The Catch Up Column Part III
April 22 2017
Mil Muertes vs. Bob Holly
I’m kicking off the catch up this time in AAW because they booked this fucking match. This fucking match! Bob Holly has always been a good wrestler and if he’d been an Indie guy and not a WWE guy he’d have a way better reputation. He’s been working that snug, stiff style since back in the day. He’s been working a way reduced schedule since leaving WWE in 2008 and he’s way up there in years, at 54.
Muertes aka El Mesias aka Ricky Banderas has been AAA/Lucha Underground for the past decade. His LU character is a badass looking motherfucker.
We’re in for a stern and snug contest and no mistake. It’s also the kind of dream match booking you rarely see on the Indies. Nowadays every goes in for Wrestler A who’s awesome and appears everywhere versus Wrestler B who’s awesome and appears everywhere. Here they’ve got a luchadore who rarely ever wrestles outside of that versus a veteran and surly legend. Holly’s moveset is mostly crap but his mannerisms and stiffer strikes are the gold. He might be 54 but he will beat your ass! It’s Japanese style booking at its finest when it produces the weirdest combination of guys. Hardcore Bob pops the rubes with his WWE spots including the Alabamaslam. Holly hits it again for the pin just as he was beginning to look sluggish. The fans love the shit out of this. I thought it was decent. Especially considering Bob is an old man. Most old men don’t work at this level. 54 year old Bob Holly should be stomping guts in nationwide. One last glory run for Hardcore Holly!
Final Rating: ***1/4
Daga vs. Michael Elgin
This is from the same AAW show; Path of Redemption (available on Progress’ On Demand if you dig that sort of thing). Daga is another lucha wrestler with a good reputation who I’ve not seen much of.
I’ve seen him in Lucha Underground but everyone is the same on that show (bar the big personalities who stand out amongst the spots). He didn’t do a lot for me there but here he gets to shine more, although his stuff pales in comparison to Elgin’s powerhouse routine. Daga gets his jollies with late escapes from pinfalls or power situations. The crowd get very into it. The match works most effectively when they trade on strikes, where Elgin is awesome and Daga is surprisingly good. AAW fans have a bad habit of chanting “both these guys” all the time. Jesus, lads, pick a side! When they start no selling and doing last gasp kick-outs from headdrops it starts to get really good. Elgin going after the Elginbomb and Daga casually slipping over the top into a reverse rana is pretty fucking excellent pro wrestling. When Daga has the temerity to kick out of the Elginbomb Big Mike kills him with the Burning Hammer and that ALWAYS finishes. It took a while to tickle my fancy but once it did the tickling never stopped.
Final Rating: ****
May 6 2017
Zack Sabre Jr vs. Michael Elgin
It’s another dip into AAW and their Take No Prisoners show from June. Both these guys are exponents of the Japanese strong style and batter each other from the bell.
Elgin gets the better of that so Sabre brutalises him with stretches. It’s a supremely violent match. It’s everything I love about pro wrestling, mixed together. A mixture of Britain, Japan and US Super Indies at their best. One of my favourite sequences is Elgin going after strikes and Sabre kicking his arms away in timely fashion. Sabre looks fucking incredible at times in this, going full speed through everything instead of his usual measured approach. He doesn’t want to give Elgin any time to get those big power moves in. Zack does a lot of solid logical stuff, which is able to prevent Elgin from using his power. Especially the dead lift off the apron. Sabre is so devastatingly effective here, it makes him look like the best wrestler in the world. Sabre rarely ever looks this outstanding, and he is a fantastic technician, and it’s credit to him that he makes a point of out-working Elgin. Big Mike doesn’t take that shit lying down and they work their socks off here. The crowd responds in kind and gets all kinds of fired up. It’s an electric atmosphere, especially for the US Indies, which have lost a lot of atmosphere over recent years. This fucking match is so good. Like, drop what you’re doing and go over to Demand Progress and watch this shit now. It’s at the same standard as a NJPW main event would be between these participants. Some of the bumps are just a little untidy but otherwise it’s fucking incredible. Sabre’s “fuck you” kick-out at ONE from the Elginbomb is absolutely killer and that gets the crowd seriously fired up. Elgin promptly batters him with shoot-ish lariats for it and finishes with a Spiralbomb. Holy shit, this fucking ruled all.
Final Rating: ****1/2
AAW Heritage Championship
Pentagon Jr (c) vs. Keith Lee
This is from the same show and I couldn’t just not watch it. Bask in it’s fearless glory!
This is a match where Penta finds himself massively outmatched, which is a rarity as although he’s small Penta beats people up. My favourite spot is Keith refusing to budge on a Lungblower and just standing there with Penta hanging off his back. They do some basic set up stuff, like Penta kicking at Keith’s legs to slow him down, but it’s a match that lives off Big Spots mostly. Like Keith taking the fucking Canadian Destroyer TWICE. The second finishes and stops Keith having to flip his massive frame onto his dome again. This was a cracking little sprint but totally lives in the shadow of Sabre-Elgin from the same show.
Final Rating: ***1/2
May 25 2017
Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak
These are two of the best big guys on the Indies. Dijak is so good NXT have snatched him up. Keith Lee is fairly unique in looks and style, maybe he won’t be far behind? Who knows? Anyway, Dijak has a height advantage but both guys are big dudes who can do silly stuff. Having 275lb wrestlers who work like cruisers is always fun. Keith Lee also does sick double chops and he does them so hard here he hurts his own hands. It’s insane what these two can do. Like Lee going for a slingshot move and getting superkicked out of the air. Remember when people got their minds blown by Shawn Michaels doing that to Shelton Benjamin? It’s that only with super heavyweights.
Keith has a jolly good time laughing at how much he’s getting to chop Dijak. They do some truly ridiculous high spots, including Dijak jacking Keith Lee up on the top rope and then throwing him off. The scariest spot is them doing a fucking Canadian Destroyer on the apron and both guys falling off in mid rotation, Dijak landing head first on the edge of the apron. Like holy shit, lads, let’s try and make it out of this match alive. “He’s not dead yet but he’s about to be” says Keith Lee before teasing a powerbomb INTO THE CROWD. Move! This is not a drill! Basically both these guys are fucking nuts. Dijak doing an Asai moonsault over the rail is fucking insane. Look at the size of this man! And even then, in the midst of the chaos, he gets a gag in by checking his reflection a signed 8×10 of himself that he finds on the floor. If Vince hadn’t already signed this guy I’d tell him to fucking sign him, now. It gets to the point where it feels like they’re doing spots to see if it’s possible to do them with such a low ceiling and freaking everyone out in the process. Then they start to no sell shit too and Keith wins with a Jackhammer. This was nuts. Wonderful stuff. Loved every minute. It was 20 minutes and felt like less than half that.
Final Rating: ****1/4
June 17 2017
War Machine vs. reDRagon
This is interesting to me as they’ve got the best tag team of the past decade on the Indies in reDRagon but they’re both off to NXT so they have the chance to pass the torch to War Machine. War Machine are a modern day Road Warriors while reDRagon are “an MMA Midnight Express”. If you’re familiar with old NWA then this match will make sense before you’ve even started watching it. I kinda wish reDRagon had worked this heel, instead of using superior mat technique to dominate the heat segments. It’s all good logical stuff but I’d rather they just cheated to get in front. Get the crowd into the formula more. The match comes into its own when it’s War Machine’s power vs. reDRagon’s strikes/mat work. Kyle O’Reilly looks particularly good with exceptional striking work. Everyone else is merely solid but the back and forth nature gives everyone a chance to stand out. This also hurts the match a little bit because it comes off as a ‘bunch of spots’ rather than a coherent match. Although the story of reDRagon looking to submit and grind down the bigger opponents is the backbone and it’s on War Machine for not selling that. But I guess that’s the whole point of War Machine. The more they sell, the less effective they are. Anyway, War Machine get the win and the torch is passed before reDRagon head off to NXT. This was good, could have been great.
Final Rating: ***3/4
August 13 2017
Travis Banks vs. Jack Gallagher
This is from Progress’ show in Boston, which I couldn’t be bothered with.
It got released at a time when I was very busy and I skipped it. This is a match I really wanted to see though. Travis gets to wrestle a lot of Brits but he doesn’t often encounter the style that Jack has. It’s a shame it’s not taking place in the Ballroom, instead in a dodgy Boston shithole with a busted up canvas. It’s not really up to Progress’ lofty standards. But this is what happens when you decide to do shows in another country with other people’s shit. Taking their own canvas is perhaps a little over ambitious. The grimy venue adds to the match here though, with grimy wrestling, grimy kicks and the kind of battling contest between two scrappers that you’d see in secret underground fight clubs. If this was Fight Club Pro on tour it would fit perfectly. A lot of the mat stuff has a shoot feel to it. Jack is also mint at blocking stuff with headbutts. They have killer near falls with both guys having sensational timing. As this is part of the lead up to Alexandra Palace there is inevitable distraction from Pete Dunne allowing Jack to hit his corner dropkick for the win. Lots of people owe Travis jobs for the sheer number of losses his racked up this summer!
Final Rating: ***3/4
April 30 2017
IPW:UK World Championship
Jimmy Havoc (c) vs. Tommy Dreamer
This is the show that Matt Riddle vs. Pete Dunne got bounced onto the pre-show because of WWE contractual issues. I would probably have watched that match, rather than the trios match Riddle found himself in on the actual card. The show also had DDT Iron Man shenanigans but I’m focusing strictly on the main event. This is an “Extreme Measures” match, which means no DQ basically. Tommy is well into his 40s at this point and wearing Dusty Rhodes tribute polka dot trousers. The show is at the Clapham Grand, which is a great venue and the one where Rev Pro ran Okada vs. Aries. It has fond memories for me. They try and wrestle a hardcore match, which has its benefits; namely Tommy doesn’t have to do actual wrestling. Sadly this leads to Havoc running through all his hardcore spots like the papercuts and the lemon and all that shit. The biggest issue the match has is that because it becomes ‘hardcore’ it shows Havoc struggling to get by a broken down, middle-aged man and Dreamer, the larger man, looks tougher and more able. The best thing about the match is commentary from Dean Ayass. The lads try their best with Dreamer superplexing Havoc through a table, then hitting the Spiccoli Driver into thumbtacks. Jimmy is killing himself to make Dreamer look like a goddamn star. The crowd helpfully chant “we want fire”. Fucking hell, mates, give them a break! They have to settle for barbwire, which is a fucking stupid weapon when you think about it. Havoc wins with a barbwire Acid Rainmaker. I’d rather he didn’t try to ‘modify’ the Rainmaker with weaponry. Every time he does it, it looks like shit. This had a few sickening spots but no blood and it felt like half a spectacle. Dreamer has a good reputation for giving back and this was another fine example of it. He’s not selfish in the slightest.
Final Rating: **1/2
July 27 2017
IPW:UK World Championship
Jimmy Havoc (c) vs. Carlito w/Granny Smith
Another match in IPW:UK’s attempts to replicate Havoc’s Progress title run. He’s up to 23 months at this point. Carlito has been dogging it in the Indies for seven years at this point, taking mark promoters money and slacking off in the ring. The only place he ever gives a shit about anything is Puerto Rico so the fans in Rochester are shit outta luck.
It’s not that he’s a fat mess or anything. He’s still in decent condition; he just doesn’t care about his in-ring. That said it’s surreal seeing Havoc vs. Carlito. Who books this madness? Apparently Havoc switches Carlito’s Granny Smith for a Pink Lady and this is sufficient to stop the Puerto Rican in his tracks. They do the Jimmy Havoc ‘brawl all over the building’ match, which is probably the best possible scenario for a Carlito match in 2017. This costs audience members their beverages. Carlito blocks the Rainmaker with the apple spit of doom but Jimmy pins him with a handful of tights to retain. This was not a good wrestling match.
Final Rating: *
Keith Lee vs. Big Grizzly
And now the real main event! Same show, next match. Limitless Keith Lee vs. one of the hidden gems of the UK scene; powerhouse BIG GRIZZLY. You’d think it’d be a stone cold banger but instead they opt for the kind of shoulder tackle heavy bullshit you’d expect from a camp show or 90s WWF. This allows Keith Lee to pop the fans with dropkicks when he’s usually doing freakier stuff. It’s very sluggish. Even when they get into the trading it’s not impressive, which is unfortunate. Keith looks to be the stronger of the two, which leads to him doing the more remarkable Big Lad spots. Grizzly gets him in a choke though and that’s the end of that. Very uninspiring stuff considering who was involved. Grizzly looked decidedly less important when faced with a strong opponent. This makes me sad. I thought him to be a huge prospect.
Final Rating: **3/4
August 12 2017 – PCW’s 6th Anniversary Show.
CJ Banks vs. Soner Dursun
I was very tempted to watch this whole show because it was such a strong line-up. Instead I’m cherry picking a few bouts that caught my eye, and ones that showcase wrestlers I don’t get to see so much darn sarf. Banks seems to exist solely in the North of England and Soner seems equally allergic to the Midlands. Therefore these are two very under-seen talents on my personal radar and on the International scene where Rev Pro and Progress are the most-watched UK promotions. These two names probably draw an International blank. Banks is a solid hand, while Dursun is the man more likely to go on to greater things. Banks plays the heel here, which is one of the best things about Northern graps. They’re very into the heel/face alignments. It gives them a defined sense of style. Dursun does some cool shit to distinguish himself for crowd support. This includes flips and suplexes. Soner makes a hash of the Frogsplash and CJ rolls him up with a handful of tights, which would be fine but the infringement was on the same side as the referees position. Oops. Anyway, solid wrestling throughout. Nothing spectacular.
Final Rating: ***
Su Yung vs. Lauren
This took place right after an awful fake injury angle involving Philip Michael so the crowd is muted. In my continued search for good women’s wrestling I’m eager to consume all that’s available. Not all Indie wrestling is good and that’s especially true of women’s wrestling. Lauren is from Blackpool. She’s a hand-slapping babyface. I tried to get a screencap for your viewing pleasure but she will not stand still. A sign of inexperience.
Anyway; she’s in the background here looking tiny next to nutjob Su Yung. Su’s commitment to her character is absolute, which makes her one of the best acts on the Indies right now. When your act is so fully realised it makes you stand out. I can only assume she’s on WWE’s radar. For all their fit, athletic women’s talents they don’t have that level of character in the women’s ranks. When the bell rings it’s the sporty athletic Lauren who stands out, which says a lot about Su in general. All gimmick, no depth. Some of her stuff terrifies me. She hits a senton off the apron onto the seated Lauren and basically lands on top of Lauren’s head. The potential for breaking her neck on that spot is legitimately real. Su Yung gets in a lot of her wacky offence and Lauren is a capable opponent, only botching one bump, apparently not recognising the set-up to a Pedigree. You’ll never make it to NXT! In all fairness Lauren looks solid throughout and wins with a cheeky roll up.
Final Rating: **1/2
PCW Cruiserweight Championship
Dean Allmark (c) vs. Jody Fleisch
Allmark is one the leading names in Northern/camp wrestling that never seems to get a look in elsewhere. This is righteously unfair. When I mentioned his name in polite conversation I was derided for it! This is the reputation that a certain ‘type’ of wrestler has. He certainly looks like a holiday camp wrestler with his pudgy physique.
Allmark, in his early 30s already, has fifteen years in the camps for Dixon. His work outside of that is surprisingly limited. A couple of appearances for TNA and a match out in Wrestle-1 to put over Yoshioka aside he’s very localised. Jody is a good opponent to show off Allmark’s sense of timing because Fleisch is exceptional and Allmark can keep pace with him. If his physique is potentially off-putting, his in-ring is the opposite. It’s smooth and educated. This is a belter, fluid throughout and perpetually exciting. The ridiculous string of near falls, which has the referee dizzy and out of breath, is a prime example of how hard they work during this. It’s fucking great. Seriously! And you won’t see matches structured like this anywhere else. It’s an old fashioned match, like Savage-Steamboat, but done at a belting pace. There are a few little mistakes, like Jody kicking the ropes instead of Allmark’s head, but in the PCW setting it still massively stands out as superior work. The finish is legitimately terrifying as they both almost fall off the top rope before Allmark takes over and the Spanish Fly gets it done. My word this was tremendous professional wrestling. A total throwback to when cruiserweight wrestling was all about speed and not fucking stuff up. Just an excellent match up. Allmark has Chris Ridgeway next for the title. I want that match! PCW’s cruiserweight division may well have found itself a new fan.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Tel Banham vs. Big T Justice
I’m here for Big T. I’m here for Justice.
Big T Justice is going to be a star in the business. It’s only a matter of time. He is HUGE. Tel is a heel, from the PCW Academy. He’s a scrawny little runt and is here as cannon fodder for Big T. When Banham refuses to enter the ring other jobbers are sent out as replacement cannon fodder. They run an angle instead where Tel talks a lot and Big T accidentally boots poor referee Des in the face. It turns out Big T has turned heel. So, no match. This was typical PCW nonsense.
Final Rating: DUD
I’ll be back next week, probably, with an assortment of other shit that I’ve missed. Hopefully with a slant towards Japanese wrestling as I’m way behind on that business.