Monday, February 23, 2015

Inspire Pro's Undeniable: A Review

Angelus Layne making an impactful debut
Photo Credit: Nick Downton
Running a wrestling promotion has got to be the most nerve-racking endeavor. There are so many factors, a lot of which you cannot control, that will surely make you go prematurely gray-haired. From what I’ve been able to witness, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s not just setting up a ring and getting some wrestlers to wrestle in it. A lot goes into it. I’m sure anyone reading this is probably aware of it, but I have a newfound appreciation for the hard work the people at Inspire Pro team does to put on a great show for us fans.

And you never see a single sign that anything is amiss. This show could have been a disaster, thanks to a few flight issues which mucked up the card and had to force everyone to rethink what was going to happen. Thinking on the fly, as it were, and they pulled it off with flying colors.

See, the original opening match was supposed to see Steve O'Reno defended the J*Crown against “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti, but thanks to a little thing called winter happening all over the northeast, his flight was delayed by three hours. He more or less landed in Austin very close to the start time of the show and basically hit the ring once he got dressed. But instead of having that match first, which they had promoted as being the opener, Inspire Pro had to reconfigure a few things.

Now, the opening match of a show is possibly the most important decision you have to make. It sets the tone for the rest of the show. It works in the same way television shows use comedians to work up crowds before TV tapings. People have just filed in, are just beginning to settle in, and you immediately want them to be engaged, you want their attention, and not just anyone can waltz down that ramp, hope in-between those ropes, and get your audience hootin’ and hollerin’ (yep, I said those words) and setting the tone for the rest of the night. And Inspire Pro likes to give their fans a main event-caliber opener.

That’s why someone like Reno is chosen for such a spot (as he has been the previous two shows BattleWars and Ecstasy of Gold II). He’s beloved by the fans, has excellent showmanship, knows how to get the fans invested, and is, quite simply, one of the best wrestlers Texas has to offer. Seriously, if you’re running a wrestling promotion somewhere in this world, book Steve O'Reno.

So, it was naturally a little disheartening when we heard that the match was being pushed back until later in the show (although relief in the fact that it was happening at all), but I don’t know that they could have chosen a better match for the new opener. Whoever chose Athena vs. Nicole Savoy deserves the biggest of hugs, because it was, dare I say, inspired!

I’m going to come right out and say that it was the perfect choice and, in retrospect, worked better than the O'Reno-Touchdown match would have (and that match was excellent!), because these two women came out swinging. Dives to the outside, stiff forearms and kicks, just going shot for shot, with neither woman backing down. Now, everyone in Texas knows about Athena, but for us, Nicole Savoy was someone most people probably didn’t know much about. I’d only seen on match on YouTube of her and while it was good, it didn’t completely expect what we saw.

And that’s a tough spot to put someone, I would think, who hasn’t worked for your company before. Instead of being able to relax in the back and see how the crowd is reacting to things during other matches, your job is now to get the crowd hyped, and you have to set the example for everyone else in the back.

It was a hell of an example. Before the show, we said hello to Savoy and shook hands, and she was very nice, but seemed quiet and reserved, but she was anything but once she stepped through those ropes. When she hit Athena, she HIT Athena, resulted in very loud thuds. And she wasn’t opposed to a little bit of smack talk. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the newcomer. Just as I was with Athena, but at this point, it’s almost like we kind of take her for granted. I mean, heck, she came to the ring with TWO Championship belts (ACW American Joshi and AIW Women’s Champion), so she’s freakin’ amazing! But she should not be taken for granted, she’s still one of the top women in all of wrestling… scratch that, one of the top wrestlers, PERIOD.

In the end, ATHENA picked up the win, but I really hope it’s not the last we see of Savoy, as she’s a great talent. I could go for a Best of Seven series with these two one day. When’s the last time there’s been a good Best of Seven? Too long, so let’s let these badasses do it!

Next up for Athena (as far as the XX Division is concerned) will be the XX Division Championship Finals that will be taking place at IN THEIR BLOOD 2 (which is NOT the March 22nd show, rather happening later in the spring) against Jessica James and the winner of the next contest, a Three-Way Dance, pitting the returning Paige Turner against the debuting Angelus Layne and the spunky New Movement member, Delilah Doom.

Before the match could take place, the “Manager of the Decade” Chris Trew wanted the crowd to FOCUS UP and brought along a New Movement intern, Roxy Castillo. Trew let everyone know that he was well aware of the less-than-stellar performance of The New Movement, and since everyone’s contracts were up, he was conducting performance reviews (which went for him as well). Well, everyone but Keith Lee, because he has been locked up in a lucrative, long-term contract. Perhaps Trew wasn’t so wise in trying to force someone to be on his team that did not want to be there (“Jiggle-O” James Johnson), but he was damn sure smart enough to lock up Lee.

Trew knows he has a solid group, but they can’t seem to get on the same page, so Trew brought out the man responsible for that, the aforementioned Johnson. Surprisingly, Johnson wasn’t opposed to the idea of staying with The New Movement, provided Trew agreed to stop taking shortcuts (cheating, etc.), and just let everyone on the team perform like they are capable of, and things will turn around. There was no need for all the shenanigans because The New Movement was a collection of very good wrestlers. And Trew agreed that they could begin to do things in that way, even telling Johnson that despite their issues, he had even managed to get him a J*Crown Championship match for March 22. So, as Delilah Doom made her way to the ring, it seemed as if things were going to turn for The New Movement.

Doom is a favorite of the fans because she’s spunky, but Paige Turner, on the other hand, has been despised by the crowd since she first joined Inspire Pro. It’s kind of funny that a librarian wrestler is a heel, because all she is trying to promote is reading and, as everyone knows, reading is FUNdamental. But she was the first woman in the XX Division and pretty much had the run of the place when she was flanked by her Book Marks. They are, it would seem, long gone, leaving Turner to return after a lengthy absence all alone. Reading really is a solitary activity anyway.

When Angelus Layne appeared, a few people immediately chanted, “Who are you?” which, well, that’s certainly a thing you could shout, but I don’t know why you would, especially since Brandon Stroud was about to introduce her. When he did, Layne commented, “That’s who I am.” And, man, if it weren’t for Layne, this match could have been a bit of a disaster, but she held it together and was just the meanest, nastiest person she could possibly be. When she did what she did in the header photograph, she cemented her status as a badass.

Turner was eliminated fairly quickly, leaving it down to the tenacious Layne and the never-quitting Doom. There were a few messed up spots, but those almost helped the situation. Clearly, Doom was overmatched in both the skill and size department, and it was a lot to have to try and overcome. So, even though a couple things did not go so smoothly, it actually made it seem like Doom was just really fighting her tail off to stop from being completely pummeled.

And true to Trew’s word, he did not get involved. They let the match play out however it was going to play out. Layne’s mistake was pulling Doom up when she had her down for what would have most likely been a three count. Instead, she wanted to inflict more damage and straight humiliate Doom. That was her downfall, as DELILAH DOOM was able to cleverly maneuver herself into a pinning combination and getting the 1-2-3 and advancing to the Finals of the XX Championship Tournament!

The crowd went bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S! One of the loudest reactions I’ve heard in Inspire Pro. That is truly amazing considering that Doom had been apart of this heel faction and had not been on the winning end of much of anything since debuting with the company. But she’s always kept her positivity and never-say-die attitude, which she desperately needed in this match, especially given what stakes were involved.

And what a start to the show, too. Can you imagine any other company being able to put two women’s matches at the top of the show and have it being one of the best one-two punches you could have to start a show? It was certainly up there with Battle Wars for the beginning of a show. You had Savoy and Athena beat the piss out of each other and they had this emotional rollercoaster following it up. Like, seriously, this match put the crowd through the wringer and they responded with such joy and relief when Doom pulled out the victory. That’s great storytelling from top to bottom, beginning with The New Movement deciding to try a different strategy going forward and ending with Layne being a supreme meanie-head and letting her hubris get the best of her. Just a great, great start to a show that had seven more matches to go.

After the match, the fans chanted, “DON’T COME BACK!” to Layne (which was a stark contracts to them chanting “PLEASE COME BACK” to Nicole Savoy, which, yeah, she totally should, ‘cause she was awesome), which was some bullshit, because she was great in that match. You wanted her to lose, because she was being such a jerk to Doom. Inspire Pro needs more wrestlers like her. Sadly, she suffered a broken ankle during the match (not sure when or how, but it’s impressive if she kept on working after suffering the injury), so who knows when she’ll return. If she even wants to, ‘cause the first time she was scheduled to appear, she broke both of her wrists, and then when she finally performs, she breaks an ankle. But hopefully she does.

The next one on the agenda was, as weird as it sounds, almost a cool-down match, and it was anything but. Really, Inspire Pro does not have cool-down matches, they just toss a short intermission in the middle. But, here we were, with only two matches completed and it wouldn’t be insane to say that people were a bit emotionally drained. Too bad! Alex Reigns revealed himself to be the mystery opponent for Barrett Brown.

The last time we saw Alex Reigns was at some point that I don’t feel like looking up, but it had been a considerable amount of time. In his absence, Carson and Moonshine Mantell went looking for a new third member of The World Class Syndicate, finding Barrett Brown last month at Ecstasy of Gold II. Brown was immediately challenged by a mystery opponent for this show.

Was Reigns just waiting for someone to take his spot just so he could get all upset about it and challenge that person to a match? I mean, he’d been away for quite some time and it just so happens that he’s ready to return right as he is being replaced. Did Carson or Mantell even call to see if he wanted to return to the team? Seems rather dickish on their part, as he was clearly ready to step back into the ring. Did they just not want to team with him anymore because they just didn’t think he was good? Was he an asshole? Did he think he was better than them? I mean, Carson already envisions himself as a Inspire Pro Championship contender, Mantell as a Pure Prestige contender, and picked Brown to go after the J*Crown, so clearly anyone who maybe thinks they are on Carson’s level, he just can’t handle that and has to get rid of them.

My point is, Reigns’ grudge should not be with Brown. He was simply asked to be apart of this team and accepted. It’s really on Carson, who’s the leader, who made the decision and he clearly did not want Reigns to be with the World Class Syndicate anymore. So, I don’t begrudge Reigns being mad, and I understand why he would challenge Brown (he took his spot afterall), but hopefully Reigns main goal is to go after Carson (which they had words after the match, so I’m sure that will be the case).

As for the match, it was VERY good. It’s going to be overlooked on this show because he followed those two outstanding women’s matches and were immediately followed by two men’s matches. What I’m saying is that this show was loaded and you could have put any match in the main event and no one would have batted an eyelash, this one included. People will see this match on the listing and not think much of it, but it’s going to surprise a lot of people and it could be the one they think about most.

What little we saw of Reigns in the past, I remember him being pretty good. When he teamed with Mantell, they were a formidable tandem who would have flourished had Inspire Pro had a legit tag team division, as it was, he just kinda disappeared (as did Mantell, truth be told) and was even forgotten by his own teammates it would seem. As for Brown, well, he’s Barrett Brown and he’s very good, even though people chant “Brown Town” in support of him, which is just a very odd chant. It just poses a lot of questions I don’t necessarily want the answer to.

In the end, in a really great closing sequence (they had a lot of great counter sequences throughout the match), ALEX REIGNS picked up the victory (would have been awful if he went through all that trouble and ended up losing), with what was more or less Ray Rowe’s finisher, which was odd. I’m not sure what you call the move, but it’s a full-nelson slam into a knee (in Rowe’s case, it’s a knee to the back of the head, and Reigns’ is to the face). I don’t recall anyone really using a move so similar to someone else’s finisher. They only thing we really get a lot of are superkicks because of course we do. Everyone does a superkick. I’m not even a wrestler and I superkick shit.

But this was good, and it’s not over, naturally. Hopefully, Reigns can do battle with Mantell next before finally getting his hands on Carson, but if Moonshine is unavailable, I could see them going straight to the Carson match. I would like to see a series of matches, though, if they intend to stretch this out (tag matches and the like). I’m totally down with The World Class Syndicate being the heels in this situation (at the very least Carson is), so it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. I mean, in truth it’s pretty straight forward, but who knows? Maybe Barrett Brown is all, “hey, you all were friends and you didn’t even ask if he wanted to come back? That’s messed up,” and that causes a rift. Carson just works better as a heel and making him kind of a smarmy, sleazy heel that lies about his own friends would be good. I mean, he already has slotted his current teammates into Title slots, seemingly without consulting them on whether maybe they would want to go for the Inspire Pro Title or not. I mean, what an ass, right?

Speaking of asses… yeah, no, that’s not a segue at all. After being delayed three hours, rushing over from the airport, "Mr. Touchdown" Mark Angelosetti finally made his debut! He followed in the footsteps of his Throwbacks tag team partner, Dasher Hatfield, heading down from Chikara to take on Texas’ best kept secrect, Steve O'Reno for the J*Crown Championship in what would be a battle of The Jock vs. The Nerd.

You never would have guessed that Mr. Touchdown had spent the better part of his day either sitting in an airport or on a plane, as he and Reno went right at it. Reno even went for his Banana Split submission (what Dasher tapped out to) early and often in the match. Reno, as everyone knows, is probably the most beloved star in Inspire Pro and has been on such an amazing tear, well, pretty much since he debuted with the company, because even when he was saddled with the easily-KO’d Bradley Axel Dawson as the Hollywood Knives, he only lost once. He rode that impressive run all the way through last month’s Gauntlet Match and now wears a beautiful crown to the ring.

I really don’t know what to say about this match, because it was just good. It was a Steve match and sometimes someone is so good there aren’t a lot of words you can say about it. My hope with these matches is that word will get back to the people in charge of Chikara and Reno can begin getting work with them. He’d be a wonderful fit, although maybe they don’t want to bring in the guy who seemingly can’t lose to a Chikara wrestler? Man, maybe The Flood should have used Steve instead of Deucalion? Chikara would be nothing but a memory now.

What I’m getting at is that STEVE O'RENO won the match when he turned the Banana Split into a pin and Mr. Touchdown was unable to kick out. He’d been worn down by a lot of submissions by that point, and was just too spent to kick out. Throughout the match, Angelosetti played the heel role, which he is so very good at. Just something about the prototypical jock that can rile up a crowd. Blowing snot on your opponent also upsets people. But, afterwards, the Hollywood Strangler returned with… some woman. Actually the woman came out first, chatting it up with Reno, allowing the Strangler to attack from behind.

Mr. Touchdown seemed as if he didn’t care and was going to leave, but he thought better of it and dispatched of the Strangler, much to everyone’s delight. See, he’s not a bad dude afterall. He even presented Reno with the game ball, who in turn gave Reno the gift of novelty sunglasses with a football face mask attached. Yes, they were ridiculous and they were amazing. Seriously though, people of the wrestler world, BOOK STEVE!!

Next month, on March 22, Reno will be defending the J*Crown against “Jiggle-O” James Johnson, which should be a great contest. It’ll also be interesting to see if Chris Trew keeps his word and allows Johnson to do the match without any sort of interference. Did the Delilah Doom victory signal a turning of The New Movement’s fortunes? And what does Cherry Ramones think of all this? Trew mentioned that while Lee was signed up, he was still trying to get a hold of Ramones. Cherry was very much against Johnson and perhaps he just likes cheating, so he won’t go with the team? Someone has to defect, right? It would be strange if Johnson stays on, when he never wanted on the team, and Ramones leaves when he was the first person signed by Trew. Strange but interesting. Ramones is a very good wrestler who doesn’t get the spotlight a lot, so him playing opposite The New Movement could be fun.

You know what’s not fun? Watching Brandon Stroud get shoved on his ass by Lance Hoyt.

It’s the first real physical altercation between the mammoth wrestler and the ring announcer. It’s mostly been a lot of threats and clothes ripping. All this beef over Stroud not saying “THE American Psycho,” which, really, only makes his nickname all the more accurate. Thankfully for Stroud (and Inspire Pro, ‘cause they probably don’t want another potential lawsuit, this time for a death), he actually had some people on his side, as Ricky Starks and ACH made a beeline for the ring and stopped Hoyt from committing murder.

After everyone was pulled apart and Stroud was helped out of the ring, Justin Bissonnette finally said shit had gone too far (where have you been all these months with Hoyt had been harassing Stroud??? Talk about an unsafe work environment), so if these guys wanted to go at it, they would do so in a triple threat match to determine a new number one contender to the Inspire Pro Championship.

What about Takaaki Watanabe, you say? Well, where as Mr. Touchdown was able to make it to Texas after a lengthy delay, Watanabe was not so lucky. So, he missed the show, and his match with ACH was therefore off the card. So, Hoyt was there to end Stroud’s life, ACH was there for a match he was no longer going to have, and Starks, well, he was just there and finally had enough of Hoyt’s shit. So, Biss being the kind of promoter he is, looked at the situation and made a hell of a decision because this match was INSANE!

I will never be able to do it justice, as there was just too much shit going on. There was a bit of confusion with myself and Sam about whether it was elimination rules or not, but it was made clear later. See, at the start, ACH and Starks did the smart thing by teaming up on Hoyt. Now, that would have made a lot more sense if it was elimination rules. As it happened, it was a single fall match, meaning, while, yeah, that was still a smart strategy, you would have to incapacitate Hoyt and then try to pull a quick one on the other guy to steal the pin, more or less. Had it been elimination style, they could have done their team-up, gotten rid of Hoyt, and then fought amongst themselves. That’s honestly my only complaint about the match. It just made the psychology of the match a bit wonky. Because, eventually, when they had Hoyt out on the floor, Starks decided to go after ACH, making it a true Triple Threat at that point.

The action was all over the place, and each guy came close to winning, but in the end, after Starks got knocked to the floor, ACH managed to get the pin on Hoyt after Brandon Stroud returned to break up a pinfall and just generally act as a distraction. That’s what you get, Hoyt! Stop being a bully! Were they doing the “Be a Star” campaign when Hoyt was employed by WWE? Not that that matters, since 90% of their roster are bullies, but still.

After the match, Hoyt let it be known that it was not over between him and Stroud. At one point a lady in the audience shouted, “You have shitty tattoos!” See, Hoyt get shit for his tats all the time, between “tramp stamp” and “Whataburger!” chants, they never let up. He fired back on this lady, “I bet you have shitty tats, too! Oh, wait, that’s just your face!” It was actually a good, unexpected burn, and she took it all in stride. She also may have been really drunk, because she was very vocal. Anyway, at one point, Starks and Hoyt got into it again and had to be separated by some officials and security, and then Starks got on the mic, and there is NOTHING better than when Ricky Starks get a head full of steam on a microphone and just rants and raves. I’m glad there isn’t a lot of talking on the Inspire Pro (something some other promotions could learn), but they do have a lot of people who are excellent speakers and should be allowed to do so more often. Starks is one of them, and in the early part of Inspire Pro’s life, he was usually the only one getting mic time. That’s gone away, but hopefully after this, it returns.

Also, this happened:

“Lisa, bye!” Beautiful. So, next month, it will be Lance Hoyt versus Ricky Starks, and maybe ACH versus Dalton for the Inspire Pro Championship? That actually hasn’t been set yet, but it would probably be a good idea to do it, since we’re about to have twenty Number One Contenders. I kinda hope they just have contendership matches every show, but then never actually give them their Title shots, instead having storyline reasons for other matches to happen (such as with Palmer needing a rematch with Dalton), or non-Title matches (like tag matches), until eventually, it’s just one big Ten-Man Inspire Pro Championship Match. That would be glorious. A huge clusterfuck, but glorious all the same, especially if it’s a one-fall match. Make it happen, guys!

This is the part of the show where we take intermission. And at this intermission, I finally met Davey Vega, and he was a swell dude. I totally forgot everything I was going to say to him (such as him being my favorite wrestler, that he’s really killing it with his 30 Day Shred and looks fantastic, and other stuff), but he was nice all the same. I bought his new shirt as well. It’s really funny the design he chose, because at last month’s show, I told my wife Sam that I should just make my own Vega shirt, with a bleeding heart on the front, because he didn’t have one. But now he does and it’s perfect. So happy.

We kicked off the second half of the show with what should have been a NWA World Women's Championship match, buuuuut Barbi Hayden managed to lose it the previous weekend to Santana Garrett in Florida. So, instead her match with Leva Bates would be a Number One Contender's Match for the XX Championship. That's right, before there's even a Champion, we will know who gets the first shot.

Before the match started, Hayden had some words to say. She explained how hard it was to be a WORLD Champion, since the fans would never know the pressure of such a situation, and said while she had been doing some nefarious things (which is only partly true, I still stand by the fact that the referee was at fault for the Veda Scott match), she would not being doing that anymore. She was turning over a new leaf just like The New Movement earlier.

What I like about the Inspire Pro crowd is that they get super involved and are very vocal but it's very rare when someone tries to just take over a show (a problem some other companies have). Even the NXT crowd kinda goes into business for themselves (in a way), and will chant arbitrary things just to chant things. A product of that is Leva Bates, who instantly got over as "Blue Pants" despite working minute-long matches. With Inspire Pro, there were zero Blue Pants chants, which is kind of shocking (at least that I can recall). Some kids brought signs and lots of people tweeted using that name, but for the show, she was simply "Cobra Commander" Leva Bates.

The match itself was back and forth and Hayden really did try her best not to cheat. But she did, putting her feet on the ropes like she was Ric Flair or something. It did not work. Eventually, she got knocked to the floor and was all "screw this" and was apparently going to walk away. That wasn't the case at all, because as any good heel knows, most baby faces are a bit dumb, and won't stand for someone retreating even though it means a victory for them (and a bigger cut of the pay, you would think, for being a winner). So, naturally, Bates gave chase.

It should be noted that Inspire Pro uses the 20-count instead of your typical ten. I've always liked the 20 better ever since I started watching Japanese wrestling back in the day. It's more dramatic, plus a 10 count forces you to kind of no-sell an attack. Like at NXT Takeover: Rival, when Bull Dempsey shoved Baron Corbin into the ring post. The count was already at, like, seven, so he basically had to shrug it off and get back into the ring. Sure, the story is sound, showing that Corbin is resilient, but imagine that same scenario with a 20-count. How dramatic would that have been? He could lay around, crawl, fall, and still heroically make it back into the ring.

Funny tidbit real quick, Stroud mentioned the 20-count at the beginning of the show, and the guy sitting behind us was thoroughly confused. All through the opening match, he kept commenting on it, thinking the count was for a pinfall. Silly man. Eventually he figured it out.

Back to the match, Hayden ran around the crowd, with Bates giving chase. Hayden managed to slow her down, and climbed into the ring before the count of twenty, giving BARBI HAYDEN the victory by count out. Now, here's my slight issue, whenever one person is out of the ring, the count begins, but when the second person joins them, that stops the original count, right? And a new count starts? I feel as though that is correct (and really the only thing that makes sense). So, they should have a whole new count instead of it being at thirteen when Bates jumped out and having to hustle to get back in.

I bring this up because the same referee who missed Veda Scott's foot on the rope at Ecstasy of Gold II was the official for this match (he gets booed every time we walks out, too). Soooo, is he in cahoots with Hayden? What are the odds that a fishy ending would occur with the same ref, with the same wrestling benefitting? Once, sure, but twice, especially after how big of a stink was raised last time. I mean, I know Scott and Inspire Pro settled their beef, but maybe they need to re-examine things now that she can bring someone else over to her cause?

I have a feeling, things will not go as smoothly as they hope when they try to crown the first XX Champion, as Scott has already tweeted out “#AustinScrewjob” since this show ended. At least with the NWA Women’s Championship out of Inspire Pro for the time being, things can refocus on their own division, which is for the best if you ask me.

Another division that’s been heating up thanks to the unlikely double turn (it would seem) between Pure Prestige Champion, Thomas Shire, and the man who stole the belt Mr. B. I mentioned it last month when Shire and Mr. B battled for the giant piece of gold, but the fans have latched onto Mr. B for the most part, and it’s not undeserved. When we used to go to ACW, he was always stuck in the same matches month to month (almost exclusively tag team bouts against the same teams), and didn’t have much of a character beyond shouting “White Chicks!” But since he began in Inspire Pro, I dunno, he just has seem more focused. He’s definitely treated more seriously and that’s showing through in his work and the reactions he gets.

Now, why people have turned on Shire, who was a pretty big fan favorite when he was helping Scot Summers battle former Inspire Pro Commissioner, Greg Symonds. He was even cheered when he won the Pure Prestige Championship at BattleWars over Scotty Santiago and Teddy Hart. Since then? Things have turned. I have heard it said that people find him a little boring, lacking personality. I dunno, I’ve always enjoyed Shire and his work, even when his only role seemed to be jumping off the top rope and making Jojo Bravo fall down from the impact. But, I could see where people would think that. He definitely has a different sort of personality that a lot of people. He has a different sense of humor, it would same. It’s almost like he has more of an in-person personality that would draw people in (like how people always said Dean Malenko had one of the best senses of humor, but that “fun” personality never translated on-screen). Whatever the reasons, Shire has essentially switch, at the least, to a more tweener role.

But I mentioned Jojo Bravo, and he would be Mr. B’s opponent for the evening. Bravo started out in Inspire Pro as something of a hero for the people. He was demonstrably different than he was in ACW, although he still was fun in the ring, but it felt like, much like with Mr. B, he was taken more seriously. He got a big win over Robert Evans one the third show, The Quick and the Dead, in a great, great match. He headlined BattleWars with ACH against The Colony (Fire Ant and Silver Ant), getting the win with the Inspire Pro Special. He’s been in contention for things, such as the Inspire Pro Championship (in the opening tournament to crown a Champ and then a Number One Contenders Match) and the J*Crown (competed in the Gauntlet that Steve’o Reno won), but he hasn’t been able to capitalize.

So, when Bravo came out for the match, there was a decidedly different edge to him. Oh, also, he came out to the “NO HOLDS BARRED” theme. It was as awesome as you could imagine. But there was something on his mind to the point that he even left a fan hanging on a high-five. In the match itself, he seemed more or less the same, up to his old tricks and being clever and out-smarting his opponents. One funny moment had him attempting several quick pins on Mr. B, but upon being repeatedly unsuccessful, he said, “He’s unbeatable!”

Another cute moment came when they started a series of irish whips, with Mr. B hitting the ropes, and Bravo grabbing the referee’s arms, and creating a bridge for Mr. B to go under (I’m assuming they were attempting a double clothesline. On the return, things switched off and the referee was sent into the ropes, same thing happened, and then it was Jojo’s turn to hit the ropes. He put a stop to it, did a spin, and then all three men jumped into the air. The trickery and adorableness of it annoyed and frustrated Mr. B, but it was Bravo that would lose his cool.

Later in the match, Bravo was unable to get the pin, and got very upset with the referee and began to yank on his shirt and be very disrespectful of the stripes. No idea what caused the blow up, but Bravo was unable. And poor Austin, that was the second time in the night that someone was mean to him. The first was Angelus Layne and now Bravo. Brian, a guy who sits in front of us, turned at one point during the match and asked who we were even supposed to root for. Of course, you cheer for whomever you want, but I get his point. Mr. B was always a heel, but suddenly everyone loved him, while Bravo was one of the top faces in the company, but he was being surly and mean to referees, which was out of the ordinary. So, my answer? Root for Austin, and so he did.

One more quick thing about Austin the Referee before I continue. When he first became a referee, at the Fun Fun Fun Fest shows, he was… not good, let’s say. He wasn’t horrible, he wasn’t actively ruining matches, and he was most certainly doing a much better job than I would ever have been capable of (I would have likely had a massive anxiety attack and been able to do it just knowing so many people were going to be watching me), but he seemed lost, most of all. He wasn’t completely confident in what he needed to do and spent a lot of time just watching the matches, I think. Probably over thought everything and just didn’t want to make a huge fool of himself. Whatever the case, there was room for improvement. And let me say, this is only the second show since he started and he has gotten SO much better. It’s kinda unbelievable. You definitely don’t notice him in the ring like you did at FFFFest, and he’s moving around a lot more (he stuck to one spot a lot that first weekend of shows) and actually getting into the action (like asking if someone wants to give up, etc.). So, kudos to Austin for putting the damn work in and getting so good.

As for the match, Bravo mostly just kept getting more frustrated and eventually was defeated by MR. B, who put in some really good work, especially given how ravaged his body was after being in Tennessee working the weekend in his first steel cage match. After the match was over, Thomas Shire made a surprise appearance through the crowd and blasted Mr. B in the back, reclaiming his Championship. A funny thing happened with us, as one of my wife’s fellow trainees was looking towards the entrance, so when he heard Shire hit Mr. B, he jumped, thinking it was a random person attacking him. Quite hilarious.

Like I mentioned, the fans are more firmly on Mr. B’s side than they are Shire’s, which is incredibly strange when you consider that last month, at Ecstasy of Gold II, Shire retained the Pure Prestige Championship against Mr. B and afterwards gave Mr. B props and his respect for the hard fought match. Mr. B responded to Shire by punching him in the dick and stealing is belt. So how you gonna boo a man for taking back what was stolen from him? Wrestling fans, man.

Once all that cleared the ring, Jojo Bravo had some words to say. He was unhappy. He said he was thought of as a hero when Inspire Pro started. He was positioned as a hero. He started to get a little inside baseball with things, breaking the fourth wall a bit, but it still worked. Essentially, he’s frustrated because he has these expectations thrust onto his shoulders and maybe he wasn’t meant for that. Maybe the fans weren’t into that. He kind of lost me a bit there, as the fans have been firmly behind him from day one and he always gets one of the biggest reactions. That said, perhaps he sees the situation that, yeah, he’s liked, but he doesn’t think people truly want to see him in, say, Matthew Palmer’s or Ray Rowe’s position? I have no idea. At the end of the day, he’s not pleased and will be taking control of his life, his path, because he’s in charge of his fate.

My absolute favorite part of the whole show was when Bravo was leaving the ring and walking along the ramp to the back. It was at that point that a small child tried to trip Bravo! Are you seriously, little kid? You can’t trip the wrestlers! Thankfully Bravo saw what was happening and managed to kick the boy’s hand away. Now, some people who saw it might say that the kid was just trying to give Bravo a high-five (as he was always well-loved by the children) and that Bravo kicked it out of frustration. Others may say that Bravo was actually doing the kid a favor because of germs and the like, as when wrestling, your hands get all sorts of sweay and dirty. But I stand by my interpretation. That little kid was trying to hurt Bravo and now all I want is a match between the two!

Seriously though, what I want to see is Jojo just starting to truck people. Start being absolutely dominate. Just straight murdering folks. Completely revamp his in-ring style. Take away all his fun tricks and flips and make it as bare bones and hard-hitting as possible. Man, just make him Katsuyori Shibata. But a more dominate version. No nonsense, no gimmick, the only fun he has is kicking dudes in the mouth and headbutting concussions into their brains. Make it happen, Inspire Pro! I would like to keep him in the Pure Prestige division, as they need more than Mr. B and Shire competing for the belt, especially since 60% of the rest of the roster are already Number One Contenders to the Inspire Pro Championship.

Jessica James is another person who has a shot at Championship gold, her opportunity coming in the XX Championship Tournament Finals against Athena and Delilah Doom at In Their Blood II (date to be determined), and while that looms on the horizon, standing before her is someone she can most definitely not look past, “The Mountain” Vanessa Kraven, who was making her Inspire Pro debut.

We’d seen Kraven in person one time previously, at the WrestleMania Weekend SHIMMER event, and once on tape for Smash Wrestling. I’m fairly certain she may have lost both contests, which seemed strange. She seems like the type of character you’d want to push Vader-style. Just punish folks. She towers over almost all the women she could face, so why not do that? And like Vader (from what I’ve heard), she was super nice in person!

She was less nice to James. To the best of my recollection, James hadn’t lost a match with Inspire Pro. For most of the match, that squeaky clean record was looking in jeopardy, but James roaring back, taking the fight to Kraven. It was the classic mismatch, with the smaller, quicker James, trying to use that speed and her generally great wrestling technique to keep Kraven grounded. But Kraven isn’t dubbed “The Mountain” for nothing. She used her size and strength to her advantage, punishing James for large stretches of the match.

Just as it was looking like James was going to pull off, I wouldn’t say an upset, but a major victory, when all hope looked bleak… Kraven let out a roar (I may have imagined it, but it was certainly a roar-like look on her face), said “fuck this!” One chokebomb later and VANESSA KRAVEN was your winner, doling out James’ first loss. It was also one of the few victories for guests. For the most part, those visiting Inspire Pro leave with a loss, but like fellow Canadian Robert Evans (who defeated Ray Rowe way back when), Kraven would not be stopped.

Thankfully, “The Mountain” refrained from crushing in James’ skull. That would have been very unpleasant. Although, a head vice should totally be her submission finisher. Has she ever done that? Has anyone ever told her that? Do it, Vanessa! But this victory does setup an interesting dynamic if James happens to win the XX Championship and if Kraven returns (hopefully she does), as while Barbi Hayden is the Number One Contender, Kraven would definitely have earned a shot. She may have regardless because as has been proven thus far, it’s not easy to defeat Jessica James.

Finally, we come to the end. The main event. The match with the most storylines going into it. Basically, “DIE, DALTON, DIE!” sums it up best. Everyone wants the Inspire Pro Champion, ”Dirty” Andy Dalton to die. Barring that, just getting the Title off him would be grand in a lot of people’s eyes. While I am on board with that sentiment, I don’t want it to happen anytime soon. There’s just way too much mileage to get out of the Dirty Mind of Wrestling as The Man of Inspire Pro. He’s just too scummy to have lose too soon. But it wasn’t to only be Dalton competing, as he would be joined by NWA North American Champion, making his Inspire Pro in-ring debut, Tim Storm and “The Bleeding Heart” Davey Vega.

Their opponents would be three men who all wanted to be Inspire Pro Champion. It would be the returning-from-his-motorcycle-accident Ray “Death” Rowe, “The Bionic Beast” Franco D’Angelo and the man who wants threatened to end Dalton’s life via butcher’s knife, “Centerfold” Matthew Palmer. A lot of times when teammates are seeking the same thing, it can create tension and make it difficult to work together. But since nothing was actually on the line in this match, their singular focus was actually an advantage. They all wanted the same thing: to kill Andy Dalton. And they tried their damnedest!

This match was ABSOLUTELY BONKERS! It was non-stop from bell-to-bell… correction, it was bonkers BEFORE the bell, as Palmer dove to the outside as soon as he hit the ring, crushing Dalton with his flying “Centerfold” elbow drop thing he does (always the showman, even when diving to the floor). Really, this match, my minor grasp on the English language would never be able to do it justice. It may have been the best main event matchup for Inspire Pro, to be honest. I can’t think of a better off the top of my head, especially since last month’s ended so shittily. Speaking of, if you’ll recall, everyone’s favorite referee got lightly kicked in the stomach by Dalton and he immediately disqualified him. He attempted to do the same, but the referee caught his foot. He wasn’t having none of that shit.

The biggest thing to come out of this match was really how well Ray Rowe looked. In fact, he may have looked better than he did before his motorcycle accident. He was crisp, hard-hitting, and had some fucking impressive power sequences that just need to be seen to be believed. He was just a terror that at one point, Davey Vega just jumped off the apron so that he wouldn’t have to be tagged in.

Speaking of Davey Vega… have you ever heard of the Davey Spike? Well, if not, boy are you in for a treat, although the entire time it’s being set up your heart is beating faster than a hummingbird’s wings, and you begin praying. You don’t know who or what to pray to because praying is such a foreign concept to you, but you pray just for the general well-being of everyone involved. Because the Davey Spike? Yeah, it’s this:

(Vine by John Gholson)

Like I said, the match was INSANE (possibly even in the membrane) and completely makes up for the nonsense of last month. On top of that, it sets up so many things for the future. See, at the end of the day, after a flurry of finishers being hit in succession, things settled down to Dalton being left laying prone in the center of the ring, his partners disposed of, and Palmer climbing to the top rope, onto Rowe’s shoulders (it’s normally D’Angelo’s!!), and nailing the frog splash for the 1-2-3, giving MATTHEW PALMER, FRANCO D’ANGELO, and RAY ROWE the victory.

I love this company so damn much. Just thought I’d throw that in there. But, while I’m not 100% behind the idea of Dalton dropping a fall (you kind of don’t want to see that happen until he finally does lose the Title for real), at least Palmer got the win (which probably means he’ll lose whenever he gets another Title shot *sad face*), and did so in a manner that ticked D’Angelo off a little bit. After the match, “The Bionic Beast” got on the microphone and spoke on the same things he spoke on last month, that he wants the Inspire Pro Championship no matter who he has to go through. He directs his verbiage towards Rowe and said that he respected him but he didn’t like him (even took a little shot at his injury, that it was less than the one Franco returned from), and he wanted him in a match.

A number one contenders match. Now, I know what you may be thinking, didn’t we just crown one earlier? Wasn’t it ACH? You would be correct. Not to mention that Palmer definitely has a rematch coming his way. There hasn’t been a mention of when ACH will challenge for the Title, and Palmer may even get his first and win it before he ever does. Hell, maybe the winner of Rowe-D’Angelo could get theirs in before ACH, as he is a very busy man. I don’t see that happening, but it’s a possibility. I say we just go ahead and make Starks-Hoyt a contenders match as well.

But that’s the great thing, there’s so many options now, moreso than there seemed to be when Mike Dell was the Champion. So, like I said, keep the belt on Dalton for awhile and let him scum his way to retaining. He’s the best heel you have, and probably always will be. I can’t see anyone, ever, wanting to cheer for him. Maybe he has that in him but do we really want to find out when he’s so good being so bad?

FINAL THOUGHTS: On paper, as I mentioned in my preview (and was called out on it by Mr. Stroud), it didn’t look there was much going on with the show storyline wise. Just a collection of matches, some with stories, but most just featuring debuts. Boy was I wrong, because even in that preview I ended up writing 3500 words about it. Then the show actually happened and every match basically has some consequences coming out of it. Hopefully I was able to relay that in the, probably unnecessary, 9000+ words I wrote here. This was a great show from top to bottom. I felt like Ecstasy of Gold II, while it was a wonderful show, felt rushed and, of course, had the silly DQ finish to end it, and maybe everyone kind of thought the same way? I don’t know, but everyone busted their damn asses this month. Maybe it had something to do with five people making their Inspire Pro in-ring debuts? Whatever it was, they need to keep it up.

I know I’m always on here praising these shows, with each month being better than the previous one. Maybe that’s not true, but when you only watch these shows live (the only show I’ve watched on tape is BattleWars), the biggest thing you remember isn’t necessarily the awesome matches and the cool moves people did, what you take away from the shows is the emotion. The energy inside the building. Now, last month, there was no bigger buzz than when people just kept filing into the Marchesa Theater and forcing the show to start late. That was just crazy because people nearly had to start hanging from the ceiling or even sitting on the ring apron to have any spot at all to watch. I don’t think the show, as a whole, lived up to how it felt leading up to the start of the show, but it was still a really good show. Better than what most companies can put on.

What Inspire Pro does not lack is passion and ambition. They try to top their previous show. They want that feeling up being better month to month, because as a show (whether it be wrestling or just your standard television show) you WANT to be better each time. You have stories to tell and fans to entertain. People aren’t going to like everything you do, and that’s fine. There’s something for everyone. And Inspire Pro does it better than anyone I’ve seen. And that’s a FACT (™ Tyson Kidd).

And next month, on March 22nd, they’ll try to out-do Undeniable, when they return to the Marchesa Theater for…

Tickets are already on sale!

Three matches were made at Undeniable, Ray Rowe vs. Franco D’Angelo to determine the number one contender (behind ACH) for the Inspire Pro Championship, ”Jiggle-O” James Johnson challenging Steve’O Reno for the J*Crown Championship, and Ricky Starks vs. Lance Hoyt (Title implications unknown). What we didn’t know then, but do know now (courtesy of the Inspire Pro Hotline at 512-270-WRES), is that there will be a 10-Team Over-the-Top Battle Royal with Tag Team Championship implications.

That’s right, folks, that means exactly what you think it means, Inspire Pro will finally be getting Tag Team Champions. It’s been a long time coming, really. In the early going they had a few regular tag teams, mostly the Pump Patrol, and the best tag team in recent memory was the Hollywood Knives, who were really just one man and his comatose partner. I kind of wish they had gone a little outside the box and done a Trios Championship instead, just to mix things up, but I could see how that would be tricky. You’d definitely need a much larger roster to have just a dedication division of three-people teams, because you wouldn’t want something like the old Center of Perfection group of Matthew Palmer, Franco D’Angelo, and Robert Evans as your Trios Champs if all three men probably want other things (or are even challenging for other belts). You’d want people just for that division. So, just a regular Tag Team division, and I’m totally down with that.

They already have some potential teams from groups like The New Movement, World Class Syndicate, and The Orphans (and even the NWA Revolution folks). The tag team division would probably be the best place to put Keith Lee at the current moment. Ideally, he should be someone challenging for the Inspire Pro Championship, but he may not be quite ready for that in-ring wise. He certainly has the look, charisma, and the impressive power moves to do it, but to piece together a whole match? Who knows. I think he could, but we haven’t been able to see him in that context yet. But put him in the tag division and let him wreck some people. My only real question will be: is it intergender like the J*Crown? Seems as if it should be, but we’ll see.

With the addition of the Tag Team Titles, that will put the number of belts within Inspire Pro at five (Inspire Pro, XX, Pure Prestige, and J*Crown), all within two years of Inspire Pro’s existence. To some that may seem like a lot. When Inspire Pro first started, I was completely cool with them only having the Inspire Pro Championship for the first year, and they basically did, really, but the other four have been added rather quickly. That should be the limit though, unless they want everyone to have their own belt. I just hope they can set some firm divisions (of course, people can move from division to division, but you know what I mean), so that none of the Titles end up like the US or Intercontinental Titles in WWE. A little harder to forget about belts when you just do one show per month, but, by the same token, with so many Titles, there’s always the possibility that a Champion can’t make a few shows in a row, effectively giving you a stagnant Championship. If you can’t create a story for the belt and have it defended regularly (at least every other show, although ideally every show, just sometimes storyline supercedes a Title), then you don’t need it. I can think of a certain company with a certain woman’s champion who basically showed up once or twice a year. That’s just unacceptable.

All in all, though, I’m looking forward to it, because I have all the faith in the people behind Inspire Pro. They haven’t let me down yet.