House of Hardcore 37
January 26 2018
Towards the end of 2017 I asked my Twitter followers to recommend me a promotion that was ‘not very good’. One that came up was House of Hardcore. Do I legitimately enjoy bad wrestling? Yes, yes I do. So I’m giving Tommy Dreamer’s promotion a shot. The gimmick for this show is the first round of the HOH Twitch TV title tournament. Meanwhile the main event, and poster selling point, is a tag match pitting Dreamer and Billy Gunn against Joey Mercury & Nick Aldis with Shane Douglas managing the bad guys. Dreamer has promised a ‘mystery manager’ for his team.
We’re in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s Rumble weekend in Philly and Tommy is here for those sweet WWE associated ticket sales! We’re in the 2300 Arena, the former Bingo Hall and ECW Arena itself. It has a very different look nowadays, after being overhauled. It’s less of a dump. The show opens with the Spirit Squad or Squad World Order as Ken Doane is calling it.
It’s mere moments before the crowd are chanting “you suck dick”. Ahhh, Philly. Bloodthirsty don’t give a fuck crowds.
Mike Mondo vs Swoggle
This is how serious tonight’s tournament is going to be. The opener is two former WWE guys, both of whom were comedy wrestlers during their tenure there. Having no ring steps is harsh on Swoggle. There’s some decent bits of comedy before Swoggle decides to pop off a bunch of German suplexes. He’s taking him to Suplex Village! It’s like Suplex City only smaller. Swoggle wins with a cheeky roll up and advances to the Twitch TV title round two!
Final Rating: **
Ken Doane vs. Lisa Marie Varon
Ken’s introduction is suitably tasteless. At least he doesn’t bring up the former Victoria’s sex tape. This promotion is trash. I kinda dig it. It’s immediately different to anything else. Indie sleaze at it’s sleaziest. Some of these fans are terrible human beings but hey, Doane can get legitimate heat with them so that’s cool. Again we have an all former WWE match up here. Varon is 46 at this point but is still in solid shape. I’m fairly surprised WWE didn’t use her in the women’s rumble. They used Kelly Kelly for fuck’s sake.
Ken Doane is a classy guy. pic.twitter.com/EkbZDVYyV1
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) January 31, 2018
Squad member ‘Randy’ gets himself ejected for interfering. Doane is one of those guys I thought was going to be a big star but he’s too much of a prick. Plus he never wanted to improve. He felt he was good enough and stayed at that level. The reality of his work is it’s ‘early John Cena’. Kenny punches Lisa Marie in the mouth and gets the sex pin for the win. Some of the near falls in this were cute. Ken is good at the last gasp kick-out. Varon is obviously good and always has been.
Final Rating: **1/2
Bull James vs. Eddie Kingston
Bull is entering his third year back on the Indies. He’s not won very many people over with lazy performances. Kingston is a big personality and a commanding heel. The Bull Fit system is in full flow. James looks in horrible shape. They big this up as being a violent match and Bull throws a bunch of super fake punches to start it off. Hey, don’t say you’ll do one thing and deliver something completely different because that’s the definition of Carnie bullshit. Eddie isn’t exempt from irritating me, adjusting his knee pads when he should be wrestling. They take a few minutes to get going, like a big truck first thing in the morning, but eventually get into throwing big bombs, which are all way oversold. I’ll put it down to the poor conditioning of Bull.
Bull tosses Eddie out of the corner, dubbed a “powerbomb” by commentary although there was no follow through on it and finishes with a Vertical Splash a’la Earthquake. I felt bad for Eddie here. Bull’s poor conditioning meant they had to take it really slow and the promised ‘violence’ didn’t happen.
Final Rating: *1/2
Alex Reynolds vs. Super Crazy
Reynolds is a 6’4” (billed as, not actually) New York area guy. He’s worked a lot for CZW. Super Crazy is enthusiastic but still living off his ECW heyday. This is tidy. Fast paced back and forth stuff, straight out of the late 90s Super Crazy ECW matches. Those bouts were always entertaining although they were a little ‘dancey’. Old man Crazy can still do all those things but you wonder if it wouldn’t be wiser to recruit the next generation of young and hungry luchadores who can do all this shit but better. It’s pretty amazing that Crazy was in NOAH just three years ago.
It’s noticeable that they slow it right down after a belting start. Crazy looks gassed. He still has a few tricks up his sleeve though, including a wacky twisting elbow drop that looks far too over-elaborate. He also fails to kick out on one pin, not getting his shoulder off the mat at all. It’s a bit sad to see someone who used to be so athletic trying desperately to hold on to that despite time and burritos saying otherwise. Reynolds gets the win and he looked decent here, controlling the pace when Crazy was struggling.
Final Rating: **3/4
Crazzy Steve vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman
You can tell Steve is crazy because he can’t even spell “Crazy”.
MJF knows how to play the ‘ECW heel’. Preppy little overconfident dickhead who only does flashy stuff when he’s forced to by his more extravagant opponents. Meanwhile Steve looks like he’d have been right at home in ECW as a face. MJF might even play this too far heel and too cartoonish but then he is only 2 years into his career. The crowd, perhaps riled at being faced by a WWE-style wrestler, chant “you can’t wrestle” at him. That’s not technically true though is it lads? You’re confusing it with “you don’t wrestle the way we want”. MJF runs a lot of formula stuff and Steve downs him with a DDT. This was highly formulaic and limited.
Final Rating: **
Guido Maritato vs. Killer Kross
Little Guido was part of the original ECW and WWE’s rehash. His career goes all the way back to 1992 and although he’s well into his 40s he’s still in good shape. Kross is a weird guy. He’s tall, he’s a great promo but WWE have shown very little interest in him. He competed briefly for Lucha Underground, and again for AAA.
Crowd chant “who are you?” at him. The size difference should be an obvious storyline but instead Guido plays the ‘Veteran Shooter’ approach. Kross’ technique is basic and the crowd chant “you’re not ready” at him. Jesus. This is not a crowd that youngsters would want to work in front of. It’s tough. The size difference plays in eventually and Kross wins with a choke. The crowd do not care for him. They built this up as a feud but it turned into Kross vs. the crowd.
Final Rating: *3/4
Dan Maff vs. Ace Romero
Maff heels it up by wearing a Tom Brady top. You’d think he’d get the crowd support given his history in Philly, especially in ROH. Ace is a big fat guy who I’ve seen in CZW quite a bit. Maff isn’t exactly slim so when the crowd chant “you fat fuck” it’s hard to know who it’s aimed at. This match feels like the one Kingston/James promised. It’s suitably stiff. However due to the weight both guys are carrying around it is plodding. Romero is an astonishing dude. He’s so big but he wants to do dives and stuff. This isn’t the standard ‘big man who does dives’ thing either because he’s so fat. It’s like when I first saw the Headhunters do moonsaults. Acey wants to have that reputation as being able to do anything, despite his girth.
This is easily my favourite match from the first round with two big guys beating the shit out of each other. Lots of big bombs. It’s a beautiful ballad of Fat Boy violence. Acey goes up top and Maff brings him down with the Burning Hammer! The Burning fucking Hammer! On a man of Ace Romero’s size. Jesus.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Nick Aldis & Joey Mercury w/Shane Douglas vs. Tommy Dreamer & Billy Gunn
Aldis, the NWA champion, and Mercury, former WWE corporate stooge, are ideal ECW style heels. Billy is still wearing his RAW25 merch. Not exactly ‘hardcore’ is it? Dreamer’s mystery manager is Blue Meanie. He comes out to say he came here “for the cheap pop and the catering”. The real mystery manager is….Bubba Dudley!
Suit wearing heel guy threatens to shut the show down if it gets hardcore. Tommy learning them ECW vs. the Network gimmicks. This being a ‘straight-up’ match is a throbbing disappointment. They have a very WWE-esque house show tag.
Ah, the old double ref bump, double nut shot spot. pic.twitter.com/y81xSlFN6d
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) January 31, 2018
With the ref down Shane runs Bubba into the ring post so hard his hat doesn’t come off. The evil suit guy decides it’s now a Hardcore Match and pulls out a referee shirt. This brings in The Sandman, for whatever reason and everyone starts bashing each other with plunder. Dreamer does the DVD on a table but it refuses to break. DVD through the table actually finishes. This was bad. Crowd chants “E-C-Dub” because watching a bunch of has-beens have a sluggish underwhelming main event is what ECW is all about!
Final Rating: *
At this point I figure the show is over because the Cagematch.net profile for this show has this billed as the main but it carries on!
Matt Riddle vs. Austin Aries
Well, shit, I’m glad I didn’t smash the stop button when the last match finished but why wouldn’t you want this hyped to the moon?
Riddle has flip-flops, Aries has four titles. It makes me sad Riddle doesn’t have that Progress Atlas belt he was so pleased with. Aries is one of those Indie legends where you can’t see him being in the WWE, even though he’s already been there and flopped. To be fair, he looked really good on commentary if he’s looking for a future career path. Here he gets to match Riddle on the mat and it’s tasty. It’s a little jarring how much better it is, technically, than anything else on the show. The match is a little sluggish until they force the pace and it’s suddenly awesome, with back and forth strikes and quick spots. Aries has the Last Chancery locked in and the bell rings but the ref didn’t call it. Oh, the time limit expired. Fuck it, five more minutes. Hugely unfair on Aries though, who had the match won. They try for a big spot, a DDT on the apron, and Riddle ends up tangled in the ropes and they both tumble to the floor. Oh dear. Riddle hooks the Bromission but the time limit expires again. We get another five minutes but Aries punts Riddle in the nuts behind the ref’s back and wins with a brainbuster. This would have been great if it wasn’t for two things; 1. The ‘Double Overtime’ booking when the time limit wasn’t made a big deal of. 2. The huge botch on the apron.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Luchasaurus vs. Willie Mack vs. Matt Cross
This is a curious mix of guys. Luchasaurus is a lanky dinosaur, Cross is a titch with an ace beard and Mack is thicc. For body types alone it’s a demonstration of how different pro wrestlers can be.
Luchasaurus is the least experienced of the three and while I dig his character the match is blatantly better when it’s M-Dogg vs. Mack. Given the sheer amount of crap in the first half of the show, it’s a wonder why Luchasaurus wasn’t placed in another match. It’s a clear sign the crowd is burned out at this point too, as we go past the 2h 30m mark. There seems to be a lack of interest. Which is a pity because there is a lot of cool stuff. Luchasaurus, although he can struggle to take spots, has much improved offence. His chokeslam followed by a standing moonsault is pretty terrifying. Willie Mack belts him with a Stunner for the win with Cross out on the floor. I generally don’t love triple threat matches but they all worked hard and most of the spots clicked. The sheer size difference caused issues with some things they attempted.
Final Rating: ***
Brian Cage vs. Sami Callihan
This is the final match of the first round with Cage facing a “mystery opponent”. I resist the urge to chant “anyone but Sami” as Callihan emerges. Sami starts hard and fast, which he needs to because these matches do have a time limit. Something they probably should have talked about more before Riddle/Aries. Cage has that freakish strength and that’s how he takes over. Crowd are pro-Sami, because of course they are. Even though he’s wrestling heel and he has a heel manager.
Sami tries a bunch of Indie bullshit and Cage overpowers him. It’s a great dynamic of the douche heel versus the powerhouse babyface. They do some decent stuff but by this time of the night the crowd is downright sleepy. The commentator has the nerve to say “good luck toping us on Sunday” (with reference to the Royal Rumble). If you really believe that I have no idea what to say to you. They do a bunch of near falls, because it’s a sprint. They both hit Canadian Destroyers. The manager runs in, gets powerbombed and Sami can’t get the pin with a cheeky roll up. This is all one after another. Weapon X puts Sami away and Cage advances. This was fun and definitely didn’t outstay its welcome.
Final Rating: ***1/2
I was ready to shit all over this show when I thought it was finishing with that drab nostalgia tag but House of Hardcore went and threw three matches on after that and in spite of the booking they were all pretty good. Obviously Riddle/Aries would have been better if they’d done a better job of hyping the time limit. The commentators had no idea what was happening. MOTN was arguably Maff/Romero because of how hard they tried in that match. 3-4 decent matches and, if you skip the nostalgia tag, nothing offensively bad. It was better than I expected.