Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Inspire Pro's No Turning Back Review

Thank you, Rachel
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle/Texas Anarchy
I'm going to go on record, right here at the top of the review, and claim that Inspire Pro Wrestling is the best independent wrestling company in the world (the United States IS the world, right?). I'm not stating my opinion on the matter, it is simply a fact. The first half of their shows before intermission are more action-packed, emotional, and just flat out fun than other promotion's entire shows. FACT (™ Tyson Kidd). There’s just something extra special about the XX shows that you don’t get on their regular ones (which are, themselves, already super exciting).

If I were doing one of the ring announcer, Brandon Stroud's, patented Best and Worst column for this show, it would be 99% Bests and possibly the most boring thing anyone would ever read. You’d just want me to show you video instead of prattling on about how great everything is. Sadly, I have no video to provide so all you got are my words.

Six-Man Elimination Match for a Special Prize: "JIGGLE-O" JAMES JOHNSON def. Void, Erik Ortiz, The Great Depression, Kyle Hawk, and "Mad Dog" Ken Johnson

This match was utter chaos, which is to be expected when nine people are involved. Nine people? I thought it was a six-man elimination match, you say? You would be correct. Six men entered the match for a chance to win a mystery prize, but things broke down rather quickly.

But first, all the smaller competitors traded dives to the floor, all the while The Great Depression watched. When everyone but Ken Johnson (an old man who carried a big ass chain) were out on the floor, TGD started to hop in place and everyone knew what was going to happen. He was going to FLY!!! Except Johnson stopped him with a clothesline, and from there, chaos reigned.

Two men who aided Jeff Gant in attacking "Unholy" Gregory James at CLASH AT THE BASH made their presence felt again, this time attacking Kyle Hawk after he was eliminated. Things escalated to the point of a conchaito being used. But Hawk wasn't the only person to get attacked.

A man the same size as The Great Depression got up from his seat in the crowd (earlier he had shouted to the man in charge, Biss, that "Ha! He got a ticket anyway!") and attacked him. It all occurred on the side of the ring I sat, so I could not tell you anything that was happening in the ring. After a pull apart brawl that seemed hard to keep the two men actually apart, everyone was ejected ("Mad Dog" was apart of the large man's crew apparently) and TGD and The Red Scare went chasing after them.

Somehow, it got down to Void and "Jiggle-O," with Johnson picking up the win. The big question was: who is under the mask? The two previous times we saw Void, it turned out to be "One Man" Mike Dell and "Centerfold" Matthew Palmer. This time? The New Movement member, Cherry Ramone.

The prize? Well, that was revealed via VCR. It was like being back in high school when the class were going to watch videos. Someone wheeled in a TV and VCR on a cart from the library or AV Club. In this instance, Keith Lee and Delilah Doom did the honors, and via the VHS tape, Chris Trew announced that the prize was none other than a contract with The New Movement.

If you'll recall, at CLASH AT THE BASH, Trew held a battle royal to determine a new member, and Johnson opted to eliminate himself rather than join. (Lee won.) But now he was contractually obligated to be a member, which he was not particularly pleased with. Chris Trew is assembling quite the eclectic mix of talent and it's kinda really great.

Now some real talk about The Great Depression. I have no idea what they are planning with him or what they have been doing the last several months, but he's lost a bit of his luster. He was a brilliant character at the start, sitting in random seats in the crowd, being the only person to check out Paige Turner's book sale, cherishing the book she gave him as a gift, coming out to his old timey music. He was just adorable. And unstoppable. But since they've added The Red Scare, I haven't a clue what they are doing. Hopefully they can bring him back to what he was. His teasing of diving to the floor was a great start back in that direction.

ATHENA def. Kat Green

Here's what I know about Kat Green: ...

I know she accompanied a couple wrestlers to the ring on one of the first shows, and then at the first XX show she was getting torn apart in a three-on-one situation by Paige Turner and the Bookmarks before getting saved by Serena Mercury, who helped her win the match. As for Athena, well, she's just awesome. So, I wasn't sure what to expect, but what we got was the best XX match since Inspire's inception. Everything was nice and crisp and executed beautifully.

My only, very minor, complaint is the finish. Athena hit the O-Face, but Green tumbled to the floor. Athena had taken a lot of punishment beforehand, so she wasn't able to capitalize. Even though I typically hate count out finishes, in this instance I believe it would have been perfectly acceptable. Plus, it would have left things open for a rematch that both women would want due to the unsatisfactory ending. But as it was, Green kicked out once things got back in the ring, but found herself in a submission she could not escape.

Just a wonderful match that showed that the women are more than capable of performing at the same level as the men. I know we all know that to be true, but a lot of places just say it, Inspire Pro shows you.

HOLLYWOOD KNIVES (STEVO RENO and BRADLEY AXEL DAWSON) def. Steele Money Industries (Kenny Steele and Payday)

Poor Bradley Axel Dawson, but more so poor Stevo for having to team with him. In each of their first two matches, Dawson has managed to get incapacitated, leaving Stevo to fight (and win) on his own. Stevo tried to take extra precaution, not even letting fans even high-five Dawson. That was all for naught as Dawson took the mic and said he was going to give Stevo the night off and began the match.

After a couple of simple moves that he celebrated way to enthusiastically, Payday turned the tide and Dawson immediately tagged out. It wasn't long after that Stevo was knocked into Dawson, sending him off the apron and to lie on the floor for awhile. Someone may want to get Dawson's head examined. He is clearly susceptible to trauma and could have some serious concussion-related issues.

But Stevo, once again, did not need the help (although I'm sure he would have liked some), picking up the W for his team. Afterwards, Dawson celebrated like he has just won a good medal, leaping into the air like an excited gymnast. Stevo was less than pleased.

I'm enjoying the hell out of the Hollywood Knives. Steve gets to look like a world-beater, which is great to see, and gets to play the rare straight man since he's almost always been the comic relief. We'll see how long he puts up with his ineffectual partner, as he was clearly angry post-match.

Only minor issue I would possibly have is that he's beating teams by himself, which is usually never so good, but with the lack of Tag Team Titles, it's not something to be overly concerned about. Hopefully we get some soon, though, or at least can bring in the NWA Tag Team Champs to give these teams a shot.

DELILAH DOOM def. Solo Darling

This was dubbed possibly "the most important match in the history of wrestling." It was definitely the nicest, most colorful match. I mean, the match did start with Doom and Darling hugging it out. As a match, it wasn't much and ended randomly out of nowhere, but it was quite fun. Both ladies just look like they're having the time of their lives.

This was also "Jiggle-O's" first assignment since winning a spot in The New Movement, joining Cherry Ramone in accompanying Doom to the ring. Not too much happened, but they were enjoyable at ringside. I paid more attention to them, to be honest, because they were blocking my view for the majority of the match.

KEITH LEE destroyed Matt Riot

If I'm being completely honest, this was my absolute favorite match of the night and it's not even close. This was nothing more than a glorified squash, but man oh man was it amazing. Matt Riot was the perfect opponent for Lee's first match.

See, at the last event, Lee arrived to the Chris Battle Royal late and Riot, in all his infamous wisdom, decided to be the man to greet him... by jumping over the top rope and into the waiting arms of Lee, who had yet to actually enter the ring, thus effectively eliminating himself (after Lee dumped his body).

Quick side note. Lee was not bad on the mic at all. In the match, he was... well, my words will not be able to do his power justice. Riot put up a good fight, but he didn't stand a chance, especially with Cherry Ramone at ringside. He didn't need to help, but the moment Riot started to gain some momentum, Lee trtipped him  up. "Jiggle-O" was also there and tried to trip Lee, but was merely dragged into the ring instead. Now why would he trip his own stablemate? "I'm new at this! I like grabbing feet!" was Johnson's answer.

In the end though, a MASSIVE Last Ride style sitdown powerbomb (that bounced Riot a good foot off the mat and thankfully did not break the canvas) and a delayed brainbuster sealed the deal for Lee in his first singles match.

Gotta say, he was an excellent pickup by Chris Trew. I could see him battling for the Inspire Pro Championship. I know I would like to see him maul Mike Dell.

GABE ROACH def. Thomas Shire

If there's one thing I'm over it's authority figures having feuds with the talent. Unless Gregory Symonds is going to come out of retirement (which I assume is the point), it's a fruitless endeavor. It also makes things slightly confusing, as later in the night, Biss (one of the owners) told Sammy Guevara that Inspire Pro wasn't going to put up with his drama. So, if that's the case, why are they cool with Symonds having beef with Scot Summers and even physically helping Roach defeat Shire? It's one of the rare story inconsistencies within the promotion.

As for the match, it honestly wasn't much, with some good mat wrestling before Roach got Shire in a guillotine choke and Symonds held down his legs, allowing Shire to pass out. This could have been a really good, mat-based, submission-laden match, but sometimes story has to come first.

Rachel Summerlyn's Retirement

This will not be a gushing post about what Summerlyn meant to women's wrestling or wrestling in general because she was out of wrestling (or at least out of ACW) by the time I began taking notice of the Austin wrestling scene. But I've heard great things about her and it's sad to see anyone retire, especially someone who meant so much to so many people. Luckily, she's in a position to still help behind the scenes in Inspire. Outside of being a moment to thank Summerlyn for all she's done, it allowed Paige Turner and her Bookmarks to come out and ask, "Who are you again?" That brought out Jessica James, who cut one hell of a promo. I don't think I'd ever heard her say so much before, but it got me fired up for a match I wasn't particularly interested in beforehand.

JESSICA JAMES def. KC Warfield and Miss Diss Lexia

I witnessed one of the scariest moments ever as a fan, and it happened literally right in front of me. It was a triple threat match, but of course the Bookmarks were going to work together. So they each went for a test of strength with Jessica at the same time. Naturally, they overpowered her, backing James into the corner. She did the only thing she could do and climbed the turnbuckles and Old School walked along the ropes.

Now, I'm not completely sure what the plan was, but it seemed as if she was just going to drop down off the ropes and snap their arms across the top rope, but disaster struck. I'm not sure if she wanted to drop all the way to the floor and her foot hit the apron on the way down, someone held on too long, or if someone let go too soon. No idea. Only thing I know is that James landed flat on the concrete floor with a hideously loud thud. It was legit the scariest thing I've seen in person. It's probably time they invest in some ringside mats to soften the blow a little.

Yet, miraculously, James managed to get up and complete the match, still taking bumps on her back and everything. Personally, I think they should have called an audible and just has James truck them, but they prolonged it, although James was still the victor (and advanced in the XX Division Championship Tournament). After the match, things got heated with Summerlyn again (she stayed at ringside), she swung James by the arms, causing her to kick Warfield in the face, effectively sending the Bookmarks to the back.

From what little I know, James seemed to be alright. She was up walking around and at the merch table later, so hopefully she's fine and just had the wind knocked out of her. All I know is that she is 100% tougher than I am. I would have called it a career after that fall.

J-Crown Championship: SAMMY GUEVARA (c) def. Erik Shadows

Sammy Guevara, if no one is familiar, is one of the most naturally gifted wrestlers I have ever seen. His problem is that he has a shit attitude. But, man, is he a phenomenal performer. And Erik Shadows is not slouch himself. These two guys flew all over the place.

One note, there seemed to be a lot of new people in our section, because when these guys came outside (and it was really the first time all night someone truly had), they did not move out of the way. The number one rule, at least in Central Texas, if the wrestlers find themselves outside the ring, you gotta move your asses. This is only really troubling if you're stuck in the middle of the row, like my wife and I were. Thankfully, they were just teasing on our side. The other one was less fortunate.

There truly isn't too much to say, cause words will never be able to accurately describe the beauty of the match. Before the match, however, some fans tossed some Happy Birthday streamers in honor's of Guevara's upcoming Name Day. There were also balloons on sticks, which he popped. The true fireworks happened after the match. Before it, Stroud said he was not to give a live microphone to Guevara on account of him using his mic time to burn bridges with other promotions. So, after Guevara retained his J-Crown, we got a surprise appearance from Biss.

If you'll remember from earlier, I mentioned the people behind the scenes getting involved, this was another instance of it. Biss called out Guevara for running down other companies and that, despite being the best raw athlete since ACH, his attitude was shit. So, he laid it on the line, saying Guevara needed to either leave his drama at the door or get his ass to walking. And with that, Biss turned his back.

"The Best Ever" waited until Biss was heading through the ropes to attack. Clearly, the man is an idiot. Too young and talented to be burning so many bridges. Don't be Teddy Hart. This led to several people hitting the ring to try and control the mayhem, but Guevara would not stop attacking.

That's when the fans began to chant, "THOMAS! THOMAS!" If you'll recall, Thomas Munos was a referee who was fired by Inspire Pro at the behest of Guevara. That hasn't stopped him from attending as a fan. And it was good he was there, because he speared Guevara on the floor to put an end to the madness.

My only real issue here is the same I had with the other one, only this one has no match outcome when it comes to Biss. He gave Sammy the choice, and he chose to be his usual little shithead self. So, how do you go back on that? If they let Guevara return, him holding the J-Crown or not, what's to stop anyone else from pulling the same stuff? The only option I see, is one match with Thomas, cause there has to be at least some match to come out of it all, or just not use Guevara anymore.

That would be a shame, though, as he is someone you would want on your show. Some headaches you can just learn to deal with. He might have been worth it.

Brandon Stroud vs. "THE American Psycho" Lance Hoyt

Speaking of storylines that likely won't have an in-ring payoff, we come to the ring announcer versus the giant, murderous wrestler. When I was writing the preview for this show, I had a bit about how there didn't seem to be a logical conclusion to this ongoing situation. If there couldn't be a match, what was the point? I have come to soften on that point, because does there need to be? It is quite clear that Stroud cannot take Hoyt in a physical confrontation and it seems unlikely that Hoyt would want to have a battle of wits or checkers or something. He wants to rip Stroud's head right off his shoulders.

Fortunately for Stroud, Hoyt was in Japan competing in New Japan's G1 Climax. That did not prevent our favorite ring announcer from sending Hoyt a message. Brandon said he only had a few options, he could continue to let Hoyt bully him, spit in his face, and whatever else he wanted to do, or he could let Hoyt destroy him to get it out of his system. Fighting never seemed to be an option.

He told Hoyt that he would be in the ring on August 31st, then again in October and November, so he wouldn't be hard to find. We'll see if Hoyt shows and if he does, what he has in store. My hope, as crazy as it is, is for Stroud to have a wrestler champion for him, and to become his manager. He could be the face version of Bobby Heenan. Hoyt's role would be the Hulk Hogan of this scenario, having to battle Stroud's "family." Not sure how that would work with the alignment shifts, but I'd be intrigued.

"CENTERFOLD" MATTHEW PALMER def. "The Texas Lion" Carson

We got ourselves a first time matchup! Pretty crazy that these two men had never faced each other. I really enjoy both of these guys, but I was honestly kind of spent at this point. I needed a match to mentally check out on and unfortunately it happened to be this one.

That was until Palmer attempted to dive out of the ring and onto Carson, who stood on the catwalk entrance, but ate the sole of Carson's super kicking boot instead ala Shawn Michaels and Shelton Benjamin. It really should have been the finish. Instead, they dragged it out a bit longer and Palmer picked up the win following three or four elbow drops from the top. A strange end, but a solid matchup. After the match, Palmer begrudgingly shook Carson's hand.

LEVA BATES def. Paige Turner

Paige Turner is an evil librarian and she has her followers called "The Bookmarks." So, why exactly would they rip up comic books? Those can be very useful in teaching kids (or adults) how to read. They're fun and engaging in a way books aren't for some people. All it did was rile up Leva Bates (cosplaying as Catwoman) and cost them the match. It was another example of Turner and her pals not doing their homework or research, as James accused them of not doing when they were ignorant of Rachel Summerlyn. Let's not Damien Sandow these women. This also happened to be one of Turner's better matches. I've gone on record as saying her in-ring work hadn't matched up with her gimmick yet, but she's been showing some improvement of late.

NWA World Women's Championship: BARBI HAYDEN def. Mia Yim

Main Event time! Barbi Hayden was headlining the XX Division for the second time while also defending the NWA World Women's Champion. But instead of me prattling on anymore, I’m going to let my beautiful and talented wife, Sam, have her say:

I decided I wanted to become a wrestler after seeing Barbi Hayden for the very first time.

My experience with wrestling was limited to WWE back in the late '90s and then again when I started watching with my husband within the last couple of years. What made Hayden stand out was that she was so unlike the (admittedly few) women wrestlers I had been exposed to. She was just so talented. She was strong! She wrestled the guys! She didn’t just stand in the ring being pretty. She was there for a purpose, and that purpose was to kick as much ass as possible.

To me, she represented the type of women wrestlers I wanted to see and be. She has true talent and is athletic. This wasn’t a model-turned-wrestler like so many in the WWE. She was a real woman, with a real passion for the business, and it showed in her matches.

I was really excited for her matchup with Mia Yim, whom I had heard nothing but good things about, so I knew these women could meet, and surpass, the expectations that come from being in the main event. Now, may be biased, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Hayden have a “bad” match. So, I was not surprised that this one was awesome. There wasn’t a single boring moment.

And did I mention that I got a high-five from Hayden in the middle of the match because I was wearing her #AlwaysWinning t-shirt? No? Well, that happened. It’s OK to be jealous.

Both of these women are very talented and were deserving of their spot on the show. I’m just glad that there’s a place like Inspire Pro that gives the women the opportunities that they so seldom get elsewhere.


After every show it seems like I’m saying that it was the best show Inspire Pro has put on yet. It’s completely true, though. Each show is able to build upon the previous one(s), add new dimensions to stories, and create lasting memories. They’re simply fantastic.

What I find most amazing is the midcard, as there are so many interesting characters and stories, almost more so than the main event scene. I haven’t been shy about my opinion on Mike Dell as the Inspire Pro Champion, so I may be more inclined to like things not involving him. But I feel it’s true. They have a richly drawn undercard that may be unmatched anywhere else. Sure, places like WWE have the most talented midcard, but they don’t use them correctly, or if they do it’s almost by accident.

There is a purpose to everything that happens in Inspire Pro and it just makes you anxious for the days and weeks to fly by so that you can go to the next show. I know a lot of people travel for promotions like Chikara, but if you want something that’s different than anything else you’re going to get anywhere and different than Chikara (everything is though), the trip to Austin would be worth it. Plus, it’s an amazing town, so you’ll have plenty to do outside the wrestling.

Next month, on August 31st, Inspire Pro returns (I have yet to hear what the show name is) with a HUGE main event for the Inspire Pro Championship. “One Man” Mike Dell defends against Ray “Death” Rowe. Hopefully this is the time Dell drops the gold, but I have my doubts. It’s being built around the fact that Dell has never beaten Rowe, so that usually only has one outcome. But I’ll be sitting in the second row, on the edge of my seat regardless. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

(I want to plug a couple of people, who do AMAZING photos of these events. Joel Loeschman does amazing work in black and white and can be found on Twitter @JoelLoeschman. And Kelly Kyle, who provided the header shot, can be found @KellyKylePhoto.)