show. Try to find the semi main and main event if you have a chance, but the rest is watch at your convenience. Except for the Windsor and Hitchman match. Do yourself a favor and skip that.
Where does this leave us? It leaves me a little disappointed, but that’s what happens when expectations are set so high. It leaves you hopefully wanting to come back as we take the next step in this journey with Chapter 6. In addition, it leaves me still hungry. I wonder if I could work out a ‘burgers per review’ deal around here.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: Despite the fact that I gave the main event a higher rating, I going to give this honor to the RJ Singh and Darrell Allen match. The match itself is a good mix of comedy and ring work. The post match is where the money is as the fans go crazy for the Bhangra Knights reunion.
Worst match/moment: Feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but Mike Hitchman and Lord Jonathan Windsor can be classified as nothing less then a disappointment. The blueblood gimmick has potential, but in a company like this, you need to be able to back it up in the ring. Windsor simply did not.
MVP: Going to give this as co-MVPs again and I’m going to give it to James Davis and Rob Lynch for a star making performance in the main event as the London Riots prove they are the class of the PROGRESS tag team division.
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10.0
Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Up next is Chapter 6: “We <3 Violence” And make sure you guys check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.
Doctor’s Orders: Ranking The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History
Objectively subjectifying all-time greatness on NXT’s premiere stage, Takeover. See what matches are on the list!
The Doctor is in as Chad Matthews updates his list of greatest WWE NXT Takeover matches and rivalries with a look at two of the very best, from different NXT eras.
Attempting to contextualize greatness in pro wrestling is a fascinating exercise, a much more multi-faceted conversation than it is often given credit for. To some in the business, for instance, Rock vs. Cena is the greatest match of all-time because it set the pay-per-view buy mark, while others would say the greatest match is Austin vs. Bret because of the exemplary storytelling. Why should greatness be limited to a plethora “one or the other” positions (best vs. most popular or anything of the sort)? Such has been my stance during this entire decade (see The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era), tackling the process of adding measures of objectivity to a topic deemed completely and utterly subjective and attempting to broaden the way that we have these discussions. I can also apply that to NXT.
Greatness has become regularly associated with NXT. I am personally enamored with what the yellow brand has accomplished over the past few years, with the Takeover franchise especially. The reputation that Takeover has built should astound any diehard WWE fan who, at times during the WrestleMania Era, may have felt like Vince and Co. unnecessarily (and oddly) put a critical ceiling on its in-ring product. Bold statement: Takeover has, based purely on what happens from bell-to-bell, produced nearly as many bonafide classic wrestling matches as WrestleMania in just five years of existence. Think about that for a moment, because it was with that idea in mind that I started asking, “What’s the greatest in NXT history?”
My second book (referenced above) was published last summer and in it I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.” Turning my attention to NXT, I took that formula and tweaked it to fit Takeover. On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.). The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.
Today’s entries grow the list from fourteen to sixteen matches, which have been selected at random throughout this project’s history dating back to last fall. Here are the rankings ahead of today’s additions (the links will take you to the objectively subjective breakdown of each match):
#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship at Takeover: Philadelphia
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +4
Total Score: 48.0
There have been very few matches in WWE history that have found me clapping while watching them in replay, and Cien vs. Johnny Wrestling from Philly is one of them. Hand to heart, I am unsure that there has ever been a better performance in WWE, which is partly what makes the added dynamic of including NXT lore when historically ranking matches throughout the WrestleMania Era so challenging and simultaneously so fascinating. The depth of storytelling and the instances when believably this match could have been over but somehow was not is virtually unmatched in mainstream North American wrestling over the past thirty plus years. Gargano and Almas judged everything picture-perfectly, selling their butts off, adding layers of psychology as they reached an utterly captivating climax, and drawing every ounce of intrigue out of the in-ring chemistry that they first prominently put on display against each other at Takever: Brooklyn III.
Gargano vs. Andrade is truly one of the greats as “epic” matches go, and the Philadelphia match certainly fits the profile of the genre (an “epic match”) that I have been quietly working on popularizing in the IWC, offered up to properly label a lengthy main-event style performance that builds to crescendo after crescendo and features finisher kick-outs as one of its primary hope spot wells to tap. I have been critical of the over-use of it, as many of its staples have trickled down to ten minute mid-card matches, and I do believe that epics, like Cena vs. Styles for example, are suffering from a distinct lack of rewatchability because of how ardently they cling to bout-ending signature offense, but Cien vs. Johnny is not to be lumped in with such over-done peers because it is smarter, more intricate, better executed, and expertly paced, its gaps in action replaced with the outstanding managerial act of Zelina Vega (and the eventual cameo by Candice Wrestling).
I believe it was a truly remarkable achievement. Maybe Banks vs. Bayley, Gargano vs. Ciampa, or Gargano vs. Adam Cole beats it in the scoring system, but even if one of them or another Takeover match in the pipeline down the road unseats it, I think it is going to be a long time before something removes it from the pedestal of what yours truly would call the finest match in Takeover history. Aesthetically, athletically, psychologically, I just struggle to see how anyone could really argue that another match was better. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle one of their prequels in Brooklyn, and that was one of the four or five best mid-card type bouts in Takeover lore too, so when you combine that match with what happened in Philly – of the nine scoring categories here, their NXT Title match scored a 5 in seven of them – you have an all-time great.
You know, it is funny that Dave Meltzer awarded the Takeover: Philadelphia match the first “5-star” rating for a WWE match since Punk vs. Cena in Chicago, and if you watch any of New Japan Pro Wrestling and know of Meltzer’s fascination with it, you can appreciate why. Almas vs. Gargano was an NJPW match in an NXT ring with WWE production value. If in the coming years, a main-event of that style and caliber is featured on Summerslam or eventually works it way to the WrestleMania headlining position, I think we may have Gargano vs. Almas to thank for it.
Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship at Takeover: R-Evolution
Psychology: 4.5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 3 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 4.75 / Build: 5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 44.25
While in the beginning of this process, it seemed probable that Cien Almas vs. Johnny Wrestling had a shot at topping this match to advance ever closer to the #1 spot, what seemed assured from the out-set was that Zayn vs. Neville would rate among the premiere title matches in NXT lore because, in terms of storytelling, there may still have never been a championship bout that possesses the same sense of urgency or the same sense of occasion.
Here you had Neville, a bit shy of a year-long reigning as NXT Champion (who held the title during the promotion’s rise to WWE Network prominence) and possessing one of the most amazing offensive arsenals in pro wrestling’s entire history, coming up against Zayn, arguably the quintessential example of how legends are capable of being made in NXT. No matter what happens elsewhere within the Titan ranks, Zayn will be someone revered by any who watched what he did in NXT from 2014 to 2016.
One of the greatest things that NXT brings to the table is how wrestlers, as personalities, are characters first, their labels (or face-heel dichotomies) rather arbitrary by comparison. Neville strayed a bit more toward a black and white personic construct during the match, but he was clearly pushed toward the line that Zayn managed to straddle a bit better and showed glimpses of the viciousness and single-mindedness (toward winning) that made his run on 205 Live so engaging to purple brand followers in 2017; it was Zayn who was truly marvelous, though, displaying a depth of character so rarely seen from protagonists in WWE proper, and far more relatable for it, as evidenced by the incredibly raucous crowd support that he garnered in what was still ostensibly a babyface match. Zayn’s ability to connect on that deeper emotional level lifted this effort to pantheon status.
The end result – the total package from the storyline build-up to the hype video package to the atmosphere it generated to the bell-to-bell fight (and it felt like the fight that pro wrestling should be in the modern era main-event scene with the athletic potential of the combatants) – closed the first chapter in the history of NXT in the Network Era with a timeless classic destined for massive hindsight accolades in the near and distant future.
#1- Andrade vs. Gargano (48.0)
#2- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#3- Neville vs. Zayn (44.25)
#4- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#5- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#6- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#7- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#8- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#9- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#10- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#11- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#12- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#13- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#14- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#15- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#16- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
If you want to discuss NXT or other wrestling matters with Doc, follow and tweet @TheDocLOP !
Check out the latest episode of The Doc Says podcast, featuring a review of NXT Takeover 25!
Chairshot Classics: All In 2018
With Double of Nothing on the horizon, Harry decides to keep the fires stoked by revisiting All In! Relive the precursor to the AEW experience!
With Double of Nothing on the horizon, Harry decides to keep the fires stoked by revisiting All In! Relive the precursor to the AEW experience!
Hey everyone and welcome back to ‘What I Watched’. This will be I believe the tenth of these to make air on Chairshot, so little mini milestone there for me. For the links to all of my previous reviews, you can access my archive here on the site by clicking my name at the top of the article. As far as where ‘What I Watched’ goes from here…the obvious answer to that is back to PROGRESS, the reason I came to the Chairshot again in the first place. The first four Chapters are in the archives and the fifth one is in the queue. Work will start on the sixth Chapter shortly, called “We <3 Violence”. In addition, I creep closer and closer to CHIKARA 2005 which is where commentary begins for the company. As such, I’m thinking I may pick that up as a further expansion into the Indies.
Now to why we are here today: On May 25th, All Elite Wrestling officially launches with its first show called ‘Double or Nothing’. Technically though, this isn’t the first show put on by the group who are running things for ‘DoN’ though. Cody (can’t call him Rhodes legally), the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega tried their luck at the promoter thing before (yes, technically the Bucks did with PWG, but still) as they ran a joint show with Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling called ‘All In’. In order to get everyone ready for ‘Double or Nothing’, I decided to take a long back at where it all began. All this said, it’s into the way back machine as we head to the Sears Centre in suburban Chicago. We head to September 1st, 2018 as ‘What I Watched’ presents ‘All In’.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews are meant to be more of a stream of consciousness review. The idea being that while I will do some play by play when the time calls for it, I’ll also talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show.
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.
WRITER’S DEDICATION: Though he has nothing specifically to do with this show, this review is dedicated to the memory of Silver King. As a teenager getting back into wrestling in the early 2000s, one of the first things I got was a copy of WCW Fall Brawl 1998 on VHS. The show by and large sucks, there’s no denying that. But one of the highlights for me was the Cruiserweight title match between Juventud Guerrera and Silver King. Vaya con Dios, amigo.
ROH/NJPW/Friends: ‘All In’
From: Sears Centre in Chicago, IL (technically Hoffman Estates, IL)
Date: September 1st, 2018
Total Run Time: 4:45:24
Announcers: Ian Riccaboni, Excalibur and Don Callis
*GENERAL NOTES: I must give credit where credit is due. It looks impressive. A lot of people were worried that the Bucks and Cody’s vision wouldn’t translate into an arena setting and it clearly does.
*I found the Zero Hour pre-show on YouTube, so much the same way as I did for the ‘United We Stand’ PPV; we cover the pre-show first.
ROH/NJPW/Friends: ‘Zero Hour’ (47:27)
*Young Bucks and Cody kick off the pre-show. Makes sense to get them out there early…it’s a pretty basic segment. Couple of inside jokes get tossed around, a light amount of pyro goes off and the Bucks introduce their wrestling legend of choice for this show: Road Warrior Animal in full get-up, who rides a motorcycle into the area. Being in Chicago, the use of the Road Warriors makes sense…The Bucks and Cody then shoot some t-shirts into the crowd with help from the Pro Wrestling Tee’s and Hot Topic representatives.
*Pro Wrestling Tee’s commercial. It’s so campy that it works. I’m not sponsored by them though, so no links from me…
*Match #1: Kazarian/Scorpio Sky (representing SCU (So Cal Uncensored) vs. Jay/Mark Briscoe
The Who: Frankie Kazarian is a former multiple time TNA/Impact X Division champion and actually briefly had a run with the WWE back in the early 2000s (2003, I think?) Scorpio Sky has appeared for TNA as well as Mason Andrews. He’s probably the least nationally exposed of the four men in this contest though. Jay and Mark Briscoe are long considered one of the best tag teams in independent wrestling. They were even briefly on the WWE’s radar before some comments from Jay’s past came out that caused interest to lean away. They are multiple time ROH tag team champions and I think have held the NJPW tag belts before as well (but I’m not sure on that)
The Why: Sadly, I am not fully caught up on Being the Elite to this point, so I don’t really have a proper answer for this.
The Match: It’s nice to see Justin Roberts again. Always thought he was really good at what he did…believe your referee is Paul Turner. This show is an Indies whose who, even down to the referees…quickie promo from SCU to do what SCU does…little surprised to see the Briscoes on the pre-show, but this would be a best foot forward situation. Throw out names people may have heard of and use them to attract potential viewers for the pending PPV. Let’s not forget that ‘Zero Hour’ aired live on WGN America right before the ‘All In’. It is, in essence, an episode of Sunday Night Heat before the PPV in WWF/E terms…I miss the days of the guys using music on the Indies. ‘Give Me Back My Bullets’ fit the Briscoes so well…opening bell here…the YouTube version of this does not have the amount of time of commercials listed, so the total time at the end of this match and the battle royal will be what aired…Kazarian and Jay start…one would have to think this would be the biggest crowd any of these four have performed in front of…okay, maybe Kazarian in his WWE run. Maybe…I feel that Riccaboni’s presence isn’t necessary here. It’s not that I don’t like him, but I feel like Excalibur doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves a PBP guy and Callis is more then capable of handling color…it was quite impressive that they got all these companies to work together. It didn’t last long, but fun while it lasted…they were trending worldwide. Because of course that’s a thing…Briscoe’s are so smooth in the ring. The characters are rough around the edges, but Dem Boyz can go…I dig Scorpio’s Rocky attire. Given that SCU have been established as the faces here, it works on multiple levels…hot tag!…two Briscoes for the price of one there. Nice combination offense by Kazarian…I’m trying not to do as much in the way of PBP during this show. It’s going to be ten matches, so that would be an incredibly long review…Scorpio with an overhead belly2belly to Mark, throwing him from the ring into an involuntary plancha on Jay. Well then…well played Kaz. Well played…Scorpio gets the tope con hilo and Excalibur calls the tope con hello. Again, why is Ian necessary?…we’ve officially lost all track of who is and isn’t legal…Jay is such a bastard…and now the Briscoes have singled out the neck of Kazarian…in previous reviews, I’ve talked about how much I like LAX’s double teams. The Briscoes have one of my favorites as well with ‘Redneck Boogie’ (powerbomb with a leaping neckbreaker assist)…take a Briscoe home night at ‘All In’…Scorpio’s agility is quite impressive…uranage lungblower combo. I’ve seen that before but can’t remember who. Feels like a PROGRESS thing…oh, I bit real hard on Froggy Bow as the finish there…Briscoe’s calling for the Doomsday. Mark leaps right into a powerslam from Kaz off Jay’s shoulders! Scorpio comes charging with a bicycle knee to Jay and it’s a three count for Kaz on Mark at 12:35…that was VERY GOOD. 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.
*Backstage interview with Kenny Omega and I think that’s Alicia Atout. I’m not sure though…they poke fun at the WWE interviewer stance and the tippy toes promos. Kenny then addresses the match with Pentagon Jr. later on in the show. Pretty basic Kenny interview other then the bit at the top.
*Hype video airs for Aldis vs. Cody using ‘All In’ by Downstrait (the band that does Miz’s theme). It’s really nicely done. Production is key for these kind of events and so far, they’ve been on point here.
*Match #2: Over the Budget Battle Royal
The Who: Yeah, not a chance you are getting an individual breakdown here. Sorry, not sorry.
The Why: Winner of this battle royal would go on to the main PPV itself to face Jay Lethal for the ROH World Heavyweight championship.
The Match: A lot of dudes (and Jordynne Grace) surrounding the ring before we get started and we go back over to commentary to see that Dalton Castle has decided to grace us…fans decide to serenade Bully with a ‘Bully’s an asshole’ chant…opening bell here…I hope you guys aren’t expecting a lot from me here. It’s a battle royal, which I don’t rate based on sheer principle…hey, Hurricane!…I think Chico is out as Bully powerbombs him through the timekeepers table…Ethan Page just kicked Jordynne square in the goddamn face! That was just wrong, man…maybe a battle royal but the dives are coming in bunches…Moose is over as a face here which is weird given that he’s such an asshat in Impact…and Marko Stunt may die…Ethan Page is such an asshole…Brian Cage just Cesaro superplexed Tommy Dreamer. I don’t have the words to describe how strong Brian Cage is…the problem I have with reviewing battle royals is there is a lot and nothing going on at the same time. There’s a lot of people in the match, but most of them are just collected by the ropes except for pockets of action here and there…Trent and Chuckie T work well together. I hope they get a good run in AEW proper. Trent’s one of those guys that every company could use, similar to a Curt Hawkins. He’s never going to be a high end star but he’s a dependable hand who does what’s asked of him with no questions asked. And Chuck Taylor is just awesome…and they are then booted by Punishment Martinez, who is now in NXT…and Cage has had enough of Romero’s shit, pitching him from the ring during the forever clotheslines…Cheeseburger is picking a fight with Brian Cage and then ends poorly for him…step-up frankensteiner by Cage. Tilt-a-whirl head scissors by Martinez. It’s BIG BOY LUCHA~!…Hurri-Chokeslam, bitch!…Ethan Page puts an end to that fun…and Colt Cabana puts an end to Ethan Page’s night with a flying asshole. Wait, it’s basic cable. Flying apple…Dreamer turning the clock back and then Bubba pitches him…Jimmy Jacobs ring gear is unique…think we are down to ten? Maybe? I’ve lost count…Martinez is a big dude…Jesus, Austin Gunn. The apron is your friend, man…get some, Marko…not from Bully, Marko…Brian Cage does not give a…and this is where Jordynne makes her name, eliminating Brian Cage…once again, Bully is there to ruin the fun…okay, that was fun from Jordynne and Colt…but now it’s down to Bully and Colt as Bully chucks Jordynne…Bully never hits that senton…and Bully pitches him…wait, Chico isn’t dead, thwacking Bully with a superkick. Chico unmasks as Flip Gordon, who had been begging for a spot on the show on Being the Elite all the way to All In and then throws out Bully for the win at 17:11…it was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have gotten to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling and Jordynne Grace 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. (N/R)
*Ian shills the ways to watch the PPV and runs down the card one more time. It is quite the fun looking card. That’ll do it for the pre-show. Let’s move to the main card…
ROH/NJPW/Friends: ‘All In’ (3:57:57)
*Justin Roberts is the first face we see and he introduces the Shalandra Royal, who does the national anthem. She does a fine job with it, but I don’t see the need for this here. USA is great and all, but it’s a multinational show card, guys…the pyro during the anthem was a nice touch though. Over the budget indeed…over to the announce table, where it’s still the same announcers, who again plug the main matches on the card. Let’s do this, shall we?
*Match #3: Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross
The Who: Maxwell Jacob Friedman is one of the hottest acts on the indies. While he’s not great in the ring, he plays smug douche about as well as humanly possible. Matt Cross may indeed be the best kept secret in pro wrestling. He only briefly had national exposure during his run on WWE Tough Enough (technically, he was on Lucha Underground but under a mask as Son of Havoc) but he’s been doing this almost twenty years and has developed into one of the most consistent performers anywhere.
The Why: Can’t say I have an answer for this, but the match should be good.
The Match: Going to completely disagree with my Chairshot colleague Andrew Balaz here. I actually really like what MJF has done for himself. He is not ‘Dollar Store EC3’…that is a really long ramp by any standard, let alone indie standards…referee is Todd Sinclair and the opening bell is here at…Ian taking a page from the WWE school of announcers by talking about Twitter trends…Cross hits the Ricochet pose on a backflip counter…and MJF is a jerk. Shocker…apparently MJF working the sheets by not flipping to get over. Cross does flip to get over as Riccaboni and Excalibur call the Sasuke Special in stereo. Try saying that five times fast…the thing with MJF is he doesn’t do anything flashy. He’s more of a throwback to the old school heel type. Something that you don’t get a lot today in modern wrestling…I can see why the Bucks and Cody wanted MJF. He’s the opposite of everything the Bucks are known for. For a wrestling promotion, diversity is key. The old cliché is that pro wrestling is like the circus. Some come for the lions; some come for the elephants; some for the clowns. In wrestling, you have those who watch for high flyers; those who watch for the catch as catch can and there are those who watch just to see a dislikeable person get punched in the face…gutwrench powerbomb with an arm trap. I can’t say I’ve ever seen that…I believe that Cross has been wrestling almost as long as MJF has been alive…top-rope frankensteiner by Cross. Nice…I do appreciate that Cross is still selling the arm when he’s on offense here. It’s the little things that a veteran like that does that makes a match mean more…package piledriver position into a shoulder breaker by MJF. A modern twist on an old school move…and MJF does flip. But follows it with an eye poke…Stomp 182 by Cross leaves both men down, however…slow cover by Cross gets two but MJF turns the kickout into a upside down version of the cross-arm-breaker…rope hang piledriver only gets two. I hate that. Especially in an opening match…Don Callis is sounding more and more like Scott Hudson…rope catch cutter by Cross sets up the Shooting Star Press. Outside of Paul London’s, Cross may have the best one in wrestling. That’s a three count at 10:07…GOOD little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside, they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I hope Cross gets a chance with AEW and we know MJF will be so looking forward to them running this back at some point down the road. Strong start to the show.
*Backstage to an interview with Nick Aldis, hosted by Sean Mooney. Sean Mooney in 2018. Good for him, man…Ian Riccaboni screwed up here as he said Mooney was with Christopher Daniels. First technical gaff of the show, but I’ll put that down to a learning mistake…Aldis does look like a proper champion, I’ll give him that. Plus, he gets to go home to Mickie James. Clearly, when it comes to life, Nick Aldis is winning…Riccaboni tries to cover as we come back to the announcers. The match now up is Daniels and Amell, so wires got crossed somewhere…
*Match #4: Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: The ‘New Reffin Show’ Jerry Lynn)
The Who: Christopher Daniels and I will be incredibly biased saying this, is one of my favorite wrestlers ever. He’s done everything except have a marquee run with the WWF (and he was a tag team champion there. Kinda. It’s a long story). Stephen Amell is Arrow on the TV show on The CW. You’ll probably know him from his run towards SummerSlam against Cody a couple years back. Jerry Lynn is a former ECW Heavyweight champion, multiple time TNA X Division champion and another one of those perpetually under-rated guys who will hopefully get some more screen time with AEW, even if it’s in a non wrestling capacity (such as referee here)
The Why: I really wish I’d been able to follow the Being the Elite episodes going into this show, but sadly time got away from me working on the Impact reviews. The story as to why is contained in there though should you all be so inclined.
The Match: This is where video packages like the one for Aldis-Cody would have served this show well. I know they interacted on Being the Elite but I haven’t seen the episode since it first aired and didn’t have time to go back and re-watch it. An informed crowd is a more invested crowd after all…Amell is accompanied to the ring by Josh Segarra, one of his co-stars on Arrow…Excalibur lays it out that while Amell is undefeated so far in wrestling, he’s only had tag matches. Never a singles match…Scorpio and Kazarian accompany Daniels to the ring as Ian Riccaboni points out that Daniels is in his twenty fifth year as a professional wrestler. That’s just insane to me. I was eight when he started…opening bell goes here…give Amell this much, he physically matches up well with Daniels. Slightly taller and probably around the same build and weight. Experience is clearly with the ‘Fallen Angel’ here though…bodily fluids should not be weapons…and Daniels does the Curry Man dance…Amell returns the takedown and bows. Daniels proceeds to beat his ass in the corner…that dropkick was Erik Watts level, Stephen. Not a compliment…Amell grabs a table, because apparently toys for everybody today…back suplex with a release throws Amell for a flip. Apparently, Amell is the heel here because the fans are definitely pro Daniels. Color me surprised…vertical suplex lift into a gut buster by Daniels. Been a while since I’ve seen that one…not a lot of fire on those back elbows there by Amell…Arabian Press by Daniels but no cover follows. Feel like Daniels is out to prove a point to Amell…Amell goes for Cross Rhodes but Daniels has it scouted having wrestled Cody for the ROH title. A basement superkick by Amell sets up a (admittedly rough looking) Falcon Arrow for two. A for moveset, C- for effort…Excalibur pops me by saying that he didn’t quite ‘do the deal’ since he didn’t get all of the Falcon. Well said, Excalibur…Amell looks terribly gassed…alright, that was impressive. Props were it due, Stephen. Daniels leans in like a professional to make sure it landed…Daniels isn’t immune to the sloppiness of this match as the B.M.E. doesn’t land fully clean and thus gets two…not sure why I just thought of this but another reason Daniels had the counter for Cross Rhodes is because he uses the move himself. He just calls it ‘Last Rites’…Daniels looks for a superplex to the floor through the table. That’s clearly not happening though…Amell knocks Daniels down to the apron and he rolls over to be on the table. Convenient placing…Amell goes for the flying elbow drop, but Daniels moves and Amell eats table…double count by the New Reffin Show as the fans chant ‘Broken Arrow’…Lynn puts both men back in the ring and Daniels does not appreciate being man handled by the zebra…a tiff breaks out resulting in a roll-up by Amell but Daniels kicks out, thankfully. That would have pissed me off to no end if it was the finish…Lynn keeps pulling Daniels back until Amell gives Daniels the double national bird. Excalibur again pops me on commentary: ‘Stephen Amell is an adult. He can make his own bad decisions’…gut shot by Daniels sets up Angel’s Wings which Amell counters nicely with a northern lights for two. Reminded me of LowKi at Lockdown in 2005 (I think?). Daniels up first though and a uranage backbreaker of sorts puts Amell down where this time, a proper Best Moonsault Ever gets the three count at 11:45…when this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on it. 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 solid 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.
*Post-match: Amell and Daniels make good by shaking hands. Indie respect for everyone. Isn’t it wonderful…over to commentary as Don Callis bails to go talk to Kenny Omega. In his place sits Tenille Dashwood (the former Emma of WWE) and Mandy Leon (who I just typed Rose for out of habit). Both ladies are there representing the Women of Honor for ROH. Tenille has since left ROH and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her land in AEW. Mandy is still dating Delirious and therefore still with ROH (it ain’t for her wrestling ability). It looks like the women’s four way is next.
*Match #5: Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard
The Who: Britt Baker is now officially signed to AEW. In addition to being a pro wrestler, she also may have the distinction of world’s hottest dentist as she has an actual Doctorate in Dental Studies. Britt also comes out to Adam Cole’s old ROH theme song. I’m sure you can guess why that is. Madison Rayne we’ve covered many times before in ‘What I Watched’. She’s now back with Impact, so clearly she won’t be in AEW going forward. Chelsea Green is the former Laurel Von Ness from Impact. She just recently made her NXT debut but unfortunately broke her hand in that match. Tessa Blanchard, I mean, do I really have to? In the ten of these I’ve done, this is her fifth appearance. You know who she is by now. For those who don’t, Tessa may be the best woman’s wrestler in the world right now.
The Why: A way to get a woman’s match on the show. No real implications outside of that as far as I’m aware of.
The Match: At the time, this may have been three of the most well known female talents on the Indies in there with Britt. Now, all four of them have full time contracts. Not really a surprise given the talent level and let’s be honest, the visual appeal of all four ladies…Tessa comes into this match as the Knockouts champion. She would lose that title on the last show we covered here, Homecoming 2019. It’s in my archives…Tully showed up for Tessa at Rebellion 2019 as well, which Andrew has covered here on Chairshot. I will get to that show closer to Slammiversary…opening bell…Madison shakes hands with Britt and Chelsea. She tries to shake hands with Tessa and Tessa belts her with forearm. Good. Get that respect stuff out of here…so, I’m curious as to tornado rules or actual tag format. You never know with these Four Way Survivals…Chelsea seems to like herself. The fans seem to like her too…save you want a revolution, well, you know…Tessa cuts Chelsea off with a spear, so tornado rules it would seem…that was not the Magnum. The Magnum is the top rope one. That was just a corner chestblower…Ian plugs ROH Death Before Dishonor. Don’t think there will be a ROH plug anymore on AEW TV…Tessa shows off the strength, but Britt and Chelsea turn the tables. I will give Riccaboni credit here. He does bring up that Chelsea and Britt have teamed together before. ‘Fire and Nice’ if memory serves for the team name…again, Tessa knocks someone stiff with a forearm. Chelsea this time…that dive looked rough, Tessa. I think she clipped the rope…Madison up to the top and a cross body to the floor. Looked good too. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Rayne. She’s competent but nothing special, in my opinion…you get a Slingblade. You get a Slingblade. It’s Oprah Rules here at All In…I think Tessa may be the strongest of the four here. It’s probably close though…Chelsea with a Broski Boot to Tessa, complete with Woo Woo Woo’s. I think at one point all four of these ladies were either married to or dating wrestlers. It’s really not a surprise. Wrestling is one of those business where you get close to people because you spend so much time traveling with them. Especially if you are working for the same company or taking similar dates at various indies…Excalibur with a nice cover for it, calling it a Shinjiro Ohtani style face wash…Chelsea just smokes Tessa with a missile dropkick…Madison looking for something off the ropes with Baker, but it gets badly blown…Baker with a superkick to Chelsea. Tessa hits Magnum (the top-rope one) on Chelsea. Britt superkicks Tessa. A cover on Chelsea only gets two though. I bit there. Nice near fall…its kind of falling apart towards the end here. Up to this point, everything had flowed quite nicely, but you can tell these four are gassed at this point…alright, that crucifix bomb looked really good. Props to Madison and Tessa for that…fisherwoman’s neckbreaker. Ian again goes the Twitter route. He’s like baby Michael Cole…breaks down to Chelsea and Tessa, where a Canadian Destroyer by the ‘Hot Mess Express’ only gets two…both ladies back up and Chelsea looks to capitalize but Tessa is out and counters Chelsea into the Buzzsaw DDT. The cover afterwards gets the three count just before Britt Baker can make the save at 12:43…I don’t know if that pin was supposed to be broken up, but given where everyone was in their respective companies, Tessa getting the win here makes sense. As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost it’s way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say an ABOVE AVERAGE effort from the ladies and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed.
*Post-match: They don’t show the finish on the replay, but all the ladies hug it out as the fans approve. They served themselves well….back over to commentary we go. Either Mandy’s microphone didn’t work very well or she didn’t say a whole lot during that previous match. I definitely heard Tenille and that Australian accent of hers. Either way, the ladies excuse themselves and Brent Tarring joins us. Had to look him up because I had no clue who he was. Apparently, he was Timmy Baltimore when he worked for OVW as an interviewer and commentator. Found an article with his full story online. Tragic, but inspiring.
*Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)
The Who: Nick Aldis is the former Magnus in TNA, where he was a former Heavyweight champion there. If I am not mistaken, Aldis beat Colt Cabana for the NWA title. I’ll have to look that up to be sure, though. Cody Rhodes doesn’t really need an introduction but for those who don’t know, he’s one of the driving forces behind this show along with the Young Bucks. He’s also the son of Dusty Rhodes and the half (I think) brother of Goldust, who Cody will face at Double or Nothing.
The Why: Cody wants to follow in his father’s footsteps with the infamous ‘ten pounds of gold’. What better place to do so then in an NWA stronghold city like Chicago on a show that Cody is promoting?
The Match: Before the match, we replay the video package that aired during the ‘Zero Hour’ pre-show. Still say they should have done more of these videos…sweet jesus, what is Brandi wearing? Or more specifically, not wearing. Good lord…it’s an MMA entrance for Cody. DDP, Glacier and Tommy Dreamer in his camp. There’s a dog in Cody’s entrance as well. Ian calls him Pharaoh. I’ll assume he’s on Being the Elite or Brandi’s video blog…very loud ‘Cody’ chant. Obviously he’s the face here. But I do like that the champ enters second…I can’t imagine what it going through Cody’s mind. All the time and energy spent getting to tonight and for it to finally become a reality. Will that pressure affect his performance or will he raise to the moment? I’ve never been the biggest fan of Cody as a singles wrestler. Let’s see if he can buck that trend…Aldis has Shawn Daivari, Tim Storm and Jeff Jarrett with him. I sense clusterfuck afoot…I do miss the days of actual theme music, as I mentioned earlier. The instrumental Aldis comes out to is cool, but it doesn’t feel championship like…little surprised Bobby Cruise has the ring introductions instead of Justin Roberts…ring intros do make this match feel like a big deal…Earl Hebner is apparently a robot. He’s not aged in two decades…opening bell here…fans are definitely into this one. Loud ovation right after the opening bell…Cody with a cartwheel. Aldis with the Shawn Michaels ‘laying across the buckles’ in response…pretty basic start to the match about three minutes in. Taking their time to build to something, which I like…Cody with a suicide dive. Not something we usually see from him. He hit it flush too…focus goes to the back of Cody after Aldis sends him into the ring post…we’re working a very methodical pace here. As I said, the fans are into it which helps…that superkick missed by a good foot. Nice attempt to sell it by Aldis, but no…thus far, I do like that they have each other well scouted. It plays into the importance of the contest for both…double springboard dive to the floor and Cody caught that elbow flush. Would not be surprised if he comes up bleeding…Hebner throws up the X which may be legit or may be Cody and friends working the fans. We all know how Being the Elite leans ‘smark’ heavy…DDP comes out to catch on Cody as we’ve grinded to a halt…Cody is NOT busted open and Daivari comes down to shove DDP aside, calling for the towel to be thrown in…BANG~!!…not bad for a sixty year old. Hell, Page may even be seventy at this point…I think Hebner just ejected Page…and now Cody is bleeding. Alright, I’m calling shenanigans on this one. I get the story they want to tell with it, but that was blatant. The old wrestling adage is that ‘red equals green’. I need to be able to suspend my disbelief for that to equate and it doesn’t here…powerslam almost drops Aldis on his head…Cody is getting what I’ve come to know as ‘Corino Hair’…moonsault press was nice but no water in the pool…second rope fall away slam. Everything Aldis has done in this match has been on point…little quick for Cody to get back on the attack, but it’s a historically significant move. Both his father and his father’s greatest rivals used it…Aldis gets swept on the apron at the attempt on the PK, but catches Cody in a running PS on the floor…Cody’s back gives out on an Alabama Slam attempt. He gets it at the second time with an adrenaline burst. I actually do like that. Sell what’s happened, give the fans a chance to rally you, pay it off…Cody goes for the Disaster Kick (I think he calls it the Beautiful Disaster now), but Aldis ducks. A quick powerbomb gets two for Nick and Aldis puts on the Kingsland Cloverleaf…Ian raises a good point here. Very loose grip by Aldis. Sells the fatigue of the match thus far as we come up on seventeen minutes in…Cody keeping a bridge to ease the pressure but the back gives out once. It gives out a second time as Brandi encourages Cody. Third time, Cody gets to the ropes…Jesus, that looked rough. High angle piledriver…Aldis going up and looking for the flying elbow drop. Brandi tries to talk Aldis out of it, but Nick to the top and he drops the elbow on Brandi as she covers Cody! That’s a hell of a bump for someone who is a part time wrestler at best…Aldis does a hell of a job selling that he was aiming for Cody and that Brandi got in the way…paint brush slap by Aldis but Cody circles him at the ropes and hits the Beautiful Disaster. Cross Rhodes only gets two though…trading shots in the center for the Yay-Boo chant. Cody gets the edge and goes for the Vertebreaker, but Aldis escapes. Aldis goes for the Cross Rhodes and Cody snapmares his way out. Cody does duck his head too soon and Aldis goes up and over on a sunset flip, but Cody sits down on it, hooks the legs and that’s a three count at 22:03…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.
*Post-match: Crowd erupts as Cody is given the ‘ten pounds of gold’. Aldis would go onto regain it at the NWA’s 70th Anniversary Show, which is another show I’ve considered covering. It’s a good moment though…side note, I need to give Cody’s song a full listen. Sounds like something I’d rock on my Winamp…this post-match is taking a very long time. Knowing what we know about how the main event goes, this may have had something to do with it…Brent Tarring leaves the commentary booth and Don Callis takes back over as the color commentator.
*Match #7: ‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela
The Who: Adam Page aka ‘Hangman’ is going to be one of the primary players in AEW going forward. He’s someone who has grown significantly on me from the first time I saw him as I was not impressed but now, I’ve comes to respect his abilities. Joey Janela is another one of those guys who can lay the claim to being one of the hottest acts on the Indies. His ‘Spring Break’ shows with GCW have been some of the craziest we’ve seen in recent years in addition to being some of the best. While he’s nothing great in the ring, he carries himself like a star and for a company such as this, that’s super important.
The Why: We actually get a video for this one too! See, this is what I asked for…Adam Page destroyed Joey Ryan because he was jealous of the rest of the Elite being hung up on Ryan’s gimmick. Wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, Joey Janela stands up for Joey Ryan here since Joey is unable to rise for himself.
The Match: Janela doesn’t get as strong of a reaction as I suspected he would. He didn’t have a ton of exposure on BtE going into All In, so I’m not surprised. I do think he’ll be a good addition for AEW though. Plus, Penelope Ford is gorgeous. This will be nothing but help raise her stock as well…Britt, Penelope and Brandi. The era of the diva is once again upon us in AEW. That’s not to say they can’t wrestle, because I can’t make that judgment. I’ve not seen enough of any of them. I meant diva more so in the way they carry themselves…Ian and Callis mention here what I did about Janela. The fact that he’s built his brand as well as he has speaks without any major access to do speaks to the gritty entrepreneurial attitude that Janela possesses…Page definitely looks his gimmick…Ian points out that Adam has a thing against Joey’s. Excalibur then adds “if I was the inventor of the tree of whoa, Joey Lawrence, I’d be worried”. Pretty sure he stole that joke from Dave Prazak. It popped me anyway…apparently, murder is legal in AEW. As long as it was justified…opening bell here…Janela loses the head band early and Page catches Janela with a suicide dive. Janela fires back with a (cleaner) one of his own…don’t expect a whole lot of actual grounded wrestling moves here. That sequence was inside the first minute…Page redeems the suicide dive with a beautiful moonsault to the floor…pumphandle throw into an open chair by Page. That looked cool…it’s a cracker barrel. Of course, it is…I mean a Cracker Barrel barrel…alright, the tope con hilo off the barrel was pretty cool. Chair to step up and then flips off the barrel…Page just Super Mario’s over the barrel and then EZ Money’d over the barricade into a huge lariat…Page grabs a table as Don busts Ian’s balls for putting over he and Excalibur’s careers as wrestlers…Page looking for a superplex to the floor but Janela has none of it, pulling out Page with a Blu-Ray (DVD into the buckles)…ladder next and bridged from the ring on the barrel…burning hammer on the ladder. That just seems excessive, man…Ian: ‘Don’t give him any ideas, Don’. Don: ‘It’s a Chicago Street Fight. He (Page) can murder whoever he wants’…Penelope into the ring to help Janela, slapping Adam in the face. Penelope backflips out of a couple clothesline attempts and a stunner sends Page to the floor. Penelope beats him around ringside over towards the table where a Janela flying elbow of the buckle above puts Page through it…this is one of those spot, rest, spot, rest kinda brawls that I don’t care for. I get the reasoning why. They pop the live crowd. But to a fan such as I watching at home, it’s not nearly as captivating…towards the entrance ramp and stage they go…long way to go just for a lariat there…table number two and three out and set in the entrance way…okay, that was brutal. And I don’t Page got all of it, because Janela only made it to one of the tables. Ouch…Page brings Janela back to the ring. Another EZ Money flipping lariat (Page calls it the Buckshot) sets up the Rite of Passage (Beach Break or down the back Tombstone) for two when Penelope makes the save…and the bag Penelope made the save with have the boots that have been talking to Page. Penelope goes to grab a boot and Page superkicks her. Janela superkicks Page but only gets two…Janela out to the floor to get a ladder and a table. Setup in the ring and Page set up on the table. Janela climbs the ladder before Page greets him. Page pulls the phone that he murdered Joey with out of the other bag and clocks Janela in the head with it, stopping him on the top of the ladder. Page then hooks Janela for and delivers Rite of Passage off the ladder through the table. The three count is academic there at 20:09…it 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 of a downtime in this one. Honestly, to me anyway, Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say ABOVE AVERAGE but nothing I’d probably go back and re-watch. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it.
*Post-match: I’m sure if you are reading this, you’ve probably seen the show or have at least heard what happens here. I won’t go into too many details here because I don’t want to give it away if you don’t know what to expect. There’s some serious ‘sports entertainment’ going on here though, just as a heads up. My thoughts on it all: indifference to be frank. It’s part of Joey’s shtick, which we discussed on the United We Stand review. I don’t love it myself but here, it’s a satisfying payoff to the story they told on the way to ‘All In’.
*Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon
The Who: Jay Lethal is the (at this point now) former ROH champion, but was the champion here, obviously. Most people will know him from his run as ‘Black Machismo’ in TNA/Impact, but he’s a very reliable hand. Flip Gordon won the ‘Over the Budget’ battle royal to get to this spot. He had been petitioning for a spot on ‘All In’ to Cody and the Bucks for weeks to no avail on Being the Elite.
The Why: As mentioned, Flip Gordon won the battle royal on the pre-show to get this opportunity here on the main card. Pretty self-explanatory.
The Match: Crowd is definitely behind Gordon. They gave him a loud reaction for his win in the ‘Over the Budget’ and they are chanting his name to his music here as well…Brandi accompanies Flip to the ring as Don rants about Flip trying to scoop Brandi. I feel like that plays out in AEW down the road, unless Flip signed with ROH…and speaking of ‘Black Machismo’…not only is Lethal coming out as ‘Black Machismo’, he’s got Lanny Poffo (brother of Randy Savage) accompanying him. That’s a pretty cool moment for Lethal. I’m fairly certain Savage before he passed said that he approved of Lethal’s impression as well. This is yet another seal of approval to that. I don’t think ‘Machismo’ is something that would work on a full time basis anymore, but as a one off, it’s very cool none the less…to my knowledge, it has been quite a while since he’s pulled out ‘Black Machismo’…it does make sense that Bobby Cruise has this match…crowd reactions seem to be pretty split here…cool to see Cary Silkin get a moment. Guy doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for what ROH was at it’s peak…Lethal’s mannerisms are so spot on with it…dig it, opening bell here, uh huh…alright, the bit where Lethal confuses Brandi for Liz makes me chuckle, probably more then it should given what we know now…lots of arm drags. It’s like Savage vs. Steamboat for the next generation…Lethal gives chase to Brandi. Brandi informs him that she is not Liz, Lethal lifts her up on the shoulders in the Liz pose anyway…I don’t like all the insider terms just getting tossed around on commentary. Reminds me way too much of WCW circa 2000. Nobody wants that back in their lives…Gordon chains moves together really well. The soccer kick into the standing moonsault, for example…is it possible that Flip Gordon was Alex Koslov in a previous life? I’ve seen those kip ups before…trio of dives by Gordon have him in firm control of the match…corkscrew frog splash. That was new…there’s a lot happening. Too much to call. But the fans are more into the antics here then any kind of back and forth wrestling…having this match follow a brawl in Page and Janela may not have done these guys any favors…Gordon with an impressive springboard kick and goes for the 450, landing on his feet when Lethal rolls in. Lethal then gets the Lethal Combination (backbreaker into Flatliner) for two…Lethal calls for the Lethal Injection but Flip with an O’Connor Roll, followed by a Falcon Arrow, prompting the trademark call from Excalibur. Unlike Excalibur’s claim, Lethal does kick out…both men back up and Gordon goes for the springboard but gets caught in a torture rack. Lethal then gets a inverted Finlay roll and looks for the Lethal Injection, but Poffo up on the apron to thwack Jay in the shoulder, triggering Machismo once again…center ring slam and Lethal goes up for ‘Hail to the King’. A second and third follow, but Gordon is out at two. Strongly disagree with that…oh lord, he’s turning into Flip Hogan…this is absolutely absurd…okay, that Pele brings us back. Thank god…man, he really is a Flip, isn’t he? Two back to back moves I’ve never seen before to set up the Cancun Tornado, which was perfectly executed…Flip goes for a top-rope frankensteiner, but Lethal stops it. Gordon kicks out of a super bomb attempt and goes for Kinder, but Lethal stops it an avalanche ace crusher. The Lethal Injection follows and that’s a three count at 14:25…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 nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out ‘Black Machismo’ again.
*Post-match: Lethal and Gordon shake hands after the match before Bully Ray comes down to attack both of them. Bully using a chain to take out Flip Gordon to continue their beef from Ring of Honor…Lanny Poffo attempts to make the save, Bully Ray kicks him in the balls. Because I’m a terrible person, I laugh…how do you not know what Bully is looking for, announcers?…and Cabana makes the save to a loud home Chicago reaction…and the trio of Colt, Flip and Jay put Bully through his own table with a triple powerbomb…back over to the announcers, where they get us ready for Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.
*Match #9: Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.
The Who: Kenny Omega is the 2019 ‘PWI 500’ number one. He has had critically acclaimed matches throughout Japan and is very well known by most independent wrestling fans despite not having a major stay in the US. Pentagon Jr., this is like the sixth time I’ve covered him and with good reason. Everyone on the US Indies wants a piece of both Pentagon and his brother Fenix. They tore the house down with LAX at Homecoming and Pentagon Jr. has the best match in the return of ‘What I Watched’ with the war with Sami Callihan at Slammiversary.
The Why: Two of the best wrestlers in the world squaring off. Sometimes, you don’t need any more of a story then that.
The Match: I don’t feel the need to add much here. This should be fantastic…reaction for Pentagon was loud but I think Kenny’s was louder…Kenny gets pyro too. That makes sense though. He’s Elite. He’s He’s Elite…Kenny had just won the IWGP Heavyweight title at Dominion two months prior. Obviously non-title here, but it’s a matter of pride…opening bell goes here as Excalibur mentions that Pentagon Jr. is coming off the main event of Triple Mania for AAA just a week prior. These might be the two biggest names not associated with the WWE in wrestling. If not the two biggest, certainly two of the top five…and Omega with a pie face…Omega tries to back roll and Penta kicks him square in the stomach…this is going to be one of those matches where I don’t say much because I’ll be caught up in the match itself…Kenny sets up for the Terminator dive, but Penta cuts him off with Slingblade. Omega out the floor and Penta soars with a no hands tope con hilo. Super smooth all of it…95 kilos looks to be what? About 240 lbs? To Google, where I find out that it’s only 209. He looks bigger then 209 pounds…the mats on the floor help a little but that powerslam probably sucked for Omega…Paul Turner never counted anyone. In fairness, I wouldn’t want a riot on my hands either…this match has leaned significantly more towards Pentagon then I thought it would be…Kenny doesn’t even have to call for the dive, as the Terminator clap starts. Instead, it’s a springboard frog splash to a standing Pentagon. That looked really cool despite almost losing his footing…everything Omega does is precise. Pinpoint precision on the missile dropkick…superkick counter to the V Trigger sets up a counter sequence. Kenny gets the better and gets the snap dragon. One Winged Angel attempt is countered into a lungblower for two, though…Pentagon to the top floor and a double stomp meets canvas as Omega rolls in. Another counter exchange leads to a DVD from Kenny. I don’t think these two have had a singles before but they are flowing really well…Omega looks for the avalanche brainbuster but Pentagon out into a tree of whoa double stomp. I still hate that move, but at least the setup here didn’t look nearly as contrived as it usually does…the announcers keep talking about Pentagon’s weight advantage on Kenny. Kenny actually outweighs Pentagon by twelve pounds…Pentagon gets caught in a series of V Triggers after a series of Cero Miedo’s…another try at the OWA is countered into another try at the Package PD. When that is escaped, Pentagon converts to the Pentagon Driver which gets a really close two count. Totally would have bought that as the finish…out to the apron they go and Pentagon gets the Package PD onto the apron!!! Fuck that noise!…Penta up top where the double stomp lands but a lax cover only finds two…Kenny just sticks Pentagon with a tornado package piledriver for two. I’ve said my piece on that move being kicked out of before. I won’t do it again…another try at OWA, but Pentagon traps the arm and hits the snapback arm-breaker. Fear Factor follows but again it’s only two. Well, that’s that finish dead in this match…audience is absolutely losing their minds here. I dig the ambiance, even if how we got there irks me a bit…now we’re just trading big moves. Eventually, a fifth V Trigger sets up a fourth attempt at the One Winged Angel. This attempt lands and that’s a three count at 17:48…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 excellent for me. The ridiculously spotting 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 then I thought they might. But there was no where 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.
*Post-match: this is going to be another one of those if you don’t know, watch for yourself moments as I don’t want to give away the big surprise. If you are watching Double or Nothing soon after this review gets posted, you know what happens. But if you don’t, know that they pulled off one of the bigger coo’s in modern wrestling to make happen what they did here.
*Match #10: Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll
The Who: Kazuchika Okada is the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight champion of all time. He is also as of this writing once again the champion, having beaten Jay White for the belt. If I recall, he also had a brief run with Impact here in the US where he was kidnapped by Samoa Joe. I might be wrong on that. Marty Scurll is the Villain from the Bullet Club/Elite and while we’ve covered Marty before here on ‘What I Watched’, we’ve never covered him in the Villain persona. Scurll has really stepped into his own with this gimmick and would probably be up there for the list of most sought after wrestlers in the world, regardless of which company they call home (ROH and NJPW for Scurll at press time).
The Why: While the obvious answer is the man with the umbrella vs. the Rainmaker, there is a deeper meaning here. Marty doesn’t appreciate being pigeon holed as Jr. Heavyweight in New Japan. What better way to prove he can hang at the Heavyweight level then to take down the longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight champion of all time?
The Match: Tiger Hittori is your referee for this contest. Rare to see him here in the US, so it’s a nice moment for Tiger. Fans give him a pretty good reaction…I don’t get the skit with Scurll before the match, but his entrance is a sight and sound to behold. I’m a little sad Marty decided to stay with ROH because he could have done big things with AEW…unlike most Indie fans, I’m not a huge Okada guy. In fairness, I’m not much of a NJPW guy in general…entrance for Okada is impressive as well, but I do think Scurll’s was better…Okada causes a ‘205’ chant to start towards Marty. Okay, that shit is funny. It’s a fun little inside joke that hurts no-one and rallies your fans together…opening bell here…seven hundred and twenty seven days. Almost two full calendar years. It’s hard to argue his drawing power over in Japan…the height difference is quite noticeable…Scurll causes Okada to flinch as well…again, the announcers go super insider with the references. I guess some watching will appreciate that. But focus on the match, not each other…there’s a bit of smugness to the way Okada is handling himself. I don’t mind it because it gives us a story…Scurll gets a run of offense leading to an Austin Aries styles tope through the bottom and second rope…another brawl around ringside…makes sense for Marty to keep Okada grounded. We’re all the same size on the canvas…Okada quickly turns the tide however and gets back in control. We once again go the floor. It’s a recurring theme tonight…DDT on the floor as Ian shouts out Jake Roberts. I miss the days of the DDT as a finish. Especially when properly done…Okada pulls a page from the Eddie Guerrero playbook with the rolling hilo outside in, before taunting Scurll…Scurll with an overhead chop and Okada puts him on his wallet with a forearm…Japanese Stranglehold. Apt move for him to use…Scurll up and counters out into a cross-arm lungblower…Okada boots Scurll in the face but Scurll responds with the ‘Just Kidding’ superkick at the knees…Callis rips Hittori for being a slow counter. Ian calls out Hebner for being a fast counter. He also likes to call for bells too…makes me sad that the DDT is just a transition or a near fall move anymore…these two are definitely laying it in. You can hear the strikes land. Marty catches a brainbuster which leaves both men down…Marty is taking too long though and Okada blocks causing Marty to hurt his back. Kryptonite Krunch over the knee for Okada gets two. Ian calls it an Air Raid Crash. Either move name is effect. I’m just a Nova mark…I don’t feel like a superplex is in your best interest, Marty…then again…fish out of water or ‘let’s blow up the referee’…Scurll with a powerbomb. Jr. Heavyweight this, sucka!…I appreciate that Excalibur calls it John Woo…high and tight Japanese style missile dropkick by Okada. It looks so much more effective then its American counterpart…Tombstone is countered once with a DDT by Scurll. Scurll tries for one of his own and Okada turns that into a proper Okada Tombstone before calling for the Rainmaker (with camera zoom out)…apparently when you take time to taunt with ‘205’ before the Rainmaker, you get your fingers broken. Now we know…I wonder who did the finger break spot first. Scurll or Dunne?…okay, that was a really cool counter out of the Rainmaker into the Crossface Chicken Wing…Scurll doesn’t quite have the grip and Okada is able to rise up…the grip gets broken by Okada but Marty puts it back in before Okada counters into a cradle for two…Hittori gets drilled, which I think may be our first referee bump of the night. And we had a match with Earl Hebner as the zebra…Marty grabs his umbrella. Okada goes for the Rainmaker which Marty ducks and open the umbrella to distract Okada before thwacking him upside the facial region with it. Scurll then hits the Rainmaker and that gets two! I bit there…this time, the CFCW is countered into the Rainmaker. Fans are going crazy for both as Hittori counts both down…Okada drags Scurll back up and Scurll begs for Okada to keep bringing the fight, as each forearm puts Marty back on his ass…Scurll spits at Okada and slap him in the face. Okada retorts with a discus Rainmaker before the standard version puts Scurll down for three at 26:06…probably a little long. But they told a VERY GOOD story throughout. I have made it no secret in the past that I am 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.
*Match #11: Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio
The Who: Young Bucks are to some the best tag team in wrestling. Personally, I’d put them third behind the Revival and LAX. Kota Ibushi made his name here in the States participating in the Cruiserweight Classic. Despite the WWE wanting to sign Ibushi, he went back to his native Japan where he’s doing quite well for himself as the IWGP Intercontinental champion. Bandido is now exclusively to ROH but he’s another one of the recent group of luchadores to come to the US from Mexico and achieve some commercial success. Fenix as we discussed earlier is the brother of Pentagon Jr. Together, they are the Lucha Brothers and both are two of the most sought after acts on the US Indies. Rey Mysterio Jr., are you kidding me? You think I need to describe who Rey Jr. is? What I will say if that I appreciate Mysterio Jr. keeping this booking despite having returned to the WWE by this point.
The Why: Six high flyers out to have a balls to the wall spotfest to wrap up the show.
The Match: We’re going to rush the scene here since we’re down to around sixteen minutes of PPV time left. They knew going into this match that they were running short. Such is the peril of planning your own show for the first time. It shouldn’t have happened but what’s done is done…Rey took his sweet time for the entrance, but the Wolverine gear is pretty cool…Golden Elite do all come out together, which makes sense on both a time and a actually formed trio level…referee is Rick Knox, which is really nice for him…unfortunately, he’s out to a firing squad here. Just let them do their thing, Rick…opening bell at 3:45:30…tornillo cross body by Bandido. Nice…they’ve been doing this almost fifteen years and the Bucks are still smooth as silk as a team. It’s quite impressive the staying power they’ve had. And the ability they’ve had to avoid any kind of major injuries…that was like a quadruple springboard arm drag…fans go ape shit at the thought of Ibushi vs. Mysterio Jr.…Mysterio moving like a much younger man here…and he gets kicked in the face…it has to be cool for guys like Matt and Nick to be in the ring with Rey. I’m sure Rey is a guy who strongly influenced their style…feel like both Ibushi and Bandido could lay claim to fastest wrestler in the world. Bandido is someone I’ve not seen a lot of though…Bucks are definitely getting their shit in here…and Kota gets the Golden Triangle moonsault…Rey turns the clock back to the mid 90s with a huge quebrada…the dives come in bunches and there is no easy way to describe them…tope con hilo off the ramp. Well, if their were ropes, it would have been a tope con hilo. I guess technically it was a cannonball dive…I’m surprised there are still tags in this match…Bandido takes down all three Golden Elite’s with a head scissors…I’m sorry guys, I just can’t keep up with everything here…that series of moves that culminated in the frog splash by Rey very easily could have been the finish. I know why it wasn’t, but it could have been…Fenix and Rey look to double team Matt. Matt gets outs but Bandido looks to take advantage, doing so with the moonsault fall away slam for two. Nick in to break, but the Bucks take control with a superkick party…More Bang for Your Buck with added Kota moonsault may have been the finish, but Fenix makes the save. Seconds later, Bandido gets caught in the Meltzer Driver and that is a three count at 11:44…clearly much shorter then it was probably going to be, they packed a ton in these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone, 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 it isn’t anything that’ll be looked back upon fondly down the road.
*Post-match, there’s not much to discuss as we very quickly head off the air. Ian Riccaboni doesn’t even get through his sign off before the sound drops and the production screen rolls. That brings us to an end for All In.
Match #1: Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35 (VERY GOOD) (Pre-show)
Match #2: Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray (N/R) (Pre-show)
Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07 (GOOD)
Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45 (ABOVE AVERAGE)
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 (ABOVE AVERAGE)
Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03 (VERY GOOD)
Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09 (ABOVE AVERAGE)
Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25 (GOOD)
Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48 (VERY GOOD)
Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06 (VERY GOOD)
Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44 (GOOD)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
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 luchadore/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis and Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting. 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.
THE FINAL REACTION
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: Has to be the production, does it not? Hard to fault them for it as they are inexperienced show runners but when your main event gets less time then every single other match on your show save one, it’s not a good sign. Especially when said main event has three of the biggest names in the promotion of the show.
MVP: I’ll go with Cody here as well. It was a good night for young Mr. Runnels.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10
My next review that comes to you guys will be PROGRESS Chapter 5, “For Those About to Fight”. Hopefully, I’ll get some more shows into the archive for you guys as well. I would also hope that you guys will check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.