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the shockmaster


Dan Talks Rasslin'

Because It's Still Real to Me, Dammit

Live: WWE NXT Live - Washington Avenue Armory, Albany NY 5/16/15
the shockmaster

As I noted in the Rasslin' Roundup: The Cursed Weekend post, I haven't been to a WWE live show since 2002. So long ago, in fact, that the company was still the WWF, and the arena it was held in was still the Pepsi Arena (it's now the Times Union Center). It was the first Raw after the first brand extension draft, the one where Steve Austin had to choose whether to go to Ric Flair's Raw brand or Vince McMahon's Smackdown brand (also, it was the first Raw episode that used the set with that weird trapezoidal TitanTron). After that Raw, I didn't go to a live show again at all until a TNA house show at the same arena in late 2011, and didn't get super-hardcore about going to live events until the first House of Hardcore event in October of 2012. By that tme my interest in the WWE product had pretty well burned out completely. Raw and Smackdown tapings have come to the Times Union Center several times since then, but there's been little interest on my part with other wrestling products I get far more enjoyment out of running live events in the area.

But NXT's not exactly the same thing. Though it is in fact WWE's farm league, it's booked almost like an independent promotion and many of their talents came recently from the indy scene. I'm not going into it completely cold, either - while I haven't been religiously following the NXT product, I do have at least a general sense of what's going on there and know many of the talents involved - the reigning champ I've even met in person - or at least have some sense of who they are. So with one of the small handful of NXT live shows outside of Florida on this mini-tour being held in Albany, why not give it a chance?

So, me and Jon went. And... what the hell did I just watch?

Don't get me wrong, I mean that in the best possible way. THIS was a WWE show? Really? In what universe (pun not totally intended)? This is like what WWE would be like in Bizarro World: talent pushed on merit, entertaining matches being given plenty of time to develop (including the women's matches), lots of crowd interactivity. If this is really, truly what the future of WWE looks like, as they often claim, I welcome it with open arms, hopefully sooner than later.

Before getting into the show's details, though, just a brief bit about the venue. I believe in one of my HOH show reports I described Poughkeepsie's Mid-Hudson Civic Center as "an older venue" as it dates from the early '70s, but the venue for this event, Albany's Washington Avenue Armory wins in that department. It was built in 1890 as an armory for the 10th Battalion of the New York National Guard, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Although it's been used for decades as a sports/concert/convention venue, it still has a lot of the character of its past life on the exterior - late-Victorian brick facade, barred windows, etc. Most interesting for our purposes here, back in the '60s and '70s the then-WWWF used to run the venue regularly for sold-out Friday night cards. Of course, it's way too small a venue for the modern mainstream WWE product, and from what I've been able to find they haven't been back there since 1980. So, it's cool that the idea of running smaller venues with NXT gave them a reason to come back to the building.

Just to get the downside out of the way (and these really are the only negatives): the AC in the arena wasn't working too well and it got pretty warm inside (though not nearly as unbearable as some have been making it out, and I'm someone who can't stand heat), and the sound system wasn't very good and eventually died completely at an inopportune time (I don't know if the system was the arena's or WWE's, though I'd guess the former). But I've seen wrestling in far, far worse conditions (*cough*Terminal 5*cough*).

As far as the setup, the arena had "bleachers" on three sides with the wrestlers' entrance on the fourth. Although listed as bleachers on tickets, they were actually rather plush, almost movie theater (or at least pre-2000s movie theater) quality seats, and were about the most comfortable things I've sat on at a wrestling show. We were three rows back in the section across from the entrance, and had a great view. There were also five or six rows of floor seats set up which looked like regular folding chairs. One thing I noticed about the ring was that it actually looked a little small; WWE normally uses an oversize 20'x20' ring, and as far as I know they use that for NXT TV as well, but unless it was just angle or perception, this one looked like a more standard 18'x18'. The lighting was indy style with movable floods set up at all four corners of the ring, although they did have color-changing LED panels attached to add effects to wrestlers' entrances (a few more of those panels were set up over the entryway). There were a couple of NXT banners on either side of the entrance and a WWE logo behind the entrance (though it was partially obscured by the entrance frame). They had a merch stand set up over on one side of the arena behind the bleachers, which interestingly was only selling NXT stuff, nothing from the WWE main roster. Overall, the presentation had much more of an independent feel than the slick production you'd expect of WWE, and to me that's a good thing.

The crowd was pretty diverse as well. There were a handful of "Cena kids" and some fans with main-roster WWE shirts, but also a good number of people with NXT-specific shirts (lots of Kevin Owens fans), some people with vintage or vintage-inspired shirts (Macho Man, ECW, NWO, BWO, etc.), some ROH or independent shirts, ironic Barber Shop Window-type shirts, etc. I was wearing one of my House of Hardcore shirts - the original "No Politics, No BS, Just Wrestling" one I bought from Dreamer's mom at the first HOH show - and saw at least one other HOH shirt in the crowd. We also saw some of the fans and even a few wrestlers/staffers from In Your Face Wrestling in attendance.

So, on to the show. It began at 7:30 with Greg Hamilton serving as MC and JoJo as ring announcer. After the playing of the National Anthem they introduced NXT General Manager William Regal, who got a great ovation and show of respect from the crowd. He cut a short promo promising a great night of wrestling.

It was now time for the opening match, and poor JoJo's mic immediately stopped working as she started the intros (this would happen several more times during the night). This would be a tag match with the NXT Tag Titles on the line. The challengers entered first - Enzo Amore and Colin "Big Cass" Cassady, accompanied by Carmella. Amore did his "SAWFT" promo, which many in the crowd knew by heart and did right along with him. The champs, Blake and Murphy, got the second entrance. Murphy was wearing pigtails, which elicited a "you look stupid" chant during his entrance. They had a very good tag match with Amore and Cass working well with the big man/small man tag dynamic, while Blake and Murphy's offense revolved around isolating Amore from his much bigger partner. Eventually Amore got the hot tag for Cass to clean house. They went back and forth some more until one of the heels pinned Amore with a roll-up, possibly while holding the tights. Afterward the two teams had a staredown, and Carmella came in and low-blowed the heels from behind; Amore and Cass then cleaned house and sent the heels packing. Apparently this gets a rematch on the upcoming Takeover special.

Match #2 saw Solomon Crowe - the former Sami Callihan - against Bull Dempsey. They played this one as small man vs. big man. Opening sequences saw Crowe trying two running shoulderblocks on Dempsey and getting knocked over himself both times; the crowd chanted "one more time" so he did and got wiped out again. He would also try to slam Dempsey but was unable to get him up. Jon commented that Crowe "seemed a lot stupider than last time we saw him;" I countered that the last time we saw him he got piledriven off the second rope by Rhino, so that'll do that to you. Dempsey controlled much of the match, but eventually Crowe succeeded in slamming him and soon after applied the Stretch Muffler for a somewhat abrupt submission win.

Match #3 was another singles match with Jason Jordan taking on Tye Dillinger (the latter being the former Shawn/Gavin Spears). Dillinger was announced as "the Perfect 10" and came out carrying a large "10" sign. As the match was about to begin, the ref made him get rid of the sign, but he pulled a smaller "10" sign out of his shirt and held it up. The ref turned around and made him get rid of that one too, but he pulled a third, even smaller sign out of his boot and held it up. Jordan grabbed that sign away from him and wouldn't give it back, which ultimately led to them coming to blows. They played it as serious heel vs. slightly goofy babyface, and it worked. Dillinger got the win with an over-the-knee neckbreaker and celebrated by holding up one of his "10" signs again.

JoJo announced the next match as being for the NXT Women's Championship, which got a pop from the crowd. The challenger, Charlotte, got the first entrance, and got a great reaction and lots of "WOOOO"s from the crowd. Champion Sasha Banks then entered, and got a mixed (but loud) reaction. Some fans chanted "Sasha's ratchet" (yeah, I admit, I had to look up the slang on Urban Dictionary - that's what happens when you're over 30), while others countered with "no she's not." Noticeable size difference with Charlotte being the much taller of the two. These two proceeded to have one hell of a match, probably the best women's match I've seen this year. Lots of back-and-forth action with a lot of technical wrestling and athletic flips and counters. Charlotte at one point got smashed in the corner and did the "Flair Flop" out of it for a big pop. Charlotte also at one point used her father's figure-four leglock, which Banks reversed and Charlotte reversed the reversal of. Banks also put Charlotte in her Bank Statement crossface submission for a long time before Charlotte got to the ropes. Banks hit a nasty-looking Regal Cutter-backbreaker type move and then put her in a straightjacket surfboard, pulling Charlotte's arms back so far it looked like they were legitimately dislocated (Charlotte has to be double-jointed). The crowd was really hot for this match and deservedly so; lots of chants of "this is awesome" and "better than Divas" broke out throughout. After more back-and-forth, Banks got Charlotte in the Bank Statement in the middle of the ring and cranked *way* back on it, and Charlotte finally tapped. Both women got a standing ovation after the match.

After the intermission, Baron Corbin entered the ring. He's going to face Rhino at Takeover and has wanted to face another ECW alumni to get ready for it. Some familiar music - the WWE knockoff of "Man in the Box" - hit, and Tommy Dreamer made his way out to a great ovation. Slightly less surprising as he'd appeared on the Philly show the night before, but still cool to see him. Knew wearing that HOH shirt was a good idea. The match went back and forth for awhile, with Dreamer taking it out of the ring a few times and Corbin slowing it down with chinlocks. Dreamer got a near-fall off his DDT, then went for the Spicolli Driver, but Corbin escaped. Finally Corbin hit his End of Days (sort of a lift into a Flatliner) for the win. Dreamer got a "thank you Tommy" chant afterward.

Women's tag team action was next. All four competitors got their own entrances. First out was Becky Lynch (formerly Rebecca Knox of SHIMMER). Despite being on the heel team, the Irish lass got a good amount of respect from the crowd. Her partner was rookie and former bodybuilder Dana Brooke. Brooke did some flexing poses before the faces came out, with Lynch trying to match them. Out first for the babyfaces was Alexa Bliss, whose character is basically a Disney princess. Her partner was Bayley, who the crowd was *really* into - chanting for her even before her music hit. Bayley's entrance didn't included her customary Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Men - I guess their transport costs were just too much - but a few fans near the entrance ramp filled in for them. It was pretty obvious that Brooke was the weakest wrestler of the bunch, a fact not lost on the crowd (she was met by chants of "you can't wrestle" and calls for her to tag Becky back in), but she has been wrestling less than a year. The match was booked to keep her weaknesses hidden as much as possible, with Lynch taking the lead for the heel team and using frequent tags and double-team tactics to isolate Bliss, the smaller of the faces. Bliss was able to come back with some pretty impressive high-flying offense and got the tag in to Bayley, who eventually hit the Hugplex on Brooke for the pin. Not as strong as the Banks-Charlotte match, but still good overall. If they're allowed to do matches of this length and quality, the future of the Divas division is in good hands.

Main event time. Tyler Breeze got the first entrance, and reclined in the corner as the sound system finally died out. Breeze was left to play to the crowd for awhile while they tried to get it fixed. After several minutes, Finn Balor came out without music, still doing all his poses in time to where the music would be if it were playing. Just as he got in the ring and was about to complete his entrance routine, the system started working again and his music kicked on for like ten seconds. Remember that scene in Spinal Tap where Derek Smalls was stuck in that pod thing as the band was playing, and they finally got it open and he came out just when the song was over and they were supposed to go back into the pods? It kind of reminded me of that. The final participant made his way out to a great ovation - NXT Champion Kevin Owens. I have to admit, I do miss his ROH theme. This was announced as being a three-way match with the title on the line. As the match began, Owens left the ring and sat down at ringside (eliciting a "Sit, Owens, Sit" chant) and told the other two to go ahead and fight while he watched and "golf-clapped" some of their moves. After watching from the outside for awhile, Owens finally came in and formed an alliance with Breeze. After hitting some tandem offense on Balor, they finally started fighting each other. Owens took control and hit moves on both opponents, jogging back and forth between them. He later mockingly did Cena's Five Knuckle Shuffle on Balor, eliciting a "better than Cena" chant. It broke down and left the ring several times; eventually Balor hit a no-hands flip dive to the outside for a "holy shit" chant. They all got in lots of offense, and eventually Breeze charged in on Owens only to be met by the pop-up powerbomb for the pin.

After the match Balor hit the Coup de Grace on Owens and cut a promo, saying that he hopes Owens retains at Takedown so that he can face him after winning the #1 contender's match. Greg Hamilton came out one more time to thank us for being a great crowd and said that this was the first time NXT came to Albany, but probably wouldn't be the last. I hope not.

The line was gone from the merch stand after the show ended, so I stopped off and got the official 2015 NXT program for $15, which was a pretty nice takeaway. I especially liked the page for the Vaudevillains, which shows them on turn-of-the-century stereoview cards (I'm probably the one person looking at that program that not only knows what a stereoview is, but actually owns a circa-1900 stereoscope and many real 19th-early 20th c. cards for it). I do kind of wish that team was on the show as that's the kind of out-there gimmick I often go for.

Overall, regardless of what promotion it was for, this was a fantastic wrestling show. Especially considering the $15 ticket price. Major props to the talent, who basically wrestled a house show as if it were a pay-per-view. As much as I still have little-to-no interest in the main WWE product, I think I may have to follow NXT a little more closely.


Quick Results:
-Blake & Murphy d. Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore to retain the WWE NXT Tag Team Championship
-Solomon Crowe d. Bull Dempsey
-Tye Dillinger d. Jason Jordan
-Sasha Banks d. Charlotte to retain the WWE NXT Women's Championship
-Baron Corbin d. Tommy Dreamer
-Alexa Bliss & Bayley d. Becky Lynch & Dana Brooke
-Kevin Owens d. Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor in a three-way match to retain the WWE NXT Championship

In Memoriam: Verne Gagne
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Laverne Clarence "Verne" Gagne died April 27th, 2015 at age 89.

A native of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, Gagne was a star multi-sport athlete in high school, participating in football, baseball and wrestling. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he continued to excel in wrestling in college, winning two NCAA championships, four Big Ten championships and an AAU championship in the 1940s, and was an alternate for the U.S. freestyle wrestling team for the 1948 London Olympics. Gagne also continued pursuing football in college and afterward played briefly for the Green Bay Packers, but was soon convinced by friends that he would earn more money as a pro wrestler and decided to try it out.

Under the influence of promoter Tony Stecher, Gagne entered pro wrestling in 1948 in Minneapolis, defeating Abe "King Kong" Kashey. In November of 1950 he captured his first championship, the vacant NWA Junior Heavyweight Title, in a tournament, and went on to win the Chicago version of the NWA United States Championship in 1953. He had a second reign with the US Title in 1956 after defeating Dick the Bruiser. In the mid-1950s the NWA World Heavyweight Title was split when Edouard Carpentier's title win over Lou Thesz was overturned by the National Wrestling Alliance but some territories continued to recognize Carpentier as champion; Gagne would defeat Carpentier for his title in Omaha, Nebraska in August 1958.

Gagne's physique and technical prowess made him a major star in the early days of televised wrestling, stemming from his exposure from the DuMont Network's Chicago affiliate. He was rumored to be one of the highest-paid wrestlers of the time, reportedly earning over six figures in the '50s. By 1960 he had earned enough money to begin work on building his own wrestling promotion.

In 1959 Gagne and Minneapolis promoter Wally Karbo bought Dennis Stecher's majority stake in the Minneapolis Boxing and Wrestling Club, becoming co-owners. They lobbied the NWA to grant Gagne a shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Title, held by Pat O'Connor, but were unsuccessful. They combined the Minneapolis Boxing and Wrestling Club and some former NWA territories into the American Wrestling Association, recognized NWA Champion O'Connor as AWA World Heavyweight Champion, and gave him 90 days to defend the new belt against Gagne, a challenge that went ignored by the NWA. O'Connor - who had not yet actually wrestled for the AWA - was then stripped of the belt and it was awarded to Gagne on August 16th, 1960.

Gagne ran the AWA with a traditionalist mindset, with the primary focus being on technical skill rather than showmanship. The AWA would soon become one of the largest single territories in the U.S. and the largest not affiliated with the AWA, promoting shows not only in the midwest, but also Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake city, Milwaukee, Omaha, San Francisco and Winnipeg, and had working relationships with promotions in Memphis, Houston and San Antonio. Gagne would himself be the AWA's top babyface for the next two decades, holding the AWA World Title ten times. He would trade the belt with many notables, such as Gene Kiniski, Mad Dog Vachon, Dick the Bruiser, the Crusher and Fritz Von Erich, and defended the belt in technical classics against the likes of Nick Bockwinkel and Billy Robinson. His tenth and final reign came when he defeated Bockwinkel for the title in 1980 and again in a rematch in 1981, then retired from the ring as champion.

Although Gagne would make occasional returns to the ring through the mid-'80s, after his official retirement he mainly settled into his roles as promoter and trainer. Wally Karbo sold him his interest in AWA upon his retirement in 1985. As a trainer, Gagne is credited with training or helping to train around 93 wrestlers, among them luminaries such as Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Larry and Curt Hennig, the Iron Sheik, Blackjack Mulligan, Baron von Raschke, Bob Backlund and Ole Anderson.

As the '80s went on, Gagne's old-school, technical wrestling-based promotional mentality would become problematic. In 1982, rising AWA star Hulk Hogan appeared in the film Rocky III, which caused his popularity as a babyface to soar. Though Gagne recognized Hogan's gift for showmanship, he resisted putting the title on him due to his powerhouse style, preferring to keep it on technical wrestler Nick Bockwinkel. He would tease Hogan winning the belt from Bockwinkel, but continued resisting pulling the trigger.

Contract negotiations between Hogan and the AWA eventually broke down, just as Vince McMahon was building his World Wrestling Federation as a national promotion. In late 1983 Hogan signed with the WWF and, within a month, was the new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Numerous other AWA talents, including wrestlers Jesse Ventura, Wendi Richter, Ken Patera and Adrian Adonis, manager Bobby Heenan and announcer Gene Okerlund would also defect to the WWF in the wake of Hogan's departure.

The AWA carried on in 1984 on the strength of the Road Warriors and a strong angle involving Greg Gagne and former longtime heel Jerry Blackwell uniting against heel manager Sheik Adnan El-Kaissey, with longtime stars like Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens, the Crusher, Larry Hennig and Mad Dog Vachon also filling out the roster. AWA forged an alliance, known as Pro Wrestling USA, with several NWA promotions (including Jim Crockett Promotions and World Class Championship Wrestling) in an attempt to compete with the rapidly-growing WWF, and were bolstered by the signings of popular stars Bob Backlund and Sgt. Slaughter and a broadcast deal with ESPN. New young stars like Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty and Leon White (Big Van Vader) began to appear on the roster. However, Pro Wrestling USA quickly fell apart and the AWA began its decline. In 1991 the AWA's doors closed and Gagne went into bankruptcy.

The legacies of the AWA and of Gagne himself are still well-remembered. In the years since his company's closure, Gagne has been honored with inductions into the World Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame (1993), Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (1996), Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2004) and World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame (2006), and was given the Cauliflower Alley Club's Lou Thesz Award in 2006. The same year, WWE released a DVD documentary on Gagne and his company entitled The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA.

In his late years Gagne suffered from Alzheimer's disease (or possibly chronic traumatic encephalopathy). He is survived in wrestling by son Greg Gagne, son-in-law Larry Zbyszko and grandson Tim Zbyszko.

(Sources: Cagematch profile; Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame induction article; ProWrestling.net obituary; "Verne Gagne's Great Crusade" in Boxing Illustrated, 4/60 (transcribed on Wrestling-Titles.com); Wiki)

Rasslin' Roundup: The Cursed Weekend
the shockmaster

So, I haven't updated this in awhile. Paper- and final exam grading will do that. Now that summer break is here I have some things I want to catch up on - including the Verne Gagne "In Memoriam" post - but first, I just thought I'd make note of a series of unfortunate events last month.

Family Wrestling Entertainment was scheduled for a mini-tour of upstate NY, including a double-shot on the 17th and 18th in Bridgewater. Me and Jonny V were considering a road trip to both shows at one point, but ultimately, it seemed wiser to just make the trip for the Saturday show. And man, it looked like it was going to be awesome. Young Bucks, Dreamer, World's Cutest Tag Team, Matt Sydal. And Katarina Leigh was scheduled to appear; maybe I could get a few more hugs! Unfortunately, the upstate promoter FWE was working with ended up flaking out, leading to the cancellation of the entire upstate tour. I did get a refund on the tickets, but I was really looking forward to that one. It seems to have been a huge financial blow to FWE too, as they are now talking like their only other scheduled show, in Brooklyn in October, may be their last (I hope it isn't).

Well, no worries. Northeast Wrestling is running a show on the Friday of that weekend at the high school in Newburgh. It's a lot closer, and there's some great talent signed like Alberto El Patron, Matt Taven, John Hennigan, Hanson, Dalton Castle, and a special appearance from Harlem Heat. This sounds cool, so if we can't do the one, why not do the other?

Five or so days out from the NEW show: canceled.

In the words of Ron Simmons: DAMN!

Not sure what happened there; some snafu with the high school perhaps. NEW did offer to swap the tickets for some for their August 1st show at Dutchess Stadium, so I took them up on that (though I'm still waiting to get those tickets). Nothing to get too mad about, just a run of bad luck with two shows from two different companies canceled under different circumstances. But nothing to get too worked up about; there'll be other wrestling soon.

Speaking of which: in two days, on Saturday, there's going to be a wrestling trip to Albany, as WWE is bringing an NXT live event to the Washington Avenue Armory. Yep, I'm going to a WWE show - which, for the record, will be the first WWE live event I've been to since it was still the WWF. But they have some fantastic talent coming up in their developmental system, including guys I've seen before when they were still on the indy scene like Kevin Steen and Sami Callihan (yeah, I know those aren't their names anymore), so it should be a good time. Then the next Saturday In Your Face Wrestling returns with a Memorial Day Weekend event so we'll probably hit that up for some local rasslin' action too. Should be a fun couple of Saturdays, so watch for the live reports coming up (and some other stuff I want to catch up).

Match of the Moment: Kriss Sprules vs. Cage Tyler
the shockmaster

Kriss Sprules vs. Cage Tyler
Original Pro Wrestling Organisation
Wesham Community Centre, Wesham, Lancashire
March 4th, 2005

"You've heard of the Thrilla in Manila? This is the Biggun in Wigan!" Get ready to watch a battle for the ages, one to make even Savage-Steamboat, Bret-Shawn and Austin-Rock pale in comparison. If you think you've seen the best wrestling match of all time, think again and watch this mat classic!

Okay, okay. This is my April Fool's Day post. This is an awful match by any account - legitimately one of the worst I've ever seen. What makes it worth watching is the commentary track. In 2005 Tom Campbell, who is now a UK radio personality, recorded his own commentary for the match just as a goof and it inadvertently became a viral hit, making the rounds on wrestling message boards and newsgroups (Campbell talked about it a bit on his blog: here). He completely overhypes and oversells the crappy match as this incredible wrestling dream match, and provides lots of great one-liners along the way. It works because Russell plays it completely straight the entire time.

A few of the lines that get me every time:
"Cage Tyler looking like a poor man's Jeff Hardy, but don't be fooled. He IS a poor man's Jeff Hardy."
"Kriss Sprules, talking of hair, lost his traditional afro to make himself more aerodynamic for this match!"
"A staredown, either that or they're friends again... no, no, they're not friends at all! You can tell by those punches to the face, they are not friends at all!"

Think of this as a precursor to the stuff Colt Cabana and Marty DeRosa do with their commentary to $5 Wrestling or the MST3K-style commentary to bad wrestling they do at conventions. On his part, Campbell really should be hired as a commentator for an actual wrestling fed. He could sell anything as the best thing ever.

Watch the match:

In Memoriam: Perro Aguayo Jr.
the shockmaster

Pedro Aguayo Ramirez, best known as Perro Aguayo Jr. (El Hijo del Perro Aguayo), died March 21st, 2015 at age 35.

Born in Mexico City, Ramirez came from a wrestling family; he was the son of the legendary Perro Aguayo, nephew of Ídolo, and cousin of Ídolo I, Ídolo II and Pepe Aguayo. He debuted in Asistencia Asesoría y Administración at age 15 in 1995 and teamed with his father, with whom he won the Mexican National Tag Team Championship twice. His major-card debut was at TripleManía III-B in June of 1995 in a loss to Juventud Guerrera. In 1999 he formed the faction Los Junior Atómicos with Blue Demon Jr., La Parka Jr. and Máscara Sagrada Jr., with whom he won the Mexican National Atómicos Championship. He later regularly teamed with Héctor Garza, with whom he won the Mexican National Tag Team Championship.

In 2003 Aguayo jumped from AAA to rival promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. Initial successes there included winning a tournament for a shot at the Michinoku Pro Wrestling Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Championship held by Atlantis; though his title shot was unsuccessful. He then feuded with Universo 2000 for ending his father's career. Aguayo turned heel when Héctor Garza jumped to CMLL; he, Garza and El Terrible would later become known as La Furia del Norte. In 2004 Aguayo won the Leyenda de Plata, a tournament held in honor of the legendary El Santo, besting semifinalist Atlantis and the tournament's previous winner, Felino, for victory. When El Hijo del Santo presented him with the trophy, Aguayo smashed it, saying that Santo was not the legend his father Perro Aguayo Sr. was, and reignited the feud between the families begun in the 1970s.

In late 2004 Aguayo teamed with his father to win a double hair vs. hair match against Cien Caras and Máscara Año 2000. Subsequently, Perro Jr. brought together his La Furia del Norte stable, La Familia de Tijuana and other rudos to form Los Perros del Mal. In October of 2008 Aguayo and fellow Perros del Mal members Damián 666 and Mr. Águila left CMLL to form their own promotion, Perros del Mal Producciones.

At TripleManía XVIII in 2010, Perros del Mal began an invasion angle with AAA. Aguayo would spend the next several years dividing his time between AAA and the Perros del Mal promotion. In April of 2011 he was hospitalized due to a benign stomach tumor. After returning, Aguayo team with Perros del Mal would feud with Los Psycho Circus, feud with Jack Evans, challenge El Mesías for the AAA Mega Championship at TripleManía XX, and defeat Cibenético in a hair vs. hair match at TripleManía XXI in 2013. Most recently he was feuding with Myzteziz (formerly Mistico and the original Sin Cara).

On March 20th, 2015, Perro Aguayo Jr. took part in a show for the Crash promotion in Tijuana. He teamed with TNA star Manik against Rey Mysterio Jr. and XTreme Tiger (Tigre Uno). After a dropkick from Mysterio, Aguayo fell into the ring ropes, which apparently caused his neck to break. Autopsy results revealed that he had broken three vertebrae and likely suffered cardiac arrest due to a cervical stroke, and likely died nearly instantly. He was pronounced dead around 1:00 AM on March 21st.

(Sources: Cagematch profile; Wrestling Observer obituary; Wiki)

Live: IYFW Memories, Moments & Mayhem 2015 - Duanesburg Area Community Center, Delanson NY 3/14/15
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In Your Face Wrestling held their third-annual Memories, Moments & Mayhem convention and event two weeks ago, and so for the third consecutive year Dan Talks Rasslin' and Jon of Live From My Mother's Basement were in attendance. This year it was held in Delanson rather than Ballston Spa. Although it's in a much more isolated location (basically in the middle of nowhere), the Duanesburg Community Center is a much nicer facility than the one in Ballston Spa. An immediate impression is that the convention was much busier than last year's; there was a steady stream of people coming in throughout the day and always a lot of people around at any given time.

The lineup of special guests went through a few changes leading up the event. The first person announced was X-Pac, but he fairly quickly dropped out of the event due to scheduling conflicts. Monstrous BC (Brodus Clay/Tyrus) and Drew Galloway were also announced, but Galloway was pulled after signing with TNA and Tyrus was pulled soon after as well. Still, the final lineup was great: Jeff Jarrett, Haku, Sabu, Buff Bagwell, Stevie Richards, The Godfather, Brian Myers (Curt Hawkins) and Melissa Coates were all on hand.

Upon going into the convention we hung out a bit with Lenn Oddity and friends, then went to Stevie Richards' table. We talked with him for awhile about his career, some of his friends like Meanie and Lisa Marie Varon, seeing him at House of Hardcore III in the mixed tag with Victoria against Carlito and Rosita (interesting that he wasn't happy with the match as he felt he was out of shape at the time and didn't feel well - I never would've known, and enjoyed it a lot), and of course a lot about DDP Yoga, which he's now a certified instructor of (I've been doing it for about six months now myself).

After that we got autographs from Sabu and Genie Melissa Coates, who were brought together by one of the vendors. Sabu was quiet, which isn't surprising since I don't recall ever seeing him talk on TV anyway. Cool to be able to meet him in person after seeing him in so many wars. The picture I got is of him and Genie together and they both signed it.

Next up was the Godfather. We actually met him once before at House of Hardcore IV's meet-and-greet. He told us he was wrestling Vigo and wanted to know if we had any strategy suggestions, and ultimately decided he was just going to offer Vigo the girls. Jon got a picture of him as Papa Shango, which he signed under that name.

That's a cool thing I've noticed - some wrestlers who have had multiple names or gimmicks will sign pictures under the name of the persona the picture is of, and sometimes will even ask what name you want them to use. The picture of Godfather I got at the HOH show is of him with the Nation, and he signed it as Kama Mustafa. Each of my three Katarina Leigh autographs is signed under a different name depending on which she was using in the picture (one is Katie Lea, one is Winter, and one is 'The Infamous' Katarina Leigh). And when we met Lisa Marie Varon, I picked a picture of her as Victoria and she asked if I wanted her to sign under that name (I said she could use any name she wanted).

We then went to Haku, who is a guy I never expected to have a chance to meet. He was really cool too, he talked to us for awhile about different parts of his career, his son joining TNA and how we all hoped TNA or another company could rise to being a legitimate alternative, how Barbarian and Bobby Heenan are doing, etc. Talking to him like this, if you weren't familiar with him already you'd never guess he was legendary as one of the toughest men of all time. Of the pictures he had to offer, me and Jon both picked the same one, which was of him as Meng in WCW, with the big pants and hair. He liked that we remembered all the different parts of his career and signed our pictures as "King Haku/Meng."

After taking a break to step outside, we came back in and went to Jeff Jarrett's table. He had come in a bit later as his flight was delayed. I said up front that I wouldn't press him for insider info on what's happening with Global Force, but thanked him for bringing the NJPW show to PPV. He did say that he was working on getting more international stuff to American PPV. We talked about some other stuff and I told him the story of the WWF house show in Albany in 1998 we saw him at - all night I was taking what I thought would be awesome action shots on a disposable camera; when I finally got them developed the only thing you could see was Jarrett's leg (he was wearing that shiny silver outfit with the straps at the time); he seemed to get a kick out of that. Jon got a Bullet Club shirt from his table (I have to get one of those at some point) and I got his autograph on one of his new Global Force 8x10s.

Next we went to the merch stand that was set up in the ring. They had a lot of the same stuff as last year - old action figures, juice glasses with the Undertaker cross symbol, DVDs, stuff like that. I grabbed the WWE "Rivals" DVD set, which came with a classic-logo t-shirt. Another guy in the ring had a box of old magazines for a dollar each so I grabbed a bunch of those - the Pro Wrestling Illustrated 10th Anniversary and 1997 Wrestling Annual issues, a Wrestling All-Stars issue with a preview of WrestleMania X, a RAW Magazine from 2004 with Stacy Keibler on the cover, and a couple of others.

Speaking of the ring, IYFW sprang for a new one. Same size - 16x16, I believe, so noticeably smaller than the standard rings you see on TV (most companies past and present like WCW, ECW, ROH, Lucha Underground, and, when they had a square ring, TNA use an 18x18; WWE's is 20x20). But the battered ringposts with "IYFWrestling.com" handwritten on them in marker are gone, as are the ropes held together with electrical tape. The mat on the new ring is blue instead of green and thus looks out of place (IYFW's color scheme is green and silver). Definitely an improved look overall. However, they still had the same rickety ring steps, which were still broken from when Ricky Williams hit them with his title belt at the last show and actually broke part of the steps off.

Lastly I picked up Buff Bagwell's autograph. He seems like a guy who's always in character (or maybe it's not a character at all, and what he's really like). The picture of him I got is a WCW pic and we talked a bit about how great Nitro was and how we wished it was still around. He took a photo for free with everybody who bought an autograph.

After that we waited around for the show to start. In the past they would close the gym area for an hour while they set up, but this time they kept it open and let everybody stay if they wanted. I guess just because the Duanesburg building has more room than the Ballston Spa one did. We got a spot at the top of the bleachers and looked through the magazines while we waited for the show.

The show began with IYFW Champ "The Pillar" Roman Dominguez in the ring. He did a short promo about how there would be a title match tonight only if he decided he wanted one. That started the night's overarching story, with IYFW officials trying to negotiate the title match.

The opening match had "Mr. Canada" Ricky Williams and masked newcomer The Canadian Assassin (who was pretty clearly Chip Stetson), accompanied by Blood Money leader "Millenium Millionaire" Scott Scarsdale, taking on The Wild Kingdom - Good Lord Willing and "Wildcard" Lance Madewell. Willing and Madewell were in the opening match at the last show against the Stooges; this time they had a bit more of a serious opposition. As the match went on Willing got isolated and double-teamed by the heels as Madewell tried to get in but was stopped by the ref, distracting him so the heels could double-team Willing more. Eventually Willing got the hot tag and cleaned house. Madewell then threw the Assassin into the corner, where Willing hit him with a chocolate Easter bunny; Madewell then got the pin. Fun match and, of course, Good Lord Willing is awesome.

After the good guys left, Williams and Scarsdale berated the Assassin for losing and then fired him. The Assassin tried to leave with the Canadian flag on a hockey stick (Williams' signature object), but Williams got it back. Williams then demanded another opponent. Some familiar music hit: "Buff... DADDY!" Buff Bagwell, still in great shape, danced to the ring to answer the challenge. He and Williams had a relatively short back-and-forth battle, with Buff using lots of clotheslines to put Williams down and send him out of the ring. Buff went up for the Blockbuster, but with the ref's back turned, Scarsdale hit him with the flag hockey stick, and Williams got a quick pin on him. After the match Williams and Scarsdale put the boots to Buff, but Buff fought back and nailed them with a double clothesline, and sent them packing. He then broke the flag hockey stick over his knee and then made like he was going to pee on it, but fortunately thought better of it before Buff's stuff made an appearance.

Match number three saw two rookies, Zack Clayton and William Slade, go one on one. I think I mentioned in the last IYFW show report that Clayton looks a little like a young Randy Orton, and has one of the better physiques of the IYFW guys. Slade shaved off the Matt Cross-like beard he had been sporting at the last show. For a couple of rookies, these two actually had a hell of a match, with lots of hard-hitting action. Clayton looked especially impressive with some crisp slams, and Slade sold really well. Slade got his nose busted early in the match and was noticeably bleeding for the rest of it. In the end Clayton hit a neckbreaker out of a Gory Special for a two count, then hit a regular swinging neckbreaker for three. I would've switched the order of those last two moves, but still, these two did great.

Drake Evans came to the ring and said that he had signed a title match contract, and demanded Dominguez come out to sign and face him. Alexzandra, an IYFW board member, came out and said Evans was wrestling Jeff Jarrett instead. At least that's what I gathered - most of the segment was actually spent trying to get the microphones to work. Oh well.

Next was a handicap match as new tag team the Space Cowboys, the Rickety Rocket and Garrett Holiday, took on heavyweight Prince Ashul-Naul. The lightweight duo tried to stick and move against the big man, but it wasn't enough - the Prince hit two double chokeslams on them for the win.

Prince continued attacking his opponents after the match, until finally Haku hit the ring. The ref quickly called for the bell as Haku hit some kicks on Prince and then put him in the Tongan Death Grip for the pin. For whatever reason, Holiday and the Rocket decided to try their luck against Haku, and he quickly laid them out as well. Then some IYFW students came in the ring and Haku disposed of them with headbutts and kicks. Then a couple of the security guys came in and they got taken out. Having beaten up basically everybody, Haku finally left to - from us - a standing ovation. Honestly, the rest of the show could've just been guys coming into the ring and Haku beating them up and I would've been happy. Remember that episode of WCW Saturday Night that ended with Meng just walking around backstage putting people in the Death Grip?

The next match was Vigo of Northern Fury against The Godfather. Neither came alone - Vigo had partner Sgt. Fury with him, and of course Godfather had the "ho train," made up this time apparently of local girls. Godfather did the classic "pimpin' aint easy" promo. True to his word, Godfather, saying he had no issue with Vigo, offered him the hos, but Vigo said he couldn't because he was married. Godfather sweetened the deal by bringing out another girl with a whip. Fury said he wasn't married, and ended up leaving with the girls. The bell then rang and Godfather and Vigo battled for a bit, with Godfather hitting the running Ho Train move in the corner. At that point Lenn Oddity and the Scumdogs of Sanity came out and the Scumdogs got in the ring to attack Vigo. The ref threw out the match as the Scumdogs beat on Vigo and also went after Godfather when he tried to stop them. Sgt. Fury, having apparently gotten away from the hos, ran back out, and Northern Fury and Godfather cleared the ring.

After the intermission, Chip Stetson came out and said that the was supposed to be the special ref for the tag title match, but he lives here in Delanson and this is the biggest show of the year, so he wants to have a match instead. He called for anybody to come out and face him. He got more than he bargained for, though, as Genie Melissa Coates appeared in the entryway, and the "Suicidal, Homicidal, Genocidal" Sabu followed. Before the bell, Stetson said he respects Sabu and shook hands with him. After the initial lockups, Sabu apparently wished for a chair and Genie provided it, and Sabu went to work with his classic chair moves - the Arabian Facebuster, chair dropkick in the corner, and just throwing it at him. They brawled in and out of the ring, Sabu hit some more chair shots, and then put Stetson in the Arabian Clutch for the submission. They shook hands again before Sabu left to his ECW music. A basic weapon match, but it worked, and I'm not sure how much more Sabu can do at this point. Still a cool and probably rare opportunity to see the hardcore legend in action.

After that Yvonna Leach, the IYFW commissioner, announced that because the Scumdogs of Sanity attacked Vigo earlier, the tag title match - scheduled to be the Scumdogs vs. champs the Knockout Gang - was now a three-way match with Northern Fury added to the mix. Additionally, since Stetson withdrew from the guest ref spot, the new guest ref would be JP Black, a mainstay of both the Northeastern and Texas indies. I believe Black was the trainer of Vik Dalishus, who is himself now a trainer at Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore school. Black would also prove to be a more capable referee than the actual refs of IYFW... which he did while wearing chaps.

The tag title three-way commenced with Northern Fury at the disadvantage against the hands of the two heel teams. Fury was face-in-peril for a good chunk of the match. It eventually broke down with all three teams fighting at once and eventually hitting their tandem finishers - the 3DII from the Scumdogs; the Blackout (double rolling elbow) from the Knockout Gang. Northern Fury made a big comeback and Vigo pinned Gabriel Soul of the Knockouts to win the belts. We were pulling either for the Knockouts to retain or the Scumdogs to win, but I do get putting the belts on the faces - IYFW has more heel teams than faces right now, so putting the belts on the faces allows for more potential matches.

Next up the IYFW New Breed Title, the company's secondary belt, was on the line as Elite Terrell defended against "Mr. Must See TV" Tyler Vincent. This was a long match, and did have some good fast-paced action. They did lose the pace a few times - at one point after a dive to the outside, Vincent walked a lap around the ring for no particular reason - but considering they're both newcomers and Vincent has less than ten matches under his belt, it wasn't bad at all. Terrell got the win with a shooting star press, which had a pretty scary botched landing. The last time he tried the move, at last years Memories, Moments & Mayhem, the same thing happened - he should probably stay away from that move until he can perform it safely.

Next up was presumably the final chapter in the rivalry between "The Wolf" CJ Scott and "The Mighty" Fronz Roddy, which has been one of the best parts of IYFW for some time. This time they've selected teams for a six-man tag match. Scott has his brother "Savage" Damon Ravage (collectively, they're the Savage Wolves) as well as special guest Brian Myers, while Fronz brought established ally "The Shaft" Bobby Ocean and special guest Stevie Richards. Richards entered to the Blue World Order music, and looks to be in great shape. As the teams stared each other down, Myers mocked Richards by doing the DDP Yoga "Diamond Cutter-Hulk It Up" pose. This was really good stuff - the IYFW guys in this match are probably the best in the company; Ocean has worked regularly throughout the northeastern indy scene as of late (including Northeast Wrestling and Big Time Wrestling), and the guests worked well. Bobby Ocean was face-in-peril for awhile, but eventually the rivals Scott and Roddy got to square off. The end came with most of the wrestlers on the outside with Scott trapped in the ring with Roddy and Richards; Scott promptly ate a Stevie Kick and turned around into Roddy's Aus Crusher for the pin and final redemption. Roddy, Ocean and Big Stevie Cool posed for awhile to a great reaction from the fans. Match of the night by far.

Finally was the main event with Drake Evans and Jeff Jarrett squaring off. Jarrett is still using his TNA theme "My World" as he did at Wrestle Kingdom. He was in full Bullet Club gear; even his guitar had the Bullet Club logo. They locked up and did some rest holds; Jarrett broke away and did his strut. Jarrett worked on Evans' legs for awhile then set up the figure-four, but Evans got to the ropes. He went for the figure-four again in the middle of the ring, but Evans managed to roll it into a small package for a flash pin. As Jarrett argued with the ref and Evans sold his legs, Roman Dominguez came in with the contract, saying he just signed it and demanded the ref start the match between he and Evans.

The ref eventually complied and Dominguez went after Dominguez and beat him down for awhile. Eventually, though, Dominguez punched out the ref when he tried to stop the beating. Jarrett came back in with his guitar and acted like he was going to help Dominguez, but, of course, it was a trap - when Dominguez turned around, Jarrett kabonged him with the guitar, then called out JP Black to make the pin for Evans to win the title.

I get what they were trying to do here - the match with Jarrett was all a ruse, with Evans and Jarrett working together to lure Dominguez out and setting up the title match, then Jarrett helping Evans win the belt. But I don't think it came off that well - having Jarrett lose as quickly as he did, even if it was all a ruse, deflated the crowd, and despite ostensibly being the company's top face, it just doesn't seem Evans is all that popular with the crowd to begin with. Of the company's babyfaces, Fronz Roddy, Bobby Ocean and even Good Lord Willing all get much better reactions from the crowd; even Chip Steston, at best a tweener, gets better reactions, and all of them are more skilled than Evans as well. I get having the babyface win the main event of the biggest show of the year, but personally, I would've preferred Dominguez retain as he's much more interesting as a dominant heel.

Hmm, a company pushing somebody into the title picture without the support of the fanbase... where have I seen that before.

So, there you have it. The convention was fantastic and the show, while not a home run, did have its moments. The six-man match was great, the Clayton-Slade match was surprisingly very good as well, and I got to see Meng go on a rampage live. Definitely a fun time. As far as what's upcoming, next month is FWE's Battle of Bridgewater, which we'll be attending the second night of. Then in August is Northeast Wrestling's Wrestling Under the Stars IV, at the ballpark in Fishkill - no tickets yet for that, but almost certainly we'll be going. In between IYFW has another show on Memorial Day weekend, which is a possibility.


Quick Results:
-The Wild Kingdom (Good Lord Willing & Lance Madewell) d. Ricky Williams & The Canadian Assassin
-Ricky Williams d. Buff Bagwell
-Zack Clayton d. William Slade
-Prince Ashul-Naul d. The Space Cowboys (Garrett Holiday & The Rickety Rocket) in a 2-on-1 handicap match
-Haku d. Prince Ashul-Naul
-Vigo drew The Godfather by no-contest
-Sabu d. Chip Stetson
-Northern Fury (Sgt. Fury & Vigo) d. The Knockout Gang (Gabriel Soul & Jamar Justice) and The Scumdogs of Sanity (SOG & Surma) to win the IYFW Tag Team Championship (special referee: JP Black)
-Elite Terrell d. Tyler Vincent to retain the IYFW New Breed Championship
-Bobby Ocean, Fronz Roddy & Stevie Richards d. The Savage Wolves (CJ Scott & Damon Ravage) & Brian Myers
-Drake Evans d. Jeff Jarrett
-Drake Evans d. Roman Dominguez to win the IYFW Championship


Photo Highlights
(coming soon)

Match of the Moment: Sami Callihan vs. Rhino
the shockmaster

Sami Callihan vs. Rhino
House of Hardcore
House of Hardcore I
Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, New York
October 6th, 2012

First, a quick note about the missing "Post PPV" article from that last ROH PPV. Because my cable company sucks, I didn't get to see the show, and in fact, still haven't had a chance to check it out. So rather than trying to comment on a show I haven't seen yet, I figured I'd just skip the "Post PPV" report. From this point on I will still do predictions posts for PPVs, but the post-show entries I will probably retire, and cover the results and post-show notes as "Roundup" entries instead. So, there's that.

At any rate, here's a real gem for the "Match of the Moment," recently released as a free match on the HOH YouTube channel. This is from a show I was in attendance for, and one that I've often described as the "show that saved me as a wrestling fan" - the inaugural event for Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore promotion at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in 2012. I've talked about this show a lot in the years since, so I won't go over all of it again now - if you are interested, here is the live-show report I wrote two days after the fact: Live Report: HOH House of Hardcore 10/6/12. To be specific, I was in the 5th row on the floor, so I had a good view of this action as it happened.

The show featured several standout matches in several different styles. There was, for instance, a masterpiece of a modern junior heavyweight tag match with the Young Bucks taking on Brian Kendrick and Paul London, and a high-flying extravaganza between Tony Nese and Alex Reynolds, with Mikey Whipwreck as guest referee. By contrast, this match was the kind of wild brawl that would have been right at home in the old ECW.

Rhino is a performer who I actually have come to appreciate a lot more in recent years than I had during his time in "the big leagues." While he may not be a long-term top guy in the top-level companies (his ECW and TNA World Title reigns notwithstanding), he can be a fantastic upper-mid-level part of the card in the big time, or a fine headliner on the independents. He can always be counted on for a hard-hitting and often creative brawl, and I think he's actually better in the ring now than he's ever been. Despite being a 20-year veteran, he's not even 40 years old, so he should have a lot of life left in him as well.

Sami Callihan signed with WWE not too long after this event - he recently made his on-screen debut in NXT under the name Solomon Crowe - but this show was my first look at him (though I was familiar with his name prior). To say the least, I was impressed. Neither man pulled any punches and provided tons of fast-paced and often-brutal action. After the early back-and-forth action, the match developed a convincing story, where Callihan just wouldn't stay down no matter what Rhino did to him, and kept managing to fire back to put the veteran in jeopardy. That's the sort of thing that can move a match from a good match to a great one - something to put all of the action into context so everything that happens has a purpose. Of course that also means it culminates with a memorable and brutal ending.

Almost exactly a year ago I met Rhino at the IYFW Memories, Moments & Mayhem convention, and one of the topics that came up while talking with him was this match. He put over Callihan's abilities, said that he really liked working with him and said that he has a bright future ahead of him. Seeing a performance like this, it's hard to disagree.

I would be remiss also if I didn't mention the commentary for the match, which includes not only FWE owner Jordan Schneider and sportscaster and former PRIME Wrestling personality Vic Travagliante, but also guest commentator Winter (who herself had wrestled Jazz earlier on the card). And she is, in a word, adorable. She notably explains Callihan continuing to come back as being a result of his dying earlier in the match and now being a zombie. Sigh... and I'm supposed to *not* be in love with you, Katarina? Haha.

This is a great match on its own, and for me, part of an unforgettable live experience. I can't recommend it - or the rest of the first HOH show - enough.

Watch the match:

PPV Predictions: ROH 13th Anniversary: Winner Takes All
the shockmaster

Four Corners Survival Match for the ROH World Championship:
Jay Briscoe (c) vs. "Warbeard" Hanson vs. "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin vs. "The Sicilian Psychopath" Tommaso Ciampa

I predict Briscoe to retain. Elgin and Ciampa will continue feuding with each other and neither really needs the belt at this point to do it, and the finale of their Final Battle match notwithstanding, it seems that they are still building towards a title rematch between Briscoe and Adam Cole. Hanson could, of course, be a dark horse, but I still don't think the belt will change hands.

ROH World Tag Team Championship:
reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)

I could go either way on this one. They may want to keep the belts on reDRagon as they've been the vanguards of the tag division for the better part of two years now and send Bennett and Taven (see below prediction) after them, or they might change things up by having the Bucks win and run with the belts for awhile, having Bennett and Taven face the most popular team on the indies for their first taste of gold. Since none of the titles changed hands at Final Battle and I'm predicting the other two belts will stay put on this show as well, I'm guardedly picking the Bucks to win it here.

ROH World Television Championship:
Jay Lethal (c) vs. Alberto El Patron

This one's an even tougher call than the Tag Title match. Coming in with so much fanfare, I don't think they'd want Alberto to lose his first PPV match in ROH, but on the other hand, I don't think they'll want to take the TV belt off of Lethal, as he's been doing such a great job of making the belt a featured attraction and Alberto, frankly, doesn't need it - Lethal would lose more by dropping the belt than Alberto would gain by winning it. Ultimately I have to anticipate some sort of a screwy finish with Lethal winning by interference or losing by DQ, then Alberto clearing the ring afterward - that way Alberto gets his big debut moment by standing tall in the end, while the belt stays on Lethal.

Three-Way Tag Team Match:
Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs. Matt Taven & Michael Bennett

All indications are that the Kingdom members are in line for a push in the tag team ranks, so I think Bennett and Taven are going over in this one for sure. Assuming their win comes at the expense of the Addiction, a feud against them will be a good springboard for the Kingdom instead of sticking them straight in with reDRagon, and would get the Addiction some extra spotlight in the process. Or, if the Bucks come away with the titles, the Kingdom beating their Bullet Club stablemates would add some extra fuel to the fire in that scenario. Either way, Bennett and Taven win.

Singles Match:
BJ Whitmer vs. Roderick Strong

I think the feud between Strong and his former Decade stablemates has pretty much run its course at this point, and with Adam Page elevated to full membership and the Decade now searching for new "young boys," the group seems ready to move on to new things as well. I'd pick Strong to win clean to put the issue to bed.

Singles Match:
ACH vs. "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles

While I'd wager Styles will almost certainly win, I'd expect a great performance from both sides and this ultimately to be a "starmaking-despite-losing" match for ACH, much like how Michael Elgin was elevated from his losing effort in the Showdown in the Sun match against Davey Richards.

Singles Match:
Cedric Alexander vs. "Reborn" Matt Sydal

Since returning to ROH, Sydal has been, frankly, in basically the same role he was in in WWE - the guy who shows off flashy moves to please the crowd, but who is ultimately there for other guys to get over on. Other than making it to the finals in the tag title tournament with ACH, he really hasn't won much of anything since his return. As I think he needs a big win in a big environment to maintain any standing, I have to pick Sydal in this one.

Singles Match:
Maria Kanellis vs. ODB

On paper, you'd expect ODB to win; after all, she's a multi-time Knockouts Champ in TNA, while Maria has never exactly been presented as much of a contender in either WWE or ROH. That being said, I think the Kingdom will make it a clean-sweep in their matches tonight, so I actually predict Maria to win, probably with copious help from her stablemates.

Singles Match:
Mark Briscoe vs. Moose

In this one, Moose has everything to gain and Mark, who isn't involved in a major rivalry of his own currently (other than being a supporting player for his brother when the situation calls for it), doesn't really have much to lose. I'm going with Moose.

Rasslin' Roundup: The TNA Departure of Samoa Joe
the shockmaster

Recently TNA suffered yet another high-profile talent departure in the form of Samoa Joe. So, I thought it might be worth examining the implications of this both for the company, and for Joe himself.

TNA has seen a large number of major talents depart over the past year or so, including founding roster member AJ Styles in late 2013. While losing any wrestler as talented as Joe is a loss, I don't think his departure will leave quite as much of a hole in the roster as Styles'. This is by no means a shot at Joe himself, but a shot at how the company has handled him. He received a strong push upon arrival in TNA and had a classic match with the three-way at Unbreakable against Styles and Christopher Daniels, but the company failed to capitalize on his momentum and held off on putting the title on him until the fans' favor of him had cooled. Following that, he never really regained his momentum, bouncing between the heavyweight, X and tag divisions and being involved in several go-nowhere storylines (notably, the unresolved "Samoa Joe has been kidnapped by ninjas; are you a bad enough dude to rescue Samoa Joe?" one). He certainly had some good matches along the way, notably any encounter with Kurt Angle and during his tag team run with Magnus, but he never quite regained the momentum he had in his initial undefeated push. Case in point, when he departed, he was the heavy for (yet another) heel stable; when he left, AJ Styles was the reigning World Heavyweight Champion (they managed to get him back for one more date to drop the belt).

So again, losing Joe is a blow to TNA, just perhaps not quite as devastating a one as losing Styles was. And it will perhaps allow an opportunity for someone new to take his spot in the Beatdown Clan, allowing someone to be elevated by being in that position rather than just being wasted in it as Joe was.

As for Joe himself, he will be just fine. Much like Styles, he will be an in-demand name on the indies. I'm sure ROH will be happy to have him back even part-time, and I'm equally sure NJPW would love to have him, perhaps to be involved with Bullet Club. Any other independent that can afford him will be chomping at the bit to sign him for matches as well. The freedom of being able to wrestle where, when and against whom he wants may even provide for him the same sort of career renaissance AJ Styles has enjoyed since hitting the indies, and perhaps that will bring back some of the motivation that he seemed to lose over the last several years of being a second thought in TNA.

And, of course, there's the WWE possibility, which started immediately upon his TNA departure's announcement. Honestly, I doubt he will go that route - he doesn't have the stereotypical "WWE look," in a month he will be on the wrong side of 35, and even if the offer does come up, I don't know that he'd want to start all the way at the bottom in NXT at this point in his career - but, of course, never say never. For instance, I really thought the "look" issue would prevent WWE from ever giving Kevin Steen a shot, but here we are. And if he did end up there, Joe would certainly have some great people to work with, including Steen/Owens.

It will certainly be interesting to see where Joe goes from here, what he does, and who he ends up facing.

Edit 2/24/15 9:00 PM: The very night after first posting this article, it has been announced that Joe will be returning to Ring of Honor in March.

Match of the Moment: Super Smash Bros. vs. The Young Bucks
the shockmaster

Super Smash Bros. (Player Dos & Player Uno) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)
Smash Wrestling
Super Showdown II
E-Zone, Toronto, Ontario
August 17th, 2014

Last month, Beyond Wrestling organized an online event called "#RAWlternative," with several independent promotions contributing prerecorded but fairly recent matches to a three-hour streaming block going up against WWE's Raw. "The purpose of #RAWlternative isn't to get fans to stop watching WWE," wrote Beyond Wrestling on their Facebook page. "The purpose of #RAWlternative is to get the internet wrestling community to band together for one night to raise awareness for the mainstream alternatives. If you are unhappy with what you see on your TV every Monday night, please don't stop supporting professional wrestling. Tune in to #RAWlternative... and thrust yourself head first into the indie scene.

Besides Beyond, eleven other promotions participated in the event, among them Squared Circle Wrestling (2CW), Absolute Intense Wrestling (who contributed two matches, one from a regular card and one from one of their Girls Night Out events), Hoodslam, Inter Species Wrestling and DREAMWAVE Wrestling, and the matches featured included many notable names on the indy scene, including Kevin Steen, Brian Kendrick, Chris Hero, Ricochet, Kyle O'Reilly, Eddie Kingston and Mia Yim.

As someone who has more or less "given up" on WWE - as I've noted many times, the product it presents generally no longer provides what I want to see in wrestling - I can certainly appreciate the intent behind this event, and would love to see independent companies band together to promote themselves and their talent more often.

At any rate, the match contributed to #RAWlternative by Toronto-based Smash Wrestling was later posted as a "free match" to their YouTube account, and thus I thought it was a perfect selection for my Match of the Week. This is a dandy of a tag match featuring the hottest team on the indies, the Young Bucks, taking on former PWG and Chikara tag champs, Super Smash Bros.

I'm sure it's also no secret at this point that I'm a Young Bucks fan. Having seen (and met) them several times live, I can say that their high-flying acrobatics, crowd interaction and frequent and innovative double-team maneuvers never fail to get the crowd on their feet. They always give fans their money's worth in the ring, and seem like pretty cool dudes to talk to at the gimmick table as well. I'm not as familiar with the Smash Bros., but have seen a few matches here and there, and they also don't disappoint.

I like that this match has a sort of an arc to it, with some fast-paced action starting things off to get the crowd involved early, then the pace slowing to a more deliberate pace - especially when Player Uno is in the ring - before building again to the rapid-fire, back-and-forth action and extreme athleticism you'd expect. There is a bit more psychology happening here than teams like these often get credit for, and in that way it reminds me a bit of the match the Bucks had against Brian Kendrick and Paul London at the first HOH show, which remains one of my favorite live matches. Of course, at the end of the day, the important thing is that it's just damn fun to watch, so in that regard, hats off to all involved.

Watch the match: