Monday, May 12, 2014

Are You Sure They Know It's Staged?: WSU Secret Show #4 Review

The calm before the storm
Photo Credit: TH
In the TH style. Subscribe to to get this show when it's released.

  • In a Beyond Wrestling showcase match, Joey Ryan reversed a wheelbarrow hold into a casadora victory roll after Candice LeRae crotched Dan Barry on the top rope to secure the victory for their team.
  • Jenny Rose defeated Brittany Blade quite easily with a pedigree.
  • Sassy Stephie took out a debuting Angie Skye with the Kiss My Sass.
  • In an especially chippy match, Kimber Lee got the duke over Shanna with a piledriver.
  • Athena and Jewells Malone lobbed bombs at each other in perhaps the stiffest match I've ever seen live, ending with the most brutally impressive looking O-Face ever for the Athena victory.
  • Paloma Starr made the mistake of telling Mickie Knuckles she wasn't afraid; Knuckles replied with a brutal beating - including an implied swirlie - that ended with a Glimmering Warlock and a pinfall.
  • Neveah beat the debuting Angelus Layne with a backpack stunner into a bridging pin.
  • In the main event, LuFisto overcame Chris Dickinson's atomic bomb offense and defeated him soundly with the Burning Hammer.

General Observations:
  • Joey Ryan entered the room sucking on a blow-pop. He offered it up to a fan, who put it in his mouth. I wouldn't have done that with anyone but my wife or child, but hey, more power to ya.
  • Before the match, all four competitors were looking for tag ropes in their respective corners. I joked to myself that DJ Hyde had to sell them off to pay for the drywall repair from when Alpha Female threw Jenny Rose through the wall. The other fans remarked that because it was a "secret show," the tag ropes were also secret.
  • Spot of the night: Dan Barry put Ryan into the corner like he was going to chop him. Instead, he went right into "bad cop" routine and shouted "WHERE IS MY SON?" at him repeatedly. Bill Carr tagged in and continued the interrogation... with a double titty-twister.
  • The best development of the year so far is Candice LeRae getting dates in WSU and on the East Coast. She was a great HOUSE ON FIRE after the hot tag, and if her Ballsplex on Carr, had it happened in front of a main show crowd of 300 and not a secret show crowd of 30, would have blown the goddamn roof off the building.
  • Brittany Blade had a lot of spunk and fire, but she still seemed tentative and out of position. While her match was somewhat uncomfortable to watch, Jenny Rose took good care of her in the ring, and she was at least on the secret show instead of on the main one the next night. If you're going to give a greenhorn some reps, it's best to do it on the less conspicuous stages first.
  • Angie Skye got the award for "most unique ring attire" of the night with fuzzy boots (which Barry asked her during intermission if she murdered a Muppet to get the material for) and a half-skirt attached to her singlet. Sassy Stephie accused her of hiding a weapon in said skirt.
  • Stephie may have spent more time yipping with the crowd than actually wrestling, which was impressive since she had control of most of the match.
  • The opening sequence of the match was an inventive series of moves built around the Greco-Roman knuckle lock. I figured Stephie would know her way around the mat, but Skye impressed me with her dexterity and counterwrestling as well.
  • I was glad to see Shanna cut out her "accept dollar bills from gross fans" routine without losing her "too hot for the room" character. Playing such an overtly sexualized character, especially as a woman in wrestling, is such a fine line to tread.
  • Kimber Lee tried to pose after her entrance, but Shanna quickly ducked in front of her with her trademark arms outstretched on the knees pose. That exchange led to them trading verbal barbs with each other. The match actually got really chippy, almost like they really had beef with each other in real life.
  • I was prepared to give this match the best of the night honors, but then they had to go and trade no-selling each other's head-dropping suplexes... TWICE APIECE. I'm sorry, but the old Perry Saturn tweet applies here. I am all for situational no-selling, but c'mon man.
  • After intermission, DJ Hyde and Denver Colorado (the man, not the place!) unveiled the new WSU Championship belt, which made its proper debut the next night.
  • Athena and Jewells Malone got right out of the gate with a furious pin flurry. Athena had the better of the exchange getting in a slick sliding schoolboy rollup. I hope she works that into her matches on a regular basis.
  • The two engaged in a good, ol'-fashioned criss-cross until Athena stutter-stepped a bit so she could knock Malone into next week with a POUNCE. She timed the move perfectly, sending a legit shockwave down my spine.
  • If the prior match could have been described as "chippy," Athena and Malone were engaging in what I could only describe as "grown man shit" with how stiff they were. Like, I thought to myself no fewer than five times during that match "do these wrestlers know this is supposed to be a staged event and not a shoot fight?" The preceding sentence, oddly enough, is not a complaint.
  • Mickie Knuckles came out for her match with the debuting Paloma Starr with the infamous cardboard cutout of Hyde, hugging it, whispering to it, and gently placing it on the apron. After the match, she skipped to the back with it. Seriously, I don't know if Knuckles was this much of a character dynamo in her early, IWA Mid-South days, but she has been knocking that shit out of the park this year in her WSU appearances.
  • In the feeling-out process of the match, Starr made the mistake of telling Knuckles that she wasn't afraid of her. That declaration went over as well as Marshall Henderson as grand marshal of the Gay Pride parade. Knuckles used every bit of plunder available to wail on Starr, including taking her into the bathroom. She shut the door, a ruckus was heard, and when they exited, Starr's hair was messed up and wet. Ladies and gentlemen, the first ever IMPLIED SWIRLIE in professional wrestling history occurred on Friday night (all other swirlies have been pretty explicitly stated).
  • After smashing an Arizona Iced Tea can over Starr's head, Knuckles, with all the crazed energy of a thousand David Koreshes, turned to the crowd and yelled "ARE YOU NOT FUCKING ENTERTAINED?" Seriously, how have I lived my life as a wrestling fan with minimal Knuckles in my life before this year?
  • After the match, a beaten but not broken Starr repeated her lack of fear towards Knuckles, which led me to believe that the newbie from Texas had a lot more guts than brains. Then again, how many people in wrestling really are smart?
  • I was surprised at how technical the Angelus Layne/Neveah match was given how both wrestlers had punk rock motifs going. Again, not a complaint, just an observation.
  • The finish of the match, a Neveah backpack stunner into an impressive bridging pin, might have been the most visually impressive one of the night.
  • LuFisto entered... WITH PEGABOO?!?! PEGABOO LIVES!!!
  • Maybe it was the change of scenery, the fact that it wasn't followed up by acting as a strip club attendant for Shanna, or because LuFisto's legend and aura cast more of an ominous presence than LeRae's did last show, but I didn't find Chris Dickinson's faux-pickup artist shtick to be as uncomfortable this time around. In fact, his sleaze was pretty hilarious given how hard Lufi hit him in response.
  • LuFisto's facial expressions during the match were A+, probably second only to Lee's in her match. A good face while taking it can sell a move better than holding any limb or feigning an injury after it's delivered.
  • Dickinson countered a leg scissor mat head pound by lifting LuFisto up into the electric chair and following up with a German suplex. The visual registered about a 0.98 on the Cesaro HOSS Scale.
  • After the match, Dickinson uncharacteristically broke character, thanked LuFisto for the opportunity for the match, and put her over huge as the best women's wrestler in the world. I wouldn't have used the word "women's," because I'd be hard pressed to think of 25 people in the world better than she is, no matter what gender configuration.

Match of the Night: Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae vs. Dan Barry and Bill Carr - The only tag team match of the night opened the show, and two better teams could not have been booked across from each other. Team Tremendous and the Candice and Joey Show are two of the most charismatic and physically gifted tandems in wrestling today, all four bringing something different to the table. Bill Carr imposed his size and HOSSdom on the match. Dan Barry worked well as El Hijo Gringo del Rey Mysterio. Joey Ryan's veteran savvy showed in spades while he was working face in peril, and seeing Candice LeRae, the smallest competitor in the match by far, bring babyface fire hotter than the Sun, especially after the hot tag, was an amazing sight to behold. All four took to the ring seemingly looking to set a strong pace, but also not to take themselves too seriously by any stretch of the imagination. Basically, that formula produced four wrestlers who looked like they were having a great time in the ring all while wrestling the best match they possibly could. In my view, that combination provides the best theater.

The match was rare in that the heat segment, where Ryan took a beating from Team Tremendous, was the standout portion of the match. Thanks to a mix of humor and dazzling highspots from Barry, Ryan getting beaten down didn't feel like a slog or something to endure. Their use of misdirection when they put Ryan in the corner was a huge reason why it stood out. Barry eschewing chops or punches for screaming in Ryan's face "WHERE IS MY SON?" elicited a literal, guttural laugh, and I am always a go for a good double titty-twister. Bonus points for said nipple torture are awarded when the guy delivering the cheap tactic is twice as big as the victim. Something about unnecessary underhandedness pops me.

LeRae capped the match off with her stunning house-on-fire work after tagging in. She commanded the ring better than most people placed in that role in a random tag match, and if the Ballsplex she delivered to Carr - a massive feat both by the giver and taker - was given in front of a crowd at Fete Music, American Legion #308, or the Flyers Skate Zone, the crowd reaction would have blown a hole in the roof. The finish was well-placed and executed as well. Carr did a lot of the little things in this match to make sure both Ryan and LeRae had effective looking offense, and getting around for that casadora victory roll was huge in putting an exclamation point on the match.

Overall Thoughts: The last Secret Show I went to was good. However, not only did this show have a more complete slate of quality matches, it actually possessed more of a unique spirit without some of the base tropes the last show displayed. Shanna toned down her entrance while still retaining what is an excellent crowd-baiting persona for women's only wrestling promotion. Chris Dickinson's sleazy oversexed overtures felt like they fit in place better against LuFisto (mainly because few wrestlers of any gender configuration are as tough as she is). Existing characters felt more fleshed out, and new wrestlers came right in and made big splashes.

But the overall theme of the night seemed to be stiffness. Starting especially with Kimber Lee/Shanna, the strikes seemed to hit a little too close to home, made a lot of sound without needing a leg slap or a stomp to the mat, and the head drops appeared to walk the razor's edge. Granted, I prefer my wrestling action to look as crisp and "real" as possible, but at the same time, is it fun if the competitors really do hit each other? Then again, would someone like Jewells Malone have a name reputation in America right now if she wasn't crazy enough to take Athena's best offense close to the vest? Would LuFisto have been the "favorite" in her match against Dickinson if she didn't go so hard in her career that she suffered a stroke at one point? Many wrestlers take their craft seriously, and unfortunately for women, that seriousness entails a lot more brutality than the men just to get a fraction of acclaim.

But to marginalize this show as being nothing but stiff shots would be to do a disservice to all the performers, especially ones like LuFisto and Mickie Knuckles who were chatty and engaging the whole night through for different reasons, of course. Having the show in the intimate confines of the CZW Wrestling Academy with a small crowd heightened the experience. Every wrestler who had chants or comments directed to them by the crowd interplayed. While shows in larger venues with more populous crowds have certain advantages, one can't beat the level of interaction between performer and customer that is provided with such an enclosed venue.

Overall, after a second secret show experience, I'd say these smaller cards are just as vital to the WSU experience as the main shows are. If you're not able to make these shows when they happen (and they happen before the night before every main show nowadays), then you should definitely drop a couple bucks a month on a Stream WSU subscription just to keep up. These shows are far from supplemental or apocryphal. If you miss them, especially #4, you're missing out on a huge chunk of what gives WSU its identity.