Friday, May 16, 2014

Pick Three: A War, a Storm, and a Prom

Nothing says "pro wrestling" like a prom-themed show
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle/Texas Anarchy
The weekend has arrived upon the calendar once again, and in addition to cookouts, spring cleaning, and other various things one does on a non-holiday weekend in May, a slate of pro wrestling shows has descended upon the arenas, VFWs, and bingo halls of the world. No matter where you live, you can probably find some kind of wrestling show going on in your area, but if you happen to be in New York, Phoenix, or Austin, well, you can go to one of the three best-looking shows happening this weekend. Furthermore, one of those shows is on Internet pay-per-view, and it so happens to feature a bunch of wrestlers who rarely frequent the States. Time to dive right in...

GOLD - Ring of Honor/New Japan Pro Wrestling War of the Worlds

The main event of the weekend could end up being one of the marquee shows of the entire year, as New Japan Pro Wrestling's superstars will clash with the finest that Ring of Honor has to offer. The epic clash of titans will take place at the Hammerstein Ballroom tomorrow night in New York, NY at 7:30 Eastern Daylight Time. If you can't be in the Big Apple for the show, fret not. Ustream will carry the show on iPPV. Reports of the stream being nearly flawless for Global Wars last week bode well for the broadcast this week. For a company that has had major streaming issues in the past, any good news is reason to celebrate.

Of course, the card itself on paper provides a huge reason to be excited. The double main event contains two huge Championship matches. The ROH World Championship will be on the line as Adam Cole will take on the timeless Jushin "Thunder" Liger, one of the most influential and storied junior heavyweight wrestlers in history. While I don't think Liger will escape with the Championship, I would love to see him win and get one last tour of America as ROH World Champ. Imagine the matches he could have with guys like Kevin Steen, Jay Briscoe, Bobby Fish, Tommaso Ciampa, or even Matt Hardy. But I'll take it one match at a time, because Cole should provide an excellent opponent for him as well. The other huge main event will pit IWGP World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles against Michael Elgin with a third wrestler rumored to be added. This video seems to indicate that the most recent former Champion, Kazuchika Okada, will be added to the fray. He was originally scheduled to wrestle Cedric Alexander, but he was injured last week at the hands of the fiendish group of disgruntled veterans, The Decade. Speaking of fiendish groups, Styles will have the backing of the Bullet Club, which may not bode well for either Elgin or Okada here.

In the most controversial announced match, NJPW's longtime ace Hiroshi Tanahashi will step into the ring with Mike Bennett. Some have trashed the match as being beneath Tanahashi and not something that should be presented on a one-time-only card. However, Bennett has improved over the years to the point where he seems like a good opponent and a stiff test for New Japan's elite worker of the last decade. One of Tanahashi's peers and rivals, Shinsuke Nakamura, will sleaze his way over to America to take on Kevin Steen in a match I'm personally looking out for. Nakamura, in all his deviant glory, seems like the New Japan guy I'd gravitate to the most, and he's facing the best possible opponent in Steen, who hasn't really had a bad match since I started following him.

Three other titles will be on the line, two for ROH and one for New Japan. The IWGP Tag Team Championships will be up for grabs as Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson of the Bullet Club will defend against #DemBoys, the Briscoe Brothers. This match ought to be one of the most down home country brawlin' slobberknockers of the year. The ROH Tag Titles will be up for grabs as the Young Bucks will wager them against the team from which they won them, reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly). And Jay Lethal puts his Television Championship on the line against one-half of the Time Splitters, KUSHIDA. Also booked for the show, ACH, Matt Taven, and Tommaso Ciampa team up to take on the trio of Takaaki Watanabe and the Forever Hooligans of Rocky Romero and Alex Koslov. Gedo and Jado take on The Decade's Roderick Strong and BJ Whitmer. And rounding out the show is a ROH vs. ROH showdown, pitting Caprice Coleman against Silas Young. This show, on paper, looks to be pretty darn strong, and it might be the last time you get to see NJPW guys on American soil. Well, at least the core of Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura, Jado, Gedo, and KUSHIDA. Still, those names are pretty special in the realm of puroresu. I'd definitely think about getting this show long and hard if you can.

SILVER - International Wrestling Federation's Desert Storm

Pro wrestling out in the desert has been just that, a desert, for the longest time. Now that IWF is on the scene, however, the Phoenix area has its own super-indie to hang its hat upon. The first show drew rave reviews, and the company is back with another strong card on Sunday at 4 PM local time at the Celebrity Theatre. Six huge singles matches have already been signed, and several other talents not already booked are scheduled to appear.

The show is headlined by a TNA vs. Dragon Gate spectacular, Austin Aries battling Johnny Gargano. They may have clashed before when Aries trolled Dragon Gate USA, but now both have seen some major career progression. The stakes in this match are even higher than they would have been in 2010. In a high-flyer's dream match, Ricochet will square off against Chris Sabin. The former Motor City Machine Gun has developed somewhat of a meanstreak, but Ricochet is no stranger to rude behavior himself. The fireworks in this match may only be exceeded by another bout featuring two explosive young talents in Rich Swann vs. AR Fox. This match has happened before in a few places, but they do something different every time out, and you never know if you're watching Fox's last match the way he throws caution to the wind with his own body.

Matt Hardy will appear at this show to take on a semi-local boy in Joey Ryan, while Trent? takes the ring against Shelton Benjamin. In what qualifies as a HOSS FIGHT, Lance Hoyt ventures back from Japan to clash with the absolutely ripped Brian Cage. Also scheduled to appear on the show are the Reno Scum, Willie Mack, Tony Nese, and a tribute to the Ultimate Warrior.

BRONZE - Anarchy Championship Wrestling's Nothing Is As Real As a Dream

One of the most fun yearly traditions is the Pro Wrestling Prom put on by ACW. Everyone, from the talent to the fans to the staff, gets dressed up in their finest threads to go watch people throw themselves from the balcony, hit each other with chairs, and ruin said threads with blood. A great time is had by all, and that tradition this year happens on Sunday at the Mohawk in Austin, TX. You wanna get there when doors open at 5:15 PM local time so you can take pictures in your fancy duds, get a few drinks, and get to your seats in time for the Anarchy Televised pre-show.

Headlining the show this year is a match between two people I can guarantee won't be wearing tuxedos, mainly because I don't see them as the tuxedo-wearing type. In one corner is the psychopathic, tattooed, hardcore HOSS Scot Summers. In the other is the skewer-wielding, grungy firebrand Masada. If you're wearing a good suit or a gown, you might want to wear a poncho over it for this match. Shawn Vexx will be there to defend the Anarchy Championship against an opponent of his choosing, while Barbi Hayden and Athena clash for the Televised Championship in an evening gown match. Forget what you know about that kind of match from WWE. ACW evening gown matches are a tradition and are about as far away from the original issue as you can possibly get.

Su Yung and Angel Blue will team up to take on Ricky Romida and Jojo Bravo, the heaviest sumo in the land, in an "awkward dance partners" match, while Barrett Brown defends the World Hardcore Championship against the massive James Claxton. Sammy Guevara invades ACW to take on Thomas Shire, while Ricky Starks battles Carson. Finally, Paul London and Jack Jameson will defend the Tag Team Championships against Scotty and Steve.

Whether you go to one of these shows or if you frequent some other grand spectacle of professional grappling, you are supporting one of the finest arts the world has ever produced. These three shows are certainly not the only ones going on though. For example, the Pittsburgh area will play host to International Wrestling Cartel this weekend. SMASH has two shows going on in the Greater Toronto Area, featuring the promotional debut of Obariyon. On Point Wrestling has a show this weekend where YOU bring the weapons (as long as they're not glass), with the best option winning a prize. Still, those shows are only a fraction of what is being produced to advance the art this weekend, and this art cannot grow without your support though. Whether it's a WWE house show or a start-up promotion around the corner featuring dudes you've never heard of, head on out to a wrestling show this weekend. Who knows, your favorite wrestler or promotion may be out there. You just don't know it yet.