Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inspire Pro's Fade To Black Preview

Graphics via InspireProWrestling.com
It was several weeks ago when I promised a weekly series of columns detailing what was going on with Inspire Pro Wrestling. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors centering around laziness, I was only able to complete one. In it, I detailed Andy Dalton’s reign as Inspire Pro Champion and Ricky Starks’ quest for the gold, ahead of their title bout at Fade To Black. So, instead of trying to cram six more pieces into this final week leading up to Fade To Black on August 9th, you’ll be getting a standard preview of the entire show, with each part truncated so as not to be 50,000 words.

, firstly, let’s take a look at the card:

1. Inspire Pro Championship: “Dirty” Andy Dalton © vs. “Absolute” Ricky Starks
2. Pure Prestige Championship: Keith Lee © vs. Angelus Layne
3. J*Crown Championship: “Just” Steve-O Reno © vs. Sammy Guevara
4. XX Championship: Veda Scott © vs. Mystery Opponent
5. 3-Way Match: Barbi Hayden vs. Kimber Lee vs. Athena
6. Trios Tornado Match: “The Texas Lion” Carson, “The Pride of Texas Wrestling” Barrett Brown, and “That Guy” Scotty Santiago vs. “One Man” Mike Dell, “Untouchable” Alex Reigns, and Moonshine Mantell
7. Four-Way Match: Scot Summers vs. Everett Connors vs. Terrale Tempo vs. Cherry Ramons
8. Tag Team Match: Center of Perfection (“Centerfold” Matthew Palmer and Franco D’Angelo) vs. The Pump Patrol (Jared Wayne and Curt Matthews)
9. Trios Match: Teddy Hart, “Ultimo Sex Symbol” Thomas Munos, and “Born Dead” Sky De Lacrimosa vs. Rabid Empire (Thomas Shire, Zac Taylor, and DG Taylor)
10. Tag Team Match: House of Wolves (Erik Shadows and Matt Riot) vs. Mystery Team

The Inspire Pro Championship I already discussed at length, so we’ll obviously be skipping that. There are three other Championship matches, though, and they are some big match-ups. The first of which we have is Steve-O Reno defending the J*Crown against former J*Crown Champion and a man we never thought we would see in Inspire Pro again, Sammy Guevara. Inspire Pro severed ties with Guevara following a series of incidents that made it hard to do business with the man for the foreseeable future. But time heals all wounds and past transgressions, and so, it’s a year later, and Guevara has returned, aligning himself with Andy Dalton, Angelus Layne, and Davey Vega (and, I assume, also Tim Storm).

At Clash at the Bash II, Reno pushed Dalton to the absolute limit in their Inspire Pro Championship Match. Reno was able to effectively fend off Vega and Layne throughout the match, but it was just Dalton’s ability to nudge his shoulder off the mat during a double pin that kept the title around his waist and giving Reno his first, direct, singles loss. (He’d lost a tag team match to The Orphans when it was simply just one too many handicap matches for him to compete in thanks to his former Hollywood Knives partner, Bradley Axel Dawson, being unable to remain conscious for longer than ten seconds. He also so a three-way at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but Jojo Bravo was the one pinned by Vega.) After the match, Ricky Starks aided Reno in fighting off Dalton, Vega, and Layne until Guevara surprisingly hit the ring and kicked Reno in the back of the head.

He then broke the crown.

That leads us to their big showdown this Sunday, August 9th, at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre in Austin, Texas. Reno has faced a lot of big challenges in Inspire Pro and he’s overcome them all, with the only real blemish being his narrow loss to Dalton. They don’t call him Mr. Inspire Pro for nothing. But Guevara? He’s a different beast entirely. Here’s the thing about the self-dubbed “The Best Ever,” he’s really fucking fantastic at wrestling. His match with ACH at Light the Fuse is still one of the best matches ever in Inspire Pro history. And that was months before he won the J*Crown in a killer Ladder Match with Ricky Starks and Barrett Brown. He’s good, he’s just so goddamn unlikeable. He just has that face you want to punch repeatedly. So, it’s perfect that he has joined up with Dalton, another man who just elicits this rage inside of you.

The main question is, will Guevara be alone and will Reno have anyone with him? Starks won’t be able to help him out, because he has a big match of his own, the biggest of his career some would say, that he has to be ready for. I guess it depends on the placement of the match. If it’s early, he could, but it’s doubtful regardless. The match itself, though, if it isn’t completely overrun with shenanigans could very well be your match of the night. I’m going to say it will be. I just wonder, will they have a new crown for the winner? Let’s hope so, it’s probably the most unique championship in wrestling today.

Other than the J*Crown, the Pure Prestige, the most hotly contested title in Inspire Pro at the moment, will be on the line when Keith Lee defends against Angelus Layne. The first intergender title bout in Inspire Pro history. Which funnily happens with the Pure Prestige and not the J*Crown, a belt that was specifically stated to be intergender. Doesn’t matter though, because Inspire Pro is all about breaking barriers, and hopefully this leads to a woman challenging for the Inspire Pro Championship down the line. There’s not reason to have sex-specific titles in this day and age anyway.

How does a match like this come about? Well, as I mentioned, the Pure Prestige is now heavily under attack from a lot of people. First, it was Davey Vega, who upon defeating Donovan Danhausen, put his name in the hat to challenge Lee. Next it was Layne, who was in a tag team match with Vanessa Kraven against Delilah Doom and Jessica James. After the match, Lee came down to help out Doom, and Layne, who had stolen the title from Chris Trew’s arms and blasted Doom in the face with it, stated simply that if they wanted things to end between her and Doom, if they wanted to save Doom’s life, all Lee had to do was accept her challenge for his belt. If not, she would not stop until she destroyed Doom. So, of course, Lee had no other option but to accept the match. So, she has the first shot at the gold, but Vega is also in line, not to mention the returning Scot Summers. Summers has been gone from Inspire Pro for a number of months, but his fingerprints are all over the Pure Prestige Title even though he’s never actually held the belt.

It was Summers who introduced the World Class Championship into Inspire Pro for a certain set of wrestlers who wanted to compete for something that was true to the history of professional wrestling. Pure wrestlers. Wrestlers without wild gimmicks and weren’t flashy in the ring. It was for tough as nails competitors. But it was never an official title. So, at last year’s Battle Wars (Battle Wars II coming September 13th!!!!), he was scheduled to face Teddy Hart. He was unable to make it, so the Inspire Pro brass took it upon themselves to create a new title, the Pure Prestige title, one that was official. Thomas Shire won that inaugural bout, but lost the belt a few months later to Lee.

But Summers returned at Clash at the Bash II and laid it on the line for Lee. He essentially created that belt and he wanted it. So, somewhere down the line, whether it’s against Lee or not, Summers will be challenging for the Pure Prestige Championship. At Fade To Black, though, it will be Layne, who will undoubtedly have help in her corner (hopefully, one day, we’ll get a multi-person match between Dalton’s group and The New Movement). Lee will, of course be accompanied by Trew and maybe a couple members of The New Movement, but they are long since past being about winning at all costs. So, this will have to be Lee doing it on his own, and while, yeah, he’s a special kind of talent, who is massive in size and ability, you can’t discount Layne. She’s a tough woman who has no fear. She won’t be intimidated, that’s for sure.

The final title match of the night will see Veda Scott defending her XX Championship against Jessica James. Now, it should be noted that when Scott defeated Leva Bates at Clash at the Bash II, she completed her contractually obligated number of title defenses. A defense she tried to get out of by simply being counted out, but it was then announced that the match was no countout and no DQ, which was a strange way of doing things, but it is what it is. Even with that in mind, she agreed to appear at Fade To Black, but the Inspire Pro brass has stated they have not heard from Scott or her legal team in weeks. So, they went ahead and opted to give James the shot. Whether Scott will agree to the match or not is hard to say. But she has an easy out, if she wants it, by just saying James hasn't earned the shot. It was James, after all, who was pinned by Scott that won her the XX Championship (after Athena hit the O-Face on her). So, I could see her not backing out of the match. Although, maybe she will think it's an easy win? Whatever the case ends up being, we're sure Scott will only agree to something that is most advantageous for her. Never should have gotten into business with a wrestling lawyer, Inspire Pro.

Outside of the titles, we have six other matches. Two of which are Trios Matches. The first of which sees the newly formed Rabid Empire (led by Nigel Rabid) team of Thomas Shire, Zac Taylor and DG Taylor (Jojo Bravo is also a member, but is not on the show officially) take on the odd pairing of Teddy Hart, Sky De Lacrimosa and former referee-turned-wrestler Thomas Munos. The match came about following the events of Clash at the Bash II, when the Taylor Brothers turned on their Orphan brethren, De Lacrimosa, after they announced they had been adopted into the Rabid Empire, which left De Lacrimosa to fight and lose their trios match against The Great Depression, The Red Scare, and The Hollywood Strangler. The Rabid Empire then went on to attack Teddy Hart and El Mariachi Loco following a Triple Threat Match that also involved Bravo, but when Thomas Munos came in to help out, they chased the Empire off. It’s pretty straight forward.

The second Trios match will be contested under Tornado Rules and pits two teams together that had an all out brawl at CATB2. Carson, Barrett Brown, and Scotty Santiago fought Mike Dell, Moonshine Mantell, and Alex Reigns all over the Marchesa in a match that had to be thrown out because it just got too wild and uncontrollable. The solution was to simple make it Tornado Rules and to have TWO referees, one inside and one out, to help contain the match so that we can see a winner. The x-factor for the contest, however, will be Carson. He is currently injured, so will Brown and Santiago go at it was the disadvantage or will they pick up a third? And if they do, who will it be? There doesn’t seem to be anyone currently involved with Inspire Pro that would have any sort of beef or history with any of these men. Because, outside of Dell, everyone else has mostly been either aligned-with, or fighting each other. Could it be someone like “Cowboy” James Claxton? He hasn’t been seen in awhile, but he’s also apart of a team with Killer MacKenzie (who have a first round bye in the Tag Team Tournament, whenever that happens). Here’s the only thing we should reasonably expect: chaos. It’s going to be crazy.

We also have two, straight-up, tag team matches, the first which pits The Pump Patrol against The Center of Perfection (Matthew Palmer and Franco D’Angelo). Wait, weren’t those two at odds with each other after D’Angelo cost Palmer the Inspire Pro Championship and ended his career with the company? Why, yes, they were. So much so that at CATB2, The Bionic Beast was set to take on Athena (who is Palmer’s girlfriend, but this will be the only time we mention that because that’s not who she is as a wrestler). Instead of Athena, though, D’Angelo was greeted in the ring by Palmer (wearing Athena’s pre-match robe to hide his identity) and the two men battled right out of the Marchesa. Later in the evening, D’Angelo returned and dragged Biss into the ring, demanding that he reinstate Palmer so that he could fight him. That all turned out to be a ruse just to get Palmer back under contract. Does it make sense? Kinda? It feels very much like a rushed storyline and it probably was for a number of factors that aren’t of any relevance. Here’s what we know though: Palmer is back and he still wants to kill Dalton. Hopefully that doesn’t interfere with Starks’ shot at the Inspire Pro Title, but it is what it is. What we also know is that D’Angelo still wants gold of some sort, so he and Palmer are teaming up and taking on The Pump Patrol it was is probably just a preview for their entry into the Tag Team Tournament (‘cause as I said in the Inspire Pro Title piece, Palmer-Dalton doesn’t need to be about the title going forward) and, well, Curt Matthews and Jared Wayne are the two unfortunate men tabbed to meet this team head-on. Sorry, guys.

The second tag team bout will see the House of Wolves (Erik Shadows and Matt Riot) face a mystery team. They simply laid out an open challenge in what most definitely is a preview for the Tag Team Tournament. Who will answer the challenge? That’s anyone’s guess. Inspire Pro has had several tag teams come and go, but one of the more recent ones was the team of Kyle Hawk and Gregory James, Extinction and Sorrow. It could be them or it could be a team we’ve never seen before. I kinda hope it’s someone new, because I always like seeing new people at Inspire Pro. Either way, it should be a good showing.

The final two matches are mulit-person bouts, which could have implications in their respective divisions. The first will surely have ramifications within the Pure Prestige Title division, as Scot Summers will be competing with three other men, two of which are making their Inspire Pro debuts. The first is New Movement member, Cherry Ramons, who is returning from injury. He’s someone we all know, and he just continues to get better. Joining them will be Everett Connors, who was trained by Michael Elgin (you may know him as a former Ring of Honor World Champion and currently competing in New Japan’s G1 Climax), and is making his Texas debut. The other competes mostly in south Texas, Terrale Tempo. Now, Tempo is someone I’ve actually seen before. When we traveled to Del Rio, Texas, right on the Mexican border, to see Samoa Joe take on Brian Cage, Tempo was also on the show. He has a good look, is quite talented, and I think will make a great addition to Inspire Pro if they choose to continue using him in the future. I was impressed by him and I’m hoping he can have a good showing in this match. But, let’s be real, this is all about Summers. He’s already let it be known why he’s back and this is simply a showcase. Sure, a showcase for three other men to show what they can offer, but Summers has this one.

The final match will undoubtedly put one of these women in line for a XX Championship match in the future. It will be the former NWA World Women’s Champion and former Number One Contender to the XX Title, Barbi Hayden, taking on the woman who actually hit the move that allowed Jessica James to be pinned by Veda Scott to win the title, Athena (the woman who has been responsible for the best women’s matches in Inspire Pro history thus far: vs. Hayden, vs. Niki Savoy, vs. Kat Green; those are your best women’s matches in the company’s history), and the returning Kimber Lee, who was last seen at Ecstacy of Gold II, where she lost to Jessica James. Now, all these are three of the most well-known and well-traveled woman in the world (Hayden just coming off a tour of China for crying out loud) and will no doubt put on a hell of a show. It hasn’t been stated that the winner gets anything, but you have to know they will. Athena wasn’t cheated out of the XX Title, but she would have won had Scott not dumped her out of the ring and stolen her pin, and Hayden had her guaranteed shot at the gold taken away because she wanted to take the easiest way possible to getting it, by paying off a referee. Surely, we will get a detailed rundown of the referee’s bank account prior to the match starting. And Lee, well, she lost her only match, but she’s Kimber Lee, she can just point to her career thus far to show why she deserves a shot. I hope, one day, we can get an entire show of just women’s matches. I still say Inspire Pro should find some way to book a G1 Climax-style tournament for women. Have no idea how they would do that, but if anyone could, it would be them.

And that is it for Inspire Pro’s Fade To Black. It’s ten big matches, all of which will be worth the price of admission themselves. Inspire Pro just keeps having these excellent shows and managing to top themselves month-to-month. It’s crazy. Eventually that’s going to stop, right? Surely they can’t keep up such a hot streak? It can’t. They’ll have a stinker at some point, but I don’t think it will be this one, and it won’t be Battle Wars 2.

So, if you are in the area of the world, make the trip to Austin, Texas this Sunday, August 9th, pop by the Marchesa Hall and Theatre around 5:15pm central time to get you a good seat (although if you haven’t purchased them ahead of time and haven’t gotten in line by 4pm, you’re probably going to be standing) to witness that action that kicks off at 6pm. You are not going to want to miss it. Trust me.