Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Fireworks Factory: National Pro Wrestling Day '14 Review

Hey Bloc Party, why not stay at the Doubletree...
Photo Credit: D. "Heinekenrana" O'Brien
In the TH style. Watch the show here FOR FREE.

  • Colt Cabana defeated Drew Gulak in the opening best two-of-three falls match two falls to one. He scored the final fall with a twisting leg submission.
  • The Baltic Siege defeated the Polar Baron's Union when the Lithuanian Snow Troll rolled up the Brown Morning of Belarus. After the match, the Estonian Thunder Frog debuted a new hammer that he used to drive into the chest of the Morning, halting the Union's post-match attack.
  • History repeated itself, as Hallowicked tapped Mike Bennett with the Chikara Special.
  • Dasher Hatfield replaced the injured Frank O'Rourke and took out Eddie Kingston with an Oklahoma roll.
  • Eric Corvis took advantage of a missed moonsault and rolled up Sonjay Dutt for the pin.
  • Shynron won the no-disqualification grudge match with Juan Francisco de Coronado with a second rope 630 senton.
  • Heidi Lovelace looked to have La Copa Idolo won with the Chikara Special until the combined forces of evil, led by a man revealed to be Jimmy Jacobs, interrupted the match and smashed the cup.
  • A Chikara resistance, led by the call of the Submission Squad (!!) beat back those combined forces and proclaimed Chikara reborn. The return date was announced as May 25, 2014.
  • In the bonus main event, the team of the Osirian Portal, Colony, and Icarus defeated Los Ice Creams and the Batiri. Icarus tapped out one of the Ice Creams with the Chikara Special.

General Observations:
  • The Submission Squad were stuck at the same corner they were during King of Trios '12, car broken down, all in full costume. Deja vu?
  • The first match was surprisingly the best two-out-of-three falls match between Drew Gulak and Colt Cabana. I guess they had reasons not putting this in the main event slot.
  • Cabana tossed his jacket to the photographer instead of the ring crew guy. "I trust him more."
  • The action got a bit chippy at times, but neither really broke their mat wrestling. Gulak hit a few headbutts here and there, and Cabana actually looked like he was going to break the match wide open with some elbows, but they kept level heads throughout.
  • Gulak got the first fall with a tight Dragon sleeper, and almost immediately after Bryce Remsburg called for the bell for the second, Cabana got the second with the Billy Goat's Curse.
  • In the third fall, Cabana went for a second Billy Goat's Curse and looked as if he legitimately twisted Gulak's knee. Last year at the event, Frank O'Rourke dropped him on the top of his skull on a superplex. Is Gulak taking a nasty-looking bump his NPWD tradition? I hope not.
  • Maria Kanellis' role at the show was special guest host, mainly in charge of letting folks know of the progress of the campaign towards Against Malaria. They well-surpassed their $5,000 goal, for the record.
  • The Latvian Proud Oak danced like he did at the Norristown Wrestling Is Fun! show, although it wasn't set to '80s synth pop music.
  • The Proud Oak and Mr. Azerbaijan engaged in an epic back rake war at one point during this match, even going to the top rope.
  • I love Mr. Azerbaijan's lazy dropping suplexes and slams. They're just the perfect combination of rudo arrogance and weightlifter strength.
  • The Siege situated the Proletariat Boar and Mr. Azerbaijan into the tree of woe in the same corner with the Proud Oak holding. The other two suplexed the Brown Morning into his partners in one of the most visually impressive spots of the night.
  • After the match, the Snow Troll got beaten down by the entire Union, with the Thunder Frog being notoriously absent. He emerged back in the arena with a NEW HAMMER! He cleared the ring by driving the hammer down on the Brown Morning's chest. RIP Brown Morning of Belarus. You were a fine X-Man.
  • Colt Cabana came out and awarded the Ambassador of Pro Wrestling to Mike Burns of Smart Mark Video, ironic since during the next match, I read more than a few tweets about the stream going in and out. One tweeter called the quality "sub-ROH level." Yikes.
  • Hallowicked looked like he was going to try a plancha on Mike Bennett, and Bennett SHRIEKED in horror before moving out of the way. That siren call did more to sell Wicked's offense than nearly anything else anyone could have done.
  • A clearly punch drunk Bennett looked to get away from a 'Wicked barrage of punches and tried to tag in a Young Buck who wasn't there.
  • After the match, elseworlds valet and real life fiancee Kanellis looked at a defeated Bennett with a smirk on her face.
  • Frank O'Rourke had to pull out of the event with an injury, so Eddie Kingston's opponent would be... Dasher Hatfield!
  • Kingston threatened some children before the match, but unlike Chuck Taylor, whose shtick usually ended with making kids cry, Kingston actually offered them out one by one. One kid took him up on it. That kid ruled.
  • Hatfield's chest looked like hamburger about midway through the match. Kingston wasn't holding back at all.
  • The crowd kept chanting "You are Chikara!" at Kingston, and he was visibly upset. After the match, he kept yelling "CHIKARA'S DEAD!" to the crowd.
  • Eric Corvis went to the book early in his match, and Sonjay Dutt took advantage of it. Corvis was able to counter out and hit a dropkick though.
  • Dutt made the crowd move out of the way to clear out for a plancha type move, but he then just threw Corvis back into the ring. At another juncture, when the crowd had moved out of the way for a Corvis plancha, Dutt countered it with an elbow strike. His troll game was strong that night.
  • Corvis went to the book again, but Dutt hit him, then wiped his butt with said book.
  • "Coming down the aisle, as slowly as he can, Juan Francisco de Coronado!"
  • Shynron hit a first-rope 450 splash early in the match. A first-rope 450. I can't even comprehend the dexterity needed to pull that off.
  • One of Coronado's boots came untied during the match, and the crowd actually gave him heel heat for it. Then, Shynron tried to tie it back up, and Coronado sold it as if it were a leglock. Wrestling!
  • The crowd broke into a "We the People!" chant while Coronado was on offense. No. No. NO!
  • The two didn't really use the no disqualification stipulation too much but where it was used was pretty effective. The best example was Coronado sitting on the top rope and hanging Shynron down in a heel hook. Shynron broke it by grabbing the bottom rope on Jon Barber's three-count and ranaing Coronado off the top.
  • The 630 senton off the top rope is impressive. Off the second rope? WHAT KIND OF DEVIL MAGIC HAVE YOU, SHYNRON?
  • Sure, Heidi Lovelace is tiny, but I remarked on how tall Joe Pittman looked before she even came out. Dude is statuesque.
  • Lovelace took an ass-whipping during this match. It wasn't quite the repeat of last year's face-in-periling, but man, she was taking some hellacious bumps.
  • Lovelace finally got the Chikara special locked in, and right on cue, all the baddies who had shut down various Wrestling Is promotions in the past came shuttling in along with three guys in medieval plague masks and a whole mess of Dr. Cube minions in Cobra Commander hoods. They were picking the bones of Lovelace and Pittman and crushed La Copa Idolo.
  • Then, bursting through the entrance were Gary the Barn Owl, "Brainwave" Davey Vega, "The Elegant Assassin" Pierre Abernathy, and "Pistol Danger" Evan Gelistico. The fargling Submission Squad came to save the day. Gelistico got on the mic and proclaimed "If you want to destroy what's left of Chikara, you're gonna have to get through us first."
  • One of guys in plague masks revealed himself to be Jimmy Jacobs, and he boasted about his army, not noticing that the minions in scrubs and Cobra hoods took those hoods off to reveal the Chikara roster in disguise.
  • During the fracas, a cane from behind the entrance curtain gave 17 of the Gekido the literal hook backstage.
  • As the tide grew immense and foreboding, a curtain on the other side of the building unfurled, revealing a DELOREAN CONTAINING 3.0 AND ARCHIBALD FREAKING PECK. THEY TIME TRAVELED! THEY TIME TRAVELED! WAIT, DID THEY? WHY AM I CAPS LOCKING?
  • The Chikara faithful, rudos and tecnicos alike, beat back the invaders and proclaimed Chikara to be back and open for business. The return date? May 25, 2014.
  • After the fracas, a bonus main event was announced, the Batiri (cheered for the first times in their lives) and Los Ice Creams against the Colony, Osirian Portal, and Icarus. I am going to admit, I didn't really take notes during this match. I just soaked the whole thing in because I was just so gosh dang happy to be there.

Match of the Night: Hallowicked vs. Mike Bennett - The match that perhaps had the most deeply-rooted history on the card, even if the build for it was dormant for the last 16 months. Bennett tapped out to Hallowicked's Chikara Special to seal the King of Trios tournament for the Spectral Envoy. This match was his first bout back in the Chikaraverse, and he continued to show the form that made him a breakout star that weekend back in September 2012. Even without the Bucks to buoy him, Bennett, against a good opponent and one of Chikara's best babyfaces in Hallowicked, was all-around on top of his game.

Bennett played the crowd up to perfection, a crowd that was ready to remind him of his last appearance in the company. He got Wicked's offense over with a simple shriek at the threat of a plancha. He played into his infamy for effect by trying to piledrive 'Wicked on the apron. He even looked for a tag that wasn't there for the Bucks while dazed from a barrage of offense. He was also the sharpest I've seen him on exchanges and his moves looked really good.

Hallowicked may have turned one of his finest singles performances of the last couple of years as well. His offense was also on point, and his timing was great, especially on the plancha pump fake that caused Bennett to shriek. His fire was the hottest I've seen in awhile as well. These two bring out the best in each other, and I'm glad they got a chance to rekindle a rivalry that I hope continues into the future.

Overall Thoughts: On the podcast preview this past week, Brandon Stroud and Danielle Matheson both wanted Chikara's arc to "get to the fireworks factory." When the minions in the Cobra Commander masks revealed themselves to be the various members of the roster at the call of the Submission Squad ready to fight for their home, not only did Itchy and Scratchy get to the factory, they set off every single one of the individual rockets and firecrackers and created a brilliant light show in the sky. The journey was slow, and some of the turns were controversial to say the least. But the heartache of Aniversario and the painful waiting of the last eight months created a singular moment of catharsis that very few wrestling companies have ever come close to replicating, personally speaking of course.

Wrestling companies usually don't do resolutions very well. The continuous nature of the art makes great resolutions hard to attain. Wrestlers get hurt, gain more fruitful employment, or burn bridges. Even when rosters stay the same, bookers and writers can sometimes overthink themselves and delay the payoffs for too long, or the payoffs may not be in line with the initial crisis and buildup. What happened at National Pro Wrestling Day was pitch perfect. A catastrophic closure needed something equal in magnitude. Having the entire roster, tecnicos and rudos unite and beat back the congealed threats who endangered their home was the yin to that yang. Then watching the bonus main event drove the point home. Chikara was back, and in a way, it had never really left in the first place.

Even ignoring everything that happened after Heidi Lovelace locked Joe Pittman in the Chikara Special, the show was among the best I've ever seen live from top to bottom. From the beginning of Colt Cabana vs. Drew Gulak up through the bumping display Lovelace put on, the roster celebrated the art they hold so dear. Even though the show was mostly a Chikara production, everyone in attendance, from the fans to the wrestlers to the staff to the vendors, celebrated pro wrestling for the art and spectacle that it truly is. I hope that this remains a tradition every year, and I hope it keeps growing and growing so that maybe, just maybe, the fandom can become as positive and constructive as the art in the ring deserves.