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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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 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.

NWL Episode 62

Our Story So Far…
– Two episodes ago, Maverick finally won the Spirit of the NWL Championship back from Gary Jay thanks to Drew Gold pulling some strings and getting Matt Jackson to book the rematch.
– Last episode, the Besties in the World weathered a bloody street fight with The Foundation to capture the NWL Tag Team Championships.
– Jet Royal has been having to go solo or hook up with other partners ever since his twin brother, Jax, went down with an injury last summer.
Now on to the show!

Drew Gold and Matt Jackson makes plans to sign the paperwork for Maverick to join the Jackson Administration. A blue-haired woman tells Gold to not be late.

Spirit of the NWL Championship: Maverick (c) w/ Drew Gold & Thomas Shire vs. Mike Outlaw
These two have had some good matches together. This one is solid, though it doesn’t reach the level of their previous encounters. Maverick retains with the Gory bomb not long after the commercial break.
Winner – Maverick

Matt Jackson comes out and says its time for Maverick and Shire to officially join the Jackson Administration. Maverick says he’s his own man, so no. Drew Gold says he owns Maverick and slaps him. Maverick lays hands on him, but Shire attacks from behind. Thor Theriot makes the save, but then he spits black mist in Maverick’s face and joins with Gold and Shire. Surprising double turn, considering that Maverick just won the title back, but it makes enough sense. Thor hasn’t been up to much recently, so this gives him some focus.

The Besties in the World say that the NWL Tag Team Championships are special to them because they didn’t come easily. Fitchett makes a Blood Brothers reference and says he’ll bleed for his brother.

NWL Tag Team Championships: The Besties in the World (Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett) vs. The Howletts (Marco & Leonel)
Great stuff here by both teams. Flyers vs. brawlers, plus everyone can strike. They lay it all out there. Marco hits a move on Fitchett I’ve never seen before. He tosses him up as if for a tiger driver, but he drops him with a neckbreaker over his knee. The Howletts try to ape the Besties’ synchronized running moves on the floor, but the Besties dodge, and Marco in particular takes a scary bump on the back of his head as he tries a senton. Leo kicks out of a 450. Controversy looms over the finish Vega gets Leo in a sharpshooter, and the referee apparently mistakes his reaching for the ropes as a tap.
Winners – The Besties

The Howletts corner the referee in the back and accuse him of being on the take. Matt Jackson and Maddox have to talk them down and take them away. The blue-haired woman tells the ref he’s in trouble now.

Ace Steel w/ Carolina Grizelda Esmeralda Rodriguez vs. Jet Royal
Hard to get a bad match from these two. Ace has so much experience, and Jet has matured a great deal since the first time I saw his brother and him wrestling in IPW. They do technical stuff, and Jet takes to the air a few times, of course. Ace actually misses catching him on a tope con hilo, but Jet doesn’t sweat it. Very easy to watch an enjoy, I think. Carolina interferes near the end, but it doesn’t help. Jet hits the shooting star press right to Ace’s face, but Michael Strider pulls the ref out for the DQ.
Winner by DQ – Jet Royal

The Foundation beat on Jet and mug for the camera until a Jax Royal video interrupts them. Jax comes out and takes care of both heels (slipping on the ropes a bit at first). He and Jet hit Ace with a doomsday blockbuster and celebrate their reunion. My only complaint is that Jax let Jet get beat up surprisingly long. But the fans ate it up, so it worked.

The middle match was very good, and the other two were enjoyable and set up new stories. Glad to see the Royal Blood back in the tag team division. The NWL is my favorite promotion to watch right now.

NWL Episode 61

Our Story So Far…
– Marti Belle has been petitioning Matt Jackson for a singles match with her rival, Carolina Grizelda Esmeralda Rodriguez. Every time she calls her out, Carolina has an excuse and a replacement, and Jackson has enabled her.
– After losing the NWL KC Championship in the NWL Rumble, Dak Draper came up short in his first title shot against Jeremy Wyatt.
– Christian Rose hates everyone.
– The Besties in the World have been working their way towards the NWL Tag Team Championships, but Michael Strider and Ace Steel kept denying them a shot. The Besties finally got them to agree to a title match by calling their respective legacies into question and challenging them to a no holds barred match.
Now on to the show!

We get a recap video of the Besties (Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett) making the challenge to The Foundation. They employ the Back to the Future method and call The Foundation (Michael Strider and Ace Steel) chicken. This leads to the acceptance of the title match as a Chicago Street Fight.

Carolina Grizelda Esmeralda Rodriguez & Laynie Luck vs. Marti Belle & Savanna Stone
Matt Jackson is on commentary to rip on Marti during the match. I do not like this because now we have two overbearing heel commentators to one straight man. But the match itself is solid, and I think everyone looks good in the parts that are shown. Savanna and Laynie aren’t given much as far as characters, but they’re mostly here to facilitate the Marti/Carolina story. Savanna looks like one to watch. Marti does get her hands on Carolina and takes out a lot of her frustration, but Carolina tags out and refuses to tag back in. She leaves Laynie hanging, and Marti spears her to finish her off.
Winners – Marti Belle & Savanna Stone

Davey Vega and Mat Fitchett in the back say that they’re not the underdogs that people think they are.

Dak Draper vs. Christian Rose
“Shame…on…you!” “No, I’m shameless!” Good story here as Rose seems to have counters for most of Dak’s regular offense. Draper is frustrated, but Rose can’t put him away and lets his cockiness get the best of him. I feel like Dak has been more fun to watch ever since he became a babyface. I like hearing the crowd chant “Drapers win” better than “Tighty whiteys.” Rose hits a Styles clash for some reason. Rose escapes one doctor bomb, but Draper nails the springboard forearm and pulls off another doctor bomb to get the pin.
Winner – Dak Draper

Draper says that Matt Jackson has been trying to distract him, but he can’t stop him from getting back the NWL KC Championship. Jackson comes back out and tells Dak that he has much bigger problems than Jeremy Wyatt. Suddenly, Todd Letterman attacks Dak from behind. This is Letterman’s first appearance in an NWL ring since the demise of NWL STL. Draper tries to fight back, but Letterman gives him a spike driver. Then he shakes Jackson’s hand.

NWL Tag Champs Michael Strider and Ace Steel are in the back. Steel is pissed at the Besties for questioning their abilities. Strider says that they’ve been spilling blood since the Besties were dating cheerleaders.

NWL Tag Team Championships, Chicago Street Fight: The Foundation (Michael Strider & Ace Steel w/ Carolina) vs. The Besties in the World (Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett)
Have I described enough NWL matches as “brutal” yet? Because this is another one that fits that bill. Chairs, ladders, thumbtacks, Kendo sticks, and trash cans are all involved. There’s a brawl to the back of the floor crowd that’s hard to see because of dim lighting, but it’s not unwatchable, and they do come back to the ring soon enough. By the way, Ace and Strider pay tribute to Terry Funk with “VEGA SUCKS EGGS” and “FITCHETT SUCKS EGGS” T-shirts. Anyway, it’s pretty long and very violent. They go nuts at the home stretch. Vega duct tapes a brick to his thigh to enhance his barineater move. Fitchett kicks out of a Strider spiral onto tacks, then no-sells a doomsday device, landing on his feet and taking out both opponents. Then Vega hits Strider with the braineater on the brick to finally get the pin and win the titles.
Winners and NEW Champions: The Besties in the World

A couple thoughts about this kind of match…
First, I sometimes wonder how wrestlers can survive sickening bumps and keep fighting in these sorts of violent contests, and then end up losing a regular singles or tag match to an average finishing move. I suppose the logic is that the stakes are higher here and they can find the will to dig down deep. This isn’t a criticism, just a lingering thought I have whenever I see something like this.
Second, I know the fans love watching these hardcore matches, and I really believe that a lot of the wrestlers enjoy putting them on, but I personally have trouble getting past the long-term damage these guys are doing to themselves. I’m not trying to tell them not to do this stuff – they’re grown men who can make their own decisions – I just don’t want to come across as a guy who’s pushing them into it against their better judgment.

All in all, another good episode of NWL TV. And from what I gather about episode #62, it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down much going forward.