Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ACW's From Innocence to Insanity 8 Review

Straight FIRE
Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
I want to state right up front that I will not have anything critical to say about the performances on this show. Every single person on the card, whether in a hardcore match or not, put their bodies on the line for our enjoyment. They all busted their asses (some quite literally, probably). Whether you are for or against the type of matches and spots that occurred on this, the aptly dubbed, "most violent event of the year," you simply can't not, at least, respect the performers.

The booking, however, yeah, I'll have some criticisms of that.

The thing that sucks about having shows outside is that when the air is super thick and humid, it almost makes it unbearable. Letting everyone in the doors fifteen-ish minutes later than scheduled also didn't help. Sure, the show is outside, but we could at the very least had gotten to wait around in the air conditioned bar.

In a slight change, there was no pre-show. I chalk that up to the very, very thin roster that ACW is currently working with. It was even smaller than it had been at recent events.

The Whole F'n Team (Johnny Axxel and Mr. B) vs The Bad Boyz (Lil Tony and Seph Anunnaki)

In a match that was billed as the last ever match between the two teams (thank JESUS!), Franco D'Angelo decided to intervene before it could get started (damnit!). While I was not looking forward to seeing this match for the uptempth time, I did want it to be officially over. I suppose this gives them an excuse to run it again instead of doing something, anything, different with them. It's not something we generally care about, they have nothing to blow-off, so it's okay to just move on.

As for D'Angelo, he just wanted to inform us that he wanted gold around his waist. Any gold would do. He was going to go through our favorites and the ones we hate, men, women, teams, it didn’t matter. It is at this time I would like to make a statement about fans. I respect your right to be able to shout whatever you want (just don’t be misogynistic or homophobic or anything of that nature), but you don’t HAVE to say something all the time. ACW tends to attract the fans who want the shows to be about them (most of them have long since stopped coming, thankfully), so whenever someone is in the ring cutting a promo, they interject themselves, and it’s almost always something stupid.

The part that bugs is that they know the wrestlers can’t do anything. The wrestlers can get in their face and stare them down all night long, but they won’t ever strike the fan (99 times out of a 100 anyway), so it gives the fans an air of invincibility. They think they can say or do whatever they want (which leads to situation’s like Veda Scott getting slapped on the ass). The show isn’t about the fans, and they're really only a small part of it. Boo, cheer, chant all you want, but that’s to the extent of your involvement (barring weird-ass stipulation matches involving staple guns that I will get to soon enough).

Anyway, that was D'Angelo's simple mission statement. He wanted gold, which made the next match all the more puzzling.

ACW Hardcore Championship Match: Barrett Brown © vs. “Centerfold” Matthew Palmer

This match was originally booked as a rematch of last month’s Brown vs. Ricky Starks title defense, but Starks was in Canada. You would think for a match that was booked a day before the show, that they would make sure all participants were at least in the same country. It’s almost like they just announced that match, just so they could have the surprise of Matthew Palmer accepting the open challenge. You know, you could just book that match straight up, and we’d be really excited to see it.

The bigger issue is the match placement. We just had D'Angelo interrupt a match and say he wanted gold around his waist, so why didn’t he just turn around and come back to the ring when Brown revealed he didn’t have a challenger? No matter where on the card you put this match, it would look silly to not have him answer the call, but to have it immediately after his opening spiel? Yeah, that’s just makes everyone look stupid (the fans included). Not to mention, he does have a win over Brown (before he was Hardcore Champ) from way back in February.

The match itself was quite good, as you would expect from these two. Brown used his chair-assisted crossface again, only Palmer was able to escape. The finish was a bit weird, as they did a series of countering pinfalls and Barrett retained thanks to a backslide. It wasn’t even a hardcore backslide! It ended just as it was really picking up and getting exciting. So, that was strange. An odd way to end the Hardcore Title Match at the “most violent event of the year”.

Athena and Jessica James vs KAIENTAI USA (“Dapper” Donny Brookes and Dylan Dunbar)

I love Brookes and Dunbar so much. They’re just so goddamn goofy, even if they are using the well-worn trope of “women shouldn’t be wrestling.” And sometimes I’m 12 years old, so I quite enjoyed Dunbar saying he had “the business in his pants” with their third buddy, Dylan Divine, shouting “the business is his weiner!” So childish, so stupid, so enjoyable. Sometimes I’m 12. It may be way past time to end that storyline mechanism, but it’s effective for these insecure assholes, so I’ll allow it. It helped that they immediately got their comeuppance. Athena was pissed off about what happened at Queen of Queens last month, as she rightly should be. The Business ruined the tournament for the second year in a row. Furthermore, she was especially pissed about the fact that the Joshi Champion, Su Yung, was missing yet another show. She also wasn't alone, as Jessica James joined her in her displeasure.

As I stated in my review of Queen of Queens, they got the story all wrong. Last year, they aided Angel Blue on her way to the crown and title. This year, they did the exact same thing with Yung, when, for the story to be effective, it should have been thwarted in the finals. That was the only story to tell. The Business gets shut down when everyone finally had enough of their shit, banded together, and cleared the way for someone else to cleanly defeat Yung. It’s especially baffling to keep the title on her when she doesn’t appear very often. Four or five times a year, maybe, if we’re lucky? It was a missed opportunity, for sure.

So, the frustration that both Athena and Jessica express are not without merit. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were genuine feelings. The joshi division is, at the very least, getting some true focus. They’re just going to need to beef up the roster a bit. Right now, it’s Athena, Jessica James, Angel Blue, and the occasional appearance from the Champ, Su Yung. From time to time we’ve seen Miss Diss Lexia and Paige Turner, but they’ll need more than those wrestlers to keep things going. Not sure if Barbi Hayden will return, given her commitments being the NWA World Women’s Champion and the fact that she gets featured in main events with Inspire Pro Wrestling. So, as it is, a lot of tension building amongst the joshi, and hopefully Yung can show up a little more frequently so that things can really get moving.

Oh, the match, yeah, it was quick and James picked up the win for her team by submission.

Lil Tony vs. Kyle Hawk

There's not much to say about this except that it was a new development. It was nice to see something new for Lil Tony to do though. He got the win via Tomahawk. Yes, Kyle Hawk is a real Original American who brings a tomahawk to the ring and does the traditional, stereotypical call, you know the one that involves your hand over your mouth. It may be racist (is it racist if an actual Original American does it?), but the kids sure do love doing it. Which is something else that was different about this particular show. For the “most violent event of the year,” there sure were a lot of under-12 kids there, at least six by my count. And this match is when you really noticed them. But they were pretty vocal throughout the show. Kids, man, they aren’t afraid to tell a wrestler that they hate them.

One thing I saw from a fellow ACW fan, is that they were looking forward to Hawk getting his revenge. My thought on that: don’t worry, we’ll see the match probably another 20 times.

Angel Blue vs. Ricky Romida (w/ Chris Trew)

Wait… WHAT!?!? A couple of months ago we got a Business vs. Business tag match, but that was during their “fan favorite phase,” and it was just a good comedy match. This one started with Chris Trew letting everyone know that Su Yung was on a well-deserved vacation, and then Angel Blue made her way out. She was tired of all the “Su is the best” talk and wondered why he didn’t get her a match for the show.

Turns out she didn’t need his help, as she made her own match after kicking Trew right in the testicles. She did the same to Romida when he went to check on his manager. In theory, this match should have lasted two seconds once Romida got his wits about him as he is a massive man. Instead, Blue snuck out the win, making it two losses in a row for Ricky against diminutive opponents. He chalked it up to having his mind on Jeff Gant and the U-30 Championship. That theory doesn't hold much water since his original opponent was supposed to be Killah Kash, someone who is even bigger than Romida.

So, are we supposed to like Angel Blue now? I mean, I enjoy her work, because she can get heat like no one else, and she isn’t afraid to tell a young kid to go fuck him/herself. That’s a rare talent. But why do we suddenly like her? Because she kicked Trew in the dick? It was just two months ago when we all liked The Business (minus Blue, ‘cause she is who she is). I dunno, it MAY have worked a bit, because the few females in attendance suddenly jumped on Angel’s side, but she has been so awful for so long, why should we just like her now?

I’m just not sure where everything goes from here. The logical story would be Blue taking on The Business a member at a time, with the American Joshi Champion as the final boss as it were. That would then put three people in her direct path. But the more troubling aspect of the story is that we already saw it; just no one acknowledged it. Chris Trew walked off following an Blue loss to Jessica James in February. It was never brought up, but he had effectively kicked her out then. I dunno, it seems poorly thought out.

Plus, you would think Blue would realize, of all people, that the Business will never let you win. Not in the end.

Lumberjack Staple Gun Match: Jason Silver vs Sky de Lacrimosa

I was correct in my theory that the fans would be the ones doing the stapling. See, we were encouraged to bring our own staple guns, but they also held a lottery for a few more people to get their staple on. (I will only mention in passing that showing boobs was announced as a way to get a staple gun. There’s no need to go on a long spiel about how that’s not necessary, ‘cause everyone knows, and a lot more people have talked about it more eloquently than I ever could. Still, no. Just no.) So, the fans with staple guns would act as lumberjacks and whether the wrestlers (or the referee) exited the ring or not, you were allowed to staple them.

Nothing happened for a bit, but once it did… HOLY SHIT! There are a bunch of savages in Austin, Texas! Whenever a wrestler went outside, the lumberjacks SWARMED them and stapled the shit out of them. (The only rules were nothing to the testicles or the eyeballs.) It was a wild scene. It’s like all the rules of society had broken down. Honestly, if The Purge was a real thing, I fear the human race would be wiped out within a couple of years.

A few people were more bloodthirsty than others. One lady was picked because her friends nominated her. She did not want to staple anyone and was the only one that hung around on the opposite side from everyone else. Finally, after some goading from the crowd (especially some especially bloodthirsty children), she ran over to staple de Lacrimosa. However, it was either jammed, or she didn’t know how to use it. SDL took it from her, stapled himself like five times in the arm, then handed it back. She finally got it to work and then scampered off.

SDL is a crazy person, because he did not care about getting stapled at all. At one point, it got into a lumberjack’s grill and stapled HIMSELF in the face to let him know he was nonplussed by their attempts to mangle him. Even Thomas Munos, the referee, got a staple to the skull. In the end, Jason Silver picked up the win (and miraculously didn’t kill himself), and called all the lumberjacks into the ring to staple de Lacrimosa one last time.

It was wild, man. I’m not going to lie. I know a lot of people frown on these types of matches, but on the night, it was probably the least dangerous of the hardcore matches. It just led to people becoming excessively crazy. Hopefully, if they want to build Barrett Brown as a worthy Hardcore Champion, Silver gets a shot at the belt. Need some new matchups, and that certainly would be one to look forward to.

Barbed Wire Rope Match: Scot Summers vs Jack Jameson

This is where the booking is really wonky. First, I probably wouldn’t have put the two violent matches back to back. That said, the long ass intermission we got because they had to take the ropes off and then put barbed wire in their place kind of gave us the cooldown we needed. The issue is that it took a REALLY long time. They either should have opened with this match or ended with it because of the sheer logistics of setting up and dismantling. Storywise, it had the most heat behind it, and it was a bloody, fiery battle that needed to end a show. No one was going to top it, so it was kind of silly to plunk it right in the middle. But that’s been a bit of a staple for ACW in my experience. A lot of shows tend to go out on a whimper; this show actually had a solid main event. It just wasn't the right match to go out on.

This match was brutal, blood everywhere - total mayhem. They wrapped themselves in the barbed wire and used their own bodies as weapons in addition to the standard chairs. It was just chaos. The big ending saw Summers set up some chairs in the middle of the ring, wrap them in barbed wire and SET THEM ON FIRE! Poor Summers and D'Angelo couldn’t get the lighter fluid open, so they asked for a knife and just stabbed the can open. That meant more fluid than was necessary was doused on the chairs and the ring. That picture above is what resulted when he threw in the match.

Jameson went through the fire by way of a Death Valley Driver. So, brutal. His screams afterwards were the worst part. Not only was his face busted up, but his back was burnt. It was sick. Nothing I say is going to do the match justice. Just know that these two put their bodies on the line. Legit.

So, where do you go from there? There was some chatter on Twitter about people wanting to see an end to this feud. Like, the two men deserved a third match to cap off the feud. My answer is a simple no. I beg of ACW, to not do Jameson-Summers III. Not now. Not anytime soon. You have got to let this marinate. The story has been Jameson trying to prove himself, show that he belongs with the already made guys, that he should be taken seriously at the top. He accomplished a lot in the first match, even in defeat. The same thing happened in the rematch.

Simply put, Jameson has lost both matches. There were no shenanigans (unless I’m completely forgetting something). The only thing Franco D'Angelo did was provide the lighter fluid. He no more interfered than the guy who provided the knife to puncture the can or the guy who’s autographed chair was used in the burning pile. Summers has won right in the middle of the ring twice. Plus, what match is going to top this? If you did a rematch in August, what do you do? A cage match? That’s pretty tame, plus it’s not a necessary for the story. Whom are you keeping out? You are not going to top a DVD through flaming, barbed wire chairs.

No, in my opinion, you need to move Summers into the ACW Heavyweight Title scene and let him win it. Jameson needs to start over. You need to build him back up. Give him some wins over quality opponents. It’s got to set and be a background element of your shows for six months. Make it wait until Guilty by Association 9. If that’s your biggest show, start building something towards it now. I know it was announced at GBA8 that the World and Hardcore Titles would be unified at GBA9. Well, give the World to Summers, and let Jameson have a battle with Barrett for the Hardcore. He can win it heading into GBA9.

Having the third match happen now, with no time to breathe in-between, is simply mucking up the story. That’s not a story of character and growth and resolve, it would just be a series of matches that saw Jameson winning the feud just because he took the last match. That’s not a compelling story. Make it mean something. Give it stakes. Make us care and be invested. That’s all a wrestling fan wants - something to get behind, to care about.

Summers and D'Angelo confronting the Tag Team Champions later in the show is hopefully them moving away from this story for the time being. Just give it some space to breathe, ACW.

Toy Chest Deathmatch: JC Bravo vs Stan “The Sinner” Summers

Even after another poorly-placed, lengthy intermission to act as a cooldown, it probably still would have been a good idea to run something that wasn’t also hardcore in nature instead of going from a match that left a giant charred spot in the ring (and probably some flesh) to one that used toys with thumbtacks glued on.

The match was pretty fun, though, and had the added stipulation of whoever lost had to go to rehab. That kind of telegraphed the ending, I think, since there’s seemingly no reason for Summers to need it. Only thing we’ve seen him do is drink, and not excessively. I did get my wish, though, as drugs did play a role in the end. But before that, I want to take a gander inside this toy chest.

There were an under-inflated basketball, baseball bats with thumbtacks glued to them (which flew off dangerously when they smashed together), pool noodles wrapped in barbwire, a bike helmet, Lego pieces, Jenga pieces, and the things that made me more squeamish than anything else -  playing cards being used to slice the webbing between Summers' fingers. No thanks!

Summers attempted to lure Bravo into a trap by pouring pills all over the ring mat, but it was way too early in the match to be effective. In the end, though, Bravo pulled out his trusty syringe and was going to use it on Summers, but he reversed it and squirted the contents into Bravo’s eyes, leading to a chokebomb off the turnbuckles onto the pile of army men, Legos, Jenga pieces, and thumbtacks (my parents never gave me those as a kid).

After the match, Summers helped Bravo up, and then put him down again for whatever reason. But now Bravo will be heading off to rehab, so we’ll see what he’s like once he gets back. Hopefully he’ll have changed up his character completely and not just returned to how he was before the drugs became a thing or after. As for Summers? Who’s to say where he goes.

ACW World Tag Team Championship: Paul London and Darin Childs © vs The Man They Call Steve and Scotty Santiago

A couple of months ago, Steve and Santiago lost a hard-fought match against the Champs and this is the rematch that, for some reason, wasn’t announced. It also started weirdly. For those that don’t know anything about the venue, The Mohawk has a balcony and behind the balcony, up another set of stairs is a large patio where the wrestlers hang out and get ready and all that jazz.  The wrestlers either go directly down the stairs to the ring or they hang a left and slap hands with fans on the balcony and go down the other set of stairs. London did the latter, only instead of going down the second stairway, he did a U-turn and casually walked back across the balcony.

While he was taking his sweet time, Childs was already in the ring, and being jumped by the challengers. Steve recently dropped his “different gimmick every show” gimmick and went serious, so he wasn’t going to take this opportunity lightly. Eventually, London made it to the ring, only I’m not even sure he ever got in the ring. Really not sure. Maybe for one go at it he did, but after a lengthy stint as the face-in-peril, Childs went to get his tag to London.

Nope. The Intrepid Traveler was done, hopping off the apron and leaving. It wasn’t until the odds were against him that Childs started to put up a fight. I guess what Brandon Stroud says in his Best and Worst columns is correct. You always want to be at a numbers disadvantage. Unfortunately for Childs, he wasn’t able to overcome said odds, and fell to their opponents, the brand new ACW World Tag Team Champions.

I am all for the title change, but I do have a few issues. Before that, I want to get to the post-match arrival of Scot Summers and Franco D’Angelo. They claimed they weren't there to attack, but Steve didn't trust them and got in their grills. He even laid his title on the mat in front of him, like a line to be crossed. Instead, there were tense handshakes all around, and everyone left without incident. That should be a fun series of matches going forward.

The trouble I have is 1) it kinda undersells the HELL Summers went through in his match. He seemed perfectly fine, which, yeah, he might have been, but he could have sold it a bit. Let that be the reason he didn’t want to get into a physical confrontation just yet. But 2) it’s kind of a bad way to crown new Champs. Especially new Champs you want us to get behind (I assume). Steve and Santiago have always been faces and there’s no reason to change that now as they are two very likeable personalities.

That being said, why do you need the other team, who have only been a team for two months when Childs inexplicably replaced Jack Jameson as London’s partner and have shown ZERO signs of discontent, to split up and leave it two-on-one? It doesn’t make the new Champs look strong. It more puts the focus now on a singles feud between Childs and London. And to what end? London has almost exclusively wrestled tag matches since coming to ACW, so some singles action would be good, don’t get me wrong, but why against the owner of ACW? This goes back to my belief that if you own and book a wrestling company, you need to take a backseat to everyone else.

Heck, he even said he was taking a break from the in-ring stuff after losing to Matthew Palmer at GBA8. I don’t begrudge an owner from wanting to be in the ring and being apart of the show (especially if you’re not going to have an authority figure, which I do commend on ACW for not having), but he should keep to the pre-show and undercard, in my opinion. He shouldn’t be taking up space in feuds with Evan Gelistico (who was World Champ at the time) or Palmer (Hardcore Champ at the time) or being a Tag Team Champ (randomly replacing Jameson when they decided to make him a singles guy, and which he could have just stated he wanted to do instead of a beatdown that somehow magically stripped him of his Championship rights). That’s all my personal opinion. It has nothing to do with Childs as a performer or his ability in the ring (both are just fine), it’s just the perception since everyone knows he’s the guy making the decisions.

If you’re going with some of the old guys (not in age, just experience) at the top, with Masada now your Champion (Vexx would have fit the mold, too, before he retired, which I will get to in a bit), and ACH challenging next month, go all out. Put London in the mix, too, with Summers and whoever else you got lying around. As it is, it looks like at least one (although probably multiple) matches between London and Childs. They’ll probably be good, but I’m not sure of their purpose in the grander scheme of things.

ACW World Heavyweight Championship: Shawn Vexx (c) vs. Masada

This was originally booked to be ACH challenging, but at the last minute (had a few of these this show, huh?) they announced that he wouldn’t be able to make it (but definitely would in August) and instead was replaced with the menacing Masada. So, here’s my question, if ACH was the original opponent, was he going to win the title? Because Masada is now your new ACW Champion and Vexx announced his retirement. The Heavyweight Title situation has been weird since I started watching ACW. Evan Gelistico held it forever and seemed like he was feuding with Ricky Starks more than anyone else, only he fought Vexx in a cage match at the biggest show of the year and lost. Vexx hasn’t had any sustainable feud since he got it.

Not to mention that we don’t even have a physical belt for the Champ to carry around (unless it was presented after the match). To be fair, my wife and I left as soon as the match was over because we were both hungry, hot, sweaty, and tired, so we missed Vexx’s actual retirement announcement. So, what’s next? I already stated my views earlier, but getting Summers into the mix would be the best call. I’m not sure who else they have who has the momentum. Almost everyone else is gone (hence why ACH is getting a shot despite only being able to show up maybe twice a year).

And if Davey Vega and the Submission Squad are not coming back (which, storyline wise, would be pointless since Vexx is now also gone), someone needs to get the belt back. I’m going on the assumption that Vega legit left with the belt, although I’m not sure why he would actually have to do that, instead of keeping it in Darin’s house until the story played itself out. It’s not necessary now, so bring it back or get a new one. Kinda silly to watch title matches each month with no physical representation of said title.

As for the match itself, it wasn’t boring in the least. We weren't in the best moods because of outside circumstances, but it was enjoyable and brutal. At one point, Masada brought out his trusty bag of skewers and stuck about thirty into the top of Vexx’s head, leaving him crawling around with an artificial mohawk. Although, maybe next time,  Masada just shouldn't take the handful of skewers and just chuck them into the crowd. I saw a couple of people get hit, some in the face. If they’re pointy enough to stick to the top of someone’s head, they’re pointy enough to put someone’s eye out. An unnecessary dangerous element that the fans shouldn’t have to contend with. They already have to be on their toes for whenever anyone falls out of the ring.

But not a bad capper to the “most violent event of the year,” even though the Barbwire Rope Match really should have been the main event.


Overall, I really enjoyed the show. I know the hardcore elements are not for everyone, but I really don’t have a problem with them. I wish the wrestlers wouldn’t kill themselves for my enjoyment, because I would like to see them on future shows and to continue seeing them walk after they turn forty. It was a nice change of pace from Queen of Queens and the match finishes and everything were mostly booked a lot better. There actually weren’t any run-ins all show (except for D'Angelo busting up the tag match before it could even get started), now that I think back on it. The only match that really had any interference was the Lil Tony-Kyle Hawk match. Which should go to show you, ACW, that you don’t have to go into overkill with your finishes. The Business doesn’t have to end every match with a five-on-one advantage to get the win. Of course, they can’t now anyway, with Angel Blue defecting.

The show really did live up to it’s motto of being the most violent of the year, at least from what I’m likely to see. It may have been unnecessarily brutal at times, but those are the risks one takes when entering an ACW ring. Things are definitely getting shaken up, almost out of necessity given how many former talents are seemingly no longer working the company at all or if they are, with a limited schedule. That’s both good and bad, as for the talents it hopefully means they are picking up more bookings in different parts of the country, but bad because it makes it hard to nail down a narrative for the shows. Hard to have a big time title feud if half the participants may only show up a few times a year.

Every Championship is really up for grabs, and who will be challenging for them is anyone’s guess. So far for the August show Distrust, Dismay, and Antisocial Behavior (they really need to get some new show names for a few of these), ACH is booked to challenge for Masada’s ACW Heavyweight Title, and Jeff Gant will be defending the U-30 Championship against the man he won it from, Ricky Romida. They have way too many belts floating around right now. Hell, who’s the Televised Champ? I honestly don’t recall right now. Was it Barbi Hayden? Just eliminate the U-30 and TV belts, and just stick with the World, Hardcore (until they get unified next year), Tag, and Joshi. There’s no reason to have any more than that. The less the better, because you can really beef up your division and have some new and exciting matchups.

The biggest thing right now, from where I sit, is nailing down a stable roster, and then working out from there. They have some things brewing that can be really good. It’s almost the best time for ACW, because they almost get to reset everything, and start really building some things. The main focus, if it were me, would be on building Jameson back up to have a true, final blow-off with Summers with something truly on the line. Start there and build down.