September 1 2018
I skip the national anthem. Hosts are Excalibur, Ian Riccaboni and Don Callis.
MJF vs. Matt Cross
This is certainly an odd choice for the opener.
You’d think one of the more famous lads would be out there first to get the crowd pumped. I suppose it did come after the Zero Hour battle royal and the Briscoes. MJF is a TV guy in the making. His best attributes are his old school shtick and his promos. His cynical heel approach is actually met with applause because some of the crowd think he’s being actually nice? I don’t know. It’s a weird response. The match makes sense. It’s your flippy babyface vs cheating heel. Commentary gets bored and starts talking about officials. It’s a weird mix having the ROH, PWG and New Japan commentators on there. I’ve always liked Excalibur but felt he needed reeling in a bit and he comes across as more professional here. The match outstays its welcome, running to ten relatively heatless minutes. It’s really not what I would have put on first. Anyway Matt wins with an SSP and this was fine but slightly misjudged the crowd.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where Sean Mooney interviews NWA champion Nick Aldis.
They could have pre-recorded this and if they did, and that’s the best Aldis can do then it’s no shock that he’s on his way out as NWA champion. Cutting a good promo is pretty essential when you’re in that spot.
Stephen Amell vs. Christopher Daniels
Amell is in the Bullet Club apparently (during this show it’ll become abundantly clear that I don’t watch Being the Elite). This is a big crowd for a non-wrestler to be working but that does give it that ‘WrestleMania’ feel. Guest stars, things you won’t see anywhere else. Amell looks very rushed, which comes with inexperience. His selling is miserable. You can see him mentally planning his next spot. However the execution on his spots is consistently good. He’s doing all the big things right, even if the small stuff is bad. The flaws are to be expected considering he’s not a wrestler. Considering it’s only his third match ever Amell looks pretty good but I don’t particularly want to see guys who are only in their third match putting themselves over like this kid. He doesn’t crash and burn but that’s a fluke. The match has several awful moments. Daniels completely missing BME for example but the absolute worst is Daniels deciding to ‘sell’ himself onto a table at ringside. What the hell is that?
Then you’ve got referee Jerry Lynn throwing them both into the ring after the table spot. Amell is clearly hurting and gassed. He fails on a roll up and then takes one of the ugliest bumps I’ve seen in ages on a backbreaker. BME finishes. I won’t be rating this because it’s probably not fair to rate a non-wrestler on a professional scale. Amell didn’t embarrass himself but I would have cut this run time in half. Keep the coast to coast dropkick and the table spot.
Final Rating: NR
Dr Britt Baker MD vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard
I’m not terribly familiar with the American Indie scene so I’ve got limited experience with most of these ladies. I like Chelsea Green and Tessa is operating on a higher level than everyone else. I’ve heard of ‘attitude’ problems preventing her getting a WWE deal but surely it’s inevitable? She knows where the hard-cam is for starters!
To have Magnum TA backing her up from ringside is something else. Organising a four-way is really hard. It’s a good job these women are all experienced. Chelsea does a great job of selling her character where she’s half mess/half pro. Her gear is split down the middle like Harvey Dent. It’s clever stuff. Each half of her delivers a different style of moves, depending on which arm is involved. They make a point of pairing off and this limits the potential for errors. Doesn’t eliminate it but limits it. I’m surprised to learn during this that Tessa is only 23. It feels like she’s been on the cusp of being a big deal for years. There are enough thrills and spills here that the crowd get invested. Some of the more complicated sequences are the ones that actually come off clean. Perhaps where everyone is just that much more laser focused on what they’re doing. They pretty much nail the near falls stuff down the stretch. The execution isn’t always crisp but sometimes a match lives on the edge of being safe and that adds to it. My biggest take is that the match is so well structured, which is the hardest part of doing a multi-person match. They kinda flub the finish with Tessa hitting a Hammerlock DDT and Britt getting over to break up the pin but the ref counting three anyway. This was significantly more entertaining than the last two matches and better executed. The crowd’s “awesome” chants and standing ovation is perhaps generous but this was good. I can’t go much higher on the rating due to the rough-around-the-edges nature but this could be Tessa’s calling card.
Final Rating: ***
Dusty’s son vs. the bad guy from Far Cry 6.
NWA World Championship
Nick Aldis (c) vs. Cody Rhodes
They’ve done a good job of building this up and making it relevant in today’s society; linking Cody to his father’s NWA legacy. Team Cody is DDP, Tommy Dreamer and his dog. The dog gets a bigger pop than anyone else. Cody knows his audience.
This is the first time anyone has given a rat’s ass about the NWA title since the early 90s. I’m discounting the NWA run in TNA because they thought they needed that history and they didn’t.
When Cody left WWE did he ever think he’d be in this spot? Challenging for the NWA title in front of a sold out house in Chicago on a show he promoted himself. Referee is Earl Hebner and we have a lot of history in the ring. I can’t believe the crowd is so hot for this. It’s insane! When they realise Nick Aldis sucks it’ll be a sad day for them. My favourite moment of the early going is Cody attempting his springboard doohickey and getting blasted in the face by Aldis on the floor.
Unfortunately this leads to shenanigans with DDP and Shaun Daivari getting into it (?) and Daivari eating a Diamond Cutter for the sake of stalling. Stalling for what? Cody blading for no reason! “Did he catch him on the eyebrow?” says Excalibur. No, he didn’t. Aldis hit Cody so hard his body didn’t realise it was busted open until minutes later, hence the delayed blood flow. It all makes sense. Brandi willing Cody into the ropes during a submission attempt creates some high drama. I do enjoy an emotional punch. It helps that Aldis dismantles Cody after the bladejob. Although where she comes into the ring to save Cody from a Savage Elbow? That’s not good. They must know Aldis was limited because the whole match is smoke and mirrors. Aldis gets to kick out of CrossRhodes but is then beaten by a block on the sunset flip and Cody Rhodes is NWA champion. It means more to him than it does to the general public but because it means so much to him it means a lot to the general public. It’s all in the story telling. If that belt is important to him then it’s important.
I honestly didn’t enjoy most of the match technically but the story made sense and they got from A to B. I could have lived without it taking 22 minutes and the bladejob fiasco turned it into a joke. Was it a memorable moment though? Yeah, it was. Billy Corgan can start counting the money with Cody as champion. As All In has proved he is a big draw.
Final Rating: **1/4
Chicago Street Fight
Joey Janela vs. Hangman Page
I’m glad they show a little preview thing detailing Page’s ‘murder’ of Joey Ryan as I would have had no idea what was happening.
I’m pleased both these guys are getting the exposure on this show. Page has been great over the last year and a half and Janela has been out there breaking his body for fun for years. I’m amazed he’s avoided serious injury.
Janela has some daft ideas but he is fun to watch. They do some lovely stuff on the floor with the barrel and a Buckshot Lariat using the rail. Janela is what All In is all about. A guy who bet on himself. This match suffers from having too much plunder and too many spots being set up when they could just focus on the violence of their moves. Penelope Ford is key for Janela when it comes to setting spots up. Her involvement buys Janela time and allows setting up of stuff. With the exception of a pause in the corner she nails all her involvement with Page too. They probably spend too long setting up the big powerbomb off the ramp but it looks sick. Janela is a lunatic. Page has the match won only for Penelope to interject herself again.
I’m honestly loving this until Page’s cursed boots make an appearance and he gets into an argument with his own footwear. There’s more painfully long setting up of spots. This match needed an agent telling them to keep it simpler. The finish, after an elaborate set up, is a Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table. I mean, shit, at least it escalated to a big finish but this desperately needed trimming and honing. There was too much shit thrown at the wall. A lot of it hit but so much missed.
Final Rating: ***
Post Match: Joey Ryan comes back from the dead and
Me too Adam Page, me too.
ROH World Championship
Jay Lethal (c) vs. Flip Gordon
Brandi Rhodes is out here in army gear, ‘selling’ that Savage Elbow to the spine from earlier in the night.
Jay comes out to Pomp and Circumstance, doing the Randy Savage gimmick and he’s got Lanny Poffo with him! Holy shit! He’s wearing actual Savage gear. It’s like the spirit of Savage is alive!
Savage doing the Miss Elizabeth stuff with Brandi is INCREDIBLE. (I got so into this I typed Savage instead of Lethal and I’ve left it in there). How weird is it that Brandi took a Savage Elbow earlier and now she’s meeting the entire of Savage. “I’m not Liz, leave me alone”. Brandi accidentally turns Lethal back into Lethal and the pacing of the match changes. Jay did a fine job of selling all the daftness here. The match never quite clicks and hits a higher gear because Lethal is the focal point rather than Flip who spent an entire YEAR trying to get on this show. When Flip does get a moment it’s replicating the WM7 Ultimate Warrior no sell on the multiple elbows, which transitions into Hogan for…reasons. If you’re going to pay those tributes try and get it straight. To be fair to Flip; 1. He’s too young to remember all this and 2. He strikes me as a bit dim. They have a cracking finish at least with Flip trying to flip into the ring and getting caught with a cutter off the top. Lethal Injection finishes. This was a hodgepodge of comedy, tributes to old school WWF and actual wrestling. It kinda worked.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Bully Ray does a run in. Nobody cares mate. Bully Ray’s technique is 30 years old. He bores me to tears doing a run in. I have zero interest in ever seeing him wrestle again. Colt Cabana makes the save and Bully eats a table. I’m glad they managed to shoehorn Chicago native Colt Cabana into the main show.
Kenny Omega vs. Penta El Zero M
This was the match I was most excited to see on this show. It had a PWG-esque supercard bout feel to it. Two big personalities from different worlds colliding. New Japan vs. Lucha Underground.
I like that Kenny immediately shuts down Penta’s taunts, trying to get into his head and gets plastered by Penta’s aggression.
There’s a feeling the crowd is somewhat fatigued as it doesn’t feel as hungry for action here as earlier in the show. The show has definitely been on the long side and it’s hard to maintain energy. We’re approaching 3 hours on the main show at this point. They do a daft spot where Penta asks for more V-Triggers after being hit once. It’s a knee to the head. It should be a virtual KO spot. The match is a little patchy until they hit into the near falls and the bigger spots. They even escalate nicely with an apron spot, like the classic NOAH/AJPW of all main events. The crowd are suitably popped by them hitting the big spots. The Package Piledriver exchange is daft but well received. They don’t quite have the chemistry to take this to another level and I’ve sneaking suspicion they’ve only wrestled in tags before this (I only remember a trios match in PWG during BOLA weekend last year). One Winged Angel is the killshot. I felt like this was very good but slightly underwhelming. I also feel they’ve got another match in them at a higher level.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: We have yet another angle. This one is a doozy though. The lights go out. They come back on and “Penta” attacks Omega. Only that’s not Penta.
Looks like Jericho is back for Alpha vs. Omega II. He’s actually the IWGP IC champion. I keep forgetting about that. “I’ll see you on the Jericho cruise” is a totally weird thing to say. I’m not going on your cruise Chris.
Marty Scurll vs. Kazuchika Okada
What a waste of Okada.
On the other side of the coin Marty’s shtick has gotten over in America and he barely wrestles anymore compared to his prime as a competitive grappler. Fair play to him. He’s coasting to the top. I can’t wait for people to complain about him being buried on 205 Live in a few years time. The legitimate highlight of this match is Excalibur making height jokes on commentary because it’s not the work. The most basic of stuff here is just goddawful. Like “superkick, just kidding” where it’s blocked and because it’s blocked Marty throws his kick a foot higher. Why? I don’t know what the deal is with Okada but he jettisons anything resembling gimmick, especially his G1 weirdness with balloons and such. Instead going through the motions. It’s a good job he’s a big match wrestler because even at his laziest he’s a world beater. On the plus side it’s a better match than the Dalton Castle-Marty Scurll one over Mania weekend but Castle was badly injured in that contest. There are no excuses here.
The crowd seem to enjoy this, for the most part, so I guess it’s not a total bust but they overrun horribly and basically ruin the main event and the top end of the PPV….so, that’s not good. The best part of the match is Scurll finding counters to the Rainmaker but I don’t understand the crowd getting invested in Marty possibly winning. It’s Okada. New Japan are not letting a junior heavyweight beat their ace! Just when I think the match can’t get any worse they do a ref bump. Just go home for fuck’s sake. Then a Rainmaker where Okada sells for no reason afterwards. Then they fuck around some more and another Rainmaker finishes.
Final Rating: **
The Young Bucks & Kota Ibushi vs. Rey Mysterio, Rey Fenix & Bandido
There are 15 minutes left of PPV time because that last match overran so much. Mysterio is dressed as Wolverine and looks awesome. He’s probably the same height as Wolverine in the comics too. Good call.
With the time of this match cut in half they go straight into the high spots. This allows them to go at breakneck pace. There’s also a detriment. When Ibushi and Mysterio tag in there’s definitely room for a longer pre-contact stand off but they don’t have time for it. Production has an issue where you can hear “you gotta go home, you gotta go home” over the audio. If I’m Matt and Nick Jackson I am mad as hell at Scurll and Okada. It’s such a pity because the match is so much fun but it has that ‘time’s up’ element hanging over it. The match turns into an absolute car crash super early but they throw so much cool shit out there that it’s hard to complain. I wonder how much stuff they had to drop to get into the remaining time and what they were able to keep? Because there’s a lot of stuff in here and not a lot of selling. “Go home, right now” – ref. More Bang for Your Buck doesn’t finish as Fenix jumps in to save with everyone bricking it backstage. Meltzer Driver finishes. This was huge fun and I’m amazed how much they squeezed into this. The PPV literally went off the air seconds after the pin. Considering the improvisation on the fly and how great this was for sub-12 minutes (despite the lack of selling for obvious reasons) I’m going to be generous. If they’d had the time they needed to tell this as a proper story this would be easily north of four flakes somewhere.
Final Rating: ****
If you skim through this looking for snowflakes you’ll probably think I was harsh. I’ve seen other reviews and the excitement was there for this show. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as most it stacks up against a WWE PPV easily. I give all the credit in the world to Cody and the Bucks for putting this together. Clearly this is only the first step and they can iron out a lot of their issues for future cards. Using a YouTube channel as their wacky TV show to build to this was nothing short of inspired. It’s not worked as well with NJPW angles but it was hugely effective in setting stuff up for this show. They also did a great job of getting the crowd invested in the guys they had (even the likes of Aldis) and the hype work was excellent. Maybe not as well done as Joey Janela’s Spring Break but along those lines. If there’s one (well two) thing they have over WWE its innovation and grass roots support. I wouldn’t go to one of these shows, even if you paid me, but I can see the appeal and I appreciate there being genuine alternatives out there. Although, for me anyway, there are always alternatives to WWE. I have a dozen such alternatives that I watch on a regular basis. But hey, I’m glad other people are venturing outside of their bubble and kudos to Cody for being the instigating factor in a lot of that.