Friday, January 2, 2015

Preview: Inspire Pro Wrestling's Ecstacy of Gold II

Graphics Credit: Inspire Pro
Hello everyone, I have returned with another Inspire Pro preview. Are you a new reader to The Wrestling Blog and not know what Inspire Pro Wrestling is? Well, are you in for a treat! Maybe not so much for my writing, but definitely for the product that I write about. It’s only the very best independent wrestling company in the world (in my humble opinion)... actually, scratch that. It doesn’t need the “independent” qualifier. It’s simply THE BEST wrestling you’re going to find in any part of the globe and it’s based in Austin, TX.

On January 4, it will return to the Marchesa Theater for the first time since October’s BATTLE WARS, a cross-promotional show with Chikara. It will be the first Inspire Pro”show since the three-day FUN FUN FUN FEST in November, which was an outdoor music/comedy/BMX/skateboard/wrestling/good-times-having festival.

The show is going to have some stiff competition, too, as New Japan Pro Wrestling will be holding Wrestle Kingdom 9 inside the Tokyo Dome that very day (albeit it at 2am CST), but I would put Inspire Pro’s in-ring action up against anything NJPW has to offer, even if it is its signature event with tons of big bouts scheduled. Inspire Pro has several big bouts of their own booked, just as it does every single time it holds a show.

Let’s take a gander, shall we?

INSPIRE PRO CHAMPIONSHIP: “Dirty” Andy Dalton (c) vs “Centerfold” Matthew Palmer

At September’s RELENTLESS show, the inaugural Inspire Pro Champion “One Man” Mike Dell was scheduled to face Ray “Death” Rowe. But an unfortunate motorcycle accident put Rowe out of action indefinitely, leaving Dell without an opponent. The Inspire Pro brass gave Dell the option of picking his own opponent, and he chose the man who lost a number one contender’s match to Ray Rowe at June’s CLASH AT THE BASH extravaganza, “Centerfold” Matthew Palmer.

That decision would prove a bad one for Dell. Palmer nabbed the victory and the Inspire Pro Championship, but his elation was short lived. Fresh off becoming the new number one contender with a victory over Jax Dane at the top of the show, “Dirty” Andy Dalton made his way to the ring with his manager JT LaMotta in tow and somehow got Palmer to stupidly agree to a title defense right then and there.

As you can imagine, Palmer was not 100% either physically or emotionally after having just won the Title, and while he put up a spirited fight, “The Dirty Mind of Wrestling,” plucked the belt from his grasp and became the NEW Inspire Pro Champion. Needless to say, Palmer was not too happy.

At the cross-promotional event, BATTLE WARS, Dalton squared off with Chikara Pro’s Grand Champion, Icarus, in a Champion versus Champion non-title match. Dalton and LaMotta attempted every shenanigan they could think of to defeat Icarus, but thanks to a well-timed Palmer superkick to LaMotta, stopping his interference attempt, Dalton was forced to tap out to the Chikara Special.

Afterwards, Palmer demanded a rematch for the Inspire Pro Championship or he was going to stab Dalton in the chest with a butcher knife. So, yeah, that got super intense and threatening in a hurry. Thankfully, those in charge of Inspire Pro booked the Title Match for January 4th instead of waiting to see if Palmer would make good on his promise to open up Dalton’s chest cavity.

Mike Dell was Inspire Pro Champion from the first ECSTACY OF GOLD (1/5/14) to RELENTLESS (9/5/14) and in all his Title defenses, nothing was as intense as what Dalton/Palmer will be this Sunday at the Marchesa Theater. The only match that was beyond dull and “get this over with already” was the one he lost to Palmer. So, things have already been tremendous since Dalton hoisted the Championship.

This will be an intense, vicious, physical, emotional FIGHT, and I can’t wait!.

PREDICTION: Andy Dalton via shenanigans, because there’s a lot of mileage you can get out of a heel Champion, especially when it’s so hard on the indie level to get guys who the crowds truly loathe.

NWA WORLD WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Barbi Hayden (c) vs Veda Scott

Veda Scott has only appeared in Inspire Pro one time, at IN THEIR BLOOD in May, in what was supposed to be a Triple Threat Match in the XX-Division Championship Tournament. Unfortunately, one of her opponents, Angelus Layne, suffered an injury prior to the show and had to be pulled. Instead of replacing her, Inspire Pro turned the match in an one-on-one affair between the aforementioned Scott and Athena.

“The Wrestling Goddess” Athena won that match in part thanks to Scott suffering a knee injury. So, how does someone who’s lone appearance in Inspire Pro ended in a loss find herself in a NWA World Women’s Championship Match against incumbent Champ, Barbi Hayden? Here’s how:

Through the threat of legal action, Veda Scott was able to not only postpone plans for the continuation of the XX-Division Championship Tournament, but she also procured herself a shot at Barbi Hayden’s title. A belt she has, to this point, successfully defended in Inspire Pro against Portia Perez (IN THEIR BLOOD), Mia Yim (NO TURNING BACK), and Athena (RELENTLESS).

One would assume, with Scott getting what she wanted, Inspire Pro can forge ahead with crowning its own Women’s Champion (XX Champion, as it would be called, I assume) to go along with itscontinued booking of NWA World Women’s Title bouts. Of course, that may all depend on Hayden successfully retaining the Championship. If Scott wins? She may decide that traveling to Austin, Texas and dealing with a company she already had to threaten legal action against would not be worth the trouble.

For all intents and purposes, even though the NWA World Women’s Championship doesn’t belong to Inspire Pro, it often felt like their main Title during Mike Dell’s reign as Inspire Pro Champion, or at the very least their version of WWE’s Intercontinental Title. But it belongs to the National Wrestling Alliance, of which Inspire Pro is a member, so there’s always the chance it never gets defended here again. That would be sad, but as long as Hayden holds it, and she doesn’t get scooped up by one of the more national companies (WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor), it should be safe to assume it’ll have a continued presence on the shows. But having its own belt will be great for the company.

Like I said, this is only Scott’s second time in Inspire Pro and the first one, whether it was because of the knee injury or not, was a bit of a mess, but Hayden has been put into a lot of high-profile situations with Inspire Pro, headlining two events and having one of, if not THE, best match on RELENTLESS, so she won’t be scared of the spotlight. And considering how that particular match with Athena ended (in controversy), let’s hope Inspire Pro can get onto crowning their XX Champion (the finals are set to be Athena versus Jessica James), and build towards another showdown between the two women’s Champs.

PREDICTION: Barbi Hayden retains because she just should. There’s still more stories to tell with her as Champ (even if the belt isn’t theirs), and while Scott being Champ would be interesting (would she even defend it? Use her legal knowledge to never return?), but if she can’t come back regularly (again, it’s not Inspire Pro’s belt, so she wouldn’t HAVE to) it would be like Su Yung being the ACW Joshi Champion and basically only showing up for the Joshi Tournament and no-showing all the other events she’s booked for.

INSPIRE PRO PURE PRESTIGE CHAMPIONSHIP: “Wildfire” Thomas Shire (c) vs “Chi-Town’s Finest” Mr. B

At “BATTLE WARS,” not only did we get Chikara standouts Icarus, Dasher Hatfield, and Green Ant and Fire Ant of The Colony, but we also got special guest Teddy Hart (along with Mr. Money II). He was scheduled to face Scot Summers, but when Summers had some travel issues, another match was made, Teddy Hart versus Thomas Shire versus Scotty Santiago for the brand-new Pure Prestige Championship.

The belt is an absolute beauty and is SO big.  It dwarfs the Inspire Pro Championship. Hell, it dwarfs most car tires, it’s so big. Luckily, it gets to sit around the waist of “Wildfire” Thomas Shire, who isn’t a small man. Like, literally, if I had that belt, the metal face plate would cover my entire chest.

The creation of the Pure Prestige Title was almost in direct opposition of Summer’s World Class Championship that he had been bringing and defended at Inspire Pro shows. But it wasn’t about living in the past, as Biss said, but about the future, and no one encapsulates the future like Thomas Shire. He’s a big, strong guy who’s quick and nimble on the mat. He showed just how good he was in an outstanding contest against Summers at NO ROOM TO DIE.

His first Title defense will be against “Chi-Town’s Finest” Mr. B who won this opportunity at FUN FUN FUN FEST, proving that for the Inspire Pro completists out there, that those shows did have actual storyline implications, although perhaps $195 for a three-day pass may be too much for most fans, especially if they have no interest in the music or comedy going on. As it is, Inspire Pro has been slowly releasing the matches from those three days for free, so follow them on the usual channels of Facebook and Twitter for that information.

As for this match, there isn’t any grand storyline behind it. Mr. B has been looking for respect and results and blames “politics” when he doesn’t get it, but he has been of late, and should prove a worthy challenger for the Pure Prestige Championship.

(There is a potential thread here that links the Summers/Gregory Symonds feud with this, but it’s uncertain if Symonds will ever return, so while I give a cursory mention to it, it’s probably not anything that has future implications.)

PREDICTION: Thomas Shire retains because he just won the thing. Would seem rather unnecessary to remove the brand new belt from its first holder in his first defense. It’s not necessarily unprecedented, but I feel as though they have some big plans for Shire and the belt and would like to establish it. Mr. B will be a great first defense for Shire, but nothing more than that. And I don’t say that just because B’s daughter broke my wife’s phone and nearly broke her nose with a kick to the face. Nope, he’s a really good hand and I have grown to enjoy him more since he’s gone away from the whole “white girl” character he had for so long. He’s been a serious competitor in Inspire Pro and I see that continuing, it just won’t continue with a win over Shire.

INSPIRE PRO J*CROWN CORONATION GAUNTLET: Steve’o Reno vs Jojo Bravo vs Athena vs Delilah Doom vs Tony Strong vs Matt Riot vs Thomas Munos vs DG Taylor vs Zac Taylor vs Kat Green vs Mr. Azerbaijan vs Shekinah Elijah vs “The Bleedy Heart” Davey Vega

Inspire Pro has been without a J*Crown Champion since Sammy Guevara burned every single bridge in the state of Texas to the ground. It has since been announced that the J*Crown will now be an intergender Championship. And the women did not waste any time throwing their names into the hat.

Participating in the Gauntlet will be: Athena, Kat Green, Delilah Doom, and the debut of Shekinah Elijah. I have no idea who Elijah is, but Athena and Green are tremendous workers and Doom, while she has a ways to go as a in-ring competitor, has a fantastic character, and has The New Movement in her corner. Any of these women could walk away the J*Crown Champion and no one would be surprised.

As for the match itself, I am not 100% sure how it’s going to operate, but if it’s anything like the inaugural J*Crown Gauntlet from NO ROOM TO DIE the match begins with four competitors and each time someone is eliminated (by pinfall, submission, or disqualification) a new opponent joins the fray, so that it’s always a four-way match until only one person is left standing.

“Absolute” Ricky Starks won the first one, but was soon de-crowned by Sammy Guevara in a show-stealing Ladder Match (that also included Barrett Brown) at IN THEIR BLOOD. Interestingly enough, it was that first Gauntlet Match that cost Thomas Munos his job as referee, when he got into a physical altercation with Guevara. He would continue attending events, but as a fan, which put him in perfect position to attack Guevara again when Sammy attacked Biss at NO TURNING BACK.Which is an appropriate name for Guevara’s situation following his ill-advised attack on Biss (and his stupid, stupid comments on Facebook).

Munos, however, turned down an offer of becoming a referee again and wearing that giant NWA patch on his shirt, and instead wanted to enter the J*Crown Gauntlet as a wrestler. That wish was granted and he will be making his Inspire Pro debut in this contest.

Another man making his Inspire Pro debut, will be Chikara Pro wrestler and member of “The Bloc Party”, the long-reigning Sexiest Man in Azerbaijan, Mr. Azerbaijan. I’ve only seen a small handful of Chikara shows, but I have seen him on all but one of those. He is definitely a worthy participate and will bring some of that fun Chikara flavor with him into this matchup.

The biggest factor in this match will be where you enter, and the only thing we know for certain is that “Bleeding Heart” Davey Vega will be the last to join the match thanks to his victory at FUN FUN FUN FEST over Steve’o Reno and Jojo Bravo. What is not known is whether or not Reno and Bravo have to be among the first four participants, as the match had been originally booked to be Bravo versus Vega with the winner entering last and the loser going in first. So, who’s that say on that.

All I do know is, is this match will not disappoint. There’s too many top-flight competitors for it to suck, and I didn’t even mention half the people in it! Don’t get shocked if one of the NWA Revolution stars takes home the crown, because they have been nothing short of impressive each time they’ve stepped inside an Inspire Pro ring.

PREDICTION: Since it was announced that it was an intergender Championship, it almost feels like the crown will go to one of the tremendous women, with the obvious choice being Athena. She has the most experience afterall (although I know absolutely nothing about the masked luchadora Elijah), but I feel if Inspire Pro is continuing with the XX Championship, she would be more in line for that.

The first person to win was Ricky Starks, as I mentioned, and he was one of the main focuses of Inspire Pro when it started. It almost seemed a bit of a consolation prize for not winning the Inspire Pro Championship, but then he quickly lost it to Guevara and, despite a brutal fight with Scot Summers, hasn’t done much of note since. So, it feels like whoever wins this will be someone who’s got a bright future ahead, and the person who has been shining brightest is Steve’o Reno. He won several tag matches by himself and finally dispatched his partner Bradley Axel Dawson at FUN FUN FUN FEST. My wife even chopped the asshole right in the chest!
So, my pick is going to be Steve’o Reno, but I would not be opposed to Jojo Bravo winning it or Davey Vega, but he just doesn’t make it down to Austin enough for my liking, even though I think he’s one of the best wrestlers in the country. Man just has a lot of commitments, which is great, but sucks for those of us who live so far away from everywhere else he competes.

TRIOS MATCH: World Class Syndicate (Carson, Moonshine Mantell, Mystery Partner) vs The New Movement (Cherry Ramones, Keith Lee, “Jiggle-O” James Johnson)

It’s been awhile since the World Class Syndicate has been in action, not since LIGHT THE FUSE in February, to be exact. And back then the team consisted of “The Texas Lion” Carson, Moonshine Mantell, and Alex Reigns. Reigns has moved on, and while Mantell was touring Japan, Carson embarked on a not-totally-impressive singles run. Not to say it was bad, he just did not achieve the results he was surely hoping for.

Those early shows, they were a bit of a force to be reckoned with, who seemed to have a bright future with Inspire Pro, but like I said, there were outside circumstances that kept them from continuing, but come January 4, they will have returned to picked up where they left off nearly a year ago, only this time with a new third member to the team. Who will it be? I honestly have no idea. It could be someone we’ve seen before, or it could be somebody completely new and different (I’m hoping for the latter).

Their opponents will be The New Movement led by Chris Trew. While Delilah Doom is off competing for the J*Crown, it will be the trio of Keith Lee, Cherry Ramones, and “Jiggle-O” James Johnson taking on the World Class Syndicate. While Chris Trew has assembled an impressive foursome, their matches have been rife with miscommunication, mostly thanks to Johnson.

Johnson was essentially tricked into joining the team after winning a Mystery Prize Six Man Elimination Match at NO TURNING BACK. Since then, he has butted heads, mostly with Cherry Ramones, and hasn’t been on the same page as his other teammates. But despite that, they have still been impressive, especially in the Eight-Person Elimination Match at BATTLE WARS against the NWA Revolution team. Even though they lost, that particular show could have ended after the first two matches and still been considered for Show of the Year in 2014. That’s how good it was.

Most impressive of Trew’s clan is Keith Lee, who joined the sqaud after winning the Chris Star Search Battle Royal at CLASH AT THE BASH. He is a physically imposing individual who has tossed his opponents around like rag dolls. He has charisma to match and will be a big star. If Trew plays his cards right, he’ll be in his corner when he does, and could finally claim to be what he always says he wants to be: the Pro Wrestling Manager of the Decade.

There isn’t anything in the way of a story for this match, outside of the internal story of The New Movement and whether or not “Jiggle-O” can get on the same page as them or if Trew should just cut his losses and find someone to replace him. Hell, maybe he swerves his team and becomes the third member of World Class Syndicate? He doesn’t necessarily fit with them, either, but he’s the most surprisingly athletic person I’ve seen, meaning if you look at him, you won’t think much of him (as everyone did when he first appeared in Inspire Pro), but within seconds, you’ll be a big fan.

PREDICTION: The New Movement ‘cause at some point they HAVE to win, right? Chris Trew keeps talking about being the Pro Wrestling Manager of the Decade, but which decade is he talking about? I would hope the 2010’s, but the way things are going, it won’t be until the 2020’s, ‘cause his team can’t win shit. Of course, the World Class Syndicate is just returning, with a new member no less, so they may need to win. And, yep, changing it to WCS, because odds are, Johnson will muck things up for the New Movement once again.

"The Kentucky Gentleman" Chuck Taylor vs "Absolute" Ricky Starks

Ah, my fellow Kentuckian. I’ve been waiting since the very first show THE BEGINNING in July 2013 (where he competed against ACH and Davey Vega) to see the return of “The Kentucky Gentleman” Chuck Taylor, and seventeen months later he finally does. And he will be going against a man who was probably the biggest star of Inspire Pro through the first several shows, “Absolute” Ricky Starks.

The very first independent show I went to in Austin was Anarchy Championship Wrestling, and on that show, Ricky Starks fought two times. In a row. Back to back matches. Once was on the “preshow” and then on the show proper. I had never heard of him, had never seen him wrestle, but I could instantly see that he had the skills (although there was room for improvement), the look (although he looks relatively small against WWE-ready people), and the charisma (not really any improvement needed there) to become a star in this business.

Sadly, the only thing I saw him do in ACW for nearly a year was lose. He even had his storyline with The Submission Squad taken from him by Shawn Vexx, who finally took the ACW Championship from Evan Gelistico’s grasp. It should have been Starks, without a question. The year’s worth of bad booking and repetitive matches is what led me to stop attending the shows. Inspire Pro came along at the perfect time to expose what ACW’s weaknesses were (I have since heard that, booking-wise, they have begun to turn things around, even to the point where Starks will be getting his ACW Title shot, albeit a year too late), and instantly positioned Starks to be the breakout star of their company (he actually won more matches in a single night than I saw the entire year I went to ACW).

Then… I’m not sure what happened. He became the first J*Crown Champion at NO ROOM TO DIE then promptly lost it a month later at IN THEIR BLOOD to Sammy Guevara. It was like Sammy had taken Starks’ path to the stardom, as it were. Starks, who had been showing a mean streak since Inspire Pro’s inception, had kind of lost his edge, so when he finally had his Submission Match with Scot Summers at CLASH AT THE BASH (a match that was supposed to have happened at LIGHT THE FUSE four months prior), he wasn’t as aggressive as he had been. A bit of the tension and fire was drained from the story and thus the match. It was still good, but it just felt like Starks was a bit overwhelmed by Summer’s brutality. He basically was smothered by Scot and lost.

Hopefully, whatever was lost, Starks can find again, and he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. There is still some unfinished business with Andy Dalton and company, in my opinion. So, having this match, with someone with the name value, and doesn’t-need-to-win-ness of Chuck Taylor is the perfect fulcrum to get him back headed in the direction that seemed to have been set out for him since THE BEGINNING.

As for Sweet Chuckie T, he’ll bring what he always brings, great in-ring skills (from the actual wrestling, to facial expressions, to just general fun shenanigans, and hopefully making children cry). He doesn’t need to win, not unless he’s going to spend some more time in Austin (doubtful, he’s even busier than Davey Vega, what with Chikara, PWG, tours of China, and the like). Really, honestly, I just want to see a good match, be entertained, and get the picture I was too scared to ask for the last time he was there (even though I chatted with him and bought a shirt).

PREDICTION: Ricky Starks and this hopefully springboards him back into Title contention. Dalton will need an opponent after he’s done with Palmer afterall.

Kimber Lee vs Jessica James

I have only ever seen Kimber Lee two times, the first was in New Orleans during Wrestlemania XXX weekend at a Shimmer event where she lost to Ivelisse Velez in what I remember being a decent match. That was awhile ago, and it was an odd set-up for a wrestling show, so I don’t remember a whole heck of a lot, and the second was King of Trios ‘14 in her team’s lone match. I have seen the little documentary done on her, and from everything I’ve heard, she’s really good. So, this should be a really good matchup. Ever since Jessica James returned to Inspire Pro last summer following her excursion to Japan, she has really upped her game, being more intense and vicious and crisp. Thankfully she didn’t die following her fall from the top rope to the concrete floor at NO TURNING BACK, so that we can get this match. James is also in the finals of the XX Division Tournament, alongside Athena, if they ever get around to finishing it off and crowning their first XX Champion. Hopefully it’s soon, because they have too many talented women as regulars and as people they can bring in to not have one, especially since they can start building more stories around them, instead of having just one-off NWA World Women’s Title Matches (which are great, but sometimes matches need a little meat to them, ya know?).

PREDICTION: I’m going to say Jessica James because she is the regular and has a shot at the XX Championship, while Lee is a guest. That’s not to say she can’t or won’t win, because she totally can and it wouldn’t be a let down if she did. When you have a show with this many outsiders (and since it’s unlikely Veda Scott, Chuck Taylor, or one from the Gauntlet Match will win), someone kind of needs to, right? And if she has plans to return more frequently, then, yeah, definitely give Lee the “W.” But my gut still says James.

The Great Depression & Sky de Lacrimosa vs Sorrow & Extinction

I dunno, man. The Great Depression feels like a character who was great when Inspire Pro first started and they were still figuring out who they are, but it seems like they kind of got it down, and he’s just still there. It more or less went off the rails when he stopped being the creepy dude that sat in various seats throughout the crowd and loved books. Now he’s joined The Orphans, which makes COMPLETE sense, ‘cause why wouldn’t he want to join what is basically a family. Of course, we don’t know much of anything about The Orphans, which doesn’t help things.

As for their opponents, Sorrow and Extinction? Yeah, no clue. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this match or where any sort of story is going to go. I just know that it almost feels like this is a totally different company when these guys are involved. So, we’ll see. I’ve sat through a lot of stupid shit in my days as a wrestling fan, so this won’t be able to even touch it. I’m still optimistic because Inspire Pro has yet to let me down, and I’m sure this will go somewhere good, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

PREDICTION: The Great Depression and Sky de Lacrimosa.

"The Bionic Beast" Franco D’Angelo vs MYSTERY OPPONENT

In 2012, Franco D’Angelo was in a horrific car accident that put him out of wrestling for a long time. He made his return to the squared circle at last year’s “ECSTACY OF GOLD,” and instantly put himself into the running for Mike Dell’s Inspire Pro Championship, although he would come up short in his Title opportunity at “LIGHT THE FUSE.” After another injury setback (torn bicep and broken orbital bone), Franco returned and teamed up with his Center of Perfection buddy, Matthew Palmer.

That’s basically where he is, getting back into the swing of things. And, so, he asked for a match this Sunday, only we don’t know who it will be against. Will it be someone we’ve seen before? Another outsider? There’s really no way to know until Sunday.

PREDICTION: Franco D’Angelo, ‘cause unless it’s a big surprise opponent who they have big plans for, it would make zero sense for him to lose.

Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, that is what Inspire Pro has in store for you on January 4th at 6pm from the Marchesa Theater in Austin, Texas! Tickets are still available, with Front Row going for $15 and General Admission for $10. Seriously, what else are you going to do this weekend for that cheaply?

And if you want a full weekend of Inspire Pro-related activities, you can also head on over to The New Movement Theater (located at 619 Lavaca Street -- corner of 7th and Lavaca -- in downtown Austin) to take in The Megaphone Show on Saturday, January 3rd, at 10:30pm with special guest “The Kentucky Gentleman” Chuck Taylor! It’s only $5 and it’s BYOB (if you’re into that sort of thing). So, for $15, you can get a whole weekend of amazingness. That’s about as cheaply as it comes in Austin.

What are you waiting for? Come join the fun!