the shockmaster


Dan Talks Rasslin'

Because It's Still Real to Me, Dammit

Q&A #8: Holiday Championship Edition
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I haven't done one of these posts in a year, so on a lazy Christmas Eve, after watching the holiday classic Die Hard and before the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon, I figured I'd clear the docket of some Q&A questions I've had piled up.


What makes a good title belt?
In general, when it comes to things like championships and the belts that represent them, I'm a bit of a purist. Whether we're talking about the top-level World Title, a tag belt, or an undercard title, a championship is something that all wrestlers should covet and aspire towards, and the physical belt should project that image of prestige. So I'm sure unsurprisingly, some of my favorite belts include the classic WWF "Winged Eagle" title and the WCW "Big Gold" belt. Standard answers, yes, but these are belts that, at a glance, look like a big deal befitting a World Champion.

That's not to say you can't do something different with your belt design and still make it look good. For titles that represent a certain division, style of match, or other theme, I like there to be something identifying in the belt's design, symbolizing what the title is all about. One of my current favorite belts is this, the Family Wrestling Entertainment Tri-Borough Championship, their secondary singles title currently held by Paul London.

FWE is a New York City-based company, and until next year's national tour, every show they've run has been in the city. Thus this unique belt design, at a glance, identifies itself as a New York title, with the Triborough Bridge set against a stylized Manhattan skyline. That is, however, set within the framework of a traditional belt medallion design, and the gold color scheme and inset jewels (cleverly making "stars" above the cityscape) also show that the belt is a prestigious object representing a prestigious championship.

Here's another belt I like a lot: the old version of the Ring of Honor World Television Title. Once again, the overall design is traditional, though it's dressed up with the addition of red and blue highlights, which set it apart from ROH's other belts of the time. And the old-style rabbit-eared television set over the globe at the bottom of the belt immediately identify its status as a television championship.

By comparison, the newer version of the belt that replaced this one, while fine looking, is almost too generic - besides the TV-shaped side plates, there's not a whole lot about the design to set it apart from the World Title belt.

On the other hand, of course, a belt that doesn't have that "prestigious" look and just don't seem believable as representing something worth fighting over. I'll forgo the most obvious example, the WWE "Spinner" belt, and instead go with another much-maligned belt design, the WWE Divas Title.

It's shiny and jewel-encrusted, yes, but the cutesy butterfly design and pink highlights just make it look like something out of a "Pretty Pretty Princess" game, not a legitimate wrestling title. And yes, I realize marketing replicas to kids is a big reason they switched to this title from the Women's Title, which had a decades-long lineage and a legitimate-looking belt, but still. It just doesn't look like something a wrestler, regardless of gender, would be striving for the right to wear.


What about "vanity belts?"
Going along with my "purist" sensibility, just in general, I'm not a great fan of vanity belts, especially when they're being used by babyfaces. The title is the top prize and the belt, its physical representation, is what wrestlers aspire to wear. So upon winning the belt, the champion setting it aside in favor of a custom-made job often comes off as disrespect of the belt, and at worst diminishes its prestige - something a top-level wrestler, and especially a babyface, shouldn't be in favor of. For those reasons, I never really liked Stone Cold's Smoking Skull Belt, as iconic as it may have been, and for the life of me never understood how John Cena's Spinner Belt went from being a vanity belt to the actual standard World Title belt for several years.

There are, of course, exceptions. If an egomaniacal heel is awarded the use of a vanity belt by a heel authority figure, that can potentially add a dimension to the heel champion's character. It's also acceptable if a babyface champion has their own vanity belt that they carry in conjunction with the real belt, such as Jeff Hardy's second TNA World Title run as a face, where he had both his own "Charismatic Enigma" belt as well as the actual TNA belt, or Jay Briscoe, during his first run as ROH Champ, where he had both the real ROH belt and his own custom camouflage title, the latter of which was later stolen by the Kingdom as part of their feud against Briscoe.

Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, when a title is pretty much "just for fun" to begin with, then anything goes. I actually liked what was done with the WWE Hardcore Title late in its history where each champion would customize the belt to their own liking, like Bradshaw putting the longhorns on it or Tommy Dreamer putting the New York "liberty" license plate and barbed wire on his. And heels making temporary modifications as part of their heel act can also be a good means of garnering heel heat, such as Lenny and Lodi "redecorating" the WCW Cruiserweight Title with ribbons, or the dastardly NWO disrespecting the World Title belt that they were holding hostage by spraypainting the group's initials onto it.

An unsanctioned vanity title is totally exempt, however. Not being a legitimate title (though they are sometimes defended), these belts - such as Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Title, Taz's FTW Heavyweight Title and, currently, Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis' Championship of Love (actually Jay Briscoe's custom belt, redecorated) - are really just props meant to accentuate the wrestler's character and sometimes serve storyline purposes, and those I'm totally cool with.


How should belts be handled?
In general, with respect befitting the prestige of the championship. A belt being used as a foreign object is fine, but there it should be a "last resort" weapon used by generally a heel champion. Belts being treated carelessly by babyfaces always kind of bothered me, like how Stone Cold and the Dudleys used to throw their belts into the ring during entrances while they were faces. It just seems to go against character for a wrestler who has strived to earn a title to treat the belt like it doesn't matter.

Once again, there are always exceptions. A heel whose character is that he doesn't care about anything and has ended up holding a title, for instance, wouldn't be expected to treat the belt with respect.

As far as how the belt should be worn, generally around the waist as intended. For awhile it seemed like every champion in WWE was carrying it to the ring on their shoulder, but to me that should generally be reserved for backstage interviews and promos where the champion is in street clothes. If wrestling gear is being worn, so should the belt. Once again, of course, there are exceptions - a certain kind of ultra-arrogant heel might be able to get away with carrying it on the shoulder, but it should be done sparingly. And Big Show wearing the original Hardcore Title around his arm was pretty funny.


What about things like the "Freebird rule," co-champions holding a singles title, etc.?
Once again - and I'm sure I'm starting to sound like kind of a stick in the mud - I have to defer to my "purist" mindset and say that I've never really been a fan of such things. The Freebird Rule, where a group of three or more wrestlers hold a tag team title with any combination of group members defending the belts at any given time, often stretches the limits of suspension of disbelief - why would a company allow a group of bad guys get away with bending the rules like that? If the group is in the pocket of a heel authority figure who lets them employ the rule, such as with the Spirit Squad, who were lackeys for the McMahons when they held the Tag Title, it might be passable. But given my druthers, I'd just as soon see the two group members who actually won the belts have to defend them. Just once I'd like to see a heel group try to employ the Freebird Rule, and a babyface authority figure disallow it. That might lead to some interesting and as-yet mostly unexplored storytelling possibilities.

The co-champions thing is even more rare than the Freebird Rule (the only recent examples I can think of are Chris Jericho and Chyna co-holding the WWE Intercontinental Title, Frankie Kazarian and Michael Shane co-holding the TNA X-Division Title and Layla and Michelle McCool co-holding the WWE Women's Title), but that's not a bad thing to me because I always found it even more lame. Once again, why would a company allow two wrestlers to hold a singles belt simultaneously? Even a heel authority figure, you would think, would be smart enough to know that that's not a good idea as almost inevitably the two co-champions end up fighting amongst themselves. It generally comes off to me as a lazy way to split up two allies and start a feud between the two.


How should cage matches end? By standard pin/submission rules, or by cage escape?
I've probably referred to my preference for cage matches on here in the past, so this might be repeating myself. But I far prefer the traditional pinfall-or-submission rules to the cage-escape (or combined) rules that you often see nowadays. The concept of the cage match, originally, was that it would be a match where two men enter and only one leaves; it's a place to end a blood feud where the bad guy can't get away and his friends can't help him. That whole concept is sort of undermined when the rules change so that the winner is the first guy to run away from the other.

I gave TNA a lot of credit when they started doing their "Six Sides of Steel" cage matches and promoted them as being about "who is the better wrestler, not the better climber," although they sadly have reverted to doing escape-rules or combined-rules cage matches since then.


What do you think of battle royals?
Amongst internet fans, battle royals are often derided for their lack of match quality and as simply being chaotic masses of swinging arms, especially in the early going. So this may be a bit of a surprising opinion: I've actually always really enjoyed battle royals. No, you're not going to see great technical wrestling or a lot of high-flying action in a battle royal, but in moderation they can be a fun undercard attraction, and just something different. They can also provide the opportunity to see wrestlers you might normally not get to see fight go at it, even in just a limited form, and can be a place for new feuds to form. They can also be a valuable place for new wrestlers to get experience working in front of a live crowd before they're quite ready to be on their own in one-on-one or tag matches, such as in the battle royals and rumbles sometimes held at House of Hardcore or In Your Face shows.

And rumble-style battle royals, WWE's Royal Rumble first and foremost, are always just fun to watch. Trying to guess who will come out next, who will get to face off, etc., can be a blast, and of the traditional "big four" WWE PPVs, the Rumble was always probably my favorite.


Does a bad finish ruin a good match?
This was a topic I saw debated on a message board, so I thought I would add my two cents on it. Yes, a bad finish can indeed ruin an otherwise good match. At heart, a wrestling match is a story, so like any story, when judging its overall quality everything including the ending must be considered. Just like with books, movies, or any other narrative-based art form. No matter how good the story leading up to its conclusion is, if the conclusion itself fails to deliver, the whole thing falls apart.

With that being said, the consensus on the internet often seems to be that any unclean finish - a disqualification, a ref bump, a win by interference, etc. - is a "bad finish," and I don't believe that to be the case at all. Wrestling is unique in that the match is a story in and of itself, which in turn is part of an overarching story, and those sorts of unclean finishes can serve the purpose in building to some bigger conclusion down the line. Yes, certain companies do rely on DQs and other unclean finishes too much in the attempt to "protect" their headliners, but those types of finishes aren't "bad" in and of themselves; it's dependent on how well they serve the story being told. To me, a bad finish is one that serves no purpose or is counterproductive; for instance, one that damages the standing of one wrestler without elevating the status of another. The recent Survivor Series Divas match, where Paige was squashed for no particular reason, killing her momentum and providing no real benefit to her opponents, is one example.


With that, from all of us here at Dan Talks Rasslin' (okay, just me), have a Happy Holiday. Barring unforeseen circumstances, my next entry should be the third-annual installment of the Dan Talks Rasslin' Awards - I have my picks pretty much all locked in, I'll just have to write the entry - so stay tuned for that in the next week or so.

Match of the Moment: Winter vs. Mickie James
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Winter vs. Mickie James (c) - TNA Knockouts Championship
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
No Surrender 2011
Impact Zone at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida
September 11th, 2011

Tomorrow being the first day of winter, who better to feature in this installment of the Match of the Moment than, well, Winter?

No surprise there, of course; Winter - Katarina Leigh - is my favorite female wrestler, after all. Beautiful and talented; a fantastic villainess in the ring and a total sweetheart in real life. (And I am an official, card-carrying member of her "Army of Boys.") And for whatever faults there may have been in the writing of her storyline in TNA, I always loved how she played the Winter character, both in terms of her in-ring mannerisms, mystical promos and the ambiguous, mysterious nature of the character - is she a supernatural being, or is it all mind games?

This is one of my favorite matches of hers, as well. And she certainly has a quality opponent - defending champion Mickie James (here dressed as Wonder Woman, for no particular reason) was always an energetic and popular babyface who could have good matches with just about any opponent, and she and Winter had great in-ring chemistry. They had plenty of opportunity to work together prior to this - not only had they been feuding over the Knockouts Title for awhile when this match took place, with Winter already having gained and lost the title once before, but they also had had a rivalry in WWE a few years prior, culminating with a match at Night of Champions in 2008 (Mickie defeated Winter - then known as Katie Lea Burchill - on that occasion).

This match from 2011's No Surrender might have been their best outing. Plenty of back-and-forth action incorporating technical wrestling, high-flying offense from Mickie, and even some outside-the-ring brawling. Winter has her mind-controlled/drugged partner Angelina Love in her corner, and of course she gets involved as well. Winter pulls out all of her tricks, including the "blood mist," but will it be enough to capture the title once again? Let's just say I approve of the outcome. Just a good match between two talented ladies who are today sadly missing from the Knockouts Division.

Watch the match:

Live: ROH Final Battle 2014 - Terminal 5, New York, NY 12/7/14
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As the live experience for Final Battle goes, there was one huge negative, so I'll get that out of the way first: the venue itself. Terminal 5 is, without a doubt, the absolute worst venue I've ever been to for a wrestling show. The way the place is designed, unless you have seats in the first few rows on the floor, your visibility is extremely limited - the floor level is cramped and the floor has no slant to it to allow more visibility, and the balcony levels - where we were - are crowded, standing room only (no seats at all), and have extremely poor angles looking down and the view is generally obscured by pillars and/or the counter surrounding the railing. So I frankly *heard* far more of the show live than I actually *saw* - at least the upper decks had video monitors set up with the live feed, so I did get to see everything as it happened. But watching on a screen, even with the live-crowd ambiance, kind of defeats the purpose. The place is clearly not designed for this sort of event - it's a converted nightclub (formerly Club Exit) turned into a music venue; design-wise, I can't imagine it being any better a venue for the concerts it normally hosts.

At least I was far from the only one with a problem with the venue. Amusingly, before the show went live Larry Mercer and Mandy Leon came out to do hype duty. Everything they promoted got a good reaction... except when they asked the crowd what they thought of Terminal 5. As far as I can tell, no one in the crowd reacted positively; everyone on all levels LOUDLY booed the venue - the venue actually got more pure "heel heat" than any of the heel wrestlers.

Hopefully ROH took note of that reaction and finds a better venue for Final Battle next year - either back to the Hammerstein if they can afford it, or someplace actually designed with this sort of event in mind - even taking it out of the city if need be. No matter if Terminal 5 looks cool on TV or not, it's not worth pissing off the fans there live. I'm sure the Mid-Hudson in Poughkeepsie would be thrilled to host such a show, and the crowd there - another rabid ex-ECW crowd like what they get in NYC - certainly would be glad to have it.

And it's too bad the venue was such a bust, because as far as the event itself goes, this was a hell of a show overall. Spoilers from this point on, if that still matters a week after the event.

As the show got underway, the announcers - Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino - came out to the ringside announce table, both getting a good reaction. Corino is still using the (awesome) SCUM entrance theme "Dirty Angel." A recorded message plays going over the rules and everything - a statement that the crowd should avoid using profane language was immediately met with a chant of "fuck that shit." That's NYC for ya.

We had one dark match with BJ Whitmer of the Decade teaming with prospective new Decade "young boy" (and Northeast Wrestling regular) Mikey Webb taking on Brutal Burgers, "Brutal" Bob Evans and Cheeseburger. It seems like that team should just be called "Bob's Burgers," doesn't it? I guess that'd just be asking for a trademark lawsuit though. Anyway, this was a pretty solid opening match, and the crowd loved cheering for Cheeseburger as the underdog. Brutal Burgers got the win when Evans powerbombed Cheeseburger onto Webb for the pin. After the match Whitmer told Webb that he failed his test, and nailed him with a Saito suplex.

I believe at this point the show went live on PPV. Matchmaker Nigel McGuinness then came out and asked former ROH owner Cary Silkin to the ring. Silkin entered with Scarlett Bordeaux on his arm to Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath." The rest of the roster then came out and surrounded the ring as McGuinness presented Silkin with a Lifetime Achievement award, and Silkin then hyped up the crowd for the show.

The PPV opening match was a Four Corners Survival (sudden death rules) match with Jimmy Jacobs of the Decade (who had Whitmer with him at ringside), Mark Briscoe, Caprice Coleman and Hanson squaring off. While there was plenty of action with everybody getting in their offense on everybody else, in the end this came off as a means of putting Hanson over huge, and it worked. Hanson got the win with the Spin Kick of Doom on Coleman. If getting a big win on the last show of the year is any indication, it looks like big things are in store for Hanson in 2015.

Next up was "teacher vs. student" as Adam Page faced former Decade member Roderick Strong. Before the match, Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer - who had remained in the ring after the first match - said that tonight Page will become a full-fledged member of the Decade. Page came out wearing a leather vest and with his hair slicked, indeed looking more like a full member of the group and less like the spitting image of Jumpin' Jeff Farmer. Page tried to jump Strong as he was getting in the ring, but Strong quickly got the upper hand. Strong controlled the early going and fended off distractions from Whitmer, and eventually Page's mouth was bloodied. Page finally got on track with a nice spinning powerslam and a rope-hung swinging neckbreaker. Strong finally got back the advantage and locked Page in the Stronghold, eventually cranking it with his knee in Page's back Liontamer-style. Page never submitted, but eventually passed out and the ref called for the bell. Even though he lost the match, Jacobs and Whitmer said that Page earned his spot. Whitmer grabbed Corino's headset to make that announcement, which Corino took exception to; referees came out to hold them apart.

Next up "Unbreakable" Michael Elgin took on Tommaso Ciampa. Both are essentially heels; Elgin has become embittered since losing the World Title, while Ciampa has gone full psycho after losing his World Title shot against Elgin and then attacking ring announcer Bobby Cruise. McGuinness said that if he attacks a non-wrestling staff member again, he's fired. Though they're both heels, the crowd sides with Ciampa. It's a back-and-forth brawl with a deliberate place - perhaps even dragging a bit at certain points - with lots of big moves including Elgin's Revolution Elgin Bomb finisher (which Ciampa kicks out of) and Ciampa's Air Raid Crash on the apron. Elgin dodged a Ciampa charge and Ciampa wiped out the ref; he pleaded with Nigel McGuinness that he didn't mean to attack the ref, and this allowed Elgin to hit a double-arm DDT for the pin.

A six-man tag team exhibition was up next, with The Addiction - Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, the former Bad Influence - teaming with Cedric Alexander, to take on The Young Bucks and ACH. The Addiction and Alexander came out first; Alexander was wearing goggles and dancing like Daniels down the aisle. They got a good reaction - but then the Young Bucks' music hit, bringing out them and ACH (who was also wearing a Bullet Club shirt) and from that point the crowd was behind the Bucks all the way. Those guys have gotten so over in the past two years. As you'd expect, this match was a spotfest through-and-through, but nobody does that kind of match better than the Bucks, and it was a blast to watch. After numerous exchanges, the Bucks hit the Meltzer Driver on Alexander, then ACH hit the 450 splash on him for the pin. A definite crowd-pleaser, and everybody looked great. Cool that the up-and-comer ACH was allowed the final pin too. I think both he and Alexander are going places.

Next was a grudge match as RD Evans tried to avenge the end of his winning streak at the hands of his former partner Moose. Moose came out with both of his managers, Stokely Hathaway and Prince Nana, the latter of whom has enlisted Moose and Hathaway to get revenge on Evans for stealing the Embassy away from him. Evans was slated to have Veda Scott in his corner, but she was absent during the entrances - I guess he told her to stay in the back and out of danger. Most of the early offense is all Moose; he got Evans on the outside and swung him repeatedly into the guardrails by the legs, then hit a big backdrop and a bigger clothesline. Veda came out to the ramp looking concerned. Evans tried to get some offense going and botched a springboard move off the ropes three times - though this elicited a "you fucked up" chant, I'm pretty sure the "botch" was on purpose; if that's the case it's an odd choice for the wrestler playing the babyface to do. Evans channeled Sting with a reverse DDT and an attempted Scorpion Deathlock, but he couldn't get Moose over. Hathaway and Nana tried to get involved, but the ref ejected them from ringside. As the ref was outside the ring dealing with them, Veda comes in to block Moose from spearing Evans... but much to the surprise of no one, it's a trap; Veda low blowed Evans and Moose turned him inside out with the spear for the pin. Afterward Veda said that she doesn't support losers like Evans, and officially joined Nana's new group. Nana says that "karma is a bitch." The placement on the card suggests that ROH saw this match basically as the filler/non-intermission-intermission, and that's pretty much what it was.

It was now time for the first of our three title matches, as Jay Lethal defends the ROH World Television Title against Matt Sydal. Lethal entered with Truth Martini and bodyguard J. Diesel. I'm really digging Lethal's work as a heel lately. Something about that slow, arrogant swagger he has coming out surrounded by his manager and entourage reminds me of Rick Rude when he was part of the Heenan Family as Intercontinental Champion. Sydal has been having good matches since coming back to ROH and looks like he's really having fun out there, but I'm kind of surprised they haven't pushed him just a little bit harder; he really has yet to get a meaningful win. They went back and forth with lots of flying and technical wrestling, and of course Martini tried to get involved several times. Lethal hit the Lethal Combination and, after a battle on the turnbuckle, hit the Macho Man elbow drop. Sydal fired back with several flying moves and hit the SSP, but Martini pulled the ref out of the ring as he's counting the pin. Sydal fought off Diesel and then kicked the Book of Truth in Martini's face. He went up to do the SSP on Martini, but Lethal catches him on the way down with the Lethal Injection (Martini gets crushed anyway), then hit a second Injection for the pin to retain. Actually a bit of a surprising result for me; with Sydal sort of needing an important win at this point, I figured if any title was changing hands, this was the most likely. Lethal's doing a great job as champion though so I'm fine with him retaining.

The ROH World Tag Team Title is on the line next, with reDRagon defending against Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA), who are representing New Japan Pro Wrestling. While touring NJPW, reDRagon defeated the Time Splitters for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title, so now Shelley and KUSHIDA have come to avenge the loss by taking Fish and O'Reilly's ROH belts. Good solid build based solely on competition - I like it. I also like having my local guy, Bobby Fish, on this high a level to cheer for. He and O'Reilly have really gelled over the last two years into an elite tag team. The match had a nice build to it as well, starting out with some mat wrestling and gradually building up to the big exchanges of spots. Even with the double-team spots and stuff, though, there was still psychology employed as reDRagon targeted KUSHIDA's arms. They also broke out the old Demolition Decapitation double-team (I'm sure an intentional tribute, since O'Reilly also calls one of his combos "Ax and Smash"). At the end we got the customary exchange of near-falls, with KUSHIDA kicking out of the Chasing the Dragon double-team, but O'Reilly locked him in the Armageddon submission with a leg hooked and KUSHIDA was forced to tap. Great modern-day tag team match.

Finally, it was main event time as Jay Briscoe defended the ROH World Title against hated rival Adam Cole in a Fight Without Honor. This match had a great build behind it, I thought; both men made it believable that they couldn't coexist and wanted to destroy each other. It's a nice contrast of incompatible personalities; the redneck Briscoe and the slick pretty-boy heel Cole. I was surprised the rest of the Kingdom (Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis and Matt Taven) weren't on the show, either in their own matches or in support of Cole; they were booked in New Japan instead. At any rate, the match started quickly with Briscoe immediately hitting the Jay-Driller on Cole and getting a near-fall; Cole escaped the ring and Briscoe followed. The violence ratcheted up quickly, with Briscoe double-stomping Cole through the timekeeper's table. Briscoe pulls out a staple gun, but Cole blasted him with a chair and then stapled a piece of paper to Briscoe's head, eliciting a chant of "you sick fuck." More weapons stuff with Cole getting slammed onto two chairs in the ring, Cole using a kendo stick on Briscoe and Briscoe slamming Cole into the ring post. Cole git busted open and officials tried to stop the match, but Briscoe fought off security and dragged Cole back to the ring. Thumbtacks got introduced and Cole put some of the tacks into Briscoe's mouth and then superkicked him, getting a second "you sick fuck" chant. Briscoe counters the Florida Key and backdropped Cole onto the tacks, then hit the Jay-Driller. Briscoe waits for Cole to start getting up and put the ROH Title under him so that the last thing he sees is the title that's about to slip away from him for good... then hits another Jay-Driller onto the belt and gets the pin to retain. Cole was tended to by medical staff in the ring as Briscoe left victorious.

I really, really liked that main event. And not just because of the violence - I'm actually not a fan of ultra-violent wrestling for its own sake; a wild brawl can be fun, but there has to be a great deal of build put in to make a violent match like this meaningful. Fortunately, the build was there and the match itself, for all its sick spots, did a great job of telling the story of a rivalry between two sworn enemies coming to its conclusion. That final image of Cole seeing the belt one last time before it slips away from him was a fantastic conclusion.

So at the end of the day, a great show marred only by a horrendous venue. If there is a must-see show held at Terminal 5 in the future (and given the crowd reaction to the venue, I'd hazard a guess that that's unlikely), make sure you get front row tickets, or just watch it at home. Live and learn.


Quick Results:
-Brutal Burgers (Bob Evans & Cheeseburger) d. BJ Whitmer & Mikey Webb
-Hanson d. Caprice Coleman, Jimmy Jacobs and Mark Briscoe in a Four Corners Survival match
-Roderick Strong d. Adam Page
-Michael Elgin d. Tommaso Ciampa
-The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) & ACH d. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) & Cedric Alexander
-Moose d. RD Evans
-Jay Lethal d. Matt Sydal to retain the ROH World Television Championship
-reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) d. Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA) to retain the ROH World Tag Team Championship
-Jay Briscoe d. Adam Cole in a Fight Without Honor match to retain the ROH World Championship

Match of the Moment: CJ Scott vs. Fronz Roddy
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"The Wolf" CJ Scott vs. "The Mighty" Fronz Roddy - Coronation Cup Tournament Quarterfinals
In Your Face Wrestling
Coronation Cup 2014
Ballston Area Community Center, Ballston Spa, New York
June 28th, 2014

Since I attended an In Your Face Wrestling show a few weeks ago and covered it on the blog, I figured a good return feature for the Match of the Moment was a match from a previous IYFW event. I was in attendance for this one too - you can see the live report here. In this match, one of the quarterfinals of the Coronation Cup Tournament earlier this year, "The Wolf" CJ Scott and "The Mighty" Fronz Roddy go one-on-one.

In my show reports from the IYFW events I've been to, I've noted both of these guys as being among the best talents this promotion has to offer, and I think this is a nice showcase of that. All the fundamentals of good wrestling are here. You have solid in-ring action, which was very enjoyable to see live and still holds up on film. You have a contrast of personalities - here, a crowd-friendly babyface and an underhanded heel - both of whom know how to effectively convey their characters through crowd interaction. And you have a story being told in the ring, which has ramifications on multiple levels - within the match itself, in the context of the entire show (this match's outcome affects the rest of the event), and beyond (the way the match ends sets up an ongoing feud). This is a great example of what local-level pro wrestling can be, and many of the qualities it embodies are things that wrestling companies on any level should aspire to.

Watch the match:

In Memoriam: Jimmy Del Ray
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David Everett Ferrier, best known as "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Ray and Jimmy Graffiti, died December 6th, 2014 at age 52.

A native of Pennsylvania and trained by the Mighty Yankee, Ferrier first broke into wrestling in Florida Championship Wrestling in 1985. After briefly wrestling under the name "Jumo Kenya," Ferrier became "Jimmy Backlund" and teamed with Brett Sawyer as the Playboys. They were awarded the vacant FCW Tag Team Title and had a two-month run before dropping the titles to the Nasty Boys.

Ferrier next made his way to Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where he adopted his best-known moniker, "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Ray. He joined Dr. Tom Prichard as half of the Heavenly Bodies, replacing Stan Lane. Del Ray and Prichard feuded with the likes of the Armstrong Brothers and the Rock 'n' Roll Express, the latter of whom they challenged for the SMW Tag Team Championship, and soon began dividing their time between SMW and the World Wrestling Federation, with which SMW had a working relationship. The Heavenly Bodies unsuccessfully challenged the Steiner Brothers for the WWF World Tag Team Championship at SummerSlam 1993.

For the rest of 1993, Del Ray and Prichard continued clashing with the Steiner Brothers, the Rock 'n' Roll Express and the Bruise Brothers (Harris Twins) in SMW, and returned to the WWF at Survivor Series 1993, where they finally defeated the Rock 'n' Roll Express for the SMW Tag Team Title. They would trade the belts with the Express several more times in 1994, made more WWF appearances including a victory in the WrestleMania X dark match over the Bushwhackers, and had a run in All Japan Pro Wrestling as well. Later in the year the team feuded with the Smokin' Gunns over the WWF World Tag Team Championship, but were unsuccessful in taking the belts.

At Survivor Series 1994 the Heavenly Bodies were part of a ten-man Survivor Series match, teaming with Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy and Tatanka under the management of Ted DiBiase; the "Million Dollar Team" was victorious over the "Guts and Glory" team of Lex Luger, Adam Bomb, Mabel and the Smokin' Gunns, though both Del Ray and Prichard were eliminated from their team. The Heavenly Bodies went on to take part in the 1995 Royal Rumble. They returned to SMW, where they once again won the SMW Tag Team Championship.

The Heavenly Bodies next made their way to Extreme Championship Wrestling, where, at December to Dismember, they faced the Public Enemy in a loss, then took part in the Ultimate Jeopardy Steel Cage match which saw Tommy Dreamer, the Public Enemy and the Pitbulls defeat Raven, Stevie Richards, the Eliminators and the Heavenly Bodies. Del Ray then wrestled a couple of singles matches in ECW against Buh Buh Ray Dudley and Sabu before heading to World Championship Wrestling.

In WCW, Del Ray changed his name to "Jimmy Graffiti." He mainly wrestled in the cruiserweight division, taking on opponents like Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Misterio, Jr. He took part in the three-ring, sixty-man battle royal main event at the 1996 World War III event and unsuccessfully challenged Malenko for the WCW World Cruiserweight Championship on Monday Nitro. After a knee injury forced his retirement in 1997, Del Ray worked as a trainer at Steve Keirn's wrestling school and served as a manager for Chris Nelson and Vito DeNucci, the New Heavenly Bodies. He later started a flooring company. Del Ray's passing is reported as being the result of a single-vehicle traffic accident.

(Sources: Cagematch profile: Heavenly Bodies; Cagematch profile: Jimmy Del Ray; obituary; Wiki)

Rasslin' Roundup: Lucha Underground: First Impressions
the shockmaster

In just the last month a new wrestling program has come on the scene and has been generating some buzz, and having now caught up on the first five episodes, I thought it was time I weighed in on the company thus far.

The brainchild of the unlikely combination of reality TV kingpin Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank) and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Sin City, Machete) and affiliated with Mexico's Asistencia Asesoría y Administración promotion, Lucha Underground airs an hour-long show on Wednesday nights on Rodriguez' El Rey network (for people like me who don't get said channel, it gets posted on YouTube fairly quickly).

The roster is an interesting mix of talents brought in from AAA, including Blue Demon, Jr., Konnan, Sexy Star, Mascarita Sagrada, Fenix, Drago, King Cuerno (El Hijo del Fantasma), Mil Muertes (El Mesias/TNA's Judas Mesias) and Pentagon, Jr., as well as talents familiar to U.S. viewers, including Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Johnny Mundo (John Morrison), Prince Puma (Ricochet), Son of Havoc (Matt Cross/MDogg-20), Big Ryck (Ezekiel Jackson), Ivelisse Velez and Catrina (Maxine).

One of the most striking and original aspects of Lucha Underground is the production of the backstage/out-of-ring segments, which are shot more like a network drama or telenovela than a typical wrestling show, clearly the influence of the producers' film and TV backgrounds. These segments are well-produced and are effective from a storytelling perspective. They might be a bit jarring for first-time viewers as they give the show more of a "TV series" feel than the "live event" feel other wrestling shows go for. In the end, though, I do like the approach and it certainly goes a long way to setting the product apart. Similarly-filmed vignettes are also used to introduce new wrestlers, which do a fantastic job of telling you about the character's background in a dramatic manner.

Commentary is handled by Matt Striker and Vampiro and, with commentary being such a huge problem in both WWE and TNA nowadays, they're a breath of fresh air. They are enthusiastic, focused on the action happening in the ring, and - with both the play-by-play and color commentators having in-ring experience - have a great interplay when discussing in-ring strategy. Striker is sometimes criticized for being a bit to "inside" in his commentary - and sometimes he can get a little "cute" with his obscure references - but overall I don't mind it too much, especially when you consider what passes for commentary in the big companies nowadays. Former WWE Spanish announce team member Hugo Savinovich (who - fun fact - is also the ex-husband of Wendi Richter) handles the Spanish commentary track with Vampiro, and while I haven't heard it - and wouldn't be able to keep up if I did - I've heard that the Spanish commentary is very good as well.

Another notable difference between Lucha Underground and the other mainstream U.S. companies is the lack of gender divisions - the female competitors can and often do wrestle against male wrestlers. Admittedly, this is something I have mixed feelings on; in fact, it's a topic that I could probably do an entire Roundup or Q&A post on, so I'll spare the detail here. Suffice it to say that I'm generally not a fan of seeing male-vs.-female competition, or male-on-female violence generally. With that being said, the female competitors they have put in mixed matches so far - namely, Sexy Star and Ivelisse Velez - are fully capable of believably competing against their male counterparts, so maybe it's something that will grow on me or at least that I'll get used to.

Lucha Underground also has a lot of little presentational touches that I really like. For example, the idea of having the heels come from one entryway into the arena while the faces come down the stairway through the audience. It reminds me of when TNA had the separate face and heel entrances in one version of the Impact Zone; it was a nice subtle way of maintaining some semblance of kayfabe (one time I went to the pre-show autograph signing of a TNA house show and got a kick out of how even there, the faces were at one table and the heels at another). I also get a kick out of the promoter having an "office" overlooking the arena and ring, like something you'd see in a factory.

I also like the design of the ring, with the Aztec seal in the center of the mat. I always liked rings with company logos on the mat itself (notably the blue-and-yellow WCW rings); it's a nice at-a-glance identifier and it's something you don't see very often in U.S. promotions nowadays. Little details like these can go a long way in setting a promotion apart.

At the end of the day, of course, a wrestling promotion is only as good as its booking and in-ring product, and Lucha Underground seems to have both of these fronts well-covered. With a ton of great talent from both north and south of the border, in its five weeks on the air LU has already provided several great matches, including perhaps most notably a high-flying three-way match between Fenix, Drago and Pentagon, Jr. Even Morrison/Mundo's style seems to blend into this environment well; in his matches against and teaming with Prince Puma he's turned out some of his best ring work probably since he was teaming with Miz.

The booking, too, is also strong and logical so far. Some have criticized the main story revolving around a heel "boss" character, and yes, that is a tired plot that wrestling companies generally need to give a rest. But with the heel boss in question, Dario Cueto, being played so gloriously over-the-top, I can give it a pass here. As evidence of the general booking strength, witness Chavo Guerrero's brilliant heel turn in the first couple of episodes, which singlehandedly makes him more relevant than he has been in years.

The obvious comparisons to Lucha Underground are Lucha Libre USA, which ran on MTV2 a few years ago, and Wrestling Society X, which ran on MTV in early 2007. Like Lucha Underground, LLUSA was an attempt to bring a lucha-infused product to an American audience. But where LLUSA was perhaps *too* Americanized, Lucha Underground maintains strong ties to the history of lucha libre by way of discussion by the commentators and the various character-introductory vignettes. The comparison to WSX is on a more conceptual level - like Lucha Underground, WSX took place in a dingy bunker-like arena with the audience being played up as a cult following. But ultimately WSX squandered an extremely talented roster on nonsensical booking and matches with special effects that went totally beyond the pale of maintaining suspension of disbelief, neither of which seem to be issues with Lucha Underground thus far.

It could be said that Lucha Underground is perhaps what either or both of those companies could and should have been. There are even talent links between Lucha Underground and those companies - Blue Demon, Jr. and Chavo both wrestled for LLUSA, while Mil Muertes worked for WSX as Ricky Banderas. It also helps Lucha Underground's network is completely behind it - El Rey's founder, Robert Rodriguez, is also one of the creators of Lucha Underground - whereas the final fates of both LLUSA and WSX were sealed by a lack of interest and support from the MTV networks.

Overall, I've really enjoyed the first five episodes of Lucha Underground and appreciate how the promotion has gone out of its way to make something fresh and original, a wrestling product with a true identity of its own. I, for one, will continue to watch, support and enjoy the show, and look forward to seeing how it develops from here.

Live: IYFW Season 8: Settled in Steel - Duanesburg Area Community Center, Delanson NY 11/15/14
the shockmaster

This past Saturday night, me and Jonny V. checked out the eighth-anniversary show for our little local independent, In Your Face Wrestling, which was held at the Duanesburg Area Community Center in the village of Delanson. This year IYFW has divided their events between this venue and the community center in Ballston Spa; this was our first time seeing them here. It looks like they prefer this venue, though, as all of their upcoming events are scheduled for Duanesburg rather than Ballston Spa, and it's easy to see why. The Duanesburg community center is a much newer building - only built in 2008 - and is much nicer. The gym area where the event was held is much bigger, with nice built-in bleacher seating rather than the metal risers the Ballston center features. It also seemed quite a bit easier to get to - despite never having been to the area we got there in the dark via GPS with no issue at all - and the parking lot is way bigger.

It was pretty cold so the building's lobby was opened well before showtime. The evening's first amusing moment came when we were in line to enter the gym area when it was opened. Chip Stetson, the heel in the main event, cut past the line to get to the curtained-off hallway that I assume was serving as the backstage area, just quietly saying "excuse me, please." Jon jokingly commented that "hey, bad guys aren't supposed to be polite," which Stetson heard - he whipped around, suddenly in character, and said, "who said that?!" Inside the gym they had a merch table set up with IYFW's shirts and DVDs as well as a vendor selling wrestling action figures, and a section of the table set up with Shane Douglas' 8x10s for him to sign at later. Like the setup they use in the Ballston Spa shows we've been to, they had three rows of folding chairs set up at ringside, but this time we opted for the top row of the bleachers, which gave a nice view looking down into the ring. There was a good turnout for one of these shows too; just estimating it looked like there were at least a hundred in the crowd, maybe more.

The show opened up with the IYFW Rumble. Standard Rumble rules with a fast countdown. Prince Ashul-Naul and Vigo, half of the tag team Northern Fury, started out; every thirty seconds another wrestler entered. There were around twelve guys total - among them, our pick Good Lord Willing, Liam McFerrin, both members of Team RPG (Ian Daniels and the Rickety Rocket), Lance Madewell and the recently-debuted Tyler Vincent, along with a few others I didn't recognize and whose names I missed (I assume recent graduates of IYFW's training program). Oddly enough nobody got eliminated until everyone had entered. They did the classic "big man elimination" spot with everybody teaming up to get Ashul-Naul out of the ring. After getting his wig knocked off, Good Lord Willing proceeded to use the wig as a weapon. Vigo and Willing stacked up four opponents in the corner and hit splashes on them. After getting eliminated, Daniels came back wearing a green mask and snuck into the ring, only to immediately get eliminated again. It ultimately came down to Vigo, McFerrin and Vincent; as McFerrin was trying to throw Vincent out, Vigo came in and tossed them both. After the bell, McFerrin came back in and made like he wanted a one-on-one match right now, but after exchanging words McFerrin blew him off and left. Pretty fun battle royal and a good way to open the show.

Next up was a battle of newcomers as Maximo Suave took on the debuting "Big Rig" Dewey Murray. From a distance Suave vaguely looks like a young 2 Cold Scorpio. Murray had shiny purple boots, an odd compliment to the rest of his gear which consisted mostly of tattered rags. They played it as speed vs. power, with Suave taking several power moves but coming back with kicks and a few flying moves. Suave got the win with a couple of superkicks. An undercard match with one wrestler being relatively new to the company and the other making his debut, and not bad for what it was.

Next up, the Savage Wolves - brothers CJ Scott and Damon Ravage - took on "The Mighty" Fronz Roddy and a partner of his choosing, who turned out to be "The Shaft" Bobby Ocean. This was a continuation of the rivalry between Roddy and Scott, whose issue began in the Coronation Cup Tournament a few months ago when Scott used a foreign object in their match to knock Roddy out of the tournament early. As local talent go, these guys are a cut above (and Ocean has, in fact, worked for some of the bigger northeastern indies, including 2CW and, more recently, Northeast Wrestling). Not only do all four of them possess above-average ring skills, but are also great at the performance aspect, the faces playing to and the heels bantering with the crowd throughout the match to draw them in. After several good exchanges, the match broke down with all four guys in the ring and each managed to get in a finisher on an opponent; finally Roddy hit a running powerslam on Ravage for the pin. Roddy and Ocean played to the crowd for awhile after the match. Since Roddy pinned Ravage rather than his main rival Scott, that means the feud can still continue.

Next Sgt. Fury - the other half of the tag team Northern Fury, along with Vigo - took on "S.O.G." Ronnie Ribs. I guess this was put together for Veteran's Day, as the ring announcer made a point to mention that both men are real-life veterans. Fury came out with face-and-body paint to look like Captain America, and gave his toy shield to a kid in the crowd. The match was a little slow in spots with some long rest-holds; I don't know how often Fury wrestles singles matches (this is the first time I've seen him outside of tag matches, at least), so I wonder if that's a symptom of him being used to having a partner to tag out to. Fury won with a roll-up as Ribs was going for a figure-four. After the match Ribs acted despondent and said he was going to quit, and Fury got on the mic and gave him an inspirational speech, saying that when they were serving together Ribs never quit, and he's not going to let him now. Ribs appeared to accept Fury's advice and shook his hand. At this point Lenn Oddity, still with an injured foot, came out. Oddity had turned heel at IYFW's last show by attacking Fury. As Fury was distracted by Oddity, Ribs attacked him from behind and beat on him until Vigo ran in for the save. This drew out Liam McFerrin, who backed away from the fight with Vigo after the battle royal. Ribs and McFerrin continued the assault on Fury and Vigo as Oddity waved his arms like an orchestra conductor - apparently the whole thing was his plan from the beginning. Finally Ian Daniels and Rickety Rocket came down to pull the KO'd Fury and Vigo out of the ring. Great post-match angle that presumably sets up a tag grudge match at the next show.

At this point we had the mid-show intermission. The band Hungry Jack played such classics as "Wooden Legs and Real Feet," "Teenage Airhead Zombie Girl," "Jesus Stole My Moped," and "H.R. Pufnstuf's Lament" (and, oddly enough, a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" too). Both Good Lord Willing and Hungry Jack's frontman Smokey Toenails vehemently deny that they're the same person; I think we know what that means.

Shane Douglas was at the merch table during the intermission, so we took the opportunity to meet him. We talked to him a bit about seeing him in the 1991 Royal Rumble, local wrestling, and how he watched Raw last week and found it "embarrassing." He's somebody you hear stories about and his outspokenness has certainly gotten him in trouble with different companies over the years, but when it comes to meeting the fans he seemed like a really cool guy. I got an autographed photo of his for my collection - he had a few choices of pictures; I got what I'd bet is his most popular - a circa 1997 photo of Douglas with his then-Triple Threat teammates, Chris Candido, Bam Bam Bigelow and Francine.

After the intermission it was time for the title matches and main events. First up, the IYFW New Breed Title was on the line as "Mr. Canada" Ricky Williams defended against 2014 Coronation Cup winner Elite Terrell. Good back-and-forth action with Terrell using fast kicks and high-flying moves as Williams tried to slow down his opponent. There were one or two blown spots, but nothing too bad. Terrell got the win and the belt by pinning Williams after a running flipover neckbreaker. Williams is a solid hand and Terrell, while rough around the edges, definitely has promise.

The IYFW Tag Team Championship was on the line next as The Rochester Wrecking Crew - Hellcat and Rob Sweet - challenged champions The Knockout Gang (Gabriel Soul and Jamar Justice). The Rochester Wrecking Crew guys were wearing matching Macho Man tribute outfits with pink trunks with stars and yellow boots and pads. They were much smaller than the Knockout Gang guys, which was the basic story of the match - small babyfaces vs. big heels. There were some good exchanges with the Rochester guys using fast offense while the Knockout Gang used power and size. In the end, the Rochester Wrecking Crew appeared to have the upper hand, but Justice got one of the tag title belts and smashed both faces with it in full view of the referee. The Knockout Gang lose by DQ, but protect their title and, of course, provide a reason for a future rematch.

The sub-main event saw special guest "The Franchise" Shane Douglas taking on IYFW Champion "The Pillar" Roman Dominguez. The belt was not on the line, though - several weeks ago, IYFW posted a video promo from Dominguez where he explained that he wanted the match because as a champion, he's offended that Douglas made his career by throwing down and disrespecting the NWA World Title, but he'll only fight in a non-title match because he doesn't want to risk the same thing happening to the IYFW Title. I actually thought that was a really cool backstory for the match; certainly beats just putting the special guest in the main event just because. The match itself was slowly-paced, with Dominguez trying to wear Douglas down with bearhugs while Douglas drew on the crowd for support. In the end, Douglas whipped Dominguez into the corner, squashing the referee in the process. Douglas hit the belly-to-belly suplex and went for the pin as the crowd made a five-count, but there was no ref to make it official. Douglas went to check on the ref, allowing Dominguez to hit a low blow. Dominguez then hit two kicks to the head with Douglas over the rope and locked on the Suffoco (his main finisher, a front facelock choke). After an odd delay the ref (who was already recovered) finally called for the bell and awarded Dominguez the win by stoppage.

This seemed pretty anticlimactic at first, and the miscue between the ref and the timekeeper certainly didn't help. But with a few days for it to sink in, I can see why Douglas would agree to put Dominguez over in the match. At this point in his career, Douglas doesn't really have anything to gain by a win, nor will a loss really hurt him in the long run, especially if that loss isn't completely clean (there was a low blow involved). Dominguez, meanwhile, has everything to gain - whether he stays in IYFW or eventually moves on to bigger things, he can always use the fact that he beat Shane Douglas in promos as a feather in his cap, and IYFW and its title lose no prestige either since their champion didn't get beaten by someone from outside the company. So although Douglas winning would have been a big pop for the crowd, this result was maybe a better option for the company in the long run and I have to give Douglas a lot of credit for using his name value for the benefit of this company rather than just his own gain.

At any rate, after the match Douglas conferred with the ref in disbelief, telling him there was a low blow, then hit another belly-to-belly on Dominguez. They continued fighting until the babyface locker room emptied to separate them. Dominguez left followed by the other face wrestlers, leaving Douglas in the ring alone. He got a mic and cut a nice promo putting over Dominguez' toughness, then thanked the crowd and talked about his history with the Triple Threat, saying that his brothers are here in spirit. He named Bam Bam and Candido in turn, each name getting a round of applause.

After this there was only one match left - the grudge match in the steel cage, with Drake Evans and Chip Stetson settling the score (hence the event's subtitle). It took awhile to get the cage set up (the four sides were just separate pieces tied with straps to the ringposts, and a couple of ring crew members, including Dewey Murray, crouched at ringside to hold the centers of the cage sides - I probably should have taken a picture of it). As the cage was put up Hungry Jack stalled for time by playing a few more songs. Finally the match was ready to go and Stetson got the first entrance followed by Evans; Hungry Jack played both men to the ring. During his entrance, Stetson paused to give the stink-eye to some kids holding up a "Stetson Sucks" sign. Evans got the second entrance and the match started as soon as he got in the cage. This was a pinfall-rules cage match; I doubt the cage would support being climbed over (I actually prefer this format for cage matches to escape rules anyway). As you'd expect, the cage itself factored into a lot of the offense, with both men slamming each other into it. Stetson got busted open early, although Evans eventually bled as well. Stetson - who is really a great old-school heel - put Evans down and flexed for the crowd, yelling "look at me!" Eventually it got to that part of the match where both men were in desperation mode, and Evans finally hit Stetson with an Angle Slam (with a pretty nasty landing), then a second, better-looking Angle Slam and finally a double-underhook piledriver (Jay-Driller) for the pin. After the match they got a mic and Stetson said that now that this was all over, they didn't have to like each other but they definitely have to respect each other.

Pretty fun show for IYFW to end their year on (and, of course, you can't beat the $10 ticket price). They'll be back in Delanson for another show in January, and then the Memories, Moments & Mayhem convention and event in March. As for me, I have one more event this year - Ring of Honor's biggest show of the year, Final Battle, at Terminal 5 in Manhattan. Stay tuned for the live report from that next month.


Quick Results:
-Vigo won the IYFW Rumble (d. Garrett Holiday, Good Lord Willing, Harley Stevens, Ian Daniels, Jacoby, Lance Madewell, Liam McFerrin, Prince Ashul-Naul, The Rickety Rocket, Tyler Vincent, Volcano Mike, William Slade and Zach Clayton)
-Maximo Suave d. Dewey Murray
-Bobby Ocean & Fronz Roddy d. The Savage Wolves (CJ Scott & Damon Ravage)
-Sgt. Fury d. Ronnie Ribs
-Elite Terrell d. Ricky Williams to win the IYFW New Breed Championship
-The Rochester Wrecking Crew (Hellcat & Rob Sweet) d. The Knockout Gang (Gabriel Soul & Jamar Justice) by DQ (Knockout Gang retain the IYFW Tag Team Championship)
-Roman Dominguez d. Shane Douglas in a non-title match
-Drake Evans d. Chip Stetson in a steel cage match


Photo Highlights

The Franchise in the ring with the Pillar.

The merchandise/memento takeaway. Event ticket and Shane Douglas' autograph for the collection.

Special Feature: Dan Talks Rasslin' Third Anniversary Highlight Reel
the shockmaster

Somehow another year has passed, marking three since I started this blog while slacking off from preparing for my master's comps. This past year marked a personal record for live events with some great matches and memorable encounters with the superstars, as well as some fun stuff on TV, and the coming year looks to be more of the same. Whatever the state of the wrestling industry might be, hey, I had fun.

Here's the best of the rest from the past year:

Previous Highlight Reels
-Six Months Highlight Reel
-One Year Highlight Reel
-Second Anniversary Highlight Reel

Live Events
-HOH House of Hardcore 3 - Mid Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, NY - 11/9/13
-FWE Openweight Grand Prix: Second Round - Elmcor Center, Corona, NY - 12/7/13
-TNA One Night Only: #OldSchool - Mid-Hudson Civic center, Poughkeepsie, NY - 12/30/13
-IYFW Memories, Moments & Mayhem 2014 - Ballston Area Community Center, Ballston Spa, NY - 3/15/14
-HOH House of Hardcore IV - Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, NY - 6/6/14
-IYFW Coronation Cup 2014 - Ballston Area Community Center, Ballston Spa, NY - 6/28/14
-NEW Wrestling Under the Stars III - Dutchess Stadium, Fishkill, NY - 8/2/14

Roundup Highlights
-1/14/14: The Benoit Conundrum; Old School Raw - The first part examines the difficult question of how footage of Chris Benoit should be handled.
-4/18/14: The End of the Streak - My reaction to how the Undertaker's WrestleMania streak came to an end. Months later, I stand by every word. (Honestly, I think this is one of my best articles.)

Special Features
-The Second Annual Dan Talks Rasslin' Year-End Awards

Audios (w/Ventekid)
-Dan and Jon's Excellent Rasslin' Adventures Episode 3 - Catching up a year's worth of live events.

-Q&A #7 - "Option C" and Morrison on the indies.

Video Reviews
-Road Warriors: The Life & Death of the Most Dominant Tag-Team in Wrestling
-WWF Supertape Vol. 4


So what's next for Dan Talks Rasslin'? Probably a new Q&A entry that I already have in the works. I also hope to do another video review or two soon, and I have an idea for a new fantasy booking entry in mind as well, to resurrect my old "Armchair Booker" series with. And of course I have a few picks lined up for future "Match of the Moment" installments. There are also at least two live events coming down the pike: assuming I'm able to find the place, next week is an In Your Face Wrestling show in Delanson, then on December 7th it's back to New York City for Ring of Honor's Final Battle. So stay tuned as we head into Dan Talks Rasslin': Year Four.

In Memoriam: Bob Geigel
the shockmaster

Robert Geigel died October 30th, 2014 at age 90.

Born in Algona, Iowa in 1924, Geigel first wrestled in high school when his assistant football coach asked him to try out for wrestling, something Geigel's father would only agree to if he could be out of practice by 6:30 so he could help unloading corn. After a four-year stint in the Navy after high school, Geigel entered the University of Iowa and lettered in both football and wrestling, placing third in the latter in the 1948 NCAA Championships.

After college, Geigel was recruited into wrestling by Alphonse Bisignano and debuted in Tampa, Florida. For three years he wrestled in Columbus, Ohio in the winters and in Nova Scotia in the summers. He llater made his way to the Amarillo, Texas territory, where he became close friends with Dory Funk, Sr. He became a full-time wrestler in 1952. Known as "Texas" Bob Geigel, he held many titles in both the National Wrestling Alliance and the American Wrestling Association, including three runs with the AWA World Tag Team Championship (once each with Hard Boiled Haggerty, Otto von Krupp and Stan "Krusher" Kowalski), four runs with the NWA World Tag Team Championship (twice with Rufus R. Jones, once with Akio Sato and once with Pat O'Connor) and four runs with the NWA Southwest Tag Team Championship (twice with Dory Funk, Sr., once with Mike Gallagher and once with Boris Kalmikoff). He also held singles titles including the NWA North American Heavyweight Title, NWA Southwest Heavyweight Title (twice) and the NWA Central States Heavyweight Title (six times).

Geigel moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1963 and, along with Pat O'Connor and Gus Karras, bought the Kansas City promotion from George Simpson. The promotion became Heart of America Sports Attractions (also known as Central States Wrestling), a major member of the National Wrestling Alliance. Geigel and O'Connor, along with Verne Gagne and Harley Race, eventually also bought interest in the St. Louis Wrestling Club from Sam Muchnick, making it Central States' sister promotion. Geigel officially retired from the ring in 1976. A board member of the National Wrestling Alliance from the time of Heart of America Sports Attractions' formation, Geigel was elected NWA President for the first time in 1978 with the support of the influential Jim Barnett and Giant Baba of Japan, both of whom Geigel had previously wrestled for. He served as NWA President until 1980, then was elected to a second term from 1982 to '85 and a third from '86 to '87.

Geigel sold his Central States Wrestling promotion to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1986, but bought it back the following year. He stepped down as NWA President that year and withdrew Central States from the NWA. He formed a new governing body, the World Wrestling Alliance, in an attempt to compete with the expansion Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation and Crockett's JCP, but this venture was unsuccessful and folded in 1988.

In more recent years, Geigel and his wife of over sixty years, Vera, continued residing in Kansas City, Missouri. He worked part-time at the Woodlands Racetrack and sometimes visited his longtime friend Harley Race's World League Wrestling. He received the Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cauliflower Alley Club in 2007. At the time of his passing, Geigel was suffering from Alzheimer's disease as well as a broken hip.

(Sources: SLAM! Sports obituary; SLAM! Sports: "A Lifetime of Rewards for Bob Geigel"; Wiki)

Match of the Moment: Survival Tobita vs. Mokujin Ken
the shockmaster

Survival Tobita vs. Mokujin Ken
Saitama Pro Wrestling Company
Saitama Puroresu Commercial Tape
Tokyo Ota-ku Min Plaza, Saitama, Japan
August 23rd, 1999

I was trying to think of what match to post for a Halloween special. WCW's infamous "Chamber of Horrors" match? Some Divas costume battle royal? Too obvious. Instead I decided to go with a minor Internet classic.

The background: Japanese star Survival Tobita has worked for various major companies in Japan including Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and Michinoku Pro, but is perhaps best known for his own promotion, Saitama Pro Wrestling Company, which operated in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His main events - held usually on gym mats rather than a ring - generally featured himself wrestling against various costumed monsters while dramatic music plays in the background as if it were a Godzilla movie. Think Kaiju Big Battel with lower production values.

This is the match that made Tobita into something of a cult figure. His opponent, Mokujin Ken (a.k.a. Ken the Box) is based on the character Mokujin from the Tekken video games. The monster's costume - which appears to actually be made out of a large cardboard box - limits his movement so much that his offense involves little more than swinging his arms up and down, effectively making wrestlers like the Great Khali and Rob Terry look positively nimble by comparison. It's a classic battle between the proverbial irresistible force and immovable object. Can Tobita prevail? Will it at least be mercifully short? Tune in to find out.

Watch the match:

And if you want to see more of this insanity, just search YouTube with Tobita's name. You'll find plenty of video of him taking on other baddies like giant insects, watermelon monsters, dress-wearing ghosts and other indescribable opponents.