Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: Inspire Pro Wrestling's Ecstasy of Gold II

Photo Credit: Joel Loeschman

Goddamn beautiful, isn’t it? I’m not just saying that because my wife is prominently involved either. Take the whole picture in. If you’re a former referee making his in-ring debut, could you think of a better way of doing it than being lead to the ring by two beautiful women tossing rose petals along the entrance way and dressed as what I lovingly call a “Love Pirate?” I don’t think so. And, man, did Thomas Munos nail it. So good.

But we’ll get to that in more detail shortly, first, HI! I’m glad you have taken the time to read my thoughts and opinions on the latest Inspire Pro Wrestling extravaganza, ECSTASY OF GOLD II. It seems a little redundant at this point, but the show was spectacular. Exactly what you’ve come to expect from this sixteen-month old company. Yeah, for as good as Inspire Pro has been, it’s still a relative baby, having debuted July 7, 2013, but it feels like it’s been around for years. That’s a) how good the shows are, and b) how rich of a history it has already built.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin

STEVE’O RENO defeated Davey Vega, Thomas Munos, Jojo Bravo, Zac Taylor, DG Taylor, Athena, Delilah Doom, Mr. Azerbaijan, Matt Riot, and Rey Ortiz to become the NEW Inspire Pro J*Crown Champion

Everything is coming up Steve as he was quite literally crowned the new J*Crown Champion (no, honestly, it’s a legit gold crown) that had been sitting dormant since Sammy Guevara was unceremoniously stripped of it following NO TURNING BACK in July. It wasn’t easy, however, as Steve’o Reno entered the gauntlet first. He was joined by Rey Ortiz, Matt Riot, and Mr. Azerbaijan, who was making his Inspire Pro debut.

The rules were thus: Four competitors started the match and following each fall the next participant joined the fray. I don’t recall who was eliminated first (it was either Riot or Ortiz), but the next person to enter the match was Athena. She’s always a fan favorite, and rightfully so, because she’s really quite awesome. It wasn’t long after she entered that either Riot or Ortiz (whichever wasn’t the first elimination) was taken out of the match and Delilah Doom entered. Both Mr. Azerbaijan and Doom were submitted simultaneously and The Orphans (Zac and DG Taylor) joined the match.

The fact that the tag teaming brothers entered together spelled doom for Steve and Athena, but moreso the latter, as she was eliminating by them. A HUGE upset, even if it was two-on-one for the young guys, who have not been in the game long. They are pretty darn good, though. But that elimination lead to the greatest debut for anyone ever.

Enter Thomas Munos. The once-referee had been fired after attacking Sammy Guevara, but once Inspire Pro parted ways with the former J*Crown Champion, Munos was offered his old job back. Instead of donning the blue referee shirt with the humongous NWA patch over the heart, he requested a spot in the Gauntlet. And he did not disappoint.

Two women, dubbed the Tom Tom Club, emerged from the curtain first and tossed rose petals from a basket onto the entrance ramp. Then arrived Munos in all his glory. It was, truly, loved by everyone, ‘cause how could you not? You saw that picture at the top, right? Yeah, it was amazing. And to top it off, the blonde one, yeah, that’s my wife.

A little inside baseball here, but she is training to be a wrestler herself, and because of that connection, we were invited by Justin Bissonnette to arrive at the building hours before the show started so that she could meet everyone and just pick their brains. While we were there, Thomas needed a second lady to accompany him to the ring, and he asked Sam. (He trains at the same school as her, although he rarely goes from what I understand.) I can’t tell you how proud I am of her. Yeah, it was only walking down the ramp and tossing out rose petals, but it’s still cool as shit.

If only I wasn’t an absolute putz with my phone, because I completely botched getting video of it. First the phone was upside down, so I was fumbling with buttons, then I thought I had hit “record” only I hadn’t, and then when I did, my finger was over the damn lense, so all I have is a super blurry three second video. It was so disappointing, but she will live on through the power of DVD (and digital download), as surely SOMEONE got the footage that was filming the show.

And even though it was his in-ring debut, Munos didn’t embarrass himself. Not even in the least. As long as he can continue to throw a spear like he does (move over Roman Reigns, there’s a new guy who needs to look strong), he’ll be just fine. And he threw that beautiful spear as soon as he hit the ring, breaking poor DG Taylor in half, which led to Munos nabbing his first elimination.

Jojo Bravo entered next and at some point Zac Taylor was eliminated, which brought out the final participant, “Bleeding Heart” Davey Vega, who earned the last entry slot by virtue of winning a three-way match over Reno and Bravo at FUN FUN FUN FEST. It was during this time that the fans turned on Munos, because he was a bit of a vulture and stole a pin on Bravo, who had been put down by Vega. But, hey, don’t fault the guy for taking full advantage of what was presented to him. He’s trying to win the J*Crown in his debut, wouldn’t you do the same, even if it was a fan favorite like Jojo Bravo? Exactly, you would, so don’t give him any grief!

He was eliminated by Vega, however, which brought us to the final two. The man who entered first, Steve’O Reno and the final entrant, Davey Vega. The two had a really good back and forth, with both guys almost winning. It’s been joked before that the two guys look similar with Vega being the future version of Steve. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a one-on-one match between these two guys, but I would absolutely love to. Vega’s been my favorite indy guy since I first saw him in ACW, and Steve has been KILLING IT since starting with Inspire Pro, and has been rightfully rewarded for it.

After Steve managed to put away Vega, Biss entered the ring and crowned the new J*Crown Champion (as seen in the pic above). During his celebration, a creepy voice came over the speaker system. It was a little hard to make out what he said, but I did catch the name, “Hollywood Strangler,” and then a masked man in a trench coat hit the ring and started to choke Steve with a piece of rope (or something similar). I suppose we have the next challenger for the J*Crown.

What I will say about the match is that it was very good, it just felt rushed. In all honesty, nearly all the matches felt a little rushed, for whatever reason. If there was one match that needed to slow down a bit, it was this one. Because there were so many people involved, everything was ran through quite quickly, it seemed. It was still a good match and a great showcase for those that will apparently be involved in the junior division going forward.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
THOMAS SHIRE pinned Mr. B to retain the Inspire Pro Pure Prestige Championship

Regrettably, I had to take a tinkle break early into this match, and when I got back I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Not that the action in the ring was out of whack or unfollowable, it was the crowd. Shire has been a fan favorite for a good while in Inspire Pro, and his winning the Pure Prestige Championship got a great reaction from the fans at BATTLE WARS. And Mr. B has been a hated man, although he does have his fans. He’s just been presented as someone who thinks the mythical “politics” is holding him back.

On this night, however, everything was flipped and the people were going crazy for B, and less-so Shire. I chalk it up to nearly everyone from AAPW (the wrestling school my wife attends) being at the event and Mr. B being someone who helps out with training. He got a big double thumbs down from me, though, ‘cause the dude busted my wife’s nose at one practice (both were equally at fault, and I really don’t have an issue with it, ‘cause shit happens). So, it was strange, to say the least.

As for the match, it was solid, from what I saw. Again, it felt a bit rushed, and seemed like it could have gone longer. After the match, Shire told B that he had gained his respect. He had earned it at FUN FUN FUN FEST when Mr. B won this opportunity by beating four other guys. Mr. B took that respect and uppercutted Shire’s nuts with it (also, he literally did that) and stole away with the Pure Prestige Title.

This was Shire’s first defense of the Title and it was, again, solid. Obviously, there will be more to the feud, as Mr. B now has the belt. I am curious to see if this does tie into the previous storyline with Greg Symonds, but it’s unknown if he’s gone for good or not. I’m not holding my breath for it, but it would be nice to see everything come together. Not to mention Scot Summers is likely to return to Inspire Pro at some point, I would assume, and given that they created this belt in place of the World Class Championship that Summers was hauling around, it could be interesting.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
World Class Syndicate (Carson, Moonshine Mantell, Barrett Brown) defeated The New Movement (Cherry Ramons, James Johnson, Keith Lee) in a Trios Match

That large mass of a man in the middle of the ring is Keith Lee and he hails from the Deepest Crater in the Literal Moon in Space. (No, really.) And he is a beast of a man. He still has a ways to go, but he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with down the line. And he sells really well for a big man, who you would assume wouldn’t want to show any sort of vulnerability. He’s not scared of that, though.

For the World Class Syndicate, they introduced Barrett Brown as their newest member, and Chris Trew had a good point., how are they they “World” Class Syndicate if they’re all from Texas? Regardless of that, it’s a very good trio, with the leader, Carson, probably being the weakest of the bunch, and he’s really quite good. He’s a little stiff, in that he doesn’t seem very flexible, but he has a killer superkick and has the look for someone to make it to the next level. I did find it funny, before they introduced Brown, that Carson said he saw Moonshine Mantell as Pure Prestige material and himself as Inspire Pro Championship material. What’s up with that? It’s not a put down in the least to want the Pure Prestige Title, but why can’t he see Mantell as Inspire Pro Champion? Man, they just got the team back together (and added a new member) and there could already be some strife? I mean, if I were Moonshine, I’d take offense to what Carson said.

For The New Movement, at this point they REALLY gotta move away from “Jiggle-O” James Johnson. Not because he’s bad (he’s really quite good in fact), but because it doesn’t make sense. Why continue to use a guy who was tricked to being on the team to begin with and has time and time again shown that he does not want to be apart of it, nor will he help the team out. In this match, he ratted out his own partner (Lee) for hurting Mantell’s knee when he wasn’t the legal man. I mean, it’s a match, the object is to win it, you’re on a team led by Chris Trew, you think they’re gonna play by the rules? (And how likely are you to be DQ’d for doing something as the illegal man?)

Naturally, it all led to WCS picking up the win because Johnson is a bad teammate. If Trew truly wants to be known as the Manager of the Decade, he needs to cut bait with Johnson and either bring in a new member or go on with the trio of Cherry Ramons, Keith Lee, and Delilah Doom. That’s not a bad group at all, but as it is, the team can’t buy a win, and Johnson isn’t helping matters.

It is kind of interesting to see these teams of people, but there is no tag team division to speak of. When Inspire Pro first started, it seemed like they were building a bit of a division with the Pump Patrol, Dagger Brothers, and an assortment of others, but then it dwindled down to the Hollywood Knives and a collection of one-time teams brought in for Steve to single-handedly beat. Essentially, they were a team designed to split up and that has worked gangbusters, but there’s a lot of talented people in Inspire Pro that may not get quite a fair shake up the card for singles gold, so why not have some Tag Titles?

Of course, they already have three singles Championships and eventually a XX Division Championship (if plans haven’t changed), so would five belts Titles be too much? Inspire Pro has been doing a great job of having storylines that don’t revolve around gold, so if five matches were essentially taken up with those, it would leave… well, it would leave four to five matches for other stuff, so it wouldn’t be too bad. Not to mention, not every belt needs to be defended each month.

I suppose we shall see.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
Franco D’Angelo defeated VG Allen and Erik Shadows in a Triple Threat Elimination Match

There wasn’t a whole lot to this match. Franco wanted a match and this is what he got. VG Allen has a really good character, I think. He’s a really small guy (under 5’5” for sure) who wears cheetah print pants, a Members Only jacket (or something near enough to it) and a fanny pack with sunglasses. He may also be a Paul London student, but don’t quote me on that. I just know that he recently started working in ACW, so this was his Inspire Pro debut.

He did not last long. Franco is a big man and he’s angry. So, after Shadows hit a move to put Allen away, the “Bionic Beast” broke up the pinfall (even though it’s elimination rules) and had to hit his own move on Allen, before letting Shadows get the three count. With him out of the way, Shadows and Franco had a bit of back and forth, but Franco was just too much for him.

Shadows is an amazingly talented performer, who can do some crazy moves. There’s a spot for him in Inspire Pro, they just haven’t found it yet. He’s mostly been working with his NWA Revolution mates (they had that incredible 8-Person Tag versus The New Movement at BATTLE WARS that’s one of my favorite matches of 2014, but not my favorite of that show, THAT’S HOW GOOD THAT SHOW WAS), so seeing him get to work outside of that was nice. Hopefully, he can get some traction in the J*Crown division if not the Pure Prestige. Just as long as they have a spot for him, because he’s good.

As for Franco, post-match he let it be known that a) Ryback was a cheap imitation of him (he did not say his name directly, but we all picked up on it) and b) he was there for one reason: GOLD. He was going to get it one way or another, even if that meant he had to go through his best friend, Matthew Palmer, once “Centerfold” won the Inspire Pro Championship from Dalton. There’s a lot of players now vying for Dalton’s belt, so it’ll be interesting how things sort themselves out.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin

Barbi Hayden retained the NWA World Women’s Championship against Veda Scott

This match was a lot better than Veda Scott’s previous match with Inspire Pro against Athena. That could possibly be chalked up to the knee injury Scott suffered, but whatever it was, the match was a bit sloppy. Here, though, things clicked along quite a bit better. I’m ashamed to admit that I got a little distracted with my dumb phone, as the camera was making everything blurry (if you saw all the pics I took during this match, it looks like they were taken during a dream sequence), but I figured it out and got right into the match.

The last time Hayden defended the NWA World Women’s Championship was against Athena at August’s RELENTLESS, and it ended in controversy. This match would end in a similar vein, although it was not executed nearly as well. What happened in the match against Athena, is that Athena had pinned Barbi but the referee noticed that her foot was on the rope, so the match continued. Once Hayden got the upperhand and made a cover, Athena got HER foot on the bottom rope, but Barbi quickly removed it before the referee could see it. This time was NOTHING like that time.

We had not one, not two, but THREE foot-on-the-ropes incidents, the first occurring when Hayden pinned Scott, but Veda got her foot on the rope. The referee had counted three but noticed the foot and cancelled out his decision. Fair enough. You want to get things right, especially in a high profile Championship match such as these, and when you factor in that this exact scenario happened in a previous match.

The second time, Veda had Barbi pinned, but just like Scott had, Hayden got her foot on the rope and the referee did not make the decision final. So, the two talented women continued to battle, until Hayden was able to spike Scott’s skull into the mat with her Hangman’s DDT (draped from the top rope). As Hayden went to hook the leg, Scott’s foot in the ropes meaning the count should have been stopped. It wasn’t. On top of that, Veda’s OTHER foot was under the bottom rope, and the count should have been stopped. It was not.

The story of the Athena match was that Hayden deliberately pulled Athena’s foot off the rope so that the referee wouldn’t see it. This time was different. Instead of Barbi being a little weasel and cheating to keep her Title at all costs, it was all about referee incompetence. TWICE before in the match he had to restart the match because of a foot being on the ropes. Why on earth would he be so out of position when it happens a third time following a move that was right by the ropes, thus making the pin occur RIGHT THERE? It blows my mind.

The only reason Scott had this match was because she threw her legal knowledge behind it and basically threatened Inspire Pro with litigation that a young company like this could ill-afford. So, if she has continued beef with the company, I would not blame her one bit, but I hope she would re-direct her ire towards a referee who was woefully unprepared for the job at hand. You can’t even say he was in cahoots with Hayden, otherwise he wouldn’t have reversed his decision after the first fall.

All I will say is that Inspire Pro better tread carefully, or Veda Scott will own it. My advice to her, if she manages to put this past her and return for another match: bring your own referee.

INTERMISSION: And now is the time where my wife bought a Kimber Lee shirt (it’s a really good one, too) and I spent my time trying to get up the courage to talk to Chuck Taylor, but my anxieties kicked into overdrive and I could not do it. Which is weird, because I spoke with him the last time he was in Austin and he’s a fellow Kentuckian! I dunno, 1) I have SUCH a hard time talking to people I don’t know, especially “famous” people and I consider almost every wrestler, be they in the WWE or on the indies, to be famous to a certain degree, and 2) I didn’t wanna buy any of his shirts, so I would feel bad to just go up and talk to him, ask for a pic, and then walk away without buying anything. I’d feel like a jerk. I’m a horrible person. Am I the only one that feels that way? It’s one thing to ask for a pic from the regulars, but when someone travels from Philly to work the show, I mean, I feel like a dick.

The shirt I wanted was the Davey Vega shirt, but another of my “things” is I don’t want to buy something from just a person manning the merch table, I want to buy it from that person. But he wasn’t around, so I didn’t. I understand why he probably wasn’t, as I had heard him tell people he was sick, so he most likely didn’t want to interact with everyone and possibly get them sick. That’s reasonable and quite considerate of him. That said, I have a killer shirt design idea for him that I may have my brother work up and just have my own custom Vega shirt. Heck, I’d still give Vega the money, ‘cause the man has expenses and he always entertains the hell out of me.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
Sorrow and Extinction (Gregory James and Kyle Hawk) defeated The Orphans (The Great Depression and Sky de Lacrimosa)

Who the fuck are Sorrow and Extinction, you might be saying. Understandable, ‘cause they are not people who have been seen before. Only, nope, they were. See, when The Orphans (DG and Zac Taylor) debuted they were originally led by former Blasphemer turned Jeff Gant and they attacked Gant’s former leader “Unholy” Gregory James at CLASH AT THE BASH in June following James’ match with Masada. Gant would not reappear with Inspire Pro, but at the very next show, DG and Zac randomly attacked Kyle Hawk with chairs after he had been eliminated from the Mystery Prize Six-Man Elimination Match at NO TURNING BACK in July.

Sorrow and Extinction unmasked to be those very guys, Gregory James and Kyle Hawk. It may seem a little strange that they weren’t facing the original Orphans, but instead took on the newest member The Great Depression and Sky de Lacrimosa. I missed a little bit of this after it started by having to urinate again (yep, wasted all that time during intermission not talking to Chuck Taylor), but what I did see was fairly one-sided. I don’t really recall the Orphans ever having the upper hand.

James and Hawk were quite impressive, and brings me back to the need for a tag team division, as they would be an excellent addition to it. One thing I want to say, there was some asshole sitting behind us, and he kept shouting about being bored and that Hawk’s face paint was stupid. I have no idea who he was or what his deal was, but even the normal assholes that shout stupid ass shit (that could be a whole column by itself, those guys) were basically shutting him down and calling him on his shit, ‘cause he wasn’t shouting his insults really loud enough for anyone to hear besides those nearby, and his reasoning was that the match was putting him to sleep. I mean, dude, yeah, you don’t have to love everything or even enjoy it, ‘cause wrestling is nothing if not a medium that has something for everybody, but if you’re just shitting on stuff just for the sake of shitting on something, kindly shut the fuck up and get on your phone or something.

I want to go back to Jeff Gant for a second though. Like I said, he essentially started the Orphans (even though they were without a name at that point, I think), and immediately disappeared. Did he get adopted by a real family? Is he going to come back, only to get attacked by the Orphans for leaving them? And if that happens, will Gregory James come to his aid, bringing things all the way back around to where they are teaming together? You know, I really would like to see Jeff return, only looking like he was suddenly being raised by a middle class family in the suburbs.

Photo Credit:  Michael Dupin
Ricky Starks defeated Chuck Taylor

It’s a shame this match didn’t come right after intermission, as all the merch talk would have been the perfect segue. See, Starks was selling his new shirts “Be A Starks” at ringside during intermission, then when he came out for his match, he wanted to tell us about a letter he got from up north. From WWE.

It was at this point that EVERYONE in the building stood up and began to clap and cheer for Ricky. I’ve said before that when I first saw him in ACW, I instantly thought he could be someone who got the call to head to Stamford (or Florida, as the case would be now). He’s supremely talented, and if you were ever in doubt about his charisma, this promo would prove he could make it to the next level.

You see, Starks wasn’t being signed by the WWE. No, he had received a cease-and-desist letter because his shirts were basically aping the “Be A Star,” obviously. Ricky’s entire point was him just trying to hock some merch. It was brilliant. Absolutely genius. We couldn’t even be mad, that’s how good it was! It reminded me of Mark Henry faking his retirement and then flattening John Cena. So good.

It also helped that his opponent was Chuck Taylor. Who’s easier to hate than The Kentucky Gentleman? Personally, I love him. He’s fantastic, and these two guys together were great, as Taylor instantly got under Starks’ skin by insulting his mother. That’s just something you don’t do, man! So, immediately the match was off and running.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
If you’ve never seen a Chuck Taylor match before, um, what are you waiting for? Go watch some! But he has some great spots, has perfect facial expressions, and vocals (there’s nothing better than him screeching after a hard hit, or even when he’s charging ahead to attack), and I fail to see how someone who has been doing this for 14 years hasn’t gotten a call from at least TNA. Of course, maybe he has and he turned it down. For some people, working indies is a lot more lucrative than a contract from TNA -- well, we already know they pay shit anyway -- or WWE. Really, it seems like for a lot of people, joining WWE would be less about the money and more about achieving a dream.

Either way, Taylor is awesome and I wish I had talked to him and now I’m hating myself. What I didn’t hate, was this match, which was, to me, the match of the night. It, too, felt a little rushed like most everything else, but a little less so than the others. These guys worked really well together, and it was a nice springboard into hopefully getting Starks back into a prominent position with Inspire Pro.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
That’s… not… sanitary at all.

Poor Chuck was so despondent after the match, he took a seat in the front row and put someone stir straw in their mouth.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin

Jessica James defeated Kimber Lee

Before the show started, my wife was off getting ready for her deal, so I just took my seat and chilled on my phone because I don’t know how to socialize when there’s so many people I don’t know. But, as I sat there, completely out of nowhere, Kimber Lee walked up, shook my hand, and introduced herself. That was quite cool and took me by surprise. I didn’t chat with her at all, not even when Sam bought her shirt, but she seems like a cool person.

She’s also good inside the ropes. This was a good matchup, as Jessica James has really been on point in Inspire Pro, and she has nowhere but to go up in the business (she also introduced herself before the show!). She even came out with a new look which was really quite badass.

I really wish there was more to say about this match, but there’s really not. It was good, these women are tremendous, and I want to see more of them here in Austin. James is always here unless she’s off in Japan, but hopefully Kimber returns. They need to get a good batch of regulars if they do end up creating the XX Championship (of which James would be in the Finals against Athena), you know, for my wife to beat once she’s ready to compete in the ring. But Lee would be a nice, welcome addition to have on a regular basis.

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
Matthew Palmer won by Disqualification but Andy Dalton retained the Inspire Pro Championship

OK. This match. This has been building since September’s RELENTLESS when Andy Dalton coaxed Matthew Palmer into defending the Inspire Pro Championship immediately after he’d just won it from Mike Dell. Palmer did and he lost. That was dumb. He was dumb. Why would he do that? Silly Palmer. Then, at BATTLE WARS, Palmer demanded his rematch at this show or he would stab Dalton in the chest with a butcher’s knife. The match was granted, ‘cause if Inspire Pro thought the legal battles with Veda Scott were going to be bad, how do you imagine attempted murder would go over?

To ensure that he would get a fair shake, Palmer kidnapped JT Lamotta and housed him at “Jiggle-O” James Johnson’s house (I’m assuming, that’s where he lured JT and then had dinner). Of course, for this match, Dalton did not come alone, as Davey Vega accompanied him. With Palmer was Franco D’Angelo, and very quickly the two managers, as it were, ended up chasing each other to the back, leaving Palmer and Dalton all alone.

Things started off MOLTEN with big “DIE DALTON DIE!” chants (Palmer had shirts printed up saying that phrase and seemed like he sold quite a few) and the first move of the match was essentially Palmer diving over the top rope to the floor onto Dalton. Things were intense, as they should have been. It was the rematch everyone had been waiting four months for. It felt like we were in for a long, brutal fight, or if it was going to be short, it was still going to be insane.

Then Dalton kicked the referee in the stomach and he called for the bell. Disqualification. Victory for Palmer, but no Championship. That the “Dirty Mind of Wrestling” got to keep. He said he had an insurance policy, so I’m not sure if that was it or not. If it wasn’t, and instead it was Tim Storm, who was there as a guest, who hit the ring (after Vega and Franco had returned) to give the bad guys the upperhand.

Before I get into what happened next, can I bring up the lame ending? I understand wanting to continue the feud. It would make sense that eventually Palmer would get the Title back, but he obviously wasn’t going to in the very next match the two have (which doubled as Dalton’s first defense). So, I get why the match had to happen and why it didn’t need the cleanest of endings. But that one? A DQ by kicking the referee? I dunno, it’s kind of a cheap ending. Now, the post-match stuff was great and sets up a lot of things, but it doesn’t make up for the way the match ended.

Ultimately I’m not mad about it, it’s not going to keep me from continuing to go to the shows or getting invested (oh, I still wanted to see Dalton die a horrible death at Palmer’s hands), it just feels out of character for Inspire Pro, if that makes sense. And, I mean, I just don’t get the rule. I mean, I understand why attacking the referee would be a disqualification, but at the same time? Uh, no, it’s dumb. Whenever someone attacks the referee, nine times out of ten it’s because that person knows they can’t win and just wants to walk away with their Title. But if that’s the plan might as well kick him as soon as the match starts. Why risk the possibility that Palmer hits his finisher right away (which is what he almost did until Dalton rolled to the outside and got dove onto)?

I don’t get it from the referee’s point of view either. Knowing the reason for the kick (assuming the referee is not on the take), why would you reward that offender with keeping his Title? If you really want to punish him, you don’t end the match because the actual win or loss result means nothing at that point to the Champion, he just wants to ensure he gets to leave with his belt. All it does is punish the challenger (and the fans), because it’s over, he doesn’t get his chance for revenge and all because the poor ref couldn’t shake off a boot to the gut.

Look, I’ve seen Dynamite Kid punch referees in Japan repeatedly and they no sell the shit out of it. I’m not saying you gotta go that far, ‘cause you don’t want to make your talent look bad, but if it’s just a relatively light kick (he fell into the corner, but was otherwise just fine, fine enough to call for the bell at any rate), shrug that shit off, tell the person who kicked you to go fuck themselves and let the match continue. If he still ends up winning (even if it’s through some shenanigans), you can at least look yourself in the mirror knowing you didn’t let him get away with a cheap victory (in so far as what you could control).

What I’m saying is, the DQ ending was dumb, but I’m also glad Dalton is still the Champ, ‘cause when he finally gets murdered live in the middle of the ring it’s going to be glorious. Hell, that could happen very soon at the hands of...

Photo Credit: Michael Dupin

RAY MOTHERFUCKING “DEATH” ROWE! He’s baaaaaaaaack! And he’s looks better than ever. He arrived with this big arm brace on his arm, from when he had his motorcycle accident, but removed it and beat the shit out of Dalton. If you recall, he was the Number One Contender until he had his accident, and Palmer was given his Title shot instead, and while he made the most of it, he screwed the pooch immediately. So, now he’s back to, I assume, reclaim his rightful shot at the gold, just against a different Champion.

Once Dalton, Vega, and Storm had been dispatched, Rowe and Franco D’Angelo had a stare down. You could feel the tension. Remember, earlier in the night, Franco said he was not afraid to go through anyone to get what he wanted. It’s one thing when it’s his best friend who could potentially stand in his way, but when this other guy comes in and he knows that guy gets to jump him in line? Yeah, that’s not going to sit well.

Thankfully, things ended peacefully, with a handshake. That doesn’t mean shit won’t go down later, but for the time being, things are cool. And it sets up a lot of interesting stories. Is Palmer going to momentarily forget Dalton and go after Tim Storm, who is the NWA North American Champion? Will Rowe get his Title shot in February? How does Franco get back into the race? The blood feud, though, is Palmer/Dalton, as Rowe’s “beef” was with Dell, but he’s out of the picture. Still, things are interesting to say the least.


Not much to add that I didn’t say throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I always do. It was really cool to get to see things from a different perspective (big thanks to Biss for allowing us to be there) and there were a lot of things set in motion. There’s all new Champions (everyone was either crowned or making their first defenses), so things are still building up. The hottest thing is the Inspire Pro Title scene, which is nice to say after it being the least interesting thing happening when Mike Dell was Champion (and he only got interesting when he was losing the belt), with so many people vying for the gold (and that’s not mentioning someone like Ricky Starks who’s just kinda hanging out in limbo waiting, and Carson essentially putting his hat into the ring with his promo).

Steve’O Reno isn’t as naturally athletic and explosive as Sammy Guevara was, but he has an unparalleled attitude and he works HARD. He has gotten so much better just in the year couple of years I’ve seen him wrestle, and he just keeps getting better and better, so I’m interested to see what he will do in the junior division.

They keep bringing in talented women and they keep knocking it out of the park once they get into the ring. They really only have four regulars (Hayden, Athena, James, Doom), but it’s a good core to work with, and with all the freelancers that come in, it’s never dull. I’m intrigued to see what they do if/when they crown their first XX Champion and how that will work with the NWA Women’s Title being a key storyline tool on the shows.

Will that referee get fired, ‘cause he fucked up the Hayden/Scott match AND let a little kick to the gut ruin the main event. He was the second biggest heel of the night after Dalton and it wasn’t even close.

Good news! Brandon Stroud managed to survive another night. Sure, that was because Lance Hoyt was still in Japan, but still. Survival is survival.

Most importantly, we have some details for the next show:

It is titled, UNDENIABLE, and judging from the image will see the in-ring return of Ray “Death” Rowe. That has not been announced, so it’s not official, but we all saw him return at ECSTASY OF GOLD II and put Andy Dalton in his place, so at the very least, he will be there.

There was an official announcement made at the show, though, and that was the Inspire Pro debut of “The Mountain” Vanessa Kraven will happen on February 15th at the Marchesa Hall and Theater. Also announced was the return of Leva Bates! Fresh off her star-making turn as Blue Pants in NXT, she’ll be gracing the Inspire Pro ring once again. So, if you want to see this show, you might want to get your tickets now before they are gone. They are already on sale here. Seriously, get them while you can, because people had to be turned away this last show. So many people they had to pull in actual chairs, and not the folding kind. It was crazy.

And if you want to check out some of their past shows, new ones have been added (most recent is August’s RELENTLESS headlined by Matthew Palmer and Mike Dell for the Inspire Pro Championship) to SmartMark Video, so do yourself a favor and download them (or order the DVDs if you’re into physical media). Trust me, it’ll be the best $12-15 you’ll spend.

Inspire Pro is only going to get better, folks. Best jump on board now. You don’t want to wait three years from now when this is the must-see indy promotion along the lines of Chikara or Ring of Honor. If you do, you can be that hipster fan later than said you liked Inspire Pro before they were playing 20,000 seat arenas.