Monday, August 4, 2014

Something Old, Something New, Something HOLY SHIT: Inspire Pro In Their Blood Review

Portia Perez stares the NWA Women's Champion down
Photo Credit: Joel Loeschman
In the TH Style. I highly recommend you buy the DVD from Smart Mark. Or get the video-on-demand.

  • Matthew Palmer, with some help from his hired muscle Franco D'Angelo, defeated "Jiggle-O" James Johnson with Tiger Driver '98.
  • A tag match turned into a three-on-one beatdown which turned into a three-on-two handicap match. The end result saw Kat Green roll up her original partner KC Warfield to get the win for her and Serena Mercury against the Book Marks.
  • Despite partner Bradley Dawson being knocked out for nearly the entire match, Steve took advantage of discord between his opponents to get the win over Jodan (and Erik Shadows) with the Blue Thunder Bomb.
  • Chris announced Delilah Doom as the latest member of his New Movement of Pro Wrestling, but not even his glorious leadership could give her much a chance against Jessica James. The returning James tapped Doom with a cross armbreaker.
  • Jojo Bravo rolled through a Tadasuke powerbomb and pinned him with a leg cradle combination.
  • Carson took out "Unholy" Gregory James with a superkick.
  • Athena stamped her ticket to the XX Division Championship match with a flubby ending against Veda Scott.
  • In a ladder match for the J-Crown, Sammy Guevara captured the title by climbing over a Ricky Starks who had Barrett Brown on his back while climbing the ladder.
  • The Great Depression defeated Honkey Kong with a DDT after Kong knocked down The Red Scare.
  • Tony Brooklyn came out before the main event and welcomed Inspire Pro Wrestling into the National Wrestling Alliance.
  • Barbi Hayden retained the NWA Women's Championship with an alligator clutch over Portia Perez.

General Observations:
  • An overall note, I really liked the aesthetic of the graphics. It also was well-shot, or at least uniquely shot. I like the differentiation from other indies. It felt like an indie documentary, and outside of a few poorly-timed pans away from the action, I thought it gave me everything I needed to see.
  • Matthew Palmer kicked off the show by demanding a shot at Mike Dell's Inspire Pro Championship, which brought out Inspire Pro Head Bee Guy Greg Symonds, who told him to wait his turn after Ray Rowe. To be honest, I've seen scant little of Rowe or Dell, but I do like Palmer a whole ton, so I want him to get a title shot by default.
  • For a dude whose nickname is "Jiggle-O," James Johnson does one sweet tope con hilo.
  • It was nice to have a veteran color commentator in there with Eamon Paton in Portia Perez. To be honest, while her pairing with Dave Prazak in SHIMMER has grown on me, I thought she had better chemistry with Paton in this booth. Alas, she could only stay the first two matches, but her replacements (Johnson himself, Jojo Bravo, Andy Dalton, Rachel Summerlyn) were all capable in their own rights.
  • Franco D'Angelo (and Samantha Anne) was involved heavily in the match, but none as impressively as when he just sat on the top turnbuckle and let Palmer climb his shoulders for a compound press (which he missed, for the record).
  • Right before Johnson did the "Roman Reigns leap from the floor to kick a dude hanging between the ropes" thing, he shouted "EAT IT, PRETTY BOY!" That kind of shit-talking earns you BIG points with me.
  • After the match, D'Angelo and Palmer decided to continue beating on Johnson a bit more until the American Eagle made the save. He then ran down a list of "Unamerican" things that D'Angelo was accused of, including riverboat gambling and illegal dog-fighting. I think I'm in love.
  • Paige Turner and Miss Diss Lexia teamed together as The Book Marks to face Kat Green and... well, that was awkward. KC Warfield was supposed to be Green's partner, but she came out and clocked her would-be partner from behind while wearing an argyle sweater vest. The Book Marks became a trio.
  • The match itself felt like a slogging, sloppy mess for the most part, which I blame on the confusion of executing the turn. I get why it had to happen, but even when Serena Mercury came out to improve Green's odds, the chaos didn't really subside all too much. This match was the only one that I thought was hurt by the shooting style.
  • The Hollywood Knives, Bradley Dawson and Steve, came out wearing oversized novelty sunglasses and pharaoh headdresses. This show certainly threw a whole bunch of characters at me to love early on, didn't it?
  • Jodan clocked Dawson with a chain, much to the chagrin of his honorable partner, Erik Shadows, and Dawson laid on the apron for about 75% of the match. Seriously, dedication to the act right there.
  • At one point in the match, Jodan locked Steve in the rocking horse stretch, and Steve looked like an extension of his penis.

    Too much?
  • Overall, this match had a lot of things to love, whether it be the utter helplessness of Steve trying to wake up Dawson, the tension between Shadows and Jodan, or Steve's King Leonidas fight-in-the-face-of-certain-demise act that he played up super effectively.
  • Honestly, I could listen to Chris Trew read the phone book and be enthralled. Of course, after every fourth entry, he'd have to remind everyone to focus up, but that's his thing, and I don't begrudge him it.
  • Jessica James worked this match like she was some kind of golem, but given how Delilah Doom was very much a rookie and James having just gotten back from Japan, I thought it was a great story to tell. I hope this match gets revisited a year or so down the line, especially if Doom's focus (UP!) is to get back at her. This story definitely could be the Inspire XX Division version of Mike Quackenbush vs. Green Ant.
  • The Jojo Bravo/Tadasuke match was billed as a "battle with honor and humanity." That title made me chuckle.
  • Andy Dalton remarked on commentary whether Bravo was worthy of getting streamers or not since he'd not been to Japan yet. Sounded like someone was just a bit jealous that the crowd recognized the heaviest sumo in the land no matter where in the world he'd traveled...
  • Bravo's early fire was hot hot HAWT, but I loved how Tadasuke squelched it by smashing his face on the apron and kicking him to the apron. Bravo dropped to the floor like he was drunk on right crosses and jabs too. It was a brilliant sequence all-around.
  • Tadasuke cleared out rows while dragging Bravo behind him like he was going to do a move on some chairs, but after making everyone in the front row on all four sides get up, he just tossed his prey back into the ring. The crowd then cheered for him. I swear, wrestling fans may be the only people on planet Earth who like being trolled.
  • Bravo at one point was dumping punches into Tadasuke's gut, which was summarily shrugged off and answered with a Mongolian chop. The way Tadasuke held his abs in tight and contorted his face made him seem like he was magically absorbing the energy from those punches before throwing back some kind of counterreaction. It was a sublime bit of character work that made a spot that could have failed in lesser hands come off brilliantly.
  • My one big beef with this match was that Bravo built around trying to hit a shiranui, and when he did get it, Tadasuke kicked out. Maybe it's my personal preference, but if you build towards a big move like that, it shouldn't lead to an anticlimactic kickout.
  • Gregory James was once billed as "Too Much Metal." Now, he's got King Diamond facepaint and parades around like he should be in a hard-rockin' band. I guess that's what happens when "Too Much Metal" is left to fester without any kind of treatment...

  • James put his trolling shoes on by looking like he was going to launch onto Carson with a plancha before sliding underneath the ropes at the last minute and just laying the lumber down on him. James actually busted his ass during this match, both with his facial expressions and crowd work, and his big cheapshot offense. Dude looked like he could be an elite worker sooner rather than later.
  • I understand everything's relative, but how's a hossy motherfucker like Carson gonna have a superkick finish? Throw some weight around, big guy, c'mon!
  • Poor Angelus Layne broke both her wrists three days before this show was going to happen, but truth be told, I'm not sure how much she would have added to the Veda Scott/Athena match. Nothing against Layne, who is a good up-and-comer, but I generally have a predilection against three-way matches.
  • Scott got tangled up in the streamers before the match, which played into her bookish lawyer persona perfectly.
  • Even though the story they tried to tell was extremely high-concept, Scott and Athena could never get into sync with each other. Something just felt off about the entire match, even up to the point of the finish, where everything went pear-shaped and even the ref and Scott were not on the same page. I can't blame anyone in the aftermath, since Scott was actually legitimately shaken up.
  • Thankfully, her injury wasn't that serious, as she kicked away the refs and Rachel Summerlyn and crawled away like she didn't even want medical aid.
  • Sammy Guevara came out first for the J-Crown ladder match, stepped under the ladder twice, and demanded that the current official, Meatloaf (not the singer, just another dude named Meatloaf), be sent to the back for the senior referee. Great way to establish a heel on an indie scene where it's hard to develop real bad guys.
  • Right at the bell, Barrett Brown went HARD on Guevara, while Ricky Starks bailed to grab a ladder. Starks set said ladder up in the corner, on top of the actual top turnbuckle with the top facing outward. He grabbed Guevara and tried to whip him into it, but Guevara slid down, ran out, reversed and sent Starks chest first into the ladder. It was the first of MANY big bumps during this match.
  • The big theme throughout the contest saw Brown and Starks team up to take it to Guevara, who to this point in the company had seemingly taken on the gimmick of making no friends whatsoever.
  • Starks and Brown on the outside whipped Guevara into the apron in front of a ladder, but Guevara darted up that ladder and leaped onto the bigger one he had set up earlier in the match. He then quickly moonsaulted FROM THE LADDER IN THE RING to the floor. Jaw was dropped.
  • A lot of the match was spent setting up ladder altars of varying providence. Guevara set the green ladder up between the ring ropes and the big yellow ladder, which set up Starks double-stomping a prone Guevara on top of it from the top rope and a DDT to the mat from atop that altar. Starks set up an altar with all three ladders folded up and one across the other two, which led to some interesting bumps. On one hand, the setup of those contraptions took something away from the match, but on the other, the bumps taken from them were impressive.
  • The finish of the match came off as super-creative. Starks started climbing the ladder, only to have Brown jump up on his back in an attempt to slow him down or reach over him. unbeknownst to the both of them, Guevara deftly climbed over both of them to grab the bag with the actual crown inside of it.
  • Oh yeah, the J-Crown is a literal CROWN. I don't know about you, but I love that it's just not another fucking belt. If you can be different, then be different.
  • After the match, Guevara went on the mic and pretty much shit all over River City Wrestling, announcing he was quitting and bailing on his next booking there. I don't know if that was planned or not, but yeah, of all the Central Texas wrestlers one could emulate in terms of promo strategy, Jaykus Plisken wouldn't even be in my top fucking 1000.
  • How do you follow an insane three-way ladder match? WITH HONKEY KONG. Seriously, Honkey Kong, a white Kamala port with a collar and tie. I don't know whether he was super ironic or super dumb, but I lost myself in his entrance.
  • The match itself with The Great Depression wasn't so much a match as it was a continuance for the Depression/Red Scare angle.
  • Before the main event, Tony Brooklyn came out and cut this big long spiel welcoming Inspire Pro into the NWA, followed by Justin Bissonnette remarking about the whole thing. I felt it lasted a tad too long, but then again, it was probably needed to help get the crowd ready for said main event.
  • The layout of the main event was bold after the feeling out process. I wasn't sure how the crowd would react to a double heat/both wrestlers working heel, but they were raucous and went into a dueling chant, which I guess was the desired reaction.
  • More than a few moves in this match were worth noting, but the most impressive was Barbi Hayden's corner head scissor DDT thing she did. Everything, from the delay in the corner where she laid out like a model to the snap on impact, made it pop as a great signature spot.
  • After the match, Hayden offered her hand to Portia Perez, who just sneered at her and walked away. If that was to set up a future encounter, then I am all for it. That main event made me want more.

Match of the Night: Barbi Hayden (c) vs. Portia Perez, NWA Women's Championship Match - Before the match began, Inspire Pro Wrestling was welcomed with open arms into the National Wrestling Alliance. Whatever opinions one may have of the oldest governing body in wrestling, the name connotes certain feelings of nostalgia for a simpler time. Perez and Hayden followed the announcement with a match that hearkened back to the days of Flair and Steamboat and Race and Rhodes on a card where three dudes legitimately tried to kill each other with ladders. It seemed by design that the NWA Women's Championship match was made to feel like an old school main event at the Kiel Center, the Sportatorium, or the Greensboro Coliseum.

The contest had a mat wrestling oeuvre going on early, neither competitor ready to cede the advantage. It had pin attempts, armdrags, hammerlocks, standing breaks, and even a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. But then the match moved into the heat segments, and neither woman seemed to want to take the role of babyface. Perez's heeling felt subtle. She was aggressive to the corner, unrelenting on whips, and basically clinging to Hayden like a tick on an especially juicy vein. But then Hayden took the offensive, and her preening, posing, and general cocky attitude and instantly, Perez started to become sympathetic. Hayden has such a natural showboating flair that when she bursts out with her mean streak, it's jarring. The best example came when she had Perez locked in a dragon sleeper late in the match, peacocked for the crowd, and then started raining elbows on her midsection like a hurricane battering a flimsy Cape shore.

The match went into its third act, and despite the lack of high spots, the biggest one being a Paige Turner (not to be confused with Paige Turner the wrestler) counter after a missed lariat, the action felt as tense as any on the card. The pin flurry that started out with a schoolboy rollup into a reversal back into a schoolboy was reminiscent of days of yore, while the adrenaline-fueled no-sell of Perez's superkick into one last-gasp LARIATO added a modern twist. The finish saw Hayden beautifully counter a sunset flip into an alligator clutch, and my love for the match was sealed. I don't want to turn this writeup into rabbling against the current climate of excess within the indies, but these two wrestlers proved that something with the spirit of the old NWA can still capture hearts and minds in 2014 and beyond.

Overall Thoughts: The first show that heavily featured the XX Division in Inspire Pro was not without flaws. The qualifying match for the division's maiden Champion was down a competitor and had an impromptu finish thanks to a sudden and fortunately minor injury to another. The first branded match in the division felt thrown together and a bit sloppy. However, the overall flow was strong, and it was capped off by an amazing main event that appropriately welcomed the future of Central Texas wrestling into the NWA. But even though the end of the show was about honoring tradition, it literally had something for everyone.

The foundations and continuations of stories were laid throughout the card. I know I threw a little shade at the Book Marks trios match earlier, but it was necessary to help develop both the most interesting and unique stable in wrestling and an opposition to it. The Jessica James/Delilah Doom match was a glorified squash, but it was one that was well-worked but more importantly set some things in motion for both competitors. The show had some modern, puroresu-influenced action with the Tadasuke/Jojo Bravo match. It had classic, character-driven arena-style bouts like Carson/Gregory James. And yes, it even had batshit crazy, no-regard-for-themselves spotfest action with the three-way ladder match.

Inspire Pro Wrestling may be the newest player on the block, both within the NWA and in Central Texas. It also may not have the formula completely down, but this show gave evidence that the promotion has all the ingredients in place. Some companies can't find footing with thrice the time open that Inspire has now, and the company's direction should only get stronger partnering with the NWA and getting its network of wrestlers flowing into the Marchesa Theater. You are going to want to get in on the ground floor with this company, and the best place to start is with In Their Blood.