Every year during the Tragos/Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame’s induction weekend, Impact Pro puts on a show featuring a lot of indy wrestling stars. I look forward to this show every year…well, the videos of it, at least. Last year, they held the first annual Hall of Fame Classic Tournament. Chuck Taylor won it and had his name permanently enshrined in the Hall. For this post, I’m going to look at the full first round of the 2018 tournament, which features the big names of Brian Cage, DJZ, Colt Cabana, Bob Holly, and Austin Aries, as well as Midwestern standouts Curt Stallion and Air Wolf. And rounding it out is former IPW Heavyweight Champion James Jeffries. The tournament is split between two shows in one day. Let’s see if it turns out as stellar as it looks.
Brian Cage vs. Curt Stallion
I like this match. Cage is a big guy the fans love to watch show off his strength. Stallion isn’t small, but he’s definitely thinner than Cage. He’s also craftier and has a strong headbutt. I’m not a fan of headbutts, but at least Stallion’s is pushed as being a force; his biggest stretch of offense begins with one. He manages to keep Cage at bay for a bit, but Cage ultimately proves too much for him and win with the drill claw.
DJZ (Zema Ion) vs. Air Wolf
I like this match. These two mix well with their speed and agility. DJZ is the cocky, experienced heel who isn’t afraid to bend some rules. Air Wolf is the rising babyface who proves he can go hold-for-hold and acrobatic-feat-for-acrobatic-feat with the vet. They keep it in the ring and don’t do a ton of flips, but there are a couple cartwheels and a lot of counters. Air Wolf is able to block the ZDT and catch DJZ with a standing Spanish fly for the pin.
Bob Holly vs. Colt Cabana
Hey, this match has happened at least once before. And I like this one even better than their first one. Colt is still the heel, though he’s less overt about it at first. He starts taking shortcuts taunting the crowd later. It’s a certainly a slower-paced match than DJZ/Air Wolf, but it’s smartly worked around Holly’s loud chops and Cabana’s technical prowess and shortcuts. Holly gets his signature kick to the abdomen in, but I don’t think I noticed any dropkicks. Colt avoids the Alabama slam a couple times and pulls out the victory with a sunset flip transitioned into an alligator clutch, though Holly’s shoulder kind of gets up during the count.
Afterwards, Holly calls Colt back in, and Colt prepares to be chopped, but Holly gives him a peck on the cheek (?!) and shakes his hand.
Austin Aries vs. James Jeffries
Aries is the Impact Wrestling Champion, and he opens with a promo about the confusion between that company and Impact Pro. He gives IPW respect for being one of the first promotions to book him outside his hometown, but he says that Jeffries doesn’t deserve to be in the ring with him. He promises, though, that if Jeffries somehow beats him, he’ll maybe try to get him an Impact Wrestling tryout sometime.
I really like this match. It’s a great presentation of the arrogant superstar champion against the scrappy local babyface. Jeffries is more than game, and Aries gets really frustrated when he’s able to show him up several times. They actually spill to the floor in this one, though they don’t go very far. Aries gets close with the last chancery, but Jeffries gets the ropes. Jeffries gets a bunch of convincing nearfalls down the stretch, including one where Aries needs the ropes to break the pin attempt after a sliced bread #2, Jeffries’ finisher. Aries brings the belt into the ring, but it gets dropped. Jeffries picks it up a few minutes later, and when the referee takes it away, Aries hits a rolling elbow from behind and finishes him off with a brainbuster. If Aries isn’t winning the whole tournament, I’m curious to see how they get him out of it.
Afterwards, Jeffries is disappointed, but Midnight Guthrie lifts his spirits by telling him he’ll get to tag with Davey Boy Smith Jr. at the evening show.
All in all, a great first round by my standards. Aries and Jeffries had my favorite match, but DJZ vs. Air Wolf was a fairly close second, followed by Holly vs. Cabana. Cage vs. Stallion was the
worst least best. Can’t wait for the rest of the event to surface.