IPW: Nathen Edwards vs. Clay Cooper (May 12, 2018)

Our Story So Far…
– Clay Cooper and Nathen Edwards were The Fight & Flight Connection, a popular rookie tag team, before they had a falling out. You see, Clay’s brother, Dalton Cooper, constantly interfered in their matches, and Edwards was upset at how Clay kept getting distracted.
– Clay and Dalton finally had it out in a Des Moines death match, and in losing, Clay was beholden to the stipulation that he shave his head and never show his face in IPW again.
– During Clay’s time away, Nathen Edwards became a bit of a cocky jerk, so Clay used a loophole in the stipulation and returned in a mask to put his old friend in his place.

I like the story going into this match. When I saw the result of the Des Moines death match, I knew there had to be some kind of angle in kind to bring Clay back. He’s too young to be retiring already, and even if he was, I’d expect a happier sendoff for him than being humiliated by his brother. I love how the “never show your face again” stip led to a masked gimmick for him. Wish I’d thought of it.

Similarly, I’m a bit curious about where they’re going from here. After a lengthy bout where Clay looks nearly unstoppable and Edwards really has to push back hard to justify his arrogance, Dalton Cooper shows up after a ref bump and pushes Clay off the top rope. He and Edwards hug and start looking for more ways to punish Clay, but a man identified as Edwards and Cooper’s high school football coach takes out Dalton and snaps Edwards over the top rope.

This seems like an obvious, fell-good finish, but Edwards kicks out of a curb stomp and ends up getting the pin with a Death Valley driver! The announcers try to put it over as a cheap win, but I have trouble seeing it that way. Clay was able to recover from Dalton’s interference, and the coach’s interference proved ineffective, so really, they were both back to a level playing field at the end there. Thus, while I probably can’t call it a “clean” win, I still think it comes across as fairer than it was supposed to.

Then again, maybe there’s something I’m not seeing that will make sense on the next go around. It happened last time, after all.

Clay and Edwards are both really enjoyable to watch. They’re not perfect in everything they do, but they work hard and entertain me, and I dig their story.

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IPW: Matty Star vs. Sparrow (February 17, 2018)

Our Story So Far…
– Matty Star and Sparrow had been teaming as the Legend Killers since 2014 in IPW, winning titles and riling up fans.
– In November, Star won an Instant Ticket match, earning him a shot at any championship.
– Sparrow was also in the match, but he sacrificed himself to help Star win because Star said he would use the Ticket to get the Killers a tag title shot.
– In December, James Jeffries won the IPW Heavyweight Championship in a three-way with Ryan Slade and Bob Holly. Immediately after that match, Star cashed in his Instant Ticket and pinned Jeffries with help from Miss Frankie Jay, becoming the new champion.
– After defending against Jeffries in a lumberjack match, Star said the only thing missing was his best friend, Sparrow, so the matchmaker announced that Star would defend against Sparrow at the next show.
– By the way, Sparrow and his wife just had their second child together.
Now on to the match!

I like this match because of the dynamic between the two former partners. They’ve had a singles match last year, but it was part of a tournament, and they were on much better terms. Now, Sparrow is fired up about being betrayed by his long-time friend, and he’s looking for payback. Matty is quite dismayed and tries to get Sparrow to calm down, but Sparrow just steps right to him. Using a rope break to force Sparrow to back off, Matty tries to sneak attack him, but Sparrow catches him and proceeds to dominate him in and out of the ring for several minutes.

Matty gains the advantage with an unorthodox “slam” onto the top turnbuckle. Then he slows things down and tries to keep Sparrow grounded. It works for a while, but of course, the smaller man comes back and takes to the air a couple times.

This puts them back on even ground, and it turns into a slugfest, followed by a series of counters. Matty finally lands a big one – a draping roll of the dice – and we enter the bomb-dropping portion of the match. Roll of the dice…kick out. Busaiku knee…kick out. Top rope German suplex…kick out. Michinoku driver on the apron…long pause…selfie kick…kick out. Thankfully, there are gaps between these moves; it’s not a spam-fest.

And then my favorite part: Matty yells at Sparrow, “Why’d you have to ruin everything?!” That’s so telling. In his mind, he was justified in breaking his promise, and Sparrow should have just gone along with it. It’s so telling about the heel’s mentality and the disconnect between him and Sparrow. Then he goes for Sparrow’s move, eat defeat, but Sparrow escapes and hits a selfie kick of his own.

Matty dodges another kick but can’t get the pin with a roll-up. Sparrow avoids a running knee, Matty ducks a kick and pushes Sparrow at the referee, Sparrow is distracted by trying not to hurt him, and Matty nails him with another selfie kick to put him away.

Very good stuff by my standards. I can’t wait to see them match up again.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Matty takes the mic and asks who’s next, and former champion Ryan Slade runs in and attacks. Matty escapes, but Slade says he’s getting the next shot at the title. Then, after he chases Matty away, the man Matty beat for the title, James Jeffries, comes out to talk to Sparrow. He tells the crowd that he and Sparrow are brothers-in-law, and he runs down Matty Star for leading Sparrow down a dark path. He knows that it won’t be long before Sparrow hangs up the boots to spend more time with his family, so he suggests they tag up and work together as brothers until that day. Sparrow doesn’t say anything, but he hugs James and they raise each other’s arms.

No, I’m not crying, it’s just the dusty air here…

Three Dog Collar Matches from 2017!

I consider the chain match a staple of Missouri-area indy wrestling. Midwest Renegade Wrestling (later NWA Central States, and Central States Wrestling after that) and Gateway Championship Wrestling both featured chain matches as parts of big feuds. I got to witness at least two of them live.

The chain match is a great gimmick match for indies with smaller budgets. It’s similar to the cage match in that it prevents the wrestlers from running away, but it’s usually easier and cheaper to set up (unless the chain is made of solid gold or something). It can be just as dramatic and violent, and there are a lot of creative things the participants can do with the chain itself.

In 2017, three promotions in the Midwest put on dog collar matches (a type of chain match, if you didn’t know), and but none is derivative of the others. Rather than review each one separately, I wanted to bulk them all together in one post with mini-reviews.

Here they are…

Glory Pro “Sleep When We’re Dead” – August 20, 2017 – Alton, IL

“The Millennial” Danny Adams vs. Paco Gonzalez

These best-friends-turned-bitter-rivals brawl all over the place, bunkhouse-style. Merchandise, chairs, and a table all get involved, as do Kevin Lee Davidson and Jake Something. Their feud is finished in brutal fashion, at least for now.

 

National Wrasslin’ League – October 28, 2017 – Kansas City, MO

“The Monarch” Jeremy Wyatt vs. Jack Foster

Foster finally gets the leader of The Foundation alone, at least for most of the match. Even when Wyatt’s friends interfere, Foster has his own backup available to clear out the riffraff. The most unique part is when they tear up the ring mat, exposing the wooden boards beneath. It’s a major war and my top NWL match of the year.

 

Impact Pro Wrestling “Instant Ticket” – November 4, 2017 – Des Moines, IA

Ugly vs. Malice

This is the second match in a series between these two. Ugly won the first, a falls count anywhere affair, so I guess they decided they needed to keep this one almost entirely in the ring.  I think it’s better for it, especially considering the lighting and single camera presentation. There’s no interference in this one, just two guys pummeling each other because they’re crazy.

If you like blood feuds and steel chains, you can’t go wrong with any of these matches.

My Favorites of Wrestling from 2017

As I said in my last post, I only really watched three promotions regularly last year: CWF Mid-Atlantic from North Carolina, the National Wrasslin’ League from Missouri, and Impact Pro Wrestling from Iowa. I’m going to look at each group separately and pick my favorites.

CWF Mid-Atlantic

I’m pretty sure I watched every episode of CWF WorldWide in 2017.

Favorite Babyface: Trevor Lee

Dominant champion. Longest-reigning Mid-Atlantic Champion in history. Long matches, but that plays into his character. Despite being on top for so long, the crowd seems far from turning on him. The only downside to his dominance is that it’s hard to believe anyone can beat him. If you’ve only seen Trevor on TNA/GFW/IMPACT, you’re missing the boat just like their creative department is.

Favorite Heel: Cain Justice

I hated this guy. He’s such a snide little jerk, yet he wins more often than not. He doesn’t look like much – pasty skin, stringy hair, not a lot of muscle mass – but his character has been so dickish and he’s been so talented between the ropes with his Judo and submissions, it’s hard to pick anyone above him. I just wish his little fan club that seems to be in the audience would get with the program and boo him like the rest of us.

Favorite Tag Team: Caprice Coleman & Darius Lockhart

They really only tagged twice that I can remember, but I thought they were great together. Nothing against the Dawsons’s work; they were dominant and ended the Sandwich Squad’s long title reign. But I enjoyed watching Coleman and Lockhart more and wish they would come back as a regular team and have a run at the titles.

Favorite Feud: Dirty Daddy vs. Cain Justice

I hate the Dirty Daddy’s name, but he’s over with the Mid-Atlantic crowd and his gimmick – a territories wrestler who was blackballed until recently and had to start over as a rookie – is amusing. His program with Justice over the Rising Generation League title was heated and did a good job of making DD a more serious wrestler. He lost the title to Cain, who seemed to be his kryptonite. It all boiled down to a title match where the loser wouldn’t be allowed to challenge the winner again. Even though the match was a little anticlimactic in its brevity, it was good to see DD finally get the monkey off his back.

Favorite Match: Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day (03/25)

Trevor’s title defenses generally felt pretty epic last year, but this one got a ton of hype before it aired. For the most part, it’s pretty similar to most of Trevor’s other title defenses (at least as far as I can remember, which is not that far). It goes long, the announcers talk about how someone might finally have solved the Trevor Lee puzzle, both guys survive a lot, and Trevor pulls it out. The big difference is that Day keeps it a stalemate from the beginning until a ways in. I probably like watching Chip Day more than anyone else Lee defended against last year, so even if the match followed the same general beats, I’d probably choose it as my favorite anyway.

NOTE: After finishing this section of the article, I discovered breaking news that commentator and booker Brad Stutts has been fired from CWF Mid-Atlantic due to “inappropriate behavior.” This news does not factor into my review.

 

National Wrasslin’ League

I think I only skipped a few episodes on NWL TV throughout the year.

Favorite Babyface: Blaine Meeks

“Captain KC” is actually from Texas, but he became a de facto hometown hero in his slow-burning feud with Dak Draper and his chase for the title (which still eludes him). There were other babyfaces I whose matches I liked better, but Meeks had the most endearing personality for me and I really wanted him to win the big one. I’m curious to see what they do with him now that he’s returned under his old name, Bolt Brady.

Favorite Heel: Dak Draper

Again, I liked a couple other heels in the ring more, but as far as character and booking, Dak is an easy choice for NWL wrestler of the year. He trolled the fans of Kansas City like no other, defending his NWL KC title against a midget and wearing a Jamal Charles Denver Broncos jersey as soon as it was available, and no one seemed able to knock him off his high horse. He also had the best entrance music in the NWL. It looks like he turned face before the end of the year (not every show has aired yet), so maybe he’ll make this year’s list in another field.

Favorite Tag Team: The Besties in the World

Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett are well-known throughout the Midwest scene. They’re probably the highest-profile regulars in the NWL outside of maybe Gary Jay and Marti Belle. Even when they were working under different names in the first half of the year, their tag team chemistry was obvious, and the fans knew who they were. They really kicked it up a notch once they went back to their old names and embraced the cheers of the Kansas City crowds. They always had good matches, and I hope they get to work with the Royal Blood again this year.

Favorite Feud: Major Baisden vs. Matt Jackson

The NWL started with a Kansas City vs. St. Louis model, and I didn’t really like that, but I had to admit that it was a creative idea. They ditched that and their NWL STL brand around summertime, and NWL STL general manager Matt Jackson (not the Young Buck) became an on-screen antagonist for NWL owner Major Baisden. Both blamed the other for NWL STL’s failure. It seemed like they and their in-ring representatives were going to go to war, but then everything seemed to just blow over, and most of Jackson’s wrestlers turned face. I thought this was odd and hurt the booking continuity. But then Jackson turned on the Besties, sided with the Foundation, and gave this interview to explain everything. It was at this point that they won me over. Jackson went on to gain control of the NWL after his team won a Survivor Series-type match. I’m not big on the overdone heel GM character, but it seems to be working for the local crowd, and I’m eager to see were it goes.

Favorite Match: Jeremy Wyatt vs. Jack Foster – Dog Collar Match (10/28)

Chain matches are great gimmick matches for indies to put on, which is probably why they were a staple of some of the Missouri promotions I used to follow. Wyatt and Foster went to war and literally tore the ring up. Love the spot where Wyatt disappears behind the curtain, Foster yanks the chain, and a chair flies out and hits him. Easily the best gimmick match I saw all year.

 

Impact Pro Wrestling

I watched select matches from IPW, as they don’t have any sort of episodic programming.

Favorite Babyface: James Jeffries

This guy’s a fighter. He’s not a super-small guy, but he’s not that big, either. He does some flips, he has a Rocker kind of look, and he was champion at some point. He also sent local veteran Tony Sly on his way.

Favorite Heel: Mattie Star

He looks kind of like a pudgy pretty boy, and he calls his move the selfie kick, but his personality is pretty miserable. He seems to really resent that the fans don’t support him, but he doesn’t give them much reason to with his in-ring actions. He recently won the IPW title in cheap fashion, which won’t do much for his reputation.

Favorite Tag Team: The Fight and Flight Connection

One guy does the flips. One guy throws the suplexes. They complement each other well, and the crowd digs them.

Favorite Feud: The Fight and Flight Connection vs. The Legend Killers

Their matches have been great. Such fire and energy. Their feud is all about the in-ring action and shenanigans. No 20-minute promos or backstage sketches needed.

Favorite Match: The Legend Killers vs The Fight And Flight Connection (01/21)

This one goes bonkers from the beginning, then slows down a bit, then gets wild again. They really busted their butts here, and honestly…it might be my favorite match of the year from any promotion!

My Wrestling Habits of 2017

I haven’t watched very many promotions regularly this past year. I almost never watch WWE, NJPW, ROH, or any other big organizations you can think of. WWE rarely produces the type of wrestling I want to watch these days on their main shows. I like what I’ve heard about NXT, the Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Tournament, etc., but I don’t make a lot of money, so I don’t feel that subscribing to the WWE Network is a wise decision for me. Likewise, I like what I hear about New Japan, but NJPW World is also out of my price range. And while it seems that Ring of Honor has had a good year financially, their show seems to basically be all about The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, and I’m just not that into the Bullet Club.

Thankfully, lots of promotions put out free stuff on YouTube. The three main promotions I’ve followed throughout 2017 have been CWF Mid-Atlantic, the National Wrasslin’ League, and Impact Pro Wrestling.

I’ve been watching CWF religiously for a couple years now. I watched the first few episodes of their WorldWide show, then took a break, but I came back after a couple months and haven’t quit since. I greatly enjoy their style, their booking, their characters, and their consistency. Brad Stutts and Cecil Scott are my favorite commentary team in wrestling right now. They really know how to put the stories and characters over and keep the viewer in the loop as to what’s going on. Plus, they don’t fall into that trope of insisting on having a heel color commentator, which is refreshing.

The NWL just started running at the beginning of 2017, and I watched their TV show on a  delay when it was put on YouTube (except when I was visiting the States last August and was able to DVR it). They hit a few little bumps in the road last year, particularly as it relates to their St. Louis division, but they’ve had consistently good attendance for their Kansas City area shows, and they’ve really pulled things together creatively since the summer. I’m digging Gary Jay’s push, Dak Draper’s development, and the new struggle between the babyface roster and the Matt Jackson regime. Their shows don’t go online as consistently as CWF’s, and they run so many live shows now that the TV is a bit behind, but I’m definitely back to watching it regularly again.

Iowa’s IPW doesn’t have a TV or online show. Midnight Guthrie has been uploading matches to his YouTube channel, usually at staggered intervals. They’re not the best video quality, and some are downright dark, but what do you want for nothing? At least they include Guthrie’s commentary and a lot of hungry young talent most people have never heard of outside of Iowa. Their shows and stories are fairly straightforward, and that’s a positive. They seem to draw good crowds who really get into the matches.

I recently heard that Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling has been producing some good TV-style shows on their YouTube channel, so I may be adding them to my slate in 2018. From what I’ve seen, their production quality seems top-notch, and yet they feature almost zero names I’ve heard of. That might actually make them more appealing.

In my next post, I’ll list my favorite wrestlers, matches, etc. from 2017.