ROH: Besties in the World vs. One Mean Team (April 15, 2018)

Our Story So Far…
– Future of Honor is Ring of Honor’s showcase of up-and-coming talent from either the ROH Dojo or around the indies.
– If you read this blog, you know who the Besties in the World are. If you don’t, they’re Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett, and they’ve held a lot of tag team gold in the U.S., including being the final NWL Tag Team Champions.
– One Mean Team are Justin Pusser and Brian Johnson, managed by Miss Jasmine. They seem to wrestle mostly in the Northeast for D2W, but they’ve been on Future of Honor before.
– This is an “Underdog Challenge.” The winners will challenge the Briscoes for the ROH Tag Team Championships later in the show.

A fine tag match here, and probably a good introduction to both teams. Granted, if you watch Future of Honor regularly, it’s pretty similar to every other match you’ve seen there. The heels try to jump start things until the babyfaces send them packing by just being too good. Something sneaky happens (the lights go off briefly here) so that the bad guys can turn it around and get the heat. The hot tag comes, and the fresh face (Fitchett) runs wild with all his signatures. Finally, someone wins.

The finish here actually surprised me, though, mainly because I wasn’t paying attention to commentary. I figured that One Mean Team would come out with some cheap win since they’re kind of Future of Honor mainstays, so when one of the Besties kicked out of their double team move, it caught me off guard. I guess I was thinking that this match had come after the Besties’ match with the Briscoes, not before. Anyway, the Besties come back to pin one of OMT with that crazy brain damage move they do.

I hope Vega and Fitchett get to return to ROH, though I do think they look a little out of place with their style of gear to the rest of the roster.

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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.

NWL Episode 59

Another requested review of a show I missed!

Our Story So Far…
– Dak Draper is on the road to getting back the NWL KC Championship from Jeremy Wyatt.
– The Besties in the World are on the hunt for the NWL Tag Team Championships currently held by The Foundation.
– Leonel Howlett has a win over Jimmy Jacobs, but he recently lost to Eddie Kingston.
– Thor Theriot and Jeremy Wyatt had a series of matches in the early months of the NWL, with Thor coming out on top in a 2 out of 3 falls match. Since then, though, Wyatt has gained the top title in the promotion, while Thor hasn’t been too focused.
– Gil Rogers was fired by Matt Jackson, but he refuses to go away, and the fans have been rallying behind him.
Now on to the show!

Matt Jackson is with Ace Steel and Michael Strider in the back. They make fun of Mat Fitchett and Davey Vega and say they aren’t worthy of a title shot.

Dak Draper vs. Leonel Howlett
Both guys have been really good lately. I was a bit critical of Dak’s in-ring work in the early days of the NWL, but he’s definitely come into his own in my eyes. Despite his size, he’s good at working from beneath as a babyface against the aggressive Leonel Howlett. They do a lot of reversals and counters in the latter half, keeping me guessing as to who has the advantage. After a slugfest, Dak flapjacks Leonel, and out comes Marco Howlett for a distraction. He ends up accidentally superkicked by Leonel, but it doesn’t quite lead to the finish. Instead, after a couple more slams and pin attempts by both men, Dak wriggles out of a fireman’s carry and pulls Leonel right into a doctor bomb for the pin. Love that sequence.
Winner – Dak Draper

Gil Rogers is out in the lobby with a large group of chanting fans. He says that Matt Jackson can’t silence them.

NWL KC Championship: Jeremy Wyatt (c) vs. Thor Theriot
This one’s lengthy, as expected, and very engaging. They match up very well, and they go back and forth throughout the match. There are plenty of nearfalls and big moves down the stretch. Thor gets his knees up against Wyatt’s elbow drop, something I don’t see very often. They almost reach a double count out after a clothesline to the floor, but both men make it back just in time. Thor kicks out of the lightning spiral, but I guess everyone does that nowadays. He makes the mistake of rolling Wyatt into what maybe was going to be an Alabama slam, and Wyatt uses it to pull him into a piledriver and gets the clean win.
Winner – Jeremy Wyatt

Gil Rogers is escorted out by security, but he reiterates that he can’t be silenced and he’ll be back.

The Besties in the World (Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett) vs. Top Shelf (Niles Plonk & Rasheed Ali w/ Belvedere)
Plonk is in the ring up until the commercial break, showing off his skills and then taking some double team attacks from the Besties. After the break, Vega is in peril for a few moments before making the hot tag to Fitchett. Fitchett goes wild on everyone and hits a moonsault kick to Rasheed while both are on the apron. I’ve gotta say, Fitchett has been one of my favorite NWL guys to watch since almost the beginning. Belvedere provides a distraction that saves Rasheed Ali, and then Plonk hits the uncorker on Fitchett. He feeds him to Ali for the money driver DDT, but Vega makes the save. Top Shelf then try to steal the Besties’ wacky new finishing move, Total Taker, but the Besties counter and hit it on them for the win. Total Taker, by the way, is Fitchett performing a tombstone and a last ride at the same time on two guys.
Winners – The Besties

The Besties call out The Foundation after the match. Ace says they’re crazy if they think they’ll give them a title shot. Fitchett challenges them to a no holds barred match. Vega says it’s The Foundation’s match, as Ace is a veteran and Strider is a local hardcore icon. Ace still says no, and Vega calls them chickens (taking the old Back to the Future route). Strider takes it personally and accepts the match against Ace’s wishes. (This match happened on episode 61, and it was wild.)

Good stuff on this episode. If not for the big challenge at the end, I would have preferred the Wyatt/Theriot match be the main event. That one’s really worth watching, and I hope they do it again in Metro Pro or elsewhere.

NWL Episode 58

In honor of a special request I got through Twitter DMs, I’m going to back to review a couple episodes of NWL TV that I’d skipped.

Our Story So Far…
– Marti Belle has been trying to get Matt Jackson to book her in a match with Carolina Grizelda Esmeralda Rodriguez for quite some time now, but Jackson and Carolina have constantly thwarted her efforts.
Thomas “Livewire” Shire recently aligned with Drew Gold, who also manages Maverick.
 Jet Royal has been tagging with Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez while his brother, Jax, is out with injury.
– Gil Rogers was fired by Matt Jackson, but he’s still been gathering fan support outside the shows.
Now on to the show!

Marti Belle once again asks Matt Jackson about a match with Carolina. Jackson calls her a bully and says she’s not getting her match tonight.

NWL Tag Team Championships: The Foundation (Michael Strider & Ace Steel w/ Carolina) vs. Friendship Team 9000 (Jet Royal & Anthony Gutierrez)
Very nice tag team match here. Babyfaces run wild early, heel cut them off with some underhanded tactics (like Ace using Carolina as a shield) and isolate Gutierrez, Gutierrez finally breaks free and makes the hot tag, everyone gets some shine in, and the Foundation ultimately retain with a doomsday powerbomb. Solid as solid can get.
Winners – The Foundation

Impact Wrestling’s Kiera Hogan says she was invited to the NWL by Carolina. She’s here to make an “impact” and set this place on fire.

Drew Gold introduces Thomas Shire as having “the spirit of the past with the body of today.”

Thomas Shire w/ Drew Gold vs. Jack Foster
Shire shows a lot of character, walking around with that dopey smile, thinking he has everything under control. It works really well to show how foolish he is for not taking Foster seriously. He looks good when he’s on offense, too, opting for kicks, forearms, and other moves that don’t require him to pick the (admittedly not that much) bigger man up. Foster still controls most of the match, and Shire gets to show his backside a lot. Shire hits a final cut and pulls his straps down, ready to end it, but he gets a choke hold for his arrogance. Foster shoves him into Gold, knocking him off the apron. Shire avoids the chokeslam  but is immediately speared and pinned after that.
Winner – Jack Foster

Marti Belle says it’s like Groundhog Day, but she’s challenging Carolina again.  Carolina says she fights when she wants to, but she brings out Kiera Hogan as her replacement.

Marti Belle vs. Kiera Hogan
These two work pretty well together. Kiera doesn’t play heel; in fact, she’s not very happy when Carolina interferes on her behalf. She finally has enough and convinces the referee to eject Carolina from ringside. She does work on top for much of the match, though she doesn’t dominate. Marti ultimately gets the pin with a kneeling DDT, which i think suits her better than her spear, personally.
Winner – Marti Belle

Carolina runs back out and attacks Marti, but Kiera makes the save and helps Marti take her out. While they’re celebrating, Gil Rogers jumps the guardrail and gets a mic, saying that Matt Jackson can do whatever he wants, but he can’t silence Gil’s Army. Jackson and the staff come out, and Gil bails, saying that he’s still selling shirts outside.

Nice little wrestling show here. Can’t say it’s must-see for following the storylines, but it’s very enjoyable.

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…

NWL Episode 64

Well, the NWL has gone out of business, but there are still three matches from the 64th episode of their TV show on their YouTube channel for me to review. They haven’t uploaded the complete episode yet, and they may not ever, so I’ll just cover these matches as they are.

Our Story So Far…
– In a recent NWL Tag Team Championship match between the Howletts and the Besties in the World, the referee called for the bell when he thought he saw Leonel Howlett tap to Davey Vega. Leonel and Marco were enraged, claiming that Leo was only reaching for the ropes. They nearly assaulted the ref backstage, but Matt Jackson talked them down.
Stephen Wolf used to wrestle in NWL STL as Marcellus Gaines, but they’re not going to mention that on this show. Just thought you might like to know.
Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez has been teaming with Jet Royal recently, but now that Jax Royal is back from injury, the Royal Blood have reunited, and Sharkbait seems to be back in the singles division.
Christian Rose enjoys making people mad.
Will Lowe is a newcomer who sometimes wrestles in a dragon-esque mask and sometimes doesn’t.
Now on to the show!

Anthony Gutierrez vs. Will Lowe
Will Lowe shows off some high-flying, and a lot of it looks good. His back handspring seems kind of slow to me, though. Sharkbait has really come into his own as a wrestler. He can fly, he can grapple, he’s got plenty of flashy moves, and he knows his way around the ring. My only qualm with him is that his kicks don’t look that realistic (which is weird since he’s a legit shoot fighter). I think it has to do with his size (he’s wiry) and the fact that he wrestles barefoot instead of using boots or kickpads. Those make strikes sound better, IMO. Anyway, Lowe gets to show some stuff, but Sharkbait takes most of the match and gets the submission victory with a rear naked choke after he catches Lowe on a handspring.
Winner – Anthony Gutierrez

Ben Miller interviews Sharkbait afterwards. He casts some shade on the Royal Blood for abandoning him and resolves to be his own man. He wants to be in the title picture because he runs Kansas City. Sounds like he’s leaning in a heelish direction without fully turning.

 

Stephen Wolf vs. Christian Rose
This is a solid match, but I feel that its strengths actually highlight some weaknesses. My main qualm is that Christian Rose employs such a smart game plan that it’s hard for me to believe he loses. He works over Wolf and counters a lot of his stuff so well that he obviously did his scouting beforehand. There isn’t even really a point where he blatantly makes a crucial mistake that leads to his downfall. I would have liked to see him fail because he got too cocky or went to a certain well once too often. Or he could’ve won and looked smart and crafty. Instead, he just gets countered and is then decisively pinned after a combo of moves. He had a similar showing against Dak Draper last time out, but at least that loss was against a former champion. I guess I just wanted a different story. My other issue is minor, and it’s that Wolf hits a standing shooting star press twice in one match. It looks good, especially at the finish as a follow-up to a springboard curb stomp, but it loses its impact as a finisher when it’s already been done before. Anyway, good match that doesn’t quite meet my storytelling desires.
Winner – Stephen Wolf

 

The Howletts & Michael Strider vs. The Besties in the World & Gary Jay
Good six-man action here. Jay and the Besties show up the heels early  (and for a while, actually). The bad guys get control, and Jay gets in the most peril. Strider intelligently cuts off the ring. When Jay gets the tag, everyone’s running around and hitting moves on each other. Fitchett gets left alone near the end and shows a lot of tenacity, almost handling all three opponents, but he finally gets put down with side slam/guillotine leg drop by the Howletts.
Winners – The Howletts & Michael Strider

Without seeing any other segments from this episode, I’ve got to give it an OK rating. I liked the main event a lot, but the other two matches disappointed me a bit. The first one was window dressing to a story I’m not that into, and the second one didn’t scratch the storytelling itch I hoped it would. I don’t know if we’re going to see anymore uploads from the NWL now that they’re gone, but if not, this episode is a bit of a flat one to end on, IMO.