Wednesday, September 9, 2015

PWA Retributon Review

Brandon van Danielson was one of the colorful cast of wrestlers at PWA Retribution
Photo/Graphics via
On August 29, I went to Prairie Wrestling Alliance's Retribution event. Edmonton-based PWA has been around since 2004, but this was the first show of theirs that I attended. I haven't been to many local shows, period – this was only my second. To be honest, it was pretty intimidating to go into a smaller space with a passionate crowd when I had no prior knowledge of the roster or the feuds unraveling. I relied on the regulars to let me know what the deal was for each match, and they did not disappoint. The crowd was amazing; the volume and energy were high for the entire night. There were also quite a few kids in the audience, which is always nice to see at a wrestling show.

The card was really well put together. We started off with “The PWA Original,” Marky, against newcomer Tony Cage. Pairing Marky, a massive crowd favourite (he was billed from Edmonton), with Cage was a good way to get people invested in the new guy, and a win for the hometown hero kept spirits high. Next up we had a title defense, which saw “The Omen” Gabriel Lestat retain the PWA Esteemed Championship against Colton Kelly. Lestat is a FOR REALSIES VAMPIRE, complete with dark entrance, cape, accompanying IV unit of suspiciously light-coloured blood, and a championship belt with little vampire fangs on it. I am deeply impressed by such things, but Lestat didn't even get a quarter of the reaction that his opponent did. The crowd HATED Kelly, and he skilfully played to them with the heel mannerisms and style that come naturally to some wrestlers. Not even bloodsucking fiends can get people to pay attention to them when a normal looking dude can make himself so hateable.

In my opinion the best-paced match of the night came next. It seems that PWA has their own version of Money in the Bank, as Brett Morgan entered carrying a briefcase that apparently guarantees him a title shot. He didn't use it this night, but he did have an excellent match against Michael Blais. Morgan is an arrogant but cowardly heel, and he did a good job of angering the crowd by refusing to fight but balancing it with a vicious fighting style when he was in the ring. Blais is more of a high-flyer, and another crowd favourite. Morgan was accompanied by his valet, Giselle, who interacted with the crowd and interfered on Morgan's behalf whenever she could. It was a lengthy bout featuring a lot of back and forth, and eventually Blais fell to Morgan's dastardly shenanigans.

My favourite match of the night was next: a comedy bout featuring Frenetico, whom everyone referred to as “Smurf” and who carried a statue of a smurf to the ring, and Nightmare. I'd hazard a guess that Nightmare was inspired at least a little bit by Deadpool, complete with full-body costume. At first Nightmare seemed a friendly, if confused, creature, waving to everyone and nonchalantly standing around. However, once the two locked up (and engaged in an extended trip outside the ring and through the crowd while latched on to each other), Nightmare showed that he had a mean streak, going so far as to take out his frustrations on the Smurf figure, including a piledriver that inspired a tumult of boos from the crowd while Frenetico cried out, “Why would you do that?!?” in the background. I like it when wrestling gets a bit silly, so I thoroughly enjoyed this match, though I was sad that Nightmare lost.

The energy of the crowd reached its peak during the next match, a tag bout that saw Rage and Fury (yes, those are really their names) defend the PWA Canadian Tag Team titles against Sheik Shabaz and Ayatollah Andy Anderson. I admit that Sheik and Anderson's gimmick made me a bit edgy as I fully anticipated some racist chants to erupt, but to my pleasant surprise it turned out that there were plenty of reasons to boo them without resorting to ugliness. And boy did the crowd ever boo them. I thought Colton Kelly had been the most hated heel, but Sheik and Anderson took things to a whole new level. They're both really big guys and Rage and Fury are, well, not. Fury in particular looked minuscule next to his opponents, so a lot of the match involved him being tossed around like a rag doll. The bad guys cheated outrageously and gave as good as they got to the fans verbally berating them. Despite the mostly one-sided nature of the match, I really enjoyed it. Sheik and Anderson's antics were hugely entertaining, and their villainy definitely elevated their opponents, who honestly seemed kind of bland on their own. However, Rage and Fury did make great plucky underdogs, so I was cheering just as hard as everyone else when they retained their titles.

Given the explosive reaction to that match, it was almost a given that the main event would be more of a cool-down match. It was another title defense, this time for the PWA Championship held by Mephisto. As his name implies, Mephisto is a sinister, big, masked dude, who somehow didn't generate much of a response. The challenger, Brandon van Danielson, was the sort of cowboy character pretty much designed with an Albertan audience in mind. Even so, most of the “BVD” chants that cropped up sounded pretty half-hearted. The match wasn't bad by any means, but I think the audience was just drained at this point. It felt like things ended before they had really gotten started, and Mephisto retained the title without much fanfare. It looked like things might heat up after the match ended, as Mephisto took out a steel chair and threatened to do some damage to BVD with it, but Marky ran out to make the save and nothing happened.

I hugely enjoyed myself at Retribution, and I would absolutely attend another PWA production. If you're in Alberta, I recommend checking whether PWA is running a show near you. They do have a website, but their Facebook page is probably the best place to go for information. The next event, Legacy, is on September 19 and will take place in Calgary.