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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #14 – AAW Destination Chicago 2018

2018 was a hype year for professional wrestling and Harry continues to find some Independent gems to reminisce about. AAW Destination Chicago is up now!

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Allow me to set a scene for you all. Oh, hi. Harry here once again with another new edition of ‘What I Watched’…now, as I said, allow me to set a scene for you. The Young Bucks and Cody (can’t legally call him) Rhodes (at the time) decide that they want to put on the biggest independent wrestling show in US history. With the assistance of ROH and New Japan, that vision became ‘All In’, a show I have reviewed in my archives but plan to re-release in the new format down the road. ‘All In’ is set for the Sears Centre in suburban Chicago on September 1st (a Saturday if memory serves).

The reason I share that information here is because much like WrestleMania, All In became the place for independent promotions to run a show. One of the main players in Chicagoland, AAW, decided to run two (Thursday and Friday). I found it kind of interesting that my watch through for 2018 AAW reached these shows right as I brought back ‘What I Watched’ and thus decided to make this double shot my next set of reviews. With all that said, we once again hop into our WayBack Machine takes us to August 30th, 2018 and to Chicago proper as All American Wrestling (AAW) presents ‘Destination Chicago’ 2018

What I Watched #14

AAW Destination Chicago 2018

8/30/2018

Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, IL

Runtime: 2:47:37 (HighSpotsWrestlingNetwork. Not sure how the current branch out that HighSpots is doing is going to affect this, however)

Commentary By: Tyler Volz (PBP) and Sarah Shockey (Color)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: AAW Tag Titles- David Starr/Eddie Kingston def. Davey Vega/Mat Fitchett © w/ Scarlett Bordeaux to win the titles, Starr pins Fitchett @ 6:42
  • Match 2: PACO (Paco Gonzalez) pins Stephen Wolf, rollup @ 5:42
  • Match 3: DJZ (Shiima Xion) wins 3 way, pinning Laredo Kid with a ZDT @ 7:09 in a match that also involved Myron Reed
  • Match 4: Trevor Lee pins Ace Romero, mid-ring CBB counter to powerslam @ 14:28
  • Match 5: Curt Stallion/Jake Something def. OI4K (Dave/Jake Crist), Something pins Jake @ 7:32 
  • Match 6: Brody King/Jimmy Jacobs def. Jessicka Havok/Sami Callihan, King pins Havok @ 12:59
  • Match 7: Maxwell Jacob Friedman pins Colt Cabana, dick kick —> rollup @ 8:59
  • Match 8: AAW Heavyweight TItle- ACH © pins Jeff Cobb, brainbuster #2 (believe ACH calls it the ‘Buster Call’) @ 23:12
  • Match 9: Fenix/Pentagon Jr. def. Bandido/Flamita, Pentagon Jr pins Bandido @ 17:12

 

THE BREAKDOWN

AAW Tag Titles- Besties in the World © vs. WRSTLING

*Sigh…it’s times like this match that make it hard to be a wrestling supporter. Three absolutely amazing guys and performers in this match in Davey Vega, Eddie Kingston and Mat Fitchett. And then you have David Starr…who has (justifiably) been exiled from wrestling for being a Joey Ryan level scumbag.

In an attempt to do the other three competitors justice, we’ll focus on the match. The story of the reinvention of Eddie Kingston in AAW was fantastically done and I feel like the big payoff will eventually be a ‘GFY’ to Starr and the other members of WRSTLING (Wrestling without the Entertainment). They do when the tag titles here as Starr gets the pin Fitchett with ‘Product Placement’, a arm capture German suplex. Vega is distracted during this as Jeff Cobb (another member of WRSTLING) came to ringside and abducted Scarlett Bordeaux causing Vega to lose his focus on the contest at hand. The match is good for what it is but kind of short given that Starr was flying out to Germany that same day to wrestle for wXw. (***)

Stephen Wolf vs PACO

*Five and a half minutes and even that felt like it overstayed its welcome. I’ve seen PACO in way better matches. I seem to recall a main event match from Glory Pro against AJ Gray that really delivered. Stephen Wolf was a competent guy in tag matches but this one did absolutely nothing for me. The post match attack by Wolf seems to set up a direction for his character as a single but I do have questions on his ability to deliver on said direction. (*½)

Lucha Libre 3 way

*I am a big fan of DJ Z (Shiima Xion) having been around in some of his formative years here in Ohio. Myron Reed has improved as a singles wrestler but I do prefer him as a tag guy with Trey Miguel. Laredo Kid is someone I’ve not seen much of; what I have seen, I’ve enjoyed though. I didn’t mind this match but it seemed like it was there to give DJ Z a win to continue his road back to Trevor Lee and the Heritage title. He catches both Myron and Laredo with the ZDT (rolling stalled DDT) and pins Laredo off of it. Everything is more or less clean during the match (not something you can always say about lucha libre as you’ll later see in the main event), so bonus points for that but nothing has any real consequence and if you’ve been following the product for a while, the winner was never in doubt. (**)

Ace Romero vs. Trevor Lee

*Romero had been a breakout star in AAW since he debuted earlier in the year (February, I think). This was supposed to be his shot at Trevor Lee’s Heritage title, but Trevor weaseled out of that by saying he forgot the belt back in North Carolina and that this would be a non-title match. You may know Ace from his run as part of XXXL in Impact Wrestling. Trevor Lee is now better known as Cameron Grimes in NXT.

The match itself is decent but truthfully, a little underwhelming. I’m willing to bet this does get run back at some point and maybe they left something in the tank for that, but as a fan that may have been at this show, I would’ve expected more. The finish is visually impressive with Trevor catching Ace as he comes off the ropes and into the mid-ring flipping powerslam for the three count. It looks gravity defying and one of those moves that always comes off looking cool if not necessarily always realistic. (**½)

Curt Stallion/Jake Something vs. O14K (Dave/Jake Crist)

*Much the same as our opening contest…oof. Curt Stallion is a transphobe (he has apparently apologized for the remarks made but whether or not he was sincere in said apology is up for debate). Dave Crist is a woman beater who is now also exiled from pro wrestling; to the point even his own brother wants nothing to do with him. Jake Something and Jake Crist are stand-up dudes, however.

Match is good for its placement but does play a bit of background, especially as we get to the finish…Brody King and Jimmy Jacobs come out to distract the Crist’s (Dave specifically takes the bait) and Jacobs is then able to push Jake off the top turnbuckle into the waiting arms of Jake Something. The catch itself was a little sloppy but Something was able to recover nicely and powered Jake up to make the Bossman Slam look worthy of the three count that followed. (***)

Brody King/Jimmy Jacobs vs. Jessicka Havok/Sami Callihan

*So, your enjoyment of this match will depend on how you feel about the Attitude Era in WWF. If you like the crowd brawls, the weapons and the chaos, you’ll probably like this. If you did not, you probably won’t. If you are too young to remember the Attitude Era; way to make me feel old. My thoughts: I thought it was okay but not what it could have been (seemingly a theme this evening). I like Jacobs and Callihan. I more or less like Havok (she’s had some bad matches, but everyone has an off day now and then). I’m not sold one way or the other on Brody yet because I’ve not seen enough. 

I will say that I enjoy the way that it plays out with the brawling to sell the emotion of the feud going back to King attacking Havok after she challenged for the AAW Women’s Title against Kimber Lee (oof) in the main event a couple months prior. The finish sees King pinning Havok with a powerbomb into a set of open chairs. Later it was revealed that King would have the Heavyweight title shot the next night, so that makes sense. But I feel pinning Callihan (“The Draw” in AAW) would have made a bigger statement for Brody. (***)

Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Colt Cabana

*For what it was, enjoyable. This was kind of a comedy break match, which one might come to expect from Cabana. The whole storyline where Cabana is MJF’s long lost dad is one of those funny in wrestling kinda things where you can just accept the absurd soap-opera nature of it all. The commentators do an excellent job in putting over the emotion at the end when Cabana and MJF play catch (yes, that’s a real sentence) before MJF dick-kicks Cabana into a rollup for the pinfall. Light, breezy and entertaining. (**½)

AAW Heavyweight Title- ACH © vs. Jeff Cobb

*As good as this match is and it is quite good, I think their match at the LaSalle show earlier in the month of August (Jawbreaker) is a little bit better. That match is a little more concise and tells the same story that this one does minus about five minutes. That’s not to say that this is a bad match because it definitely isn’t. ACH and Cobb have quite the battle and seeing the strength of a dude like ACH as he muscles Cobb up into the ‘Buster Call’ is impressive. I wish ACH was in a better place mentally (and the NXT merchandise people weren’t morons) because that is a dude who deserves to have made a long living at the top of what NXT used to be (and he seemed to be trending in that direction too). Cobb is sadly one of those “what could have been” stories to wrestling fans. He’s had minor exposure in AEW a couple times but never anything sustained. His most prolonged run in the US was under a mask in Lucha Underground (he was Mantanza Cueto). Cobb spends most of his time in NJPW these days and that sadly leaves him a secret to most American wrestling fans. (****)

Fenix/Penta El Zero M vs. Bandido/Flamita

*I made a statement earlier about the cleanliness (or lack thereof) in lucha libre. This match moves a million miles per minute and while the vast majority is executed damn near flawlessly, there is a chicken fight sequence that gets so badly blown even the announcers have to say something to try to cover for it. Everything is not going to go perfectly every time, but a situation like that does cost it match of the night honors to me because I felt ACH vs Cobb was much smoother.

The rest of the match is more or less balls to the wall action. And on a personal note: does Rey Fenix have something against guardrails at wrestling events? The three count, following a beautifully done spiked Fear Factor on Bandido for the win is preceded by a ‘tope con hilo’ from Fenix to Flamita with such velocity that it sends both guys shooting over the guardrail and into the crowd. It reminded me of the way Homicide used to do the ‘tope con hilo’ in ROH. (EDS NOTE: Andrew does indeed inform me that Fenix vs. Guardrail is indeed a long standing rivalry) (****)

THE FINAL REACTION

Top to bottom, it’s a pretty strong card for the time in independent wrestling, which should come as no surprise giving the amount of talent that was in Chicago on this particular weekend. The main event is absolutely bananas (which is a bit of a surprise given that all four would play huge roles at ‘All In’ just two nights later. The Heavyweight title match is an excellent ‘big vs little man’ story and ACH shows off his deceptive strength quite impressively. As for the undercard, the opening couple contests are nothing to write home about (PACO vs. Wolf especially) but there is enough of an investment in the story of the company to keep one intrigued. You’ll want to watch for the second half of the show, but there is a little something for everyone if you’ll pardon the cliche. Call it a 7.5, for what I believe is the highest rating of my return thus far.

Best Match/Moment: ACH vs. Jeff Cobb just barely squeaks this one out over the main event.

Worst Match/Moment: PACO vs. Stephen Wolf. Nothing against either guy, just didn’t click. And the short run time on a stacked card probably didn’t help either.

Overall Show Score: 7.5/10

MVP: Man, this is a tough one. Usually on these shows, it is an easy decision. But here, there are good matches and a couple really good promos. I’ll give it to Fenix for trying to kill himself for our entertainment in the main event.

 

THE SIGNOFF

Normally, I’d have a big writeup here asking for ideas and questioning myself about my wrestling life choices. This time, there is no such reason to do so. This is part one of a double shot AAW weekend and it just makes sense to cover the next show as well. ‘What I Watched’ #15 will cover AAW’s “Defining Moment” 2018. Hope to see you there, everyone. Thanks for reading.


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Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999

Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!

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Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?

ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!

What I Watched #16

ECW Guilty as Charged 1999

1/10/1999

Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL

Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)

Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)

 

THE RESULTS

  • Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
  • Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
  • Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
  • Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
  • Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
  • Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
  • Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think  that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)

Super Crazy vs. Tajiri

Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)

John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent

So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)

Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley

Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…

The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)

TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm

Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.

The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)

Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer

The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of. 

As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)

Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz

So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent. 

The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)

 

THE FINAL REACTION

  • Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
  • Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
  • Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
  • MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.

 

THE SIGNOFF

It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.

So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.


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What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018

Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!

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ALL IN

Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.

I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.

What I Watched #10-B

ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018

9/1/2018

Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL

Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)

Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)

THE RESULTS

  • Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
  • Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
  • Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
  • Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
  • Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
  • Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
  • Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
  • Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
  • Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
  • Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
  • Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)

*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)

Over the Budget Battle Royal

*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)

Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross

*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)

Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)

*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)

Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard

*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)

NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)

*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)

‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela

*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)

ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon

*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)

Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.

*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)

Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll

*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)

Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio

*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)

THE FINAL REACTION

There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.

Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.

Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.

Overall Show Score: 8.5/10

MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.

THE SIGNOFF

And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.


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