Thursday, March 31, 2011

TNA iMPACT! 3/31/11 --- Early Review

TNA iMPACT! 3/31/11
March 31st, 2011
Impact! Zone, Orlando, Florida
Attendance: ???


Well it's once again that time of week kids, time for another edition of "How Will TNA Fuck Up Tonight?" iMPACT! on Spike TV. To be fully honest, I've already read the spoilers for the next few shows so keep that in mind if you disagree with my analysis or whatever. Anyways, let's get to the show. Oh and one more note, there may be a few backstage interviews I mention here that don't make the American broadcast on Spike TV, as I'm watching a pre-aired version of the episode that aired in Australia earlier before the American start time.

Your hosts are Mike Tenay and Taz

We open the show with (who else?) Mr. Anderson coming out, shoving Earl Hebner to the ring with him. I'll give you one guess as to what he's going to say. If you guessed "Bitch and moan about his title shot", you win the grand prize! Your prize? You get to shut off Impact right now! Go on, read a book, go for a walk, learn a foreign language, do something constructive while I waste my time with this show. Okay, okay, I'm being way too negative and the show's barely started, I apologize. Back to the ring. Anderson moans about Hebner's decision in the main even last week, but Earl is like that senile old grandpa who walks around without his pants on, fully aware he's nude, but he's just too old and grumpy to care. He tells off Anderson in a way that makes me think maybe Hebner should be a valet for a heel. Hebner calls him an asshole, so Anderson tries to him a mic check as boos reign in on him. This is your number one babyface ladies and gentlemen. Hebner's son hits the ring and breaks it up as Anderson is just coming off like a total heel in this segment. Sting's music hits and the Icon comes down to the ring to talk some sense into Anderson. Sting talks with his fists though, so we get a little brawl in the ring until security breaks them up. Since this is the opening segment of Impact and we need to have atleast 3 main eventers come out to interrupt one another, RVD's music hits and he walks down the ramp. RVD says he doesn't want the tainted win, so he asks Hebner to reverse the decision and make the title match at Lockdown a three-way, but Earl doesn't have the power. Cue Hogan and Bischoff, who by god actually seem to be getting some boos for once. They book the three-way for Lockdown (I think?) and then decide to book tonight's main event, which is Mr. Anderson, Sting, and RVD against Abyss, Matt Hardy, and Bully Ray...IN A STEEL CAGE! Yes, we're having a main event cage match three weeks before a PPV dedicated entirely to cage matches.

After a quick commercial break we get some backstage comments from Anderson ("No comment"), RVD ("Blah blah blah, Rob Van Dam"), and Sting ("I'm gonna git him!"). Elsewhere backstage Shannon Moore of Ink Inc cuts a lame promo on Scott Steiner, trying to claim he's "young and hip". Maybe ten years ago Shannon. Steiner responds by calling him a little bitch and threatening to impregnate his girlfriend. Pure over-the-top, unintentionally hilarious Steiner promo gold here.

Elsewhere backstage Jeff and Karen Jarrett try to reason with Hogan and Bischoff about the Jarrett-Angle match at Lockdown. Karen's rack looks extraordinary in HD, by the way.

Scott Steiner vs. Shannon Moore

Eric Young and Orlando Jordan are our guest commentators, for some reason. Young's big announcement is that he and Orlando are going to be in a four-way tag match against Steiner/Crimson, Ink Inc and another mystery team at LockDown. Shannon does a lot of running and stalling to start until Crimson throws him back in the ring to eat a Steiner beatdown. Tons of lame gay innuendo jokes on commentary right now with OJ and Young while Moore eats a back elbow. Belly-to-belly suplex from Steiner gets a close two count. Young and Taz are actually pretty amusing here, listing off old school tag teams trying to figure out who the mystery team at Lockdown will be. Something tells me it won't be the Beverly Brothers EY. Moore gets a cheap shot and tries choking Steiner for a bit. He mocks Steiner with some push-ups of his own and kicks away at him in the corner. Dropkick from Moore and he picks up Steiner's mesh chain headdress, puts it on, and misses a moonsault off the top rope. Overhead belly-to-belly and a big clothesline from Steiner. Frankensteiner off the top finishes it for Steiner at 4:28. After the match Doug Williams and Brutus Magnus run down and jump OJ and Young, presumably setting them up as the fourth team at Lockdown. Certainly a better use of Williams than what they were doing with him currently (which is nothing). Oh, right, the match. It was mediocre at best.

Backstage Anderson has a conversation with a poster of himself. This guy's character becomes more and more of a joke with every passing week. Elsewhere Jeff Jarrett laments over Anderson getting to be on the Lockdown poster.

Max Buck vs. Jeremy Buck

We get a little video package before the match, showing the growing dissension among the brothers since their disagreement during the Ultimate X match at Victory Road. You probably wouldn't know there was any dissension unless you watch Xplosion, but whatever, that's what the video package is for. Max wants Jeremy to lay down for him, but Jeremy will have none of it and they lock-up. Nice nearfall trading sequence with both men zipping around and getting a huge pop from the crowd for the sequence. Jesus, they're talented and over, no wonder they're being split up. Nice twisting wristlock sequence sends Max to the floor for a breather. Jeremy tries to be the gentleman and hold the ropes for his older brother to get in the ring, but Max counters Jeremy's offer of a handshake with a side headlock. Another nice roll-up trading sequence. Jeremy springboards into an armdrag and is fired up now, hitting a series of dropkicks on his brother Max. Hurricanrana gets a close two for Jeremy. He tries a waistlock but gets thrown out of the ring and lands badly on his elbow. Max offers to hold the rope for Jeremy to come back in, but he just gives him a superkick as he comes in and then delivers a big powerbomb into the turnbuckle. Springboard ace crusher by Max and it's enough for the win at 4:01. This was just starting to get good when they ended it. I really don't get why they couldn't give these kids another 3 or 4 minutes out there so people don't forget this match five minutes after it's over. Good fun while it lasted though. **½

Backstage Winter caresses Angelina Love's hair while she drinks what I guess we're supposed to assume is brainwashing Kool-Aid of some kind. Love looks like a robot, so I guess she looks like she always does.

Velvet Sky vs. Winter

Velvet looks like every wrestling fan's fantasy girl, as usual. Winter is creepy, as usual, with her weird silk blindfold thing. Velvet is feisty to start, laying in kicks and punches into Winter in the corner and hitting a dropkick for an early two count. Velvet tries for a monkey flip but Winter moves and slams her head back to the mat with force a few times. Scoop slam from Winter and she chokes Sky for a bit with her boot. Velvet hits a clothesline and follows up with a bulldog while Angelina Love slowly walks down the ramp, distracting Velvet. Winter chokes her on the second rope and then hits a big backbreaker before locking Velvet into a crossface submission of sorts, which might be a new finisher for her as Velvet taps almost immediately to end it at 3:47. Not terrible thanks to Winter, and it did its job of showcasing Winter and pushing this "brainwashed Angelina" storyline, as stupid as it may be. *

After the match Anderson's music hits and he comes out once again, immediately grabbing a mic and calling out Sting, who answers immediately by joining him in the ring. Sting wants Anderson to apologize to him, but Anderson just gives him a right hand instead and once again they start brawling. Security doesn't seem to care this time as both men begin brawling into the crowd and up the stairs. This goes on for way too long honestly until finally Matt Hardy, Bully Ray, and Abyss come out to beat both of them down. RVD ends up making the save eventually.

Backstage Velvet Sky says shes going to "cleanse" Winter. I do believe that phone ringing is the genocide awareness group that's going to be hatemailing you.

Kurt Angle's music hits and he makes his way out to the ring and grabs a mic, calling out Jarrett immediately. Jarrett comes out, with Rob Terry at his side, which I guess leads us right into our next match...

Kurt Angle vs. Rob Terry

And the Rob Terry push is officially dead after last week. Don't worry, I couldn't be more apathetic either. Jarrett distracts Angle and Terry jumps him from behind to start. Terry knocks Angle around some more while he tries clawing at Jarrett at ringside, but Angle quickly regroups and locks Terry into the ankle lock. Angle grapevines the leg and it's all over as Terry taps at 1:35. Total squash for Angle. If I actually gave a shit about Rob Terry in any way I might be upset at how quickly his push has been killed over the last few weeks, but I don't, so I'm not. Standard squash fare. ¼*

After the match Kurt tries attacking Jarrett but the cops show up and arrest Angle. I wonder if this was taped before he was arrested for drunk driving? Let me check...yep. Funny how life imitates art.

We get some weird video package with the official TNA voice-over and everything as Karen tries to paint Kurt as a piece of shit and Kurt just comes off like a broken man who just wants to see his kids. I'm not nearly as upset about the exploitation of this entire feud as I was when it started, but I still really don't like how they're dragging real life events into this thing. No matter what front Angle might put up, you know inside he can't be enjoying his children being exploited in an angle with his ex-wife and Jeff. This is a really long video by the way, nearly 10 minutes. It does make you want to see the blow-off at Lockdown though, so kudos to the TNA production crew.

Cage Match
Sting/Mr. Anderson/Rob Van Dam vs. Abyss/Matt Hardy/Bully Ray

How freaking bizarre is the heel team here? They have absolutely nothing in common really. The cage looks smaller than the one they used at Lockdown last year, but just by a bit. Ever since switching from the six-sided ring to the traditional four-sided ring the cage matches have become alot more cramped, they really need a Hell in a Cell type construction so they can give the guys some more room to work. Anderson gets jumped by Sting before he can enter the match, which really makes no sense since he's his partner and Sting just walks into the ring at a 3-on-2 disadvantage moments later. Sting cleans house quickly, hitting a Stinger Splash on on all three of his opponents. RVD waits on the apron for the tag like a bozo while Abyss and Ray double-team Sting. They can't seem to decide whether or not this match requires tags or not. Anderson pulls up a chair at ringside to watch the match. There's being a tweener, and then there's being a legit asshole heel. Anderson is being booked as the latter. Quick commercial break and when we return it's all Immortal, beating down Sting and RVD. Hogan's music hits and Hulk comes down to ringside, wearing some weird complex backbrace that may or may not also be a part of Hogan's BDSM closet. He orders Anderson to get into the cage and then rakes Anderson's eyes, tossing him back in. Again, Hogan is the heel here, but he comes off like the babyface and we even get a few fans chanting "Hogan!". Anderson gets beaten down by his own partner Sting once he enters the ring though, as this match has really become just a mess at this point. Immortal continues to beat down Sting in the middle of the ring now as RVD and Anderson are out of it. Things finally settle down into a traditional tag now as Matt Hardy works a neck cravat on Sting. Sting fights out of it but Abyss tags in and he and Ray doubleteam Sting while Hebner sits there with his thumb up his ass (not literally, that would be horrifying). Sting fights back though and hits a double clothesline on them as I guess that was our big extended heat segment and RVD gets the lukewarm tag and cleans house with spin kicks for everyone. RVD hits a thrustkick on Abyss and then goes for the Five Star Frog splash, but Anderson knocks him off (why? Sting beat you up, not Rob) and Bully Ray hits the Bubba Bomb on RVD for the pin at 8:34 (shown). Weird match with Sting and Anderson purposely screwing their own team over through out the match, to the point where it was basically Immortal vs. Sting while RVD and Anderson laid around wheezing. The cage was also unnecessary since they didn't even use the freaking thing once in this match, so why even waste the visual on free TV when you should be saving them for the PPV? As far as Impact main events go though, this was perfectly fine and better than most, it just didn't need to be a cage match. **

After the match Fortune (minus AJ Styles) hits the ring to try and help out Sting and RVD, but Immortal lays them out quickly and Kaz does a nasty bladejob that makes the pussy scratch on Robert Roode's head look silly by comparison. Ric Flair locks them all into the cage and the beatdown continues. Suddenly Christopher Daniels hops the guardrail, climbs to the top of the cage, and flies off with a huge cross body block that wipes out all of Immortal! Awesome return for Daniels and the chants of "Fallen Angel!" start up almost immediately. We take a quick commercial break and when we return Ric Flair and Immortal are going crazy over Daniels backstage. Elsewhere Daniels cuts a promo to make it all clear, saying he's here to avenge AJ Styles injury at the hands of Bully Ray. The rest of Fortune cut promos as well. Kaz is still a bloody mess. Elsewhere backstage Sting promises to show everyone who the veteran is at Lockdown. Mr. Anderson bitches some more about being screwed over and RVD jumps him in his trailer. What I don't get is why the hell did Anderson decide to screw RVD over in their match and start a beef with him after RVD was nice enough earlier in the show to get Anderson included into the title match at Lockdown as a three-way. Rob does him a favor, and Anderson screws him for it. He really is an asshole, but not the kind the fans want to cheer, because he got nothing but crickets and some boos tonight for his actions.

Bottom Line:
While this was a big step up over the last two weeks, it still wasn't exactly a perfect show. Anderson's booking continues to make little to no sense whatsoever, and you have to question the point of a cage match (where you don't use the cage) on free TV with Lockdown coming up so soon. Daniels return was a great moment and injects one of TNA's founding fathers right into the Lethal Lockdown match I'd have to assume in place of AJ, and for once there was actually a moderate amount of wrestling on the show as opposed to the slim-to-none it usually has. Jeremy and Max Buck had a fun match little match and there were no long, drawn-out horribly acted promos like there have been recently, so really this was a step-up across all boards for TNA tonight. Now let's see if they can't keep the momentum up until Lockdown. We're going with the ever so slight Thumbs Up here, based mostly on the awesome return of Daniels.

Score: 5.5/10

Monday, March 28, 2011

WWE RAW 3/28/11 --- The Last Stop to Wrestlemania

WWE RAW 3/28/11
March 28th, 2011
Allstate Arena,, Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 17,000 +/-

It's almost Wrestlemania time as the WWE rolls into the former Rosemont Arena in Illinois. Tonight The Rock is IN the building live, as are both John Cena and The Miz. Triple H and the Undertaker have promised to have a face-to-face tonight as well, so this is a big RAW for the company, let's see how they deliver.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Josh Matthews and Jerry Lawler

We open the show with CM Punk in the ring and the lights dimmed as he shows us a video package of the attack on Orton last week In front of his wife, which gets him a ton of heat. Punk keeps calling Randy by his full name, Randall Keith Orton, and it's delightful. Punk says he's glad he got to show Randall's wife what Randy Orton really is. He says he'll close this sick and twisted chapter at Wrestlemania, but Orton's music hits and he comes out with a heavily bandaged knee from the attack last week. Orton limps to the ring and they start fighting immediately. Orton uppercuts Punk and prepares for the RKO, but instead he wants to go for the punt but his leg is too injured for him to run and he collapses! Small “CM Punk!” chant starts up as Punk realizes Orton only has one leg. Crowd is chanting for Randy now as Punk lays him out with a kick. Dueling chants tonight and I'm guessing we'll get them at 'Mania as well Punk hits the GTS on Orton and leaves the ring with a smile on his face. Excellent way to open the show and add heat to this feud.

Backstage we see Edge and Christian together, Edge wearing an old trench coat of his. Edge says he doesn't get why he can fight Del Rio on RAW but not on Smackdown, but Christian reassures him the RAW GM will be okay with it. Apparently Edge and Christian reunite on RAW for the first time in a decade next...

Edge/Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio/Brodus Clay

This is the first time Edge and Christian have teamed together on RAW in ten years. Or, atleast that's what the WWE wants you to think, as they tagged more than once on RAW around 04-05 before Christian left for TNA. Edge and Clay start us off, trading shots and quickly Edge and Christian trade quick tags and beat up on Clay. They both get in the ring and Edge whips Christian into Clay as they use some double-team maneuvers like they haven't missed a lick. Clay bails and Christian tries the slingshot splash, but Brodus catches him so Edge dropkicks Christian's back, sending him down to the floor. We take a quick commercial break and when we return we see replays of Alberto Del Rio beating up Christian. Both men are in the ring, trading shots. Del Rio nails Christian with a superkick for two. Del Rio tags Clay back in and he drops an elbow for a two count of his own. Del Rio tags back in and this a top rope elbow drop, but again Christian gets the shoulder up. Christian hits a big tornado DDT from the top though and gets the hot tag to Edge, who nails Clay and gets prepared for the spear, but Del Rio sweeps his feet. Christian and Del Rio whip eachother into the guard barrier outside the ring while Edge hits the spear on Clay in the ring, and that's enough to get Edge the pin at 4:42 (shown). This was an excellent, HOT tag match for the time it got but it felt a little rushed and that held it back from being something great. The near five minutes they did show us though were killer with Edge and Christian hitting great double-team moves and bumping around. **¾

After the match Del Rio locks on the armbar on Christian briefly until Edge runs him off. Edge thinks Del Rio is gone and comes back to check on Christian but Del Rio just runs out afterwards and slaps the armbar onto Edge as well. Del Rio gives him a little wink before he takes his leave. Great match and segment to add heat to this feud.

We see footage of Trish Stratus and Snooki drinking at a bar in New Jersey, apparently Trish is in “Snooki's world” tonight. Pretty sure these are pre-taped segments. We take a commercial break and when we return we see The Miz backstage with an upside down WWE logo hung up, texting on his phone with Alex Riley.

We hear the e-mail noise and the Anonymous GM has sent an e-mail to Cole on his iPad this time apparently. The email says that The King will have to wrestle Jack Swagger tonight to prepare for his match against Cole at 'Mania. So are we just confirming Cole is the RAW GM now or something? When we return The Corre is in the ring and they announce an eight man match at Wrestlemania pitting The Corre against Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella, and Vladimir Kozlov. So Christian's not involved there, good.

Justin Gabriel vs. Santino Marella

This...could be fun. Big Show/Kane, Vladimir Kozlov, Tamina, and The Corre are all at ringside so it's almost like a lumberjack match at this point. Gabriel gets a quick cover on Santino for two and tries to work a hammerlock. Santino starts laying in shots though and hits a big hip-toss and headbutt combination, and he's already calling for the Cobra. Everyone is fighting outside at this point but Santino hits Gabriel with the devastating COBRA and that's enough to get the win at 1:53. Just a nothing match to get The Corre vs. Big Show feud some TV time going into 'Mania. Nothing wrong with that at all, as even Big Show and even KANE does the freaking trumpet gesture that Santino does! Okay, that's just funny. ¼*

When we return Undertaker's music hits and he makes his way to the ring. Triple H's music hits next and he does the same, but when he tries to do his signature water bottle-spewing bit on the apron, a loud gong is heard instead and the lights go out. When they come back on both men do the staredown in the middle of the ring when suddenly....Shawn Michaels music hits! This year Hall of Fame inductee is live on RAW and fired up! Great pop for Shawn and FINALLY they've smartened up and brought Shawn into this feud like they should have from the start. Big HBK chant as this crowd has been RED HOT all night long. Shawn grabs a mic and says he's really sorry to interrupt, but there was no way he was going to miss this. HBK does a great job on the mic here putting over both guys. Shawn looks to Triple H and asks him seriously what makes him think he can do what Shawn couldn't. Triple H grabs the mic and says that Shawn got soft and used to losing, but Triple H isn't Shawn and he HAS to win. Triple H talks about how resilient Undertaker was when he first entered the WWE 16 years ago. Hunter says that he wanted to emulate the Undertaker and that he's learned to respect him more and more each day. Triple H says he and HBK made a pact on the road five years ago that if they ever stopped living up to their standard of wrestling in the ring, they'd retire, or they would make them retire. Triple H looks to the Undertaker and says very seriously that that time has come for him, drawing some boos from the crowd. 'Taker has been broken down for years, this is true. Triple H promises he's the one who's going to end the streak at 18-1 and that the Undertaker will rest in peace.. Undertaker grabs the mic from him and says that if he ever felt the need to be put down, he'd go to Triple H because that's the respect he has for him as well, but to quote 'Taker, “It ain't that time”. Undertaker brings up how he doesn't see the same arrogance and confidence in Shawn Michaels eyes after he “humbled” him at Wrestlemania last year. Crowd doesn't like that. He says he ended Michaels career and that he's going to go into the Hall of Fame with regrets. Shawn tries for the Sweet Chin Music on Undertaker after this, but Taker grabs him by the throat and Triple H separates the both of them. Triple H grabs the mic and asks Shawn to show Undertaker why he's going to beat him at Wrestlemania, but Shawn just leaves the ring to some boos. I've never seen Shawn run in defeat like this, but he does just that much to Triple H's surprise. Undertaker tips his hat to Triple H as his music hits and the segment's over. Yeah, to say this was a great segment would be an understatement. This whole segment came off incredible and added a ton of heat to a match that really had none at all until now. This is EXACTLY what this match needed to convince people to buy the PPV and tune in for that main event. Excellent work by everyone involved.

Jerry Lawler vs. Jack Swagger

After a commercial break we return and it's time for Lawler's match against Swagger. Cole distracts Lawler to start and Swagger takes the early advantage with a big Swagger bomb. Swagger takes Jerry outside the ring and tosses him into the ring announcer's section, where Jerry finds a handy steel chair that he slams into Swagger's back for the DQ at 1:17. After the match King tries to destroy Cole's glass box with the chair and then tries climbing into it, but Cole's security takes him down and Cole throws a drink in his face. This crowd is hot and they want Michael Cole DEAD. Match itself was obviously absolutely nothing, but it served it's purpose. ¼*

After a quick commercial break we return and Vickie Guerrero comes out and mocks John Morrison's entrance routine, much to Michael Cole's amusement.Vickie gets in the ring and introduces her boyfriend, Dolph Ziggler. Oh Ziggles, I hope you can recover from this.

Daniel Bryan/John Morrison vs. Sheamus/Dolph Ziggler

Nice to see they found a way to work these two feuds into the show in one match, good use of time here. Sheamus and Morrison start us off with Sheamus taking the upper hand with big strikes. Morrison goes for a springboard sidekick but Sheamus catches him and gives him the Irish Curse backbreaker as we cut away to commercial. When we return Sheamus is still dominating Morrison in the ring with a bow and arrow-like submission, driving his knee into Morrison's back. Morrison gets the hot tag to Bryan, who cleans house on Ziggler and puts him in the LaBelle Lock briefly until Sheamus breaks it up. Morrison and Ziggler fight to the outside while Bryan goes for the LaBelle Lock on Sheamus now, but Sheamus is too big and he powers out and hits the High Cross powerbomb and gets the pin on Bryan at 2:44 (shown). Not bad at all for the time they were given, in fact this is about as good of a 3 minute tag team match you're ever going to see. It was rushed though, obviously, so it never really got off the ground. **¼

We cut away to a supposedly “live” segment with Trish and Snooki in a bar at New Jersey. Josh asks them about their training and Trish says she's shown Snooki some moves. Some guy keeps hitting on them and Snooki ends up smacking him. We go back to Josh but then right back to the bar again, where LayCool are now apparently. Snooki throws her drink in Layla's face immediately, and our reality show drink throwing quota for the month has been met I do believe. LayCool and Trish/Snooki tussle for a bit until security separates them. Snooki is very clearly hammered.

And it's time. The Rock is there live, and backstage, preparing to go out. His music hits and the arena explodes as he makes his way to the ring. Huge sellout crowd with a ton of Rock fans in the house, but shit, who isn't a Rock fan? Massive “Rocky!” chants the moment his music stops of course. He does the “Finally The Rock has come back to Chicago” line and says this is the city where it all started for him. The Rock competed in his very first Wrestlemania right here in this building. He says for the first time that night he decided to “bring it” and says that was the unofficial birth of “Team Bring It”. There's already a fan in the crowd with a sign for it. The Rock says Team Bring It is a way of life, and that way of life basically devolves into the usual taking of objects and inserting them up others anuses. The Rock says he has a dream of his own when he called out John Cena (Cena gets MASSIVE boos and HUGE “Cena Sucks!” chants we haven't heard the likes of which since 2006). He calls Cena a “homeless Power Ranger” and says Cena will see his fist and his boot up his ass. The Rock says the People's Champ is here and Cena's music hits, gaining more boos. This is a totally pro-Rock anti-Cena crowd. Cena hits the ring and both men circle each other. Cena has his own mic and says that this is exactly what Cena wanted, The Rock back in a WWE ring. Cena tells The Rock this is where he belongs and I silently mark out to myself. Cena says he was one of The Rock's fans and he didn't know why he left and wanted him back for moments like this. Cena says he wanted to know what problem The Rock had with him, and Cena found it. Cena says his audience is kids and he's damn proud of it and who he's become as more boos reign down but Cena says he works his tail off for this business and wants to know who the hell The Rock is to tell him what to do. Cena is fired up and this is some of the best promo work I've ever seen from him. Cena says no one can judge him but God basically. The Rock agrees with him about the good lord, but says the lord can't save Cena from The Rock whipping his ass all over Chicago. Cena drops his mic as if to fight The Rock and then The Miz's music hits. Oh yeah, The Miz, the WWE champion. I forgot about that guy (just kidding). Miz hits the ring and says the usual stuff, Cena is going to lose at 'Mania, etc. Miz says he knows a secret about The Rock, that he's not going to do a thing tonight. Miz cites some of his movie numbers and I just noticed the mic in Miz's hand has the upside down WWE logo for Miz, which is awesome. The Miz says he guaran-damn-tees that he'll embarrass The Rock if he even looks at him funnily. The Rock just says bluntly that it doesn't matter what he thinks, and Alex Riley of all people at The Miz's side jumps The Rock with The Miz. The Rock fights back though and hits some of those patented smacks. He gives a DDT to Riley and gives him the People's Elbow! But Cena hits the ring as soon as it's done and gives him the Attitude Adjustment! Massive boos reigns down on Cena. If I was a betting man, I'd bet that Vince will in fact be able to convince The Rock to come back for one more match, against John Cena after all of this. It's the only thing that makes sense. That closes out the show.

Bottom Line:
This show had that elusive BIG SHOW feeling all night long. This was one of the best go-home shows I've seen before Wrestlemania ever. Every major feud got a good chunk of time with great promo work from almost everyone tonight and the crowd was huge and red hot all night long, into everything. There was a severe lack of wrestling, sure, as we only had about 10 minutes of combined ring time, but this was the rare case where that didn't hurt the show at all. This was all hype for 'Mania and it did that absolutely perfectly. The Rock-Cena confrontation at the end is something that will go down in wrestling history as one of the great moments in this modern age in which the WWE struggles to find it's new identity. Great, great show and an easy Thumbs Up.

Score: 9.5/10

Sunday, March 27, 2011

EVOLVE 6: Aries vs. Taylor (11/20/10)

EVOLVE 6: Aries vs. Taylor
November 20th, 2010
ACE Arena, Union City, New Jersey
Attendance: 400

Ahhh yes, time again for the refreshing breath of air that is EVOLVE. I was pissed about how long it took for them to release this after they released EVOLVE 5, unable to wait for my next hit of that sweet, sweet EVOLVE Wrestling. For those who are unaware of EVOLVE, it's almost like an extension of the original idea of ROH with trying to make the wrestling more athletic sports-oriented, trying to present the business as a real shoot wrestling company with Wins/Losses records for every roster member and all. Realy, how brilliant is the Wins/Losses record thing? How did it take this long for someone to think of that? It immediately makes the show look more legit, almost like what wrestling would look like if it was a shoot fighting sport like mixed martial arts is. Anyways, enough yapping about my love of the whole EVOLVE concept, lets get to the show already.

We open with our usual series of backstage interviews shot in pseudo-documentary fashion. Jimmy Jacobs talks about how if he beats Johnny Gargano tonight that's going to immediately shoot him up in the rankings while elsewhere Drake Younger promises to become the first man in EVOLVE to go 4-0. Johnny Gargano talks about how he's going to knock Jacobs off of his high pedestal.

Backstage we see Chuck Taylor trying to hide under a blanket/take a nap while Austin Aries arrives and sets up in the back.

Your hosts are Lenny Leonard and Austin Aries (for now)

Drake Younger (3-0) vs. Silas Young (0-1)

Younger is a CZW mainstay who is actually an incredible worker and technical wrestler who just happens to also wrestle the ultraviolent style as well. Silas on the other hand has been a traveling midcarder for indies like ROH and AAW, and I'm not entirely familiar with him. Younger works a wristlock to start but Silas counters with one of his own. Both men block a hip-toss attempt and Silas sweeps the legs for a quick two count. Young gets a few near falls with backslides and roll-ups and then nails Younger with a dropkick. Younger nails Young (weird to recap a match with two guys with such similar last names) with a forearm that sends him to the outside floor and then flies off the top rope with an incredible somersault senton to the concrete floor! Younger tries to suplex Silas onto a chair but he fights out of it and delivers a big powerslam to Younger on the floor! Back inside Silas tries the pin, but Younger kicks out at two. Silas tries to follow up but Younger gives him a release half-nelson suplex. Both men start trading lefts and rights in the center of the ring now, with Drake taking the upper hand again. Younger hits a top-rope Death Valley/Michionoku driver combo off the rope, but Young still won't stay down for a three count. They trade waistlocks and then Young hits a backbreaker-lariat combo that looks great. Young does a headstand on the top turnbuckle and floats into an Arabian press but Younger gets the knees up! Michinoku Driver from Younger, 1-2—NOO! Young kicks out. Younger is pissed now and pulls down the straps, setting up for the Kudo driver, but Young counters and tries for the headstand-Arabian press combo again, and this time it hits and Young scores the pin on the now formerly undefeated Drake Younger at 8:58. Excellent, incredibly fast-paced opener here between these two with Drake doing his usual reckless bumping and Young coming off like a million bucks with the win and some of the fancy moves he scored in this match. Great way to kick off the show. ***¼

AR Fox (0-0) vs. Rich Swann (0-1) vs. Tony Nese (0-0) vs. Scott Reed (0-0)

This is the debuts of Fox, Nese, and Reed. Fox is a CZW regular and has wrestled a few times for Dragon Gate USA while Swann has made a big name for himself in Dragon Gate USA. This is one fall only, but with lucha libre tag rules, meaning two men are in the ring but when one of them is thrown out of the ring, another man can enter the ring legally and that counts as a tag. Fox and Reed start us off with Fox hitting a big dropkick that sends Reed to the floor, bringing Swann in. Fox gives him a creative twisting suplex and that sends Nese in. Nese and Reed appear to be the muscled, power guys in this match while Swann and Fox play the roles of the high-flying daredevils. Fox teases a tope but Nese gives him a lariat instead while Swann and Reed brawl on the outside. Nese gets sent to the floor again Fox goes for a running shooting star press off the apron, but he doesn't come anywhere close to the 3 men outside the ring and just face-plants nastily on the concrete floor in a scary and ugly botch. Wow that was scary, Fox could have killed himself. Fox makes up for it with a big guillotine leg drop off the top onto Swann on the apron though, and the crowd chants his name in appreciation. Swann uses Fox's back for a bit to launch himself off into Nece, but then Reed just grabs him and powerbombs him right into the turnbuckle. Fox hit's a springboard ace-crusher on Reed, but Nece breaks the pin attempt up. Springboard quebrada from Reed, but Fox kicks out at two. Fox hits big springboard lung-blower, but Reed kicks out as well. Fox reverses a crucifix into a pin attempt, but Reed just rolls through and gives him a towering Doug Williams-like bridging German suplex that Swann breaks up with a standing SSP. Fox misses a Yakuza kick and just eats a superkick from Swann for another close two. Swann hits a freaking standing 450 splash (how does he DO that?!) but Nece breaks the pinfall up this time. Swann tries for what looks like a Canadian destroyer, but Nece counters with an Omori driver! 1-2—NOO! Reed breaks it up. Fox gives Reed a version of the Celtic Cross, and that's enough to give Fox a win in his debut at 6:38. Not bad for what it was supposed to be, which is just a quick high-octane spotfest. Fox's early botch was both frightening and ugly, but he recovered very nicely afterwards and still made a strong showing for himself despite the early mistake. **½

Backstage Drake Younger beats himself up about not being able to beat Silas Young tonight.

Larry Dallas, who bears a strong resemblance to Rico Suave, comes down to the first row with Reby Sky and another unknown lovely lady and he pours each of them a glass of champagne while the crowd gets on his case.

Bobby Fish (0-4) vs. Kyle O'Reilly (2-2)

Fish and O'Reilly fought each-other in the very first match in EVOLVE history at the first show, which O'Reilly won and was an excellent opener to a good card. Since then both men have made strides in their careers with Fish becoming more and more successful in Japan and O'Reilly bursting onto the indy scene with EVOLVE and ROH this past year. This should be good. Both men trade forearms to start, really hammering into each other. Fish hits a nice dropkick but O'Reilly grabs his ankle and tries for the ankle lock, but Fish rolls through.O'Reilly tries for the ankle again, but Fish still won't stay still for him. Fish tries forcing O'Reilly shoulders down on the mat in an amateur-wrestling style pin but O'Reilly counters into a bridging Northern Lights suplex for a quick two count. O'Reilly tries to lock on a rear naked choke but Fish evades and both men are back on their feet in a stand-off. Fish gets a clinch on O'Reilly and hits a few big knees as this fight becomes more and more MMA-like in it's focus on submission attempts and stiff striking. Fish blocks a kick and lays in two huge kicks of his own to O'Reilly chest. He tries for a third but O'Reilly blocks it so Fish just gives him another pair of stiff high kicks to the side of the head. Fish has definitely had some kickboxing training. Release German suplex from Fish and he follows it with a running forearm, an overhead T-bone suplex, and a diving headbutt off the top rope for a close two count. O'Reilly fights back with a nice high spinkick-low sweeping spinkick combo but Fish just keeps feeding him forearm shots. O'Reilly hits a trio of double-underhook suplexes in almost Benoit-esque fashion, but takes too much time to go for the cover and can only get a two count. O'Reilly goes to the top but Fish jumps up on the turnbuckle with him and gives him a huge top-rope Falcon Arrow, 1-2---NOO! O'Reilly gets the shoulder up. Kyle tries a bridging Tiger suplex on Fish, but only for two. They trade more stiff high-kicks to each other's chests and man, these guys are going to have some bruises tomorrow from this one. They wind up both connecting with a high-kick to the side of the head on each other at the same time, and O'Reilly looks like he may have a bloody lip. O'Reilly hits a tornado DDT and hangs on, following up with a brainbuster that still only gets two. Saito suplex from Fish now, but O'Reilly isn't giving up that easily either. Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker from Fish and he tries a version of Christopher Daniel's Best Moonsault Ever on O'Reilly, but Kyle gets the knees up at the last split second. O'Reilly looks to be going for a triangle choke but Fish just picks up O'Reilly while he's still hooked and slams him back down to the mat in Rampage Jackson-like style. O'Reilly keeps trying for the triangle, but Fish picks him all the way up now and gives him a legit power bomb right into the corner turnbuckle. Stiff knee lift from Fish gets two. Bobby tries for a crossface but O'Reilly rolls through into a pin and almost steals it. Both men lock up again and begin trading stiff forearms again, with O'Reilly taking the upper hand and laying in a flurry of rapid kicks into the ribs. Lung-blower from Fish and he hits a spinning heel kick to the back of O'Reilly's that just sends him crumbling to the mat, and that's enough for Fish to get the pin at 14:23. It seems like every time these two men face off we get an incredibly unique and creative match, this contest being the closest thing to an American worked MMA match in pro wrestling I've ever seen. This was crazy with stiff and brutal strikes, painful submission work, and a ton of countering and grappling to go along with some serious intensity. Fish finally picks up his first win, and we can only hope these two will meet again many more times in the future. ****

After the match Lenny Leonard gets into the ring to get a few words with both Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly. Leonard congratulates Fish on his first win, and O'Reilly thanks Fish for a hell of a fight, saying he was the better man tonight and both men hug. Fish puts over O'Reilly after he exits the ring and says his loss to Bryan Danielson back at EVOLVE 4 is what motivated him for tonight. Fish says 2011 is going to be his years and gives a shout out to his little girls at home. Classy segment that again puts over the whole mentality of “wrestling as a sport” that EVOLVE perfects. Glad to see someone in the wrestling business in the US is finally taking some hints from MMA on how to improve their product.

Up in Smoke (3-0) vs. Super Smash Bros. (0-0)

Time for some tag team competition now with the 3-0 Up in Smoke (Cheech Hernandez and Cloudy) taking on CHIKARA regulars, the Super Smash Bros. (Player Uno and Player Dos). This should be high-flying fun. Cloudy and Dos start us off but it's not long before Cheech hits the ring as this is another lucha libre rules tag match. Dos hits a pair of hurricanranas and a spinning heel kick on Cheech. Uno tags in and they double team Cheech for a bit until Cloudy hits the ring and eats a standing moonsault for a quick two count. Double suplex to Cheech, but Cloudy breaks the count up before it starts. Cheech gives Dos a belly to back suplex and Up in Smoke do some double-teaming of their own. They try to isolate Dos for a bit, trading quick tags. Cheech taunts Dos for a bit, which is kind of confusing because I'm pretty sure Up in Smoke are supposed to be the big babyface team that the promotion is pushing. Cloudy tags back in and they hit a double Russian leg sweep for a quick two. Dos takes some more punishment but is finally able to fight them off and get the hot tag to Uno. He hits a big fallaway slam on Cloudy and then takes them out with a double clothesline. Uno is definitely the biggest man in the ring here. More nifty-double teaming from the Super Smash Bros, but Cloudy breaks up the count. Cheech gives Uno a snap suplex, but Dos hits a big frog splash off the top as soon as his back hits the mat. Cloudy hits a reverse hurricanrana on Dos though and just plants his head into the mat, sending him stumbling to the outside floor. Uno hits a big reverse STO on Cheech, but he kicks out at two. Cloudy tries an assisted swinging DDT on Uno, but Dos breaks it up. Dos hits a pair of tandem kicks that sends Up in Smoke to the floor, then he follows them out with a huge running somersault plancha, landing on his feet on the floor below! Smash Bros hit a double-team lung-blower, but Cheech breaks up the count. Uno tries for what looks like an Omori driver on Cloudy, but Cheech dropkicks him and Cloudy uses the momentum to flip him 180 degrees in a variation of a Canadian destroyer, which is enough to give Up in Smoke their fourth straight win at 10:57. Fun tag match that was a bit slow to start but picked up quite a bit by the end. I probably would have given the win to the Super Smash Bros seeing how over they were here with the fans and the fact that Up in Smoke was already 3-0, but I guess they really want to make it clear that Up in Smoke is the top tag team in EVOLVE. **¾

After the match Lenny Leonard hits the ring to get a few words with the winners, Up in Smoke. They say 2011 is going to be their year and then head off to celebrate. I really can't quite tell whether these guys are supposed to be faces or heels yet, and in a way I guess that's a good thing.

Backstage Scott Reed congratulates Bobby Fish on his win tonight. Fish gets on the phone afterwards to tell his wife about the victory.

“Relaxed Rules” Match
Homicide (0-0) vs. Jon Moxley (0-1)

This is Homicide's debut for the EVOLVE promotion, as this was taped only about eight or nine weeks after he left TNA. Moxley and Homicide have already been feuding in Dragon Gate USA, and it's been one of the better booked feuds thus far in the short history of that promotion, but the matches seem to end up coming off flat and heatless. I've heard good things about this match though, so let's see what they can do for us tonight. This match is relaxed rules, so that should help. Long stare-off between both men to start until Moxley gets the first shot in. They trade blows briefly and Moxley just grinds the bottom of his elbow in Homicide's face. Moxley starts talking trash to Homicide after a quick snap suplex, and Homicide fires back. He tries for the face-wash into the corner but Moxley hits the floor, so Homicide just follows him out with a somersault senton off the apron. They fight back into the ring and begin trading blows again. Moxley tries choking Homicide for a bit but Homicide head-butts him and gives him the Three Amigoes suplex trifecta as a small “Eddie!” chant breaks out. He misses a diving headbutt attempt and Moxley grabs his arm and starts twisting away on it, transitioning into the Rings of Saturn submission. Both men fight to their feet again and Moxley tosses him shoulder-first into the steel post. Moxley continues the arm and shoulder work on Homicide's left arm, talking trash all the while. Moxley lays in a flurry of stiff headbutts and then goes back to the armwork with a hammerlock. Homicide fights out of a keylock but Moxley just slaps a sleeper on him, so Homicide counters with a back-suplex Moxley dropkicks Homicide to the floor and the fight spills into the crowd now. Moxley tries a powerbomb but Homicide back drops him on the concrete floor. They fight into the bleachers and Moxley narrowly avoids a huge oscillating fan being thrown on him, to which he does a quick fingers-cross the chest and Hail Mary for his good luck. Don't thank your God yet though Jon, because Homicide wraps a cable wire around Moxley's neck and just starts strangling him with it. They brawl around the crowd some more with Moxley slamming Homicide face-first into a chair and then giving Homicide a double-stomp (or rather, a half-stomp as he only uses one foot) off the guardrail. He wraps his legs around Homicide's neck with a leg vicegrip but Homicide fights out of it and suplexes him up onto a sturdy table. He misses a chair shot and the fight spills back towards the ring now, with Moxley applying a vicious half-Boston crab that he transitions into a Border City Stretch. Moxley traps Homicide's arm in the guardrail and grabs a chair and just slams it into it repeatedly like a maniac, working on that same left arm he was earlier in the match. Lovely limb psychology. Homicide gets so desperate to free himself from the armwork that he ends up biting a chunk right out of Moxley's leg. Finally the match returns to the ring and Moxley just chokes Homicide with a steel chair pressed against his throat. Homicide tries fighting back, but he's only got one good arm at this point. He hits an exploder suplex on Moxley, 1-2—NOO! Moxley counters out of the pin into a Fujiwara armbar! Homicide gets the ropebreak though and hits an ace crusher out of nowhere. He tries a lariat but again Moxley counters into the Fujiwara armbar and again Homicide gets the ropebreak. Homicide comes back with a big lariat with his good arm though and both men are laid out. Homicide tries for the Cop Killer but he can't quite do it with just one arm and Moxley counters into a crossface chicken wing! Homicide tries to fight it off but he just won't quit and eventually he appears to pass out from the pain. Unable to defend himself, the referee has no choice but to call for the bell and award the match to Moxley at 19:54. Now this is more like it, this was a great, heated brawl that also featured some nice matwork and great limb psychology. Most importantly, the armwork paid off in the end, something you just don't see enough these days. Great match and this feud is nowhere close to being settled. ***½

After the match Homicide is pissed and kicks the referee. Moxley gets in his face and teases him, saying he's going to get suspended for that. Homicide wants Moxley to hit him but Moxley says he “plays by the rules” so Homicide gives him an ace crusher! Homicide goes to leave but Moxley keeps taunting him, so Homicide gets back into the ring and pulls out a FORK! This is getting nasty now as Homicide is just tearing at Moxley's face with a fork, fish-hooking his lip and then stabbing his forehead repeatedly, but Moxley just has a sick smile on his face and keeps taunting Homicide through-out it all, refusing to hit Homicide. The fork is covered in blood now and this has become brutal. Homicide goes to walk away again but Moxley grabs a mic and calls him a quitter so Homicide grabs the bell hammer and hits him a few times with it. This goes on for a while with Homicide going to leave and Moxley talking more shit to bring him back to the ring. Homicide is livid at this point and gives him a big piledriver, appearing to finally knock Moxley out. He tells him “This isn't over” and finally leaves. This was an amazing segment unlike any I've seen on the indy scene for awhile, and Moxley was so over-the-top and incredible here. Combine this with the great match they just had, and this is definitely a must-see part of this show.

Backstage Chuck Taylor tries to convince Johnny Gargano about how good a mysterious deal is that apparently they've been offered. Taylor is just delightful here as always. Holy shit Gargano is wearing a Hey Arnold t-shirt. He is officially cool in my book.

Elsewhere backstage Aries prepares for his match tonight with some weight-lifting.

Back in the ring Lenny Leonard tells the fans that we have some “paid promo time” for now from Larry Dallas. He tells the fans that he is going to start sponsoring fighters in EVOLVE. He tells the unnamed woman with him that he pulled some strings and got her a job as a backstage interviewer. Afterwards Reby Sky gets on the mic and introduces Chuck Taylor to the crowd, which I assume means he's their first sponsored fighter. Chuckie T confirms this and promises to beat Austin Aries tonight in the main event.

Adam Cole (1-2) vs. Ricochet (2-2)

This should be fun stuff as both guys are great athletes, especially Ricochet who seems to show me something new every time I watch him wrestle. They do some nice wrist and hammerlock exchanges to start off, feeling each other out. Ricochet gives him a few headscissors takedowns and Cole counters with a cradle attempt for a two count. Cole hits a big leg lariat off the top rope but takes too long to make the cover and Ricochet kicks out at two. Cole gives him a back-suplex while the commentators harp on about Homicide and Moxley. Big backbreaker from Cole, but again he only gets two. Ricochet starts to fight back, scoring with some right hands and a big spin kick. Big dropkick gets Ricochet a near fall and he's starting to gain some confidence now. He tries a chinlock but Cole fights it off so he hits him with a stiff jumping sidekick to the head. Ricochet hits a standing moonsault for a two count and the crowd seems kind of subdued here. Ricochet does the step-up enziguri spot in the corner and then follows it with a cannonball splash and a slingshot double-stomp in an impressive combination of moves that still only gets a two count on Cole. Cole hits a big boot and both men are down for the count. Back on their feet Cole tries for a suplex but Ricochet counters into a backslide driver, but Cole gets the shoulder up. Ricochet tries to slingshot himself into the ring but Cole catches him in mid-air on his shoulders and delivers a big fireman's carry into a neckbreaker that gets another close two count. Ricochet tries a few different creative pinning cradle attempts, but none of them work so he tries for the old springboard wristlock/armdrag spot, but Cole catches him again in mid-air and delivers a huge German suplex, absolutely planting him on his neck! Pretty sick spot, but it only gets two so Cole locks on a Boston crab briefly until Ricochet gets the ropebreak. Ricochet blocks a superplex attempt and hits a standing SSP, 1-2—Noo! Cole kicks out at two and the crowd seems into it now. Back on their feet both men trade some rather stiff forearms and knees and Cole delivers a variation on a lung-blower that he transitions beautifully into the Boston Crab again. Cole really sinks in the hold but Ricochet gets the ropebreak finally. Ricochet counters Cole into a big fisherman's buster suplex variation but Cole completely no-sells it. Booo! Cole eats a superkick and a spinning torture-rack powerbomb and that's enough to give Ricochet the win at 14:39. This match seemed to be missing the key ingredient of heat for the first half, but both men were able to get the crowd into it by the finishing stretch. There was some nice mat-wrestling, creative strikes and that German suplex counter spot was awesome. Cole's no-selling at the end pissed me off, but not enough to seriously hurt the rating of the match. Good stuff. ***¼

Johnny Gargano (3-2) vs. Jimmy Jacobs (4-1)

Both men have been successful thus far in singles competition in EVOLVE, and they've wrestled each other before, so this should be good. This is their second match in EVOLVE, their first taking place at EVOLVE 2. The fans are solidly behind Jimmy to start. Jimmy tries working a wristlock to start, transitioning into a cradle attempt for a two count. Gargano tries to toss Jacobs over the top rope and Jimmy tries to counter by skinning the cat, but Gargano just dropkicks him in the face and he crashes to the floor. Gargano misses the slingshot splash attempt on the outside and Jimmy slides him back into the ring. Jacobs hits a series of doublestomps on Gargano on the apron, but misses an elbow drop attempt and just smashes his arm nastily into the hardest part of the ring. Gargano takes the opportunity to fly out with a tope suicida, taking both men out on the floor. Jacobs moves some fans out of the way and sits Gargano up on the steel guardrail, then goes back to the ring, gets a running start and flies out after him with a tope suicida of his own, taking both men through a series of chairs in the process. That was unique. Back inside the ring Jacobs hits a big back senton splash, but Gargano kicks out at two. Gargano escapes a backslide attempt and gives Jacobs almost a mini-ace crusher from his knees. Gargano has the upper hand now, stomping away on Jacobs in the corner. Jacobs gets Gargano into the tree of woe and hits a running knee. He tries for the coast-to-coast dropkick but Gargano unties himself and climbs his own turnbuckle and both men see each other and start tip-toing across the ropes, holding onto a lighting fixture above them for balance! They start hanging from this lighting fixture until Jacobs knocks him off, crotching him on the top rope. Big jumping clothesline from the top rope from Jacobs to follow it up, but he doesn't go for the pin. Gargano tries a slingshot-spear back into the ring but Jacobs catches him and locks him right into the guillotine choke submission! Jacobs hits a spear of his own, and Gargano locks in a guillotine choke of his own! Jacobs fights him off, but Gargano scores with a superkick that sends him to the floor. Before Gargano can fly out after him though Jacobs slingshots back in with another spear, hitting it this time, 1-2—NOO! Gargano gets the shoulder up! Both men struggle to their feet from exhaustion and end up trading stiff chops and lariats until Gargano nearly takes Jacobs' head off with a superkick. Jacobs tries for a top-rope hurricanrana but Gargano counters by just pancaking him face-first on the top turnbuckle. He launches him like a lawn dart into another turnbuckle, but Jacobs gets a jackknife cradle attempt 1-2---NOOO! Jimmy almost stole it. Jacobs goes to the top again and Gargano tries to sweep the legs, but Jimmy is holding onto that light fixture above the ring again, dangling from it. He jumps off onto Gargano right into the guillotine choke again, but Gargano is able to escape it just long enough to eat an ace crusher and the Contra Code from Jacobs. You'd think that would be it, but Gargano rolls through after the CC hits and gets the three count at 15:29. This was much better than their first match and was engaging, creative, and just flat out fun for a good fifteen minutes. The use of the lighting fixtures above the ring was a nice touch and both men seem to have good chemistry together, so hopefully this is a feud we'll see more of down the line. ***¾

After the match Larry Dallas and Reby Sky hit the ring to celebrate with Johnny Gargano, who they announce is their second sponsored fighter alongside Chuckie T. Jacobs grabs the mic from him though and tells Dallas to shut the hell up. Jacobs asks who the hell Larry Dallas is and it's obvious the crowd hates this Rico Suave look-alike. Jacobs tells Dallas he doesn't belong here in EVOLVE. Dallas tries to make a deal and give him the “services” of Reby Sky for the night but they start arguing and Jacobs ends up spanking her in the ring to the crowds perverted bemusement. Jacobs offers a fan in the front row to smell his fingers and I have to chuckle, that was pretty funny on Jimmy's part. Dallas didn't seem to go over well with the fans at all tonight, in an X-Pac heat kind of way.

Backstage Jon Moxley is talking to himself about how he feels great after the incident with Homicide. He starts babbling about being “indestructible” and he staples himself and starts crushing and twisting his own fingers with a pair of pliers to test this theory. Moxley is one sick fuck, and you've got to love him for it. This guy has scary commitment to his promo work in an almost Mick Foley-like way. Creepy/awesome segment.

Austin Aries (0-0) vs. Chuck Taylor (4-1)

It's main event time, and this looks to be a good match-up on paper. Aries is making his debut for the promotion here after not having his contract renewed by ROH. For what reason, I have no idea. Aries takes the upper hand early as the veteran, rolling Taylor around the ring and trying to work a side headlock. Taylor comes back with a few cradle attempts of his own though and tries his own side-headlock. Taylor hits Aries with a flurry of armdrags and dropkicks, zipping around the ring at an impressive speed. Aries tells Taylor to go the gym more when he can't take him down with a shoulder-block, so Taylor gets a running start and nails him with one. You'd think Aries would be playing the babyface role here. Aries just plays with Taylor a bit, running into the corner and then shooting him self up and over him to the other corner. He hits a big dropkick and celebrates with some one-armed push ups while Taylor recovers. Taylor's done with his shit though and slaps him in the face, which only pisses Aries off who sends him flying out to the floor and then flies out himself with the heat seeking missile tope into the crowd! Taylor gets chopped so hard by Aries he collapses into the lap of some girl in attendance, crying on her shoulder almost only for Aries to slap him around some more and bring him back to the ringside area. Taylor steals a fan's hoodie and tries putting it on to escape the stiff chops of Aries, but the domination continues for double A. Aries tosses the fan back his sweatshirt and hits Taylor with a few elbows for a near fall. Aries is on his game tonight, that's for sure. Aries continues to just lay into Taylor with more elbows and dropkicks and this is just total domination up to this point from Austin Aries. Reverse STO and the discus elbow drop gets Aries a close two count. Aries goes for the top rope and Taylor sweeps his legs out from under him, slamming into the steel steps on the floor. Taylor hits a few stiff kicks and then tosses Aries back into the ring and locks on an armbar. Aries tries kicking out of it so Taylor just grabs his leg and Aries counters with a headscissors. Taylor locks on a figure four headscissors on Aries now, but Austin slides out of it. They trade shots and Taylor tries a single leb crab submission that he transitions into a surfboard-like submission. Taylor rolls into a guillotine choke attempt but Aries rolls into the ropes and gets the break. Aries blocks the Awful Waffle, so Taylor sets him up in the tree of woe. He misses the baseball slide though and crotches himself on the ring post. Aries hits a sweet tornado stunner/ace-crusher from the tree of woe position that I can't say I've ever seen before. Aries hits some big shots in the corner on him slams Taylor's head into the turnbuckle. He hits a bulldog and then locks in the Last Chancery briefly until Taylor gets the quick rope break. Taylor eats a stiff neckbreaker between the top and second ropes from Aries and crumbles to the outside floor. Aries follows him out with the Macho Man-like double axe-handle off the top rope into the front row! Taylor looks hurt and I'm guessing somewhere along the last few moves is where he apparently dislocated his shoulder, as he's clearly favoring the right arm now. Aries hits a missile dropkick but Taylor drills him with a boot for a quick two count. Taylor amazingly hits a pair of big quebrada moonsaults on Aries, slamming his already dislocated shoulder into the mat in the process. Holy shit Chuck, you've got heart. Taylor goes back to favoring the arm while Aries recovers. Taylor tries a rollup but he can't hold him down with the shoulder. He tries for a belly-to-back suplex but Aries counters into another near-fall. They trade backslide attempts and Taylor nails a big DDT. I have no idea how Taylor is able to perform these moves with an injured shoulder like that, it's pretty crazy. Taylor goes to the top rope and rolls through a 450 splash attempt, trying for Sole Food only to have Aries counter with a shinbreaker. Taylor sort-of hits the Sole Food from the top rope, but he clearly didn't hit the move correctly and you can't really blame him since he's injured. Aries hits a brainbuster and then locks in the Last Chancery once again, and Taylor has no choice but to quickly tap at 22:19. This was another fine EVOLVE main event and Aries looked fired-up and impressive in his debut. Taylor's dislocated shoulder could have potentially ruined the match, but he's such a great talent that he was able to still work hard with the injury and even work it into the match's finish. Another very good match to close out an EVOLVE show. ***¾

After the match Aries puts over Chuck Taylor and acknowledges that he clearly dislocated his shoulder half-way through the match. He tells Taylor that he's earned his respect.

Backstage Homicide shows Adam Cole the blood-stained fork he used on Moxley earlier in the night. Drake Younger comes up to him and tells him he respects him and knows they both had a tough night and invites him out to get some drinks, which Homicide gladly accepts. Cole gets left out. I guess he isn't crazy enough to go to a bar with Homicide and Drake Younger, and can you blame him? I wouldn't mind seeing Homicide and Younger teaming or feuding.

Elsewhere backstage Johnny Gargano is getting dressed after his match. Suddenly Silas Young bursts into his room and reminds Gargano about how at the first EVOLVE show Gargano invited him out to have a drink after a tough loss, setting him back on the path to alcoholism as apparently it's an issue he's struggled with in his past. Silas blames Gargano for setting him back into relapse for the last ten months and promises to take out all of his frustrations on Gargano in the ring. And that does it for EVOLVE 6.

Bottom Line: Another great show from top to bottom here from EVOLVE, as they've grown to become one of the most consistent indies in the United States today. Lots of good stuff to see on here including a brilliant Bobby Fish vs. Kyle O'Reilly match that takes almost an MMA-like approach, a great Jacobs-Gargano match, a fun Homicide-Moxley brawl, and a solid main event with some added drama from Taylor's gutsy performance working through an injury. Not a bad match on the card either, and even the promos and segments were good with Jon Moxley coming off like a brilliant and sadistic madman in more than one segment. EVOLVE delivers again, easy Thumbs Up.

Score: 8/10

Friday, March 25, 2011

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 3/25/11

WWE Friday Night Smackdown 3/25/11
March 25th, 2011
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Attendance: ???

The Road to Wrestlemania takes a stop in Columbus, Ohio tonight for another episode of Friday Night Smackdown. Last week on the show Christian defeated Alberto Del Rio in a cage match but both he and Edge were beaten down after the match as the show went off the air by Del Rio and Brodus Clay. Tonight, Christian faces off against Del Rio again in our main event. Sounds like a good show, so let's jump right in.

We open the show with Edge and Teddy Long arguing backstage about a new ruling Teddy has made that if either he or Del Rio touch each other again before Wrestlemania, they'll both be banned from participating in the event. Cue that...errr..."catchy" theme music!

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Josh Matthews, and Booker T

Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk

Oh HELL YES, now this is how you start off a show! These two have had some fantastic matches in the past, so hopefully this will be more of the same as this is another "Wrestlemania Rewind" match. Mysterio goes for the 619 early but Punk avoids it only to eat a kick for a quick two count. Punk hits a baseball slide dropkick and tries a cover of his own, but Mysterio gets the shoulder up at two. Punk works an abdominal stretch for a bit but Rey fights him off and sends him to the floor. Punk lifts Rey up onto his shoulders in the electric chair position and just launches him face-first into the guard barrier! We take a commercial break while Rey recovers and when we return Punk has Mysterio rolled up in the ring in a pin attempt, but Rey kicks out at two. Punk drops a leg and tries for the pin again, but again Mysterio kicks out at two. He tries a suplex but Mysterio counters, only for Punk to his a cross-body block on him for another near fall. Punk comes off the top rope but Mysterio meets him with a dropkick inmid-air. Mysterio flips Punk out of the ring and hits a beautiful springboard moonsault to the outside floor! Moments later though Cody Rhodes runs down the ramp and tosses Rey into the steel post for the DQ at 5:30 (shown). After the match Cody continues the beatdown on Rey until we go to commercial. Aw man, this was just starting to get good too before the DQ finish, but you can understand why they wouldn't want to have another guy lose clean so close to Wrestlemania. Still, it's Mysterio and Punk out there, give 'em five minutes atleast and the results are always going to be entertaining. **½

Backstage Edge and Christian share a few words, with Edge promising to be in Christian's corner tonight for his match with Del Rio.

Edge vs. Drew McIntyre

I have no idea what their plans on for McIntyre anymore. It looked like at one point last year he was bound for the main event, but now it's like they can't make up their mind about whether to push him or not. His music sure does rock though. Both men are fired up to start, trading big lefts and rights which Edge quickly gets the upper hand of. McIntyre hits a back elbow though and starts to work on Edge's injured and wrapped-up left arm. Drew slams his knee into Edge's arm, getting a near fall in the process. Edge counters a wristlock attempt and goes for the DDT, but his arm is too hurt and he can't get the move. Drew tries for the Futureshock DDT, but Edge counters into that unique variation of the Sharpshooter he's been using lately and that's enough for Drew to tap out at 2:27. After the match Edge gives McIntyre a Spear for good measure. Nothing match, not sure what the point of feeding Drew to Edge here was as it doesn't really accomplish anything for either man. ¾*

Video package hyping up the Undertaker-Triple H match at Wrestlemania. Same one we've been seeing for the last week, one of the better video packages they've come up with since last Wrestlemania with tons of blurbs from past and present wrestlers. Tonight, Undertaker addresses Triple H on Smackdown.

Michelle McCool/Layla vs. Kelly Kelly/Rosa Mendes

Michelle comes out to the ring with her hair done up like Snooki's, mocking the Jersey Shore cast-member with a fake tan spray can and some lame fist-pumping. This is actually kind of funny in a weird, bizarre way. Michelle and Layla keep doing their lame little fist pump dance while the bell rings and both Kelly and Rosa take them down and start laying in fists. Kelly and McCool fight on the outside while Layla and Rosa exchange forearms in the ring. Rosa hits a clothesline and a nice suplex. What the shit, when did Rosa learn to wrestle? McCool distracts Rosa long enough for Layla to hit a big neckbreaker on her, and that's enough to give Layla the pin at 1:10. After the match Michelle and Layla get on the mic and talk some more trash to Snooki at home, McCool looking smoking hot in the process. Usual diva's filler here, but hey, Rosa hit a few nice moves and looks like she might actually have some potential as a wrestler. ¼*

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Kofi Kingston © vs. Wade Barrett

So this is quite the random title match out of nowhere. Quick lock-up to start but Kofi quickly uses his speed to hit a few big kicks and get an early near fall. Wade whips Kofi into the corner and then sweeps his legs out from under him. They fight to the outside of the ring briefly but Wade tosses Kofi back inside.Kofi hits a series of forearms but then eats a huge sidewalk slam from Barrett for a two count. Barrett drives his knee into Kofi's back in a bow and arrow like submission. Barrett misses a big elbow drop off the top rope and Kofi fights back with some big chops and a dropkick. Barrett tries a pumphandle slam but Kofi counters out and comes off the top rope with a big cross-body block for another close two count.Kingston goes for the Boom Drop but Justin Gabriel distracts the referee while Heath Slater climbs up on the apron. Kofi gives Slater the Trouble in Paradise and then tries to deliver the same move to Barrett, but Wade catches him on his shoulders in mid-air and delivers the Wasteland on Kofi! That looked awesome, and it's enough to give Wade the pin and the title at 5:19. After the match Gabriel hits Kofi with the 450 Splash. So, that was quite unexpected. I like the idea of giving Barrett the IC title as he finally has actually WON something and can be taken seriously as a main player on the show after struggling to find credibility following the many losses to Cena. I wonder if this means a bump up the card for Kofi as well after 'Mania? Only time will tell. Pretty decent match with a hot finish. **

Backstage Alberto Del Rio argues with Teddy Long about the ban on any interaction between himself and Edge.

After a quick commercial break, Johnny Cash's "Ain't No Grave" plays and out comes the Undertaker, as promised. That is seriously one of the best entrance themes, ever. Undertaker doesn't even come down to the ring this time though, instead cutting his promo on the rampway. He says that Triple H thinks he has the "equation" as to how to defeat him, but that he can see Hunter's confidence begin to fade as they come closer and closer to their match. He says he looks forward to seeing Triple H on RAW and telling him all of this face-to-face. Nothing new here really, just your standard Undertaker promo.

Jack Swagger vs. R-Truth

Poor Truth, from a spot in the Elimination Chamber to jobber extraordinaire in a month. Swagger hits a big belly-to-belly suplex to start but Truth kicks out at two. Cole is going ape-shit throughout this entire match, cheering on his coach Swagger. Lots of heat for Cole and as a result, the crowd is even more into Truth than usual. Swagger shoots Truth into the corner but he comes back with a series of clotheslines. Swagger gets tossed to the outside floor and Truth slingshots himself over the top, taking out Swagger (and himself) in ugly fashion. Either Truth launched himself too far or Swagger didn't catch him when he was supposed to there. Truth goes to the top but Swagger knocks him down and Truth's ankle gets caught in the ropes. Like a shark smelling blood, Swagger focuses on the ankle now, going to work on it. Swagger applies the ankle lock and Truth taps out at 2:54. After the match Cole hits the ring and gives Truth the ankle lock as well, garnering more heat. Just another squash match for Swagger so we can take him seriously as Cole's coach after months of jobbing and doing nothing. ¼*

We recap the events that took place on RAW this week. I really hate how they waste a good 15 minutes every week on this show recapping what happened on RAW. It was four days ago guys, I think we can remember what happened four days ago.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian

Edge does indeed come out to be in Christian's corner, hopefully negating Brodus Clay's role in Del Rio's corner. Both men lock-up to start as the crowd is into this one early. Del Rio hits a few knees and tries a side-headlock, but Christian counters out with a shoulderblock for a quick one count. Del Rio lays a stiff kick into Christian's ribs in the corner and stomps away until the ref pulls him off. Del Rio runs towards Christian but get's backdropped over the top rope and to the floor outside. Christian climbs to the top turnbuckle and flies off the top with a beautiful cross-body block all the way to Del Rio on the floor! We take a quick commercial break and when we return Christian hits a sunset flip for a near fall. Christian clotheslines Del Rio out to the floor again right in front of Edge, who does nothing while Christian misses a baseball slide and is tossed into the guard barrier. Del Rio slams his arm into the steel steps and throws him back inside for a cover, but Christian gets the shoulder up at two. Del Rio tries working an armbar (not his finisher version) for a bit but Christian fights out of it. Del Rio hits a sweet back senton splash off the top rope, but again Christian kicks out at two."Let's Go Christian" chant starts up as Del Rio is in control here, stomping away on Christian. He goes to the top but Christian meets him up there and gives him a Frankensteiner off the top rope, 1-2--NOO! Del Rio kicks out at two. Big right hands from Christian and a flying forearm. Christian does his little spot where he slingshots out of the ring and punches Del Rio in the face, then he climbs to the top rope and tries for another huge cross-body block, but Del Rio moves at the last moment. Del Rio tries for that running enziguri into the corner, but Christian ducks and delivers a huge tornado DDT to Del Rio, 1-2--NOO! Ricardo Rodriguez, Del Rio's personal ring announcer, puts his foot on the ropes. Edge goes to chase after him but big Brodus Clay attacks him from behind. Del Rio tries for his flying armbar finisher, but Christian counters and tries for the Killswitch Engage. Del Rio avoids it though and connects with the running enziguri for a VERY close two count that the crowd totally buys into as the finish. Del Rio applies the armbar finisher, but Christian quickly gets to the ropes. Both men clothesline each other while Edge delivers a huge spear to Brodus Clay on the outside! Edge grabs a chair and attacks Clay with it, which distracts Del Rio long enough for Christian to give him the Killswitch Engage and get the pin at 8:53 (shown)! Another excellent TV match between these two men, though again you have to question why Del Rio is losing clean only a week before his Wrestlemania title shot, but hey, as a Christian fan I can't complain. Maybe they're finally going to give Christian that main event push after all. Damn good main event for the time it got. ***

After the match Edge teases hitting Del Rio with the chair, but Christian grabs the chair out from his hands to keep his Wrestlemania match alive, and Christian hits Del Rio with the chair for him! We go off the air with Edge and Christian talking smack to a fallen Del Rio, extracting a measure of revenge for the beatdown they received last week to close out the show.

Bottom Line: Another solid week of Smackdown here. They got most of the Wrestlemania programs some TV time, we got another great main event, and the show really just flew by in no time at all. Nothing to set the world on fire or anything, just a good, solid 2 hours of WWE programming that continues the build for Wrestlemania while still giving us a match worth watching in the main event. Thumbs Up.

Score: 7.5/10

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dragon Gate USA: United We Stand 2011 (1/30/11)

Dragon Gate USA United We Stand 2011
January 30th, 2011
ACE Arena, Union City, New Jersey
Attendance: 368

This is the big conclusion to the round-robin tournament to crown inaugural Tag Team champions for the company and was taped on January 30th, directly after the two consecutive live i-PPVs they aired on Go Fight Live on the 28th and 29th. The show itself didn’t pop up on PPV until mid-March, so here we are. The finals to crown inaugural tag champs are tonight, pitting the team of Masato Yoshino and PAC against Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano of the Ronin stable. Other matches booked tonight include the former World champ BxB Hulk fighting the young breakout star Akira Tozawa, a big eight-man match that is sure to be pure chaos, and a No Rules match between Jon Moxley and Homicide, continuing their feud. Let’s get right to it.

Your hosts are Lenny Leonard and CHIKARA-san

We open the show with Brodie Lee, CIMA, Naruki Doi, Dragon Kid, and Ricochet all in the ring, apparently refusing to go through with their scheduled matches for tonight, instead wanting to hit the town and party. It was originally supposed to be CIMA and Dragon Kid against Doi and Ricochet, but they’ve apparently all joined forces in saying “Fuck You” to the fans by refusing to wrestle tonight. Before they can get very far though, Jimmy Jacobs makes his way out to the ring with a microphone. He brings up his open challenge to any Japanese talent for tonight’s show, saying he’s heard nothing yet so he can only assume they’re scared. Jacobs wants to know which one of them will “step up to the plate”. Ricochet tells Jacobs to go to the back and find 3 partners, and tonight they’ll take on CIMA/Doi/Kid and himself in an 8 man tag team match later tonight. Sounds like good fun. Ricochet seemed awkward on the mic here, that seems to be one of the only things he needs to work on. Glad they’re sticking to the plans of focusing on the Americans as the main guys though, it’s the only way this promotion is going to succeed long-term.

AR Fox vs. Cheech Hernandez

Just your typical light-heavyweight action to kick the show off here. Fox is a CZW regular while Cheech is better known as one half of the Up in Smoke tag team in ROH and other indies. Cheech dominates to start with a few unique pinning combinations, taunting Fox while he applies a modified version of the Texas cloverleaf. Sunset flip gets Cheech a quick two count and he follows up with a big dropkick-STO combo for another near fall. I’m not crazy about this ACE Center venue, the show looks much better when they tape them at The Arena. The flags of all the countries hanging around like the old NWA set-up is a nice touch though. Fox finally gets some offense in with a big stunner that sends Cheech to the outside, where Fox follows him out with a nice somersault plancha. Fox misses a moonsault attempt and eats a vicious release pumphandle slam from Cheech, but Fox is able to kick out before the 3 count. The finish sees Fox hit a springboard lungblower from one side of the ring to the other on Cheech, scoring the pinfall victory at 4:35. Just your typical nothing opener that would usually be the dark match on these shows. Both men looked decent, but it was too short to be effective and the crowd was never into it, so it failed in that respect as an opener.

Akira Tozawa vs. BxB Hulk

Before the match starts Reby Sky hits the ring and tries to convince Jon Moxley to give her another chance. They go off to the back, presumably to engage in loud and obnoxious sex. Tozawa doesn’t like this and neither does some guy in the crowd who shouts out “BROES BEFORE HOES!” at Moxley before he leaves. Damn skippy fat guy in row 3. I’ve heard some very good things about this match in particular from this show, so let’s see how it goes. Both men are cautious to start, trying a few leg kicks and missing, so they go to a lock-up. Tozawa quickly slaps on a side headlock, but Hulk counters out. They trade waistlocks and ground-position for a bit, displaying how evenly matched both men are in the opening minutes of the match. Both men trade rapid armdrags, but Hulk gets the better of Akira with a dropkick and the crowd chants his name in appreciation. BxB Hulk is probably the most over Japanese guy they've got here, and yet he's probably the least talented of the main players in Dragon Gate. Not an insult to Hulk either, as he's a very exciting wrestler with an awesome personality and sense of charisma, he just suffers from the terrible contagious Dragon Gate disease of “No-sell-everything-itis”. Not the case here though as he sells the closed fists shots to the ribs from moments earlier, nice to see. Hulk hits a pair of big kicks but Tozawa knocks away the third and hits a quick back senton. It's weird to think of Hulk as the veteran here, but he is in comparison to Tozawa. Akira hits a few stiff kicks of his own and then applies a chinlock. Tozawa teases a slap, but then hits Hulk right in the mouth with a cheap closed fist and Hulk sells it like he just got punched in the face with a brick while Tozawa laughs maniacally. Hulk comes back with a HUGE spinkick of his own though, nearly taking Tozawa's head off. Tozawa hits a few back elbows but Hulk comes back with another spinkick and then springboards into a delayed seated senton. Both men make their way out to the floor now, where Hulk hits a single very loud open-palm chop to Tozawa's back. Back inside the ring Hulk applies a neck cravant and knees him a few times in the face. He gives him a standing twisting moonsault but Tozawa kicks out at two. Tozawa tosses Hulk to the floor and then hits not one, not two, but THREE consecutive tope suicidas to Hulk on the outside floor! That takes a whole lot of endurance. Back into the ring Hulk tries to mount some defense with a few desperate knee strikes, but Tozawa just dumps him right on his head with a back drop suplex, 1-2---NOOO! Hulk kicks out at two, and the fans are chanting for Tozawa now. Hulk tries a cross-body block off the second rope but Tozawa counters with a lung-blower to the mid-section! Hulk hits a stiff series of rapid kicks and delivers a standing SSP, but Tozawa kicks out at two. Sweeping spinkick to Tozawa's face, and I swear for a second Tozawa had that look in his eyes that you see in the eyes of MMA fighters or boxers when they've just been NAILED right on the button and there's nobody's home. Hulk follows it up with a running side powerslam, 1-2—NOO! Somehow Tozawa kicks out. Hulk goes to the top but Tozawa hits a running Yakuza kick to the face and then superplexes him off! Both men trade forearms back on their feet and Tozawa tries for a German suplex, but Hulk flips out of it and delivers a sickening series of stiff kicks right to Tozawa's face. They both roll through roll-up attempts and Tozawa nails a big Shining Wizard, which explodes the crowd into a standing ovation for the efforts of both men in the ring up until this point, earning our first “Dragon Gate!” chant of the night. Both men are totally drained at this point, sluggishly laying in forearms and trading bicycle kicks. Hulk keeps trying to put Tozawa away, delivering bigger and bigger moves to the smaller man but again and again young Tozawa just keeps kicking out and Hulk can't believe it. Tozawa reverses a powerslam attempt and then hits a flying knee into a rollup, 1-2—NOOO! Hulk kicks out! Another bicycle kick from Tozawa and a towering, bridging German suplex!1-2—NOO! Crowd is eating out of the palms of their hands at this point. Another towering German suplex from Tozawa, and finally this is enough to put away Hulk and score Akira the (semi) upset at 20:29! Just a phenomenal match, though that's become the norm at this point with Akira Tozawa's singles matches in the US. Hulk played the role of the confident veteran while Tozawa was the young upstart who wasn't going to take any shit whatsoever, and made that clear from the start. Unlike a lot of Dragon Gate matches, the selling was never suspect and the moves built in a logical fashion, escalating as time went on and both men became more and more desperate. Add in the fact that this is the most excited and into a match I've seen the DGUSA crowd in probably a year's time, and this match more than delivered, it completely exceeded my expectations. ****¼

Austin Aries is out next, apparently for a match. As soon as he hits the ring though Jimmy Jacobs comes out and asks him to be one of his partners tonight for the eight-man tag match, which Aries accepts. Jon Moxley comes out with Reby Sky to insult Aries a bit for his rash decision, but before he can get too far into his diatribe Homicide runs out and attacks him from behind, leading us right into our next match…

No DQ Match
Jon Moxley vs. Homicide

These two fought recently at the EVOLVE 6 a few months before this, where the referee was forced to stop the match for Homicide, awarding it to Moxley. This has actually been a decent feud so far in the company as for once we actually get some promo-work and background as to why these guys are feuding and fighting, with Moxley wanting to prove himself as the baddest hardcore wrestler on the planet and having the veteran Homicide to get through to try and prove that point. The matches themselves haven’t been particularly great, but it’s nice to have a well built feud between two guys in this company for once instead of just wrestling matches for the sake of wrestling matches. Total brawl to start with Homicide beating up Moxley throughout the crowd for a big until Moxley tries shoving Homicide into a giant fan. Homicide lays a few chops in and Moxley responds with some forearms and choking. Homicide slams Moxley face first into a table while the crowd frantically shuffles out of the way of the two wrestlers. Moxley just slams Homicide’s head into a concrete wall a few times right in front of the commentator’s table. Not much heat for this brawl so far, and considering we’ve basically seen this same match on every Dragon Gate USA card since Homicide and Moxley joined the company, this just isn’t going over very well. Homicide gets a bit fired up and starts slamming chairs onto Moxley, who is trapped underneath the steel guardrail. Homicide breaks a beer bottle and teases cutting up Moxley with it, but Moxley gets a low blow and gets some offense in. He tries a power-bomb but Homicide counters with a backdrop onto the concrete. Moxley tries the powerbomb again and succeeds this time, tossing him into a wooden door that makes a lovely cracking sound as Homicide’s head smashes against it. Moxley takes the action back into the ring and hits a lariat on Homicide. Reby Sky gets into the ring…but she low blows Moxley! SWERVE! Homicide hits a quick backdrop suplex and gets a near fall while Moxley is dazed. Slapfest ensues, followed by an exchange of forearms. Homicide hits the ace crusher and tries for a lariat, but Moxley hits an ace crusher of his own and then locks Homicide in the crossface chickenwing. Homicide fights out of it eventually and backdrops Moxley into the front row, where he follows him out with his trademark tope con hilo! Weird, crowd barely popped for that at all. Moxley is busted open now and crawls back into the ring, where Homicide gives him another lariat and ace crusher combo, but again Moxley kicks out. Moxley is a bloody mess but still taunting Homicide to give him all he has. Homicide hits him with the top-rope ace crusher, 1-2---NOO! Moxley kicks out again. Wow this crowd sucks, no heat for that near-fall at all. Homicide just boots Moxley in the face and gives him the Cop Killer. The crowd chants “One more time!”, but instead Homicide just grabs Moxley and drapes him over his own body, letting Moxley pin him and score the win at 13:21. Huh? Apparently what Homicide was going for here is trying to show Moxley that this feud isn’t about wins and losses and that he doesn’t care about if he wins or loses so long as he beats the hell out of Moxley, but the crowd didn’t get the finish at all. They really weren’t very into the match to begin with, despite a few moments where it seemed like things might pick up. A sub-par effort from both men, mix in a dead crowd and booking that fell flat on it’s face and this match was pretty much an unequivocal flop.

After the match Homicide beats down Moxley some more and gets on the mic, confirming the whole “I don’t care if I win or lose” mentality. He pulls out a freaking pair of scissors and actually teases CUTTING OFF MOXLEY’S TONGUE! Oldboy references anyone? Akira Tozawa hits the ring to make the save before he can do any damage with the scissors though, so unfortunately I’m guessing this feud will continue. I like the whole blood-feud mentality of the program, it’s just that the matches seem to come off pretty flat most of the time. They can redeem themselves with a big brutal blow-off match though, so we’ll see if they can deliver when the time comes for that.

Jimmy Jacobs/YAMATO/Austin Aries/Sami Callahan vs. CIMA/Naruki Doi/Dragon Kid/Ricochet

So apparently Sami Callahan is the mystery fourth partner for Jacobs team. Would have been nice if they told us at some point that YAMATO was on Jacobs team now, as I guess we’re supposed to just assume he is as he comes out with Jacobs and Aries. Not sure why YAMATO would want to be on the babyface team with Jacobs and Aries when he’s a total heel in every way, but I’ve grown to just accept the constant stable-changing and group swerves with this company at this point. They tease a big 8 man handshake to start but of course the heels just give ‘em the bird instead and get jumped as the bell rings. Jacobs team all work wristlocks on a member of the opposing team, hitting a big tandem arm-chop at the same time which the crowd loves. This one is going to be hard to call with all the action, so bear with me. Jacobs and Dragon Kid “officially” start us off, with Kid countering the wristlock sequence that Jacobs attempts and giving him a few armdrags. Callahan and CIMA tag in now and CIMA tries working a side headlock. Callahan sweeps the legs and tries for an over-the-shoulder single leg Boston crab, but CIMA counters out only to eat a lariat from Sami. Aries and Doi both tag in now and Aries hits a series of unique palm strikes before they go into a nifty little headscissors-takedown sequence, displaying how evenly matched both men are. Ricochet and YAMATO tag in now, and this is definitely a singles match-up I’d like to see down the line. They do a lock-up/feeling-out process with Ricochet trying to work a side-headlock. Ricochet hits a hurricanrana follows it with a springboard armdrag that sends YAMATO to the floor for a breather. CIMA tags back in and they try to isolate YAMATO in their corner, grinding him down on the mat with headlocks and frequent tags. Dragon Kid tags in and hits a series of knees for a quick near fall, but YAMATO tosses Kid into his corner and they play the isolation game for a bit, trading quick tags and teaming up on Dragon Kid in their corner. Ricochet tags back in and hits a nice spinkick for a quick two count. Twisting moonsault press from the second rope by Ricochet, but Aries quickly kicks out again. Ricochet tries for another high-risk move but Aries moves out of the way and tags Sami Callahan back in. Jacobs tags in and hits a series of doublestomps. The beatdown continues with YAMATO whipping Ricochet with his t-shirt. He lays a few stiff chops in drags Ricochet back into his corner, preventing the tag. This isolation goes on for a bit until Ricochet hits a spinning enziguri kick and tags CIMA in. Callahan gets teamed up on for a bit, getting crotched on the ring post. Back inside the ring the triple-teaming continues on Callahan. Callahan fires back at CIMA with some stiff chops, but CIMA just eats them with a smile and gives Sami a dropkick. CIMA taunts the crowd a bit which gives Callahan the opportunity to sneak up behind him with a Saito suplex, enabling him to make the hot tag to YAMATO. Tag rules of course fly out the window right around this point as it’s just chaos in and outside of the ring with guys diving all over the place. Aries and Doi do a sweet little counter sequence and then Aries locks Dragon Kid into the Last Chancery. Every member of his team slaps a submission hold on one of their opponents as they do the tandem-submission spot, but CIMA breaks them all up eventually. Roaring elbow from Aries on CIMA gets two. Callahan and Ricochet go at it for a bit, evading each other’s moves and countering out of everything the other has to offer. Callahan eats an elbow and basically no-sells it, just firing himself up. He avoids an Omori driver attempt from Ricochet and hits him with big Saito suplex for a pin attempt, but Doi breaks it up. YAMATO tries for the Galleria, but Doi counters out they trade rapid-fire elbows. Springboard stunner from Dragon Kid lays out YAMATO and Doi hits him with a lungblower and Ricochet tops it off with a standing shooting star press, but Callahan breaks up the pin attempt. BIG powerbomb from Aries on Dragon Kid, 1-2—NOO! Kid kicks out on his own. Dragon Kid hits a top-rope hurricanrana on Sami Callahan and Ricochet hits a splash, but again there are too many people in the ring and the pinfall attempt is broken up. The ref isn’t even bothering with attempting to maintain order at this point and I don’t really blame him. They do the classic lucha spot with each man hitting a high flying move to the group on the outside floor, everyone tumbles down while the next guy sets up the next spot, rinse, repeat, etc. While this is going on Jacobs locks in a guillotine choke on Doi in the ring, but Doi counters out with an F5 and a finishes Jacobs off with a running kick to end the match at 24:34. This match was basically what you can expect out of Dragon Gate in a nutshell---fast-paced exciting wrestling, but not much heat or sense of direction overall. Don’t get me wrong, the match itself was quite good, but when you’ve seen a thousand of these Dragon Gate tag matches before, “good” just isn’t enough to cut it anymore. I can appreciate the efforts by all eight men though, and for a nearly 25 minute match it certainly wasn’t boring at any point. Jacobs loses again though, and they need to hurry up and figure out where that whole angle is going, fast. ***¼

Open the United Gate Title Tournament Finals
Masato Yoshino/PAC vs. Chuck Taylor/Johnny Gargano

This is what this whole weekend of wrestling has been leading up to, the crowning of inaugural tag team champions for Dragon Gate USA, with spiffy new title belts and all, coined the “Open the United Gate” title. I dig the whole Dragon Gate thing of having all your titles have different and kind of out-there names, but it can really make things confusing when trying to figure out the importance of certain titles, or even what they mean. Open the United Gate should make it easy to remember these are the tag belts though. Taylor and Gargano would appear to be the favorites here with the big focus on their Ronin stable playing a major factor in this weekend’s trio of shows. PAC and Yoshino are coming off of a brilliant match with Doi and Ricochet the prior night though, so good luck trying to live up to that one boys. Yoshino and Gargano start us off, locking up with the collar-and-elbow tie-up. Yoshino tries for a backslide but Gargano counters with an ace crusher. Chuck Taylor and PAC both tag in and do a nice little running-the-ropes sequence, which PAC gets the better of. PAC tries some high-risk offense early but Gargano stops him before he can go through with it. PAC and Doi double-team Gargano for a bit, working on the left wrist and forearm. PAC rolls through a German suplex attempt into a rollup, but Taylor breaks the pin up and applies an armbar to PAC. Gargano and Taylor isolate PAC for awhile, working your traditional tag formula and building up heat for the eventual hot-tag. PAC hits a missile dropkick on Taylor and gets the hot (or rather, lukewarm) tag to Yoshino and Masato quickly fights off both members of Ronin, hitting Taylor with the slingblade. Taylor comes back with the Sole Food and takes Yoshino down for a pin, but Masato kicks out at two. Yoshino tries the Octopus Stretch but Gargano breaks the hold up. PAC hits him with a boot and then slingshots into the ring with a nice ace crusher on Gargano. Shooting star press from the second rope from PAC, 1-2—NOO! Gargano kicks out at two. German suplex attempt by Gargano is countered out of by PAC, but he just launches him into the second turnbuckle like a lawn dart and follows it up with a superkick, but again PAC kicks out at two. Spear-quebrada combo from Ronin gets a two count on Yoshino as obviously tags and legal men have flown right out the window, which you have to expect not just here but with any fast-paced tag match these days. Yoshino hits a sweet missile dropkick/back-senton combo on both Gargano and Taylor, but PAC’s pin attempt only gets two. Taylor flips off his own partner’s back with the Buff Blockbuster on PAC (haven’t seen that move in years), and then tosses PAC into the air where Gargano meets him with an ace-crusher in mid-air. Taylor hits the Awful Waffle on PAC! 1-2---NOOO! PAC kicks out of Taylor’s finisher! Gargano applies the Border City Stretch to PAC (or the “Gargano Escape” as he’s calling it) while Yoshino applies his own submission to Taylor, but Gargano relinquishes his hold to break up Yoshino’s. Yoshino misses a first Lightning Spiral attempt, but hits the second for a near fall. Phoenix splash from PAC to Gargano, but again Gargano kicks out at two. He hits a big superkick and rolls up PAC for a very close two count, and the crowd is getting into it now. Full-nelson suplex on PAC, but Gargano didn’t hit all of it and PAC is right back up and he delivers a big bridging german suplex to Gargano for the quick three count and the titles at 17:27. A worthy finale to the fun tournament to crown inaugural tag champs, but there was no way they were going to live up to the match PAC and Yoshino had with Doi and Ricochet the night before. They didn’t try for the “big epic” here, just a solid exhibition of tag wrestling, and that’s really all it needed to be at the end of the day. A fine way to close out the company’s January events. ***¼

After the match Ronin shakes the hands of PAC and Yoshino, hinting at a babyface turn that would come to fruition in a few months, hopefully setting up 2011 as their year.

Backstage Jon Moxley and YAMATO are waiting around for Akira Tozawa so they can cut a promo, Tozawa tells Moxley he has a big mouth and then says in Japanese to YAMATO that Moxley is only interested in himself, and not Kamikaze USA as a stable. Moxley doesn’t understand but he gets the gist of it and he and YAMATO beat down Tozawa to close the show. So it looks like they’re going to be setting up Tozawa for a nice face turn, and that’s definitely the right move. He’s proven himself to be the MVP of all of the Dragon Gate Japan regulars over the last year and I’m glad he seems to be in line for the next big push.

Bottom Line:
Another strong show from Gabe and the boys in Dragon Gate here, with the obvious highlight being the excellent Akira Tozawa vs. BxB Hulk match, which I more than recommend giving a viewing. While nothing else on the card was as good as that match, we did get two more good tag team matches, including one to crown our inaugural tag team champions (Masato Yoshino & PAC) and nothing here was flat-out bad, even the Moxley-Homicide match, while misguided and strangely booked wasn't a particularly bad match, it just didn't have any heat and had a bad finish. Still though, for a two hour shows, two ***1/4 matches and one ****1/4 match more than makes this show worth your money and time. Thumbs Up

Score: 8.5/10