It is now 11:04 AM on Tuesday morning, April 4, and I am not going to watch wrestling for a week.
Don’t get me wrong, I love A LOT of what I watched this past weekend. There is a real wealth of talent in the US and the UK right now and they were all on display in Orlando this past weekend. I managed to watch a majority of the shows I wanted to see, and even if I didn’t watch the full show I watched all the individual matches I was looking forward to over this weekend. I even watched something I never need to watch again in Kaiju Big Battel. I probably drank too much, I know I watched too much, but I didn’t write too much, so here are my brief thoughts on my favorite matches and moments from Mania weekend! MOSTLY WWE FREE!!
Match wise, there wasn’t anything that I saw that topped the Zack Sabre Jr vs. ACH match from Evolve 80. That match was everything I love about pro wrestling, and in my review I gave it the full 5* rating. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t some amazing matches this weekend. Here’s 5 must see matches or moments from the weekend, excluding ZSJ vs. ACH, because that goes without saying.
Also, before someone gets worked up, the reason the triple threat tag isn’t on the list is because I haven’t seen it yet. There is only so much time in a weekend and I am ALWAYS going to pick the indy show over the WWE show, especially a WWE show main evented by Bobby Roode. I’m sure I will watch it eventually and I am sure I will love it, but that’s why it isn’t listed here.
The South Pacific Power Trip vs. Catch Point and the South Pacific Power Trip vs. JML
I am already breaking my own rule and adding a sixth match, but to me these matches go hand in hand and help display why so many people are on the SPPT band wagon. The SPPT are a team from Progress consisting of TK Cooper and Travis Banks, managed by Dalia Black. The act has been getting a ton of buzz lately and to my knowledge this was their first trip to the United States. I did a quick search on Cagematch.net that seems to verify this. After this weekend, I have a feeling that will change. The reason I listed two matches here was because they were wildly different but also were great showcase matches for SPPT. The match at the Progress show against JML (Shane Strickland and Sami Callahan) was just a bit of a crazy, out of control fight. No real enforcement of the tag rule, some amazing stuff I hadn’t seen before, including a spot where Cooper and Strickland try to kick one another and their legs get wrapped up together. It was an amazing spot. All four guys were going 100 miles per hour and I really enjoyed the match as a big spotfest. I had it right around ***1/2.
On Saturday, they faced Chris Dickinson and Jaka as part of the WWN Supershow. This was a completely different match from the Progress show. A more standard tag team match and, after watching the wild match they had in Progress, I was worried how they would gel with the more traditional team of Dickinson and Jaka. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. This match was amazing, and probably the best straight tag team match of the weekend. I had it at ****1/4 and just under that MOTYC level. Dickinson and Jaka brought their usual intensity and SPPT hung in there and turned the match completely in their favor when they had a chance to use their speed. Catch Point continued to grow in the WWN universe and really looked solid heading into their Evolve title shot in New York later in the month. I was shocked to see that they lost here heading into that shot, considering they were undefeated as a team to this point. Hoping that this means Catch Point wins and SPPT finds themselves back in Evolve (maybe in June in Mass Gabe????) for a title shot. Either way, this was as impressive a display that a tag team could make on their debut this weekend and SPPT knocked it out of the park.
Keith Lee vs. The World
I wrote about the Keith Lee vs. Ricochet match from Evolve 80 last week, and while that was probably Lee’s best match of the weekend, it certainly wasn’t his last. I saw Lee wrestle 6 times over the weekend. I saw him wrestle fliers like Ricochet and LioRush. I saw him wrestle another big man in Jeff Cobb. I saw him tags and in a four way, and in every environment he was in he delivered amazingly. If Lee was a baseball player, he would be the proverbial five tool player. He can talk, he can wrestle, he can fly, he has insane amounts of charisma, and he knows how to get the most out of all of it. When Lee is in the ring, you can’t help but pay attention to him. His matches with Rush and Ricochet showed that he could hang in the air with the little guys. He traded dropkicks with Ricochet and moonsaults with Rush. The Ricochet match was in the ****1/2 range and the LioRush was around ***3/4. His matches with Donovan Dijak and Jeff Cobb showed that he can hang with the biggest guys on the indy scene right now, guys who are as freaky athletic as he is. The Cobb match took place after midnight on Sunday morning, so it was one of the last matches each guy had this weekend. It was still in the *** range. The Dijak match was on another level. Just two big guys tossing each other around and then saying “fuck it, let’s go to the air.” This was just as great a match for Dijak as Lee, and both guys came out of this match looking like big stars and are guys that should be making big waves in 2017. I had this one at ****1/2 as well and it probably eclipsed the Ricochet match as Lee’s best match of the weekend. Lee also had a four way at the WWN Supershow that was ok and easily his most missable match of the weekend and a really good 8 Man tag with Sammy Guevera, ACH and Michael Elgin against AR Fox and OI4K. The 8-man tag was great because it put him in an environment with some crazy fliers (ACH, Sammy, Fox and the Crist Brothers) and two of the best guys on the indies in Elgin and Sami Callahan, and he was able to hang with every single guy in the ring. It was a really good match, probably **** or so, and easily the best match on Mania Sunday. So, while Mania itself was about a legendary career ending, it’s possible that it was also about another legendary career beginning, as it really felt like we were all watching the ascension of Keith Lee.
What a Clusterfuck
Going into the weekend, the show with the most buzz was easily the Joey Janela Spring Break show. Aside from the two main events, the match that everyone was talking about was the however many man and woman clusterfuck match. I’m not being crude or rude here, they billed the match as a clusterfuck. And it truly lived up to its billing. There were traditional indy workers in the match. John Silver from Beyond Wrestling and Arik Cannon from the Midwest, and Ethan Page were three of the more well-known men in the match, and Veda Scott was tough as hell here. She took a really fucking nasty superkick from Silver early and finished the match with a bloody mouth and even did commentary on the Beyond show later in the weekend. She was great in this match. There were comedy acts like Jervis Cottonbelly and the Invisible Man to help keep the match light. And there was Dink and Glacier. Dink came in and bit Veda Scott on the ass before leaving. Boy, tough work if you can get it. Glacier was in for a bit and he seemed to enjoy being in a building where people were really going nuts for him. He was Glacier, but older, but he did his best and really helped make the match memorable. I am in no way calling this a great match, but it was something to see, a real spectacle that included something for everyone. That’s the best way to describe the Janela show in general. There was a really good match in Lee vs. Lio Rush. There was a bloodbath between Matt Tremont and Eddie Kingston. There was a crazy intergender match, the insanity of Marty Janetty vs. Joey Janela that featured a Virgil run in, and Dan Severn vs. Matt Riddle in what was actually a pretty fun match. This was like a mini WrestleMania in a lot of ways in that it was more variety show than wrestling show. The difference is that it was entertaining the whole way through and only 2.5 hours.
A Hall of Fame to remember
The past few years, the WWE Hall of Fame has seemed like a bit of a chore at times. Some of the speeches from both the inductees and the presenters have been brutal and disingenuous. A lot of times the people selected to be in the Hall of Fame leave a lot to be desired. The Warrior award, while somewhat well intentioned, always comes across as fake and a plea for the mainstream media to say nice things about WWE. While my complaint about the Warrior award remains the same, I have to say that the rest of the usual issues this year weren’t present. From the moment the show started with Eric Bischoff coming out to introduce DDP, you had guys giving real speeches about people they cared about in the case of the presenters and about their careers in the cases of the inductees. This was also a class that felt like it was full of people with great careers who had great stories to tell. There were touching moments from a lot of inductees, from Ricky Morton’s heartfelt words towards his partner Robert to Beth Phoenix’s amazing speech, this was entertaining from start to finish. Even the crowd, although they had their traditional moments of awfulness, weren’t completely terrible and helped make the Angle speech by singing along when asked. All in all, I found the Hall of Fame to be one of the more enjoyable top to bottom shows of the weekend.
Like I was going to finish any other way. Matt Riddle is my favorite wrestler in the world right now, and his career took a big step this past weekend when he became the first ever WWN champion. Now, the match itself was not great. A six-person elimination match can be long, and after having already watched close to 5 hours of wrestling that day before the show started, I did find myself struggling a bit towards the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that Riddle won the belt and is now the flag bearer for all the shows under the WWN, and by extension FloSlam, banner. The benefit of Riddle being your champ, aside from the obvious of having an insanely talented guy with a lot of buzz behind him, is that Riddle loves being a champion in pro wrestling and will bring the belt with him anywhere. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw Riddle at a show or anywhere else in public without his Progress Atlas championship? He brings that thing with him everywhere. He wears it at the airports, at the bar, basically if he is “on the clock” as world traveling pro wrestler, he is carrying the belt with him. And now you can count on him bringing this belt with him too. So even when he is on a non WWN show, he will have that belt and be introduced as the WWN champion, so he is bringing your brand outside of your brand.
It wasn’t all about winning the title for Riddle this weekend, he also defended his Atlas title at the Progress show against Trent Seven. Seven is tremendous, and Riddle was able to hang with him and they had Riddle’s best match of the weekend. They hit each other hard, threw each other around, and just went full tilt at 12 noon on Friday afternoon. This was after taking a bump through a table on a piledriver the night before and having a tough match with Dan Severn 10 hours earlier. This was his third match in 18 hours, and it was well worth going out of your way to see. I am a huge mark for both guys, so this rating will be higher than what else you might see, but I had it at ****1/2 and it was easily the best match of the Progress show and Riddle’s best of the weekend. His matches with Fred Yehi and Donovan Dijak were at that **** level and he left the weekend with the biggest title of his young career. Even though Keith Lee was the star of the weekend, Riddle took another step on his path to becoming one of the biggest stars in wrestling.
This really just scratches the surface of the weekend. Zack Sabre Jr had two more great matches against Michael Elgin and Mark Haskins and a very good and different match against Jimmy Havoc. Pete Dunne had two very good Progress title defenses against Mark Haskins and ACH. The opening 8-person tag at NXT was amazing. There’s even stuff I haven’t seen yet, like the ROH ladder match and the 10-man tag from the Wrestlecon super show, that are getting rave reviews. This was such a great weekend for pro wrestling, and has someone who watches the worst of the industry on a weekly basis, it was nice to be reminded of how truly amazing pro wrestling can be.
On that note, however, it’s back to this shit!! I’m going to watch BATTLE BOWL!! Starrcade 1991, to be exact. After that, I might disappear for a week as I am going to Universal Studios for spring break with my family. Yes, TNA will be there. No, I don’t hate myself enough to go to a TNA taping. I am going to try to run into wrestlers at the amusement park though! Hit me up anytime @OMGlancy on twitter or shoot me an email at email@example.com