Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dispatches from the Lake: Freelance Wrestling

An intimate venue for a debut show
Photo via Freelance Wrestling Facebook Page
Is there anything more disappointing than a '90s cover band called Destination Unknown that doesn’t play "How Bizarre?" They played "Ruby Soho," which is totally where they got their name from, but come on, guys. You can’t hit me with that OMC 1996 classic? What the hell?

You might be asking yourself after that first paragraph, why are you writing about some random cover band on a wrestling blog? Well, jerk, if you’d let me continue, I’ll tell you! Destination Unknown was the official band/Greek chorus/luchador-fighter-offers for Freelance Wrestling’s show, The Rebellion: Chapter One at the Abbey Pub in Chicago.

I met up with my buddy, Eric (he of new Chikara fan fame), and a co-worker of his who had let us both know about the event. After a quick bite at the bar, we moved over into the very hot concert space. The wrestling ring barely fit in there, but that added to the charm of the evening. There was a quasi-balcony, which we were certain someone would be leaping off of at some point. After a woman came by with split-the-pot tickets, a besuited man stepped into the ring with a microphone. I missed his name because I am the worst.

The well-dressed man welcomed us to the show and told us that all the matches were no disqualification. We were also told since there were no children around, we were able to swear. What? Yeah. I’m an adult in a bar. I figured that swearing was allowed here. I’m not 12 years old in the outfield during softball practice swearing into my glove about not getting to play first base. No one is going to yell at me for swearing here. Personally, I took this as a shot at Chikara, which had been in town last week. Way to start in the hole, Freelance Wrestling.

But pot shots aside, what followed made me forget about that nonsense immediately. A manager, Kevin Kellam, came out to berate us for being poor and disgusting. He proclaimed his family owned twelve McDonalds franchises in the area, and every time we ate a McDouble, he bought a Ferrari. It was just outstanding. He introduced his team, Alex Ohlson, Matt Star, and Ox Baker Jr, who were destined for a murderous beat down at the hands of their opponents, the Viking War Party.

The Viking War Party is exactly what you’d expect - two huge, hairy dudes, and their smaller, horned-helmet wearing buddy. (Ed. Note: Sounds a lot like one of my favorite Sega Genesis games growing up, Lost Vikings.) They stormed into the hall, flinging chairs out of their way and beating their chains against the ring. The match was short with the Vikings isolating Ohlson and then caving in his chest with a backbreaker double stomp triple team move. I say caved in his chest, because it totally looked like they put a concave dent where his sternum would have been. The Vikings didn’t stop at the bell. They beat the rest of the team out of the ring, took a few shots at Kellam, then hit Ohlson with a backstabber for good measure.

After the match, the band chirped in, as they would during the rest of the proceedings. The lead singer assured us that Kellam was an asshole before launching into a four song alternative '90s set. I thought it was a bit weird to get your audience amped after one match then throw it to the band for twenty minutes, but that’s just me. I think it’s an interesting idea to use the band as a cool down between intense matches, but maybe only have them play two songs instead of four.

Next match was a four way dance between Craig Mitchell, Bolt Brady, Bryce Benjamin, and Acid Jazz. This one was a bit weird, because it kind of devolved into a tag match in the middle, then swung back to a four way. Benjamin and Jazz teamed up against Mitchell with Brady refusing to participate. Benjamin and Jazz eventually turned their attention to Brady after dispatching Mitchell. The match was solid, but I not my favorite of the night. Mitchell doing a standing back flip was pretty impressive, as he is not a small man. Benjamin ended up winning the match with a splash from the balcony.

At some point during that last match, the Vikings came out to chug some beer and cheer on the other wrestlers. They would hang out at the bar for the rest of the evening.

The match for the Juggalo Championship Wrestling Tag Team Championships was next. The Hooligans, two short, hairy, huge guys held the straps, and Two Bad Ass Bitches (Melanie Cruise and Jordynne Grace) would battle them. While there were one too many derogatory slurs and requests for oral sex during this match, I thought it turned out pretty well. Cruise towered over both of the Hooligans, taunting them by holding her hands up high for a test of strength. After Grace flew outside the ring and both the Hooligans executed ridiculous flips, the Champs took solid hold of the match. Huge guys doing flips will always be the greatest thing ever. They isolated Grace and beat the hell out of her. She eventually got back to Cruise for the hot tag, but the Champs immediately tagged to negate it. Grace ate the Hooligans' weird-looking finisher for the win.

Destination Unknown returned to play the ska section of their program. They got to "Peaches" by the Presidents of the United States of America, (which I don’t consider ska, but I know next to nothing about music) when three luchadores appeared for no reason. They tried to attack the lead singer of the band, but he managed to fight them off with the power of his rock. This will never be mentioned again.

Next on the card was Kenny Sutra verses Marvelous Matt Knicks. Knicks came out to "Party Hard" by Andrew WK. He could have stood in the ring only throwing overhead chops, and I still would have loved him. This was also the only match that really took advantage of the no disqualification rule. They started out with some technical mat wrestling early before building to the more brutal stuff later in the match. Sutra ramped up to the violence by sending Knicks to the floor with a huricanrana. Knicks fought from underneath the entire match. He couldn’t seem to get an advantage, until he flung Sutra into a chair in the corner. He set up a two chairs and tried for a senton on Sutra, but Sutra moved, and Knicks died. Sutra grabbed the win after slamming Knicks’ head into another chair. He wailed on Knicks a bit after the match before flipping us off for booing, and then leaving.

Ruff Crossing vs. "Big C" Chris Castro was our main event. Crossing came to the ring with a mystique somewhere between JBL during his Blackjacks period and the Undertaker. He brought a bull rope with a cow bell on it to the ring. Cue the obvious, and totally not old, cowbell jokes. They started out with tests of strength and reversals. Crossing had the early advantage, and took any chance he could to jaw jack with Castro and the crowd. He got a hold of his bull rope at one point and started whipping and choking Castro with it. Castro managed to fight out of that, and they led into a finger pulling spot, which led to a fart joke. Meh. Castro used his noxious gases to stagger Crossing, and got him up in an airplane spin. He slammed Crossing back to the matt before going to the top rope. He missed with a cross body.

Crossing locked Castro in a nerve hold before Castro started trying to fight back again. In the corner, Crossing reasserts his dominance and hits Castro with a second rope suplex, then a frog splash. Impressively, Castro kicks out then hits Crossing with a jawbreaker. Crossing absolutely NAILED Castro with a lariat, but couldn't keep Castro down. Castro pulled out the win after hitting Crossing with double underhook piledriver. As Castro celebrated his win, Kenny Sutra attacked him with a chair. Knicks came out to make the save, and then celebrated in the ring with Castro.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. Freelance Wrestling seemed to be laying some ground work for future storylines. They had some colorful characters, Kellam being a highlight, and fun, engaging wrestling all around. I liked that they treated the women as equals. The bad guys were extra evil, and the good guys had that little extra energy that really got us going. Also, Andrew WK. I’ve got a bunch of new wrestlers on my ‘learn more about’ list, which is always a good thing. I haven’t heard anything about the show being on DVD, but they were recording so I would expect an announcement about that soon. If you’re in Chicago next time they run a show, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. Keep an eye on their Twitter @FreelanceWres and Facebook for future show dates.