IWA Mid-South "Something to Prove"
1, 30/1. IWA Mid-South Light Heavyweight Title: © Delirious [x] vs Josh Abercrombie [o] (13:42) pinfall (Phoenix Splash)
Delirious opens with his usual routine of insanity. Before they even touch each other, he claims Abercrombie pulled his hair and trunks. It takes a full 67 seconds before first contact is made, where they then proceed with extended chain wrestling carried by Delirious with his entertaining, eclectic style. Abercrombie eventually gains control by countering a running kick with something into the corner - the move was done so sloppily it didn't even look like anything. While things looked reasonably professional with Delirious in charge, with Abercrombie carrying, the match sunk to base and extremely ugly flippy indy stuff. After suffering nearfalls from a leg-roll cradle and what was supposed to be a moonsault body attack, Delirious counters with a spinebuster and twists it into a strange submission that looked like a sort of chimera of reverse Indian death lock, STF and Nagata Lock III. The match had typical construction, with an accelerated reciprocation of control and mutually countered and reversed finisher attempts to preface a rather dramatically muted (but, shockingly well-executed) finish by Abercrombie. On one hand, it sort of felt like they ended at the two-thirds mark, but on the other 7-10 more minutes of Abercrombie would be unfortunate indeed. Delirious's efforts made this a watchable if staid opener. **¼
2, 30/1. C.M. Punk [x] vs Homicide [o] (13:44) small package hold
As commentary reminds us every tenth of a second, this match could be a main event anywhere else on the indies. Punk already has one foot out the door to WWE and Homicide isn't a friend of his, so this has two strikes against it from the start. But even bearing that in mind does not prepare you for how much this match sucked. They tried to keep it simple and work a simple cookie-cutter midcard match - basically the kind of thing you'd see on Clash of the Champions back in the day - but for whatever reason they just never got in synch. Punk likes to publicly bitch about how bad his match with Justice Pain was, but in that he was at least able to carry dead weight to something approaching average. Homicide is a lot of negative things, but he's not supposed to be dead weight. Most of the mistakes were his, though, so it's possible he was - as they say - "not fit to perform." Punk had his usual moment of speak-seven-paragraphs-worth-of-spots-in-a-headlock, but Homicide clearly wasn't attentive or able to execute the instructions. The feeling of these guys are bombing was palpable throughout the arena. It was so dead that you could clearly hear someone shout "go home!" right before they skipped to an abrupt cradle finish. It seems the plug got pulled early on this one, and thank the gods for it. It may not have been entirely his fault, but this was one of C.M. Punk's worst matches - not just to this point in 2005, but over his entire career. ½*
3, 30/1. IWA Mid-South / NWA Midwest Women's Title: © MsChif [x] vs Mickie Knuckles [o] vs Allison Danger (15:41) pinfall (Shining Kenka Kick)
This was just godawful. The only one who can work a little bit is MsChif, but with an injured knee, no one to work with and a match booked for 16 minutes, there was precious little the sole hot participant could do to save this. Worse still than the actual work looking like toddlers trying to mimic what they saw on television, the booking was terrible. MsChif blows mist in Danger's face; this is sold like her face is melting off and she's carried out. The next spot is for the ref to get misted, but it takes MsChif five decades to load up another capsule so Mickie has to play patty-cake with the guy. Ref-less, MsChif grabs her spikey vest thing and puts it over Mickie's face. It slips off, so Mickie puts it back herself so MsChif can hit some running knees. This leads to a full-on WWE style "new referee running to the ring" nearfall on Mickie. Busted open, almost defeated by chicanery and thus likeable, she comes back with her finisher to win her first ever title. Mickie tried, MsChif tried, Allison was as good in the ring as she is on the mic, but effort amounts to nothing if everything else is terrible. ø
4, 30/1. Tracy Smothers [x] vs Claudio Castagnoli [o] (18:20) pinfall (illegal chain strike)
Welcome to 1985. Smothers is old but still has some skills, however the match is carried not by him but by Castagnoli and his 16" tall valet Jade Chung. They whip out every single 80s heel affectation that has ever existed to the point where 75% of Castagnoli's offense is through Jade. She distracts the referee, pulls the ropes, even slaps and stomps. If this isn't bad enough, when Castagnoli decides to actually fight for himself, he stalls and struts and preens and mocks the fans and bitches about rule-breaking after every single move. This match wasn't 18 minutes long because of intense action, it was that long because seven eighths of it was non-wrestling garbage. The final three minutes appeared to be on the verge of becoming a real match but alas, Jade once again distracts the deeply stupid referee so Castagnoli can thwack Smothers with a chain for the victory. Some may think this zombie act is cute because it's "retro" but to my mind, since we have tons of real 80s footage to watch when so inclined, a match in 2005 should perhaps look like it. This would have been a bit more tolerable had they gone 5-6 minutes instead of 20. *¾
5. IWA Mid-South Tag Title - Elimination Tables Match (27:27)
1. Eric Priest & Chad Austin [x] @ 5:11 Kingston powerbomb of Hagadorn
2. Shane Hagadorn [x] & Davey Andrews @ 5:11 Kingston powerbomb
3. B.J. Whitmer [x] & Eddie Kingston @ 22:05 Brandon powerbomb of Jade Chung
4. © Ryan Boz [x] & Trik Davis @ 20:15 Whitmer Exploder
5. B-Boy & Brandon Thomaselli [x] @ 27:27 Vito suicide diving double stomp
6. Sal Thomaselli & Vito Thomaselli [o]
"My belief has been suspended, how about your's?" --C.M. Punk
The concept here is basically a tornado tag Royal Rumble style battle royal with an added wrinkle where eliminations come solely by putting an opponent through a table. One guy is enough to lose it for his team. New teams are supposed to enter every two minutes. And it's for a championship.
If you're expecting intense, clever storytelling and creative, organic wrestling, then you're very new to this sort of thing. Priest & Austin and Hagadorn & Andrews (the latter of whom were "not supposed to be in the match") start things off. Andrews caps a decent double team sequence with a nice jumping knee of the top; conversely, Priest delightfully botches an Arabian Press - he doesn't even flip over! Yes, in this match, such a thing is a highlight worth mentioning. At the correct 2-minute mark, Whitmer & Kingston arrive on the scene, soon taking out both of their opponents by powerbombing Hagadorn through Austin through a table. Mindless indy fun, I'm sure. But then, things get bizarre: instead of a new team storming the ring one minute later to attack Whitmer & Kingston, Jim Fannin rolls into the ring and cuts a three minute promo. The champions, Boz & Davis, do not get to the ring until well after Fannin is done speaking. The match then re-starts, almost correctly timed, with no eliminations coming until all four remaining teams are involved. The ensuing indy clusterfuck proceeds for 18 more minutes. They do a big pile of men on the floor multiple dive spot, guys randomly hit stiff finishers, B-Boy backdrops both Sal & Vito Thomaselli simultaneously, earning well-deserved derision from C.M. Punk on commentary. The brawl slogs on with no end in sight. Because 18 minutes with Castagnoli weren't enough, Jade Chung intereferes with this match, too, but she does get powerbombed to assist in the elimination of Whitmer & Kingston. The action doesn't even accelerate when it's down to two teams, but Sal Thomaselli does forget the rules and attempts a submission, shouting "ask him!!" Ironically enough, in the end it is his team that wins. Vito's double stomp off the top to the floor would've been cool had there been any construction towards the big spot, but of course nothing like that would happen in a match like this. This wasn't just too long and too dumb, it barely made sense. But then, Ian Rotten does smoke a lot of weed. *
For those of you playing along at home, Jim Fannin is the leader of the heel Fannin Family, which included Castagnoli, Kingston, Whitmer, Chung and others. IWA was in the midst of a long-term storyline where Fannin was taking over the company. Throughout this review I've deliberately omitted discussion of promos and angles because nothing would make sense out of context - and hell, it wouldn't make much sense in context, either. No more will be said of this. Fannin's promo during this match sucked whether there was a rationale for it or not.
6, 45/1. Street Fight: Ian Rotten, Axl Rotten [o] & Nate Webb vs Toby Klein, Mad Man Pondo [x] & J.C. Bailey (6:22) pinfall (double chair strike with Ian)
"I haven't seen this much blood since Passion of the Christ" --Allison Danger
Good lord. They wasted absolutely no time in this old school tornado tag street fight. Chairs to the head, staple guns to the face, concrete blocks to the genitals, scissors sawed into foreheads - insane, psychotic, completely irresponsible garbage wrestling at its most sickeningly glorious. Toby Klein was almost completely covered in blood less than two minutes in. Webb hits him with a moonsault with a chair for a nearfall, followed shortly by Ian and Axl destroying Pondo with a double chair shot. I shudder to think what they would have done had they gone more than six minutes. This was gruesome violence for its own sake and thus hard to rate (or even consider) as a wrestling match, but they fully accomplished what they set out to do. n/r
7, 30/1. Gauntlet Series match 1: Arik Cannon [x] vs Danny Daniels [o] (10:05) pinfall (tombstone piledriver)
Typical equation from lower/mid-level independent guys. No plotting or psychology, just pro-wrestling Madlibs-style trading moves and nearfalls. Cannon carried most of the match and probably looked the best, though the diving double stomp to the head that set up Daniels' finisher was nice. They didn't do anything wrong, but there's nothing to take away from a walk-through that you could see in any training session or independent undercard. **
8, 30/1. Gauntlet Series match 2: Chris Hero [o] vs Danny Daniels [x] (10:32) Hangman's Clutch
Just as in the previous match, we get a ten minute walkthrough. Though Hero is supposed to be a high-level worker, his performance is just as staid and unextraordinary as Cannon's. They both use very basic patterns of offense predicated on momentum changes through counters, but it all feels rather inorganic. Hero's selling is noticably and weirdly inconsistent - he oversells much of Daniels' offense, but then turns around and ruins a potential finish tease by kicking out at a routine two. Neither stories were told nor maximum effort given. **
9, 60/1. Gauntlet Series match 3 - IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Title: © Jimmy Jacobs [o] vs Chris Hero [x] (14:47) pinfall (Contra Code)
The moment Daniels taps to Hero, Jacobs sprints to the ring and attacks. Hero sells like he's just been through a handicap match against Vader, Fyodor Emelianenko and Gypsy Joe. Jacobs cockily pounds away between moments of Hero flopping around near death. He literally offers no offense whatsoever until he works the crowd to Hulk Up fully nine minutes in. Aside from some stiff chops, his flurry of babyface offense looked flat-out terrible. The grimly determined babyface comeback only works if you're really talented and cute and likeable like Toyota Manami and are actually being bullied by someone who looks like they've eaten a meal once or twice! Worse than Hero's contrived, intelligence-insulting battered babyface routine, worse than illogical selling, worse than 14-pound Jimmy Jacobs dominating anything, for the finish Arik Cannon interferes and backdrops Hero. Raw-style, he kicks out at two, blocks Jacobs' finisher and hits his own - but Cannon pulls the referee out of the ring. This allows Jacobs to throw powder in Hero's face and connect with the Contra Code to no reaction from the crowd. Most of the fans didn't even feel like booing this stupidity. ø
10, 30/1. Necro Butcher [x] vs Samoa Joe [o] (9:48) knockout
"Ian Rotten put this match together when he was high as a kite!" --C.M. Punk
"What the fuck!" --Eddie Kingston
Like him or not, the truth of Samoa Joe is that he is - now as then - a smaller, less athletic, more shoot-style oriented, stiffer version of his friend John Cena. Neither man, like a plethora of other professional wrestlers, can truly conduct a match. Left to his own devices, Joe will abide nothing of his opponent. He will do his moves, in a set order, ignoring most if not all offense attempted on him. Indeed, it is almost impossible for the man to sell under ordinary circumstances. So, it should come as no surprise that the only memorable Joe matches were those in which Punk or Danielson (or to a lesser extent Christopher Daniels or Homicide) dragged Joe's mighty corpulence kicking and screaming into their technical style of wrestling, wherein Joe's totality of one-dimensional, form offense could be called out by them at the correct moments for maximum dramatical efficacy. In other words, Samoa Joe has never truly been able to realistically look the badass he acts and is booked to be.
And then he met Necro Butcher. Necro is the opposite side of Joe's coin. Instead of a shooter, Necro is a wild brawler. Whereas Joe shies from stiff contact, even at times bitching openly about it during a match, Necro demands it and reacts with anger if you don't hit him as hard as he hits you. While Joe needs puppet strings stoutly affixed, Necro can take up the controls and make the marionette dance himself - or else! Both men are badass, take no prisoners, ask no quarter, expect no quarter gladiators - but only one actually lives it, IS that. The other is just booked AS it.
Necro's philosophical approach to working with Joe was identical to the master craftsmen Punk and Danielson with but one key difference, a fascinating inversion of the entire concept of "carrying" an opponent: he dragged Joe violently into Joe's own character instead of accessing that limitation when applicable. Necro's style forced - brutally - Joe's own "badass" shooter style to come out in a way it never was able to before: organically. Necro yanked Joe not into a wrestling match but a fight. A sensational, brutal striking war where Joe was forced to use his moves not in a staid pre-generated sequence but in a genuine, real-looking battle for his life and honor.
Was this a one-sided match? Technically, yes, especially to the pedant who considers star ratings solely as a direct proportion to a tabulation of nearfalls. Necro was destroyed by all the big spots, he was the one that got brutally busted open hardway, and he took the loss. But that isn't the point, and never is the point in a professional wrestling match. Necro Butcher is a man that understands the dramatic nuances of timing on a level equal to the best technicians, and did exactly what the best of the best are able to do: he hugely put over his opponent and himself - and he did it in such a way that made the crowd explode and left both men - vanquished and victorious alike - look equally strong and accomplished in the eyes of the fans and perhaps even the wrestlers themselves. Yes, it would have been nice to see Joe take more punishment, to see Necro get back to his feet at the count of 9 and find a way to dig that Asiatic Spike in, to complete an epic underdog comeback, but frankly he did not have to. In the end, the glory came to both men regardless of the result. You'll be hard pressed to find a more honest-looking, viscerally satisfying performance than what was put together here. Ultimately, that's what the art professional wrestling aspires to be. Necro took Joe and dragged him up to that pinnacle. ****½
Make no mistake: this was a godawful, lazy, amateur show before the main event. What Joe and Necro did managed to erase the negative feelings created by an insulting joke of a title match, an insanely long clusterfuck and more - but unfortunately their efforts did not erase the record of such atrocities. Anyone who watched this show cannot un-watch it. So I beg you, watch the main event right here on this review's page and be glad you weren't subjected to the undercard.