Friday, June 27, 2014

ACW Queen of Queens Tournament Preview

Graphics via ACW Facebook Page
Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s sixth annual American Joshi Queen of Queens Tournament will take place on Sunday, June 29th, at the Mohawk in Austin, TX. This is going to be a hard show to preview, as no actual matches have been announced. The only thing we know right now, are the eight participants involved in the Queen of Queens Tournament.

Firstly, my relationship with ACW began a little over a year ago, so this will only be my second Queen of Queens Tournament. I love the idea behind it, because too many promotions (especially prominent ones) treat their women, let’s just say, less than great. In all honesty, they are belittled and treated unfairly. A lot of times, they aren’t treated as real people. That’s not only not a smart business move when over a third of your audience is female, but it’s just not how one should just, you know, treat another human being.

Right now, Inspire Pro is doing a great job of treating the women as equals to the men (as they should be), having Barbi Hayden and Portia Perez headline their IN THEIR BLOOD show. Before Inspire Pro came onto the scene, ACW was always seen as the most progressive promotion in regards to how they treated their women.

Now, I don’t know their history beyond when I began going to shows (I have not, watched a single second of footage of anything that I haven’t seen live and in person), but they’ve been going through some changes lately. The biggest disappointment was an Evening Gown Match between Television Champion Barbi Hayden and Athena at NOTHING IS AS REAL AS A DREAM in May.

My wife, who would love to become a wrestler one day, was flabbergasted by the decision to promote this match. Think about it, you have your TV Champ, who is also the NWA Women’s Champion in Barbi Hayden up against one of the best wrestlers (male or female) on the scene today in Athena and you put them in an Evening Gown Match? Even if they weren’t two of the best wrestlers on your show, what purpose does that type of match serve? They already wrestle in outfits that show everything that being in their underpants does. We watch men roll around in speedos all night long. So, seeing women in their undergarments isn’t anything special. Plus, it’s demeaning to the talents (even if they weren’t as good as they were). Just let them wrestle.

Which is where the Queen of Queens Tournament comes in. It’s none of the typical, sexist gimmick matches used to arouse the crowd. Guess what? The majority of wrestling fans, I don’t think, care too greatly about how good the wrestlers look in their undies. They want entertaining characters and matches. And ACW can provide that without too much effort.

Look at the line-up for the Queen of Queens Tournament:

The reigning ACW American Joshi Champion. She lost in last year’s tournament (which was my first introduction to Yung, and I became an instant fan) to Barbi Hayden. This year, her title will be on the line throughout.

She was the winner of last year’s tournament, defeating Barbi Hayden in the finals to win the trophy plus the Television Title (which was put on the line by Athena throughout). She is also a former American Joshi Champion. A lot of people do not care for Angel Blue, but she's grown on me over the year I've been watching. She's a legit heat magnet, and one of few true heels on the indie scene.

Winner of the 2012 Tournament and a semifinalist in 2013, where she lost to Hayden. Former two-time American Joshi Champion. Legit one of the best wrestlers going today.

Former three-time American Joshi Champion and recent returnee from Japan. I wasn't so impressed with her for the longest time, but I believe her stints in Japan have really helped. What I've seen since she's been back has been really good.

I actually have no idea who Jenny Rose is, but this is her Austin debut. (Ed. note: Trust me, Jenny Rose is legit and will add a lot to the tourney.)

She was in last year’s tournament, but lost to Leva Bates in the first round. She was supposed to have been at Inspire Pro’s first XX Division show IN THEIR BLOOD in May, but suffered an injury. Haven’t heard if that’s going to keep her from this show yet or not. Other than that, I really don’t know much about her. (Ed. note: The last I heard, she will be ready for the tourney.)

She is also making her Austin debut, and this will only be my second time seeing her. She competed (and lost) against Athena at SHIMMER 62 during WrestleMania XXX weekend in a very good match. Plus, she has this awesome shirt. Only other thing I really know about her is that she is was Co-Tag Team Champions with Joey Ryan in Dreamwave Wrestling for all of one day and has been a major players in PWG, even challenging for their top Championship.

She is making her return to ACW. Last year, she made it to the semifinals, losing to Angel Blue, and denying us the opportunity to see her as Padme Amidala from Star Wars Episode III (she was Episode I and Episode II versions of Amidala in her two matches). I also saw her at SHIMMER 62, as Gambit, where she picked up a win over Veda Scott. I enjoy Bates and her various costumes, so I’m curious to see what she comes up with for this tournament.

Realistically, any of these women could win, because they are all very talented. It really is a nice collection of female athletes to compete for the American Joshi Championship and Queen of Queens Tournament. If I could hazard a guess, I would assume the winner would be from the group of ACW regulars Su Yung, Angel Blue, Athena, or Jessica James.

I would be surprised if Su Yung managed to hold onto her title throughout, but she does have The Business backing her, as does last year’s winner, Angel Blue. Blue is really the lone heel in the group now, although it seemed she was kicked out of the group when Chris Trew frustratingly left her after a loss to Jessica James at ABSENCE OF LAW in February. Apparently that wasn’t anything major.

Athena hasn’t really had much to do since her return to ACW. She faced off against Davey Vega when she returned at GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION 8 in January, but Vega hasn’t been seen since he ran off with the ACW World Championship in February. It’s a shame she got injured last year, because it felt like she was ready to move onto bigger things in ACW (and wrestling in general), possibly even entering the Heavyweight Title scene. As it is, she’s returned, and been mostly dealing with women.

When I said earlier that ACW was seen as one of the more progressive promotions, that goes for the fact that they were not afraid to have intergender matches. The women have held every title in ACW as far as I know. And I have absolutely no problem with that. Just as I have no problem with keeping the divisions separate. But you need to be consistent, I think, and you have to treat everything equally.

If you really think about it, your top title, for example in ACW, would be the Anarchy Heavyweight Championship. On equal levels of those should be the Anarchy Tag Team Championship and the American Joshi Championship. Ostensibly, any of those belts could headline your show. You should be able to build convincing and entertaining stories around those belts that could, at any time, be the thread through which a show runs.

Realistically, ACW could probably stand to get rid of the Hardcore, as it’s rather redundant in a place called Anarchy Championship Wrestling, U-30, and Television Championships. I’ve always been a believer in less is more when it comes to titles. They tend to mean more when there are less of them, in theory. Especially when you don’t exactly have a huge roster, which ACW does not. Then again, any belt can be important, it just depends on how they are treated.

Jessica James could also win, because she is, afterall, a three-time Joshi Champion. She also spends a lot of time in Japan, so she’s legit. She hasn’t been as consistent a presence because of those excursions. But it would be interesting to see one of these other women be given the opportunity. I understand the thinking behind one of the regulars winning, because they were more likely than not to make it to most of the shows. Who’s to say LeRae or Bates or even Rose or Layne could make it back any time soon? The former two tend to have a lot of other companies they work for, and I’m sure the same is true for the latter. So, just being able to nail them down for dates could be difficult. That said, it’s not like their situations are impossible to work around. It just makes it harder to have feuds and stories people will care about.

As it is, ACW has announced the first round match-ups and they go down thusly:

Candice LaRae vs. Su Yung
Leva Bates vs. Angel Blue
Athena vs. Jenny Rose
Jessica James vs. Angelus Layne

In an earlier draft, before the first round was announced, I predicted who I thought was going to win in each round, but now that they had made it official, it changes things up a bit. So, now I don't know what to think. I feel as though two matches are almost givens: Athena and Jessica James. I can't see how either of those two lose. Athena is taking on the debuting Jenny Rose and, well, she's Athena. She's not losing in the first round. Angelus Layne is coming off a few injuries, so I doubt she is 100%. Besides, James has the pedigree within ACW, so she gets the win.

The other two matches... those are tough. I don't particularly want to see any of them lose, but if I had to choose, I would pick Leva Bates over Angel Blue. Blue won last year, so with her falling in the first round, it would guarantee a new winner. Plus, you can't go completely homer with these. If an ACW regular wins each round, why bother bringing in the outsiders? (Not The Outsiders.) So, I'm going with Leva, because it would give her the chance to dress up a second time. I'm a sucker for a tournament participant that changes outfits with each round (hence why I'm such a huge fan of Ultimo Dragon).

The really difficult choice is between the reigning American Joshi Champion Su Yung and the debuting Candice LaRae. Do they have the Champ drop it in the first round to show that anything can happen and that we would be guaranteed a new Champion (to go along with having a new Queen if Angel Blue also loses)? It would seem odd to have two members of The Business lose, but, in all reality, the only two members of the group that now continue to act somewhat heelish are the two women. Sure, I suppose they need a female member, but the two they have seem kind of counter-productive. So, much like my earlier theory, it seems kinda silly to bring in four outsiders to have only one (or zero) win. So, I'm going with Candice LaRae to defeat Su Yung and win the American Joshi Championship in a complete shocker.

If that is indeed what goes down, it will lead to a very interesting Final Four. You would have two ACW mainstays in Athena and Jessica James against the guests Leva Bates and NEW American Joshi Champion, Candice LaRae. Now, ACW hasn't put up an actual bracket, so I have no idea whom would face whom in a second round, but I would like to hope it would be something like Leva Bates vs. Jessica James and Athena vs. Candice LaRae. Sure, there are obviously other combinations, but for me that scenario works best. I would think Leva Bates would win her match and Athena would take the Championship from the newly crowned Champ's waist. Which would set up an interesting main event. Would we see the title change hands for a third time? Or would Athena hold onto the belt and move forward in ACW as the new standard-bearer of the women's division?

I suppose it all comes down to whether or not they could bring Leva Bates in more frequently. She's a busy lady, so that may not be feasible. But, for me, I would like to see her win. Someone outside the box. We would have already had Candice LaRae winning, but being as this is her debut, she may never return. And Athena will always be around (it just may not always be in the Joshi division) until someone wises up and signs her to a deal elsewhere. So, my money is on Leva Bates. And, honestly, a lot of it has to do with her always changing gimmicks. Steve doesn't do them in ACW anymore, so someone has to pick up the slack.

Honestly? You never really know with ACW. They have a tendency to have a lot of the same matches each month that don’t typically lead to anything, unlike their cousins (rivals?), Inspire Pro, who tends to have everything happen for a reason because of previous events. ACW doesn’t quite operate like that sometimes. You’ll get the same four teams in a tag team scramble, with the winner never getting even so much as a non-title match with the Tag Team Champs. It’s kinda weird and pointless sometimes, even if the matches tend to be really good.

But, they have been seemingly trying new matchups as of late, which has been nice. They just have to keep that up, as well as putting actual stories behind them. They have to get us fans invested in what’s happening beyond, “hey, that’s a good match.” Which, there is nothing wrong with having a bunch of good matches, it just makes the good matches mean a lot more if you’re invested in what happens during it. So, now a rundown of some things that may or may not happen, and just general thoughts on the state of some things.

“Infamous” Shawn Vexx is the Anarchy Heavyweight Champion and has said he will take on all challengers. So far, he’s defended against Davey Vega (who stole the belt after losing) at ABSENCE OF LAW and Jack Jameson at NOTHING IS AS REAL AS A DREAM. A matchup against Carson and Thomas Shire was also setup. Either way, I’m not sure if it is to happen at this event or in the future. Vexx had to miss the latest Inspire Pro show because of a family emergency, so who knows if he’ll be there or not. No matter when it takes place, I am not opposed to it. Getting some new blood into the main event scene is exactly what ACW needs to do.

That said, it should already have happened at GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION 8 in January. I am of the opinion that it never should have been Shawn Vexx to take the Anarchy Championship from Evan Gelistico. Instead, I am a firm believer that it should have been “Absolute” Ricky Starks. It seemed that month after month he was getting attacked by the Submission Squad. He was even the guy who brought in Pierre Abernathy to stop the group.  I’m not sure why Starks suddenly turned into Sting and became the dumbest person alive, because Abernathy would seem to be the LAST person to help in that situation. Time and time again, the Squad put Starks down. So, when it was Shawn Vexx who got the cage match at the biggest show of the year for the Championship, well, it seemed odd and random, especially when he won. Starks got the consolation prize of defeating Davey Vega, which I’m almost 100% was the ONLY match I have seen Starks win in all the time I’ve been watching ACW. I even joked with him one night that my wife and I saw him when more matches in one night with Inspire Pro than we ever did in ACW.

So, adding some fresh people into the title scene is very welcome, and they could do much worse than Carson and Thomas Shire. They happen to be two of my favorites. Carson has been good for awhile, but Shire has really come into his own over the last six months or so. Really, ever since his match with Gary Jay at GBA8, he has been on fire in both Inspire and ACW.

Jack Jameson has been someone they seemingly are trying to work into a bigger role. He, along with Paul London, ended the year-long Tag Team Title reign of The Business’ Jojo Bravo and Angel Blue, and recently, he's has been clamoring for a shot to prove himself in one-on-one competition. He got that chance at PEACE, LOVE, AND ANARCHY against Scot Summers in a brutal, brutal match where he would not give up. It was the perfect example of the young guy with heart vs. the merciless veteran. That singular match went along way to helping Jameson prove himself. Personally, I enjoy him, but he may not be ready for main events. He just isn’t very strong for someone his size. He’s not bad by any stretch, as the Summers match definitely proved his worth. He just needs a little more work.

I say that because they attempted virtually the same exact match with Shawn Vexx at NOTHING IS AS REAL AS A DREAM. First, earlier in the evening, Jameson and London were set to defend their Tag Team Titles, but before that could happen, Scot Summers viciously attacked Jameson. The reasoning? I actually have no idea, as it doesn’t make too much sense for the person who won the match to attack the loser. I’ve never understood that point, outside of Summers just being an asshole. So, he was taken out of the tag team match, so London recruited Darin Childs as his new partner to take on Just Steve and Scotty Santiago. For some reason, Jameson being unable to compete in that match meant Childs took his place as Champion alongside London. Yeah, I don’t understand how that works either, especially since Jameson was able to haul his ass out and challenge Shawn Vexx.

The problem with that match was that it was the exact same story as the Summers’ match, it just wasn’t as good, and was mostly redundant. I get the idea behind it, but the execution just wasn’t there. So, we’ll see where they go from here. I’m assuming Jameson isn’t finished with Scot Summers, although if I was Jack, I’d be wondering why exactly I know longer get to carry around a Title Belt.

The tag team division is rather robust in ACW, although you would never know it by looking at the top of the card. London and Childs recently defended the Tag Belts against the team of Just Steve (no longer using a gimmick-per-show) and Scotty Santiago, a very good young team, whom I enjoy a great deal. However, the trouble with the tag team division has been it was mostly Jojo Bravo and Angel Blue defending against Jack Jameson and a variety of partners until he found London and was able to take the belts away from The Business.

Usually, there will be a few tag team matches in the undercard or the pre-show, almost always a four team scramble among the Bad Boyz (Lil Tony and Seph Anunnaki), End of Days (Killah Kash and Sky de Lacrimosa), The Whole F’n Team (Johnny Axxle and Mr. B), and A Lil Crazy (Stan Summers and JC Bravo). Sometimes the Steve/Scotty team thrown in or another random team are thrown in, but literally those four teams almost always compete amongst themselves. The winner never gets anything; it’s almost like they don’t matter.

So, with Scotty and Steve recently getting a shot and the Bad Boyz and The Whole F’n Team finally acknowledging that they are always facing each other and getting nothing for it, hopefully things will progress. All I really ask is to mix things up, like when ACH faced Jeff Gant, Killah Kash, Sky de Lacrimosa, and Jason Silver on his last appearances for ACW. And it would be great if they could mix in the new team of Dressed to Kill (Dylan Dunbar and Donny Brooks), who are endlessly entertaining. I just wish they still had their “brother” Tadasuke to help them out. They have a good division, they just need to utilize it.

The Business have a lot of moving parts, with Su Yung and Angel Blue in the American Joshi Queen of Queens Tournament and Thomas Shire, assumingly, heading to the Anarchy Championship scene. So, what of Jojo Bravo and Ricky Romida? Romida recently lost the U-30 Championship to Jeff Gant, and Bravo hasn’t had really anything to do since losing the Tag Team Titles. I’m hoping The Heaviest Sumo in the Land can move into something in single competition because he’s too good to do nothing. Inspire Pro has been booking him quite well thus far, so there’s no reason ACW can’t do the same. I don’t know if that means putting him into contention for the U-30, Hardcore, or Television Titles, but he needs to do something. He can’t just be a cheerleader. Personally, since Barrett Brown has been tearing it up since winning the Hardcore Championship from Matthew Palmer, I would have Jojo challenge for that. I know Brown recently decided that skewers were OK in his forehead courtesy of Masada (in a bloody match that also included Scott Summers), so maybe they are taking Brown into another direction of proving his toughness against all the former hardcore guys. Still, I’d really like to see him face Jojo. It probably wouldn’t be as hardcore, but who cares?

We could see the return of Franco D’Angelo since he’s recovered from his injury. He was recently in a group with “Cowboy” James Claxton, Carson (who may not be apart of it anymore), and Scot Summers. As it stands, The Business is the only real stable left since the Submission Squad hasn’t been heard from in months.

There’s a lot of good talent in ACW; it’s just about putting them to good use. Good matches are all well and good, but when they’re repeats month after month with nothing advancing it’s boring. They just need some solid stories behind the matches and have things make sense from show to show and build to something important down the line. I know at GBA8, after Shawn Vexx won the Heavyweight Championship, they announced that at GBA9 that the Heavyweight and Hardcore Titles would unify. Matthew Palmer promptly lost his belt to Barrett Brown. Maybe they should go ahead and get things started on a Vexx-Brown story, which could be what they are doing with Vexx challenging so many new talents and Brown wanting to prove himself against the likes of Summers and Masada. The only problem is that everyone already knows Brown is fantastic.

But it should be a good show, especially if it puts the focus on the women, and starts the beginnings of some good stories. Some people are down on ACW now (and would like you to choose between it or Inspire), but I see the potential still there. It still has the talent to be great and there’s no reason we can’t have two top notch wrestling companies in Austin.

ACW’s 6th Annual Queen of Queens Tournament takes place this Sunday, June 29th, at the Mohawk on Red River in Austin, TX. Doors open at 5:15… in theory. In reality, they never do open that early, but the show will start around 6:00pm. You have three different options for tickets: $15 for reserved front row, $15 for balcony, or $12 for general admission. Personally, balcony is where it’s at, because it offers the best vantage point, as long as you don’t mind standing for four hours. So, head on over to their newly designed website for tickets, news, and the like!