Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Passion of the Stroud: Inspire Pro Clash at the Bash Video Review

Matthew Palmer gon' get it
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle/Texas Anarchy
In stunning, 1080p TH Style of review. Follow @InspireProWres on Twitter to find out when its entire catalog will be available for download/purchase on Amazon.

  • Thomas Shire utilized counters and leverage to get a cradle pin on Davey Vega in the first match
  • Late entry Keith Lee outlasted the rest of the field and won the Chris Trew Dot Biz Invitational Tournament for a spot in the New Movement.
  • Scotty Santiago reversed a running Air Raid Crash into a cradle pin on Mr. B, but B would have the last laugh afterwards, attacking his victorious opponent.
  • Both the Great Depression and the Red Scare were arrested the night before, so they forfeited their match against the Hollywood Knives.
  • As a replacement for the incarcerated team, Cherry Ramone and Delilah Doom of the New Movement stepped forward. However, despite Bradley Allen Davis being incapacitated for nearly the entire match, Steve-O Reno was able to tap out Ramone with a leg lace, thanks to some interference from Erik Shadows.
  • Carson defeated Cowboy James Claxton by getting up at the count of nine on a double countout in the ring.
  • In a no rules, no rope breaks match, "Showtime" Scot Summers got "Absolute" Ricky Starks to pass out in a crossface. After the match, Gabe Roach and Greg Symonds attacked Summers before Shire made the save.
  • Masada defeated "Unholy" Gregory James with a powerbomb into a jackknife pin combo. Afterwards, Jeff Gant and two new wrestlers assaulted James.
  • In a match to determine number one contendership for the Inspire Pro Championship, Ray Rowe defeated "Centerfold" Matthew Palmer with the Death Rowe.
  • Shawn Vexx could not make the show because of emergency obligations, so ACH filled in to tag with Jojo Bravo against the Nine Inch Males of Jordan Jensen and Dirty Andy Dalton. The match ended in a disqualification when Davey Vega ran in and turned on Bravo, joining JT LaMotta's group.
  • Franco D'Angelo reversed a leaping move attempt from the American Eagle into his hooked-leg spinebuster, the Silencer, for the win.
  • "One Man" Mike Dell reversed a Blackout attempt from Lance Hoyt into an elbow and added a top rope elbow drop for good measure to retain the Inspire Pro Championship.

General Observations:
  • The show started out with Penny Arcade, the manager of Red Scare and Great Depression, cutting a promo in French. Lisa Friedrich's facial expressions during her tirade made the whole intro segment. Friedrich showed why you need to get an actor/actress to play the role of backstage interviewer.
  • I didn't catch who played the National Anthem on guitar before the show, but I nearly had a heart attack when I thought it was the REAL Swamp Monster breaking kayfabe and revealing its identity.
  •  Friend of the blog and official Inspire Pro ring announcer Brandon Stroud came out in the spirit of the beach-themed event with bright orange shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Knowing him as a wrestling shirt-and-jeans wearing bloke, the super casual Friday look was pretty jarring.
  • The opening contest between Davey Vega and Thomas Shire started out with some clean mechanics and sportsmanship, but when they hit the outside, it kicked into another level. Shire using a streamer to get the drop on Vega was brilliant storytelling, and their strike trading on the outside felt visceral and stiff.
  • Shire does not move at all like a pro wrestler should. He's gangly and seems awkward, but in an odd way, he makes his stature work. It's weird.
  •  After the decision, Vega rebuked Shire's offer for sportsmanship, but later relented and shook his hand. Little did I know...
  • Chris Trew dot Biz cutting promos will never get old, even if he kinda does say the same thing in most of them. The art of the promo in wrestling is that one only has a limited purview of things to say, but the best men on the mic find ways to make you think they're saying something different each time. Trew didn't really say anything different than what he said last show before his own Invitational Battle Royale, but it left me rapt anyway.
  • "Jiggle-O" James Johnson was the first eliminated in the battle royale via self-immolation. He hopped over the top rope, strolled up the ramp leading to the ring, and flipped off Trew before heading to the back. I guess not everyone wants to be part of the New Movement, and that's perfectly okay.
  • Keith Lee wasn't introduced at first, but he came stalking in after coming into the Marchesa Theater through the bay door on the side. You know who else enters through that portal? THE FLOOD. KEITH LEE WANTS TO KILL CHIKARA!
  • In all seriousness though, Lee is just a hulking mammoth of a man with a working knowledge of how to use that heft. He looked like a Vince McMahon obsidian-special, only steroidal musculature hadn't totally robbed him of the ability to walk. The camera focused on him for most of the match, and for good reason.
  • Lee mouthed "YOU NEED ME" to Trew, whose eyes bugged out of his head the entire battle royale. Just as soon as Lee was finished gesturing to Trew, the bearded MANAGER OF THE DECADE ran into the ring and tossed the scrawny Erik Shadows. I mean, Lee probably didn't need help the way he was hossing shit, but I guess Trew needed to show a sign of good faith.
  • Cedric Valiant put up a, pun intended, valiant fight at the end, but he stood no chance. I mean, Lee powerbombed him so hard that he bounced a foot clear off the canvas. Dude was that impressive.
  • Talk about establishing a tone right away - Scotty Santiago stuck his hand out from the back curtain to fire up the crowd and came out with a beach ball that he tossed into the throng of fans. Mr. B came right out and told the fans to stick their streamers up their asses.
  • Early on in the match, Santiago wrangled B into a bow and arrow hold that he transitioned into a literal surfboard. He gets points for keeping in with the motif of the event.
  • Backstage, Friedrich talked to the New Movement, and again, Trew was holding court. Friedrich's eye-rolling, which is the appropriate in-character response to Trew for babyfaces and NPCs, was on point. Seriously, I can't compliment her gestures and facial expressions, as subtle as they are, enough.
  • So, the Red Dead Depression, the team of Red Scare and Great Depression, did not show up because they were arrested at a local bar the night before, which was why Penny Arcade was so skittish beforehand. The Hollywood Knives, who debuted at the previous show and won despite Bradley Axel Dawson being knocked out for the whole match, won by forfeit. Of course, that wouldn't last as Trew and his New Movement came out to fill in.
  • And of course, as with the last show, Dawson got knocked out again, this time from a massive shot from Lee, who patrolled the outside while Cherry Ramone and Delilah Doom wrestled in the ring.
  • Doom is perhaps the smallest competitor in Inspire Pro, but she's so good because she wrestles like it. She's not out there trying to outmuscle guys (or girls) orders of magnitude larger than her, but she's using leverage, speed, and the element of surprise to get the drop on dudes for offense. Whenever shit got too deep, she tagged out. Intergender wrestling doesn't mean everyone gets the gravitas Sara del Rey did. You wrestle how it makes sense best.
  • Ramone is probably the last dude who'd be considered a sex symbol in Inspire, but maybe that's why his obsession with twerking works so well.
  • Dawson remained knocked out even through Steve-O Reno's YUUUUGE comeback segment, but when all looked lost, hey, Erik Shadows came running back into the ring to exact revenge on Trew's goon squad for being spurned in the battle royale. Sometimes, the best thing to do is the simplest.
  • Wait, both Carson and James Claxton have themes done by Pantera? Seems like a QC issue.
  • Moment of silence and ten bell salute for Carson's recently passed father before the match was touching, but I'm not sure how I felt about Claxton using it to get the drop on Carson. On one hand, I'm not sure that's a bridge I'd cross, but on the other, they're all carnies and probably planned it as a coping mechanism. Either way, it got the crowd behind Carson, solidly.
  • Claxton at one point hocked a giant loogie to the linoleum floor, clearly a tribute to the time Mima Shimoda graced the Goodwill Fire Association's floor with her mucous saliva projectile.
  • The finish to this match confused me. The ref did the standing ten count for both guys while incapacitated in the ring. I always thought if one guy made it to his feet, the count was waved off, but Carson made his feet while Claxton didn't. The ref called for the bell. Has this ever happened before?
  • Carson cut a "Happy father's day" promo afterwards, and I swear, any tears in my eyes were due to dust in the room. I SAID I SWEAR.
  • Inspire Pro Chairman Greg Symonds and personal security Gabe Roach were at ringside for Scot Summers' World Class Championship defense against Ricky Starks, which I'm sure would not figure into any proceedings after the match whatsoever.
  • For as much as I know Summers as a legitimately insane hardcore brawler, but he and Starks went hard to the mat early and often. Their repartee was stiff and rough, which is how I like several things, including my matwork.
  • Starks got infinite cool points for working Summers' bushy beard during the beginning part of the match. Summers' reply - "HE PULLED MY BEARD, ASSHOLE!" - was just as classic.
  • Seriously, the submission work in this match was awesome, especially towards the end, when Summers was having trouble locking in holds because he was selling his hand. Some bigger-time wrestlers should probably watch these two and take some notes on how to sell and chain submissions together.
  • Post-match, Symonds got on the mic and told Summers to stop undermining his authority with the World Class Championship. When I started seeing Summers defending yet another belt in Inspire, I was a bit wary, but now everything makes sense within this story. Summers balked, and then both Symonds and Roach attacked him, with Thomas Shire making the save.
  • Masada got busted open super early in his match vs. Gregory James when all they were doing was opening mat work and feeling each other out. I don't know whether that was funny or sad, but then again, he just flew in from Delaware and CZW's Tournament of Death the day before this show...
  • James and Masada spent a good portion of the match on the outside brawling each other, which was a good way of establishing a hardcore, rough-and-tumble atmosphere without actually breaking out weapons. That being said, it felt too janky with how awkwardly they changed from trading holds to brawling with no really good transitions. Also, James just kept telegraphing things.
  • After the match, Jeff Gant, whom James kicked out of his occult group earlier in the year, came out with two unfamiliar looking wrestlers to assault James.
  •  Franco D'Angelo got tossed super early in the Matthew Palmer/Ray Rowe match, which I actually appreciated given how super cool the match was. Sometimes shenanigans work, but sometimes, all I want to see is a rad-ass wrestling match.
  • Proof #2187463 that I could never be a wrestler: I don't know if I could even work in the same company as my hypothetical ex-wife, let alone use our prior relationship in order to build heat for a staged wrestling match. The fact that Rowe and Samantha Anne actually could will always remain both uncomfortable yet impressive to me.
  • Palmer did all the little things right to elevate this match like grabbing the beard before corner-punching, or working over Rowe with the dragon sleeper while entangled in the ropes. He needs to leave Texas more often, because he'd be huge anywhere he goes.
  • Rowe got up for a busaiku knee? Of everything I saw during the match, that burly-ass mini-Vader looking dude getting that kind of mad air may have been the most impressive.
  • The finishing sequence saw an impressive chain of counters into Rowe's full-nelson-Go-2-Sleep-style kick to the back of the head called Death Rowe. IT was a nice cap to the best match on the card.
  • Stroud announced that Shawn Vexx would not make it to be Jojo Bravo's partner against the Nine Inch Males, and then Andy Dalton grabbed the mic and announced it was because Vexx was embroiled in a child support case. OH. SHIT.
  • Bravo showed effective and passionate babyface fire when he took on all three - Dalton, Jordan Jensen, and manager JT LaMotta - before his tag partner came out, who happened to be ACH. The roof came off the joint when his theme music played.
  • Seriously, as good as ACH is, he's special when he's wrestling in front of a rabid Texas crowd. HE is to Austin as Optimus Prime is to "The Touch" by Stan Bush.
  • Bravo is an absurdist wrestling fan's dream, because he's cruiserweight sized, but he believably pulls off the Heaviest Sumo in the Land shtick like he actually was plus-sized. Countering that Jensen powerbomb with a sumo hip press should have looked wrong, but it felt so right.
  • ACH did one of his signature sky high planchas to the outside, and my jaw dropped just the same as it did when I first saw him get MAD AIR TO THE OUTSIDE. He is an athletic freak of nature.
  • ACH pulled off LaMotta's finishing move right in front of him, which caused the manager to hop up on the apron and get ACH to chase him. While ACH took care of Jensen's attempted interference, LaMotta laid him out with a chair to set up the finishing sequence of the match...
  • ...oh hey, Davey Vega! Glad to see you out here to back up Brav... OH NO. Vega usually works so well as an elemental babyface in other settings that I'm interested to see how he'll play being a heel here, but he seems like he's up to the task.
  • That D'Angelo/American Eagle match looked like it could have been something if it wasn't the cooldown match between ACH's Texas return and the main event. Eagle is such an expressive performer, and D'Angelo played his role well too.
  • Lance Hoyt came out for the main event and immediately spat water in Stroud's face before backing him cowering into a corner. Jesus, what did Stroud ever do to Hoyt to make him so angry? Did he kick Hoyt's dog? 
  •  For whatever reason, Palmer, D'Angelo, and Samantha Anne were out during the main event. I wasn't really aware of their affiliations with Hoyt, but maybe it had something to do with Palmer's yen for the gold? Even more baffling, Carson and Claxton, who wrestled each other earlier in the card, came out in solidarity to clean houe.
  • Mike Dell solidly played the face during the match, but he bumped like a 1980s Memphis heel all over the place, which isn't exactly a bad thing. Hoyt for his part looked a billion times better than he did as Vance Archer in WWE.
  • Hoyt at one point walked over Dell's back while he was on the apron, which may sound not really that bad just reading it in one's mind, but watching it, man, it looked brutal. I'm a huge fan of simplistic brutality.
  • Post-match, Ray Rowe came out to say he was coming after Dell, which, spoiler alert, he's still waiting to do thanks to a motorcycle accident. One of the worst breaks in recent indie wrestling memory.

Match of the Night: Matthew Palmer vs. Ray Rowe - Wrestling is built on a contrast of styles. While HOSS FIGHTS or cruiserweight flip-fests can be prime theater, putting two guys from different backgrounds, different styles, or even different statures in the ring against each other can open more doors and bring out things in each wrestler that are not thought possible, or at least unlikely. But rare is the match where both wrestlers are just dialed into their roles so much that the result ends up as archetypical. Palmer and Rowe brought radically different styles to the ring, and yet they fit them together like interlocking pieces in the same jigsaw puzzle.

Palmer's attack was two-pronged, going for leverage-based takedowns and a little bit of high-flying dynamics that he has come to be known for, although given his alignment in Inspire, I understand why he relied more on the mat and his seconds outside the ring helping gain advantages. Nothing pops a crowd more than flippy shit, and Palmer needed to put Rowe over. Not that Rowe needed that much help anyway. He brought stiff intensity that reminded me of the mid-'90s All-Japan heavyweight scene. Given that Vader is one of the finest potato-vendors in history, comparing Rowe to the Mastodon is a supreme compliment.

With a sturdy base in place, the two were able to build spectacular-looking spots towards a taut, tense finish. The beats were both subtle and over the top in some spots. Examples of the former include Rowe pulling off a delay vertical suplex that he finished by stepping on the bottom turnbuckle for extra oomph. The latter saw Palmer wrangling Rowe in the ropes with a dragon sleeper, with a sadistic grin on his face that not only sold Rowe being in distress but set a tone for what Palmer was to bring to the table. Even though he didn't win, the Centerfold came out of the match looking like a worthy contender down the line for Rowe should he take home the Inspire Pro Championship.

Overall Thoughts: Inspire Pro's first anniversary show left surprisingly little to be desired. Even the best-laid companies can find trouble gaining a foothold or an identity in a year. One could argue that Gabe Sapolsky is still trying to find his niche with EVOLVE, and that company's been open for nearly five years with a national reputation and the pick of any indie wrestler who hasn't been grasped by the oily tentacles of Ring of Honor in their pissing match. Inspire Pro has to work in a similarly contentious environment with far fewer wrestlers to pick from, and yet in a year, it has laid foundations for several stories, built up a Champion and several challengers for him, and even brought a strong women's division back to Texas without the degradation other companies have allowed to creep in their ranks.

Clash at the Bash was chock full of story development. While nothing was really resolved in terms of feuds, the wheels turned, new beginnings were made, and battles between bitter rivals reached climactic points. The show had no shortage of moments. ACH returning to Texas alone would be worth watching the video, but for as exciting as his comeback to Inspire Pro was, the dastardly and shocking turn to the dark side by Davey Vega was equally impactful. Keith Lee's introduction as the newest member of the New Movement was a debut worth the hype, and Chris Trew could spend hours holding court on the microphone, and it would be entertaining. Little things stood out as well, from Lisa Friedrich's facial expressions to mini-arc of Erik Shadows and Trew entangling with each other (in addition to the continuation of his story from the previous show with Jodan).

But for an independent wrestling show to stand out, story cannot be enough. Wrestling is the draw, and Clash at the Bash had at least three outstanding matches on the undercard before a solid main event took everyone home. ACH's return tag match, Rowe/Palmer, and Summers/Starks all could have main evented the show and in terms of in-ring quality not batted any eyelashes. Granted, ACH and Jojo Bravo getting the screws put to them wouldn't have sent the crowd home happy, but that's why their position on the card was important.

All in all, Inspire Pro Wrestling continues to be a promotion to follow, even if that means having to watch all-around good dude and ring announcer Brandon Stroud cower for his life whenever Lance Hoyt is around. Seriously, of all the stories that were progressed, Hoyt's beef with Stroud is the one that I'm most intrigued by. Why does Hoyt hate Stroud? Does he even have a reason? How can this story end with Hoyt getting his comeuppance from someone who has minimal training and is presented as a NPC? The true test for the company going forward will be how it can weave this trope into a payoff, but nothing I've seen so far dissuades me from believing that when that fireworks factory is encountered, the night sky will be lit up pretty brightly.