Sunday, June 4, 2017

NXT Venice 6-3-17

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Gravenbabies

Saturday night NXT finished it's wet and rainy Florida weekend in Venice, Fl. With most of the television roster preparing for the UK tour, it was all hands on deck for the remaining crew. The wrestlers put on a solid show, despite the constraints, bad weather, and the drunken Venice crowd. Venice is easily the worst stop on the Florida loop. Even the people online who compain about the Full Sail crowd, would beg for Full Sail after  night in Venice. 

Nick Miller (w/ Shane Thorne) vs Wesley Blake (w/Steve Cutler)
It was a nice surpise to see one half of TM61 back in action after a long absense. He looked good, showing no ring rust as he took the fight to Blake with a series of deep headlocks and long arm drags. A frustrated Blake took advantage after dumping Miller into the turnbuckle and controlled the remainder of the match. Miller made a comeback and sealed the win with a spinning sitout slam. This was a solid opener. Wesley Blake seems rejuvenated, and I'm hoping his team with Steve Cutler makes tv, because they work very well together.

Cezar Bononi vs Adrian Jaoude 
The two Brazilian up and comers went head to head in a match that began with a lot of limb work and impressive grappling. Jaoude stayed one step ahead, until a frustrated Bononi took a cheap shot and beat down Jaoude with a series of strikes. Bononi grounded Jaoude and worked the arm until Jaoude mounted a comeback culminating into a suplex slam for the win. TV viewers will probably know Bononi as the competitor who recently gained an upset victory over Andrade Cien Almas. Hopefully this leads to bigger things for the big man, who clearly has the look and potential to go far. Adrian Jaoude looks like a legitimate badass, and with a background as an amatuer wrestler and martial artist, he is. Jaoude clearly has the tools, once he finds that connection with the audiences, he'll be over in no time.

Liv Morgan, Kimberly Frankele, and Sarah Logan vs Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Mary Kate
The match starts with plenty of bantering, much of it from Mandy Rose playing off the fact that she is gorgeous and has no problem letting the crowd and her opponents know it. This was a back and forth match where all six women looked great in their respective parts, until the bad girls isolated Kimberly for much of the latter half. Eventually, Frankele makes the hot tag to Liv who comes in clearing house. All the girls end up in the ring and in the chaos Mary Kate plants Liv into the mat with a black hole slam. While the women's television roster seems centered around a few women, matches like this seem to indicate the division is in good hands. Liv Morgan reminds me of a 2014 Alexa Bliss, more than capable, sometimes overambitious in the ring. but watch out when she hits her stride and flips the switch. Sarah Logan seems to have acclimated to the WWE atmosphere and is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Next out is Lars Sullivan for an interview. He's asked about taking out his frustrations on his tag partners. He admits to being frustrated because he's not a loser like everyone else in the locker room. He continues that everyone in the back, everyone in the crowd are a bunch of conformists. He says he follows no one and that he is the future of the WWE. He will retire John Cena and headline Wrestlemania. The promo sort of meandered all over the place, and left some people scratching their heads. However, Sullivan is solid on the mic, confident, well spoken, and unfazed by the crowd.

Sawyer Fulton vs Babatunde Aiyegbusi
Much like their Friday night match in Ocala, big guy Sawyer Fulton struggled to gain traction against an even bigger 6'9" Babs. No technical match and was a hoss fight from beginning to end. This time it would be Babs picking up the victory after a thunderous backbreaker. Babs is an impressive sight to behold and is sure to go places on sheer look alone. I'm curious to see where Fulton ends up, I'd actually like to see him back in Sanity.

Tino Sabbatelli vs Oney Lorcan
As Lorcan matches often go, this one was very hard hitting. It was a hard fought, back and forth match, but Lorcan eventually got the win with his somersault neckbreaker. Oney Lorcan is a workhorse that can put on a great match with just about anyone. Tino is very over where ever they go on the Florida loop. The crowd was split on this one.

Street Prophets (Dawkins and Ford) vs The Ealy Brothers
This match mirrored the Friday night encounter, with the athletic and charismatic Prophets strong in the early goings until the Ealy Brothers slowed the pace and worked over Ford for most the match. Eventually, Ford makes the hot tag and Angelo cleans house. He tags Ford back in for a frog splash and a pin. The Ealy Brothers are getting better at aworking the crowd.

Binky Blair vs Lacey Evans
This match featured two women who have picked things up really fast. Lacey worked most of this match as underdog against Binky, who had no problem using her long braid as a weapon… first as a whip and later as a restraint. Ultimately though, Lacey would tap out Binky with an armbar. I expect these women to do well down the road. Binky (who had a great match with Asuka a few weeks back in Dade City) especially shined tonight.

The Velveteen Dream vs Roderick Strong
This was actually a strong main event (no pun intended) with a great showing from both guys. Strong obviously has an impressive resume, and could easily be “Mr. NXT” if given the opportunity. Clark is better than most people care to admit, his selling is on point, and he is so easy to dislike. The two worked a solid main event. In the final moments, the Velveteen Dream hit his elbow from the top rope, busting open Roddy in the process. However, a bloodied Strong kicked out and a few moments later finished off Clark with his finisher. He stood tall, victorious and bloody to send the crowd home happy.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

NXT Ocala 6-2-17

Written by Wayne Mason
Photos by Gravenbabies

Friday night NXT returned to Ocala, Fl for another night of wrestling action. The Reserve Pavillion at The Hilton is essentially a large tent. The outside venue was made that much more thrilling by the large Florida storm system that was moving through the area bringing much rain and wind, flooding the floors (cords and electrical equipment too) with sheets of rain that interns would be sweeping away all night. Despite the wetness, humidity, and technical difficulties the show indeed went on.

The Ealy Twins vs Street Prophets (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford)
This was a solid opening match that saw The Prophets working from underneath for most the match despite a strong opening. The Ealy Twins are two big intimidating guys who fit into this new tag team division developing in NXT which seems to be centered around larger guys. They’re still looking for that connection with the crowd but definitely have the tools to get there. Alternately, Dawkins and Ford are extremely over right now and are quickly becoming favorites of the tag division. Ford is overflowing with charisma, and is just as entertaining on the ring apron or in the ring. After a hard fought match, Crawford got the win for his team with a frog splash from the top rope.

Sawyer Fulton vs Babatunde Aiyegbusi 
Far from a technical match, with lots of brawling and big guy power moves this was your hoss fight of the night. However, even Fulton who is no small guy, looked small next to the 6’9” Babs. In the end, Babs looked to have it won but an eye rake was enough of a distraction for Fulton to hoist Babs up for a vertical suplex for the win. It will be interesting to see where Fulton fits in going forward after finally getting over with Sanity.

Mary Kate (Amazon Andrea) vs Sarah Logan
Prior to the match Logan was announced by her real name Sarah Bridges, but I’m assuming that was just a mistake. Whatever you call the former Crazy Mary Dobson, she seems to really be hitting her stride and becoming comfortable in a WWE ring. She played underdog to the very dominant Mary Kate in what was one of the better matches of the evening. Logan made an impressive comeback though, nailing Mary Kate with a vicious running knee and series of strikes in the process. In the end though Mary Kate finished Logan off with a mean looking Black Hole Slam. This was a great showing for both women, and it was a big relief seeing Mary Kate back in the ring after a few weeks of being Lana’s muscle.

As tradition dictates in Ocala, wrestling legend Dory Funk came to ring for an interview but was interrupted by his former student Wesley Blake, along with Steve Cutler. Blake claims he was the best thing to ever come out of Funks wrestling school, and challenges Funk to a fight right there. Roderick Strong comes out to make the save, telling them he’ll give them a fight. Cutler agrees, but says they fight in the main event!

Only Lorcan vs Jeet Rama 
This was a standard back and forth match that saw One Lorcan take the win with his somersault neckbreaker. Lorcan is easily one of the best in NXT, and can put on a good match with just about anyone.

Andrade Cien Almas vs Buddy Murphy
The match started off slow with each competitor feeling each other out, plus some posturing and “tranquilo” posing. The match quickly evolved into a fast paced, back and forth hard hitting affair with each men hitting a lot of their trademark spots. Finally, after a mean super kick, Murphy landed double knees off the top rope onto Almas for the win. This was easily match of the night. Andrade, who already had an impressive resume before NXT, has hit his stride as a heel and can work the crowd just about better than anyone else, using body language and expressions alone. Buddy Murphy is absolutely explosive , with the proper push be could easily be a main event player.

Lars Sullivan vs Kona Reeves
This was standard fare with Lars ultimately defeating Reeves. Sullivan seems to be getting over fairly well with the crowds on the Florida loop.

Ruby Riot vs Sonya Deville
This match saw fan favorite Ruby Riot as underdog most of the match, while Deville looked dominant with an array of strikes. Ultimately, Riot would make an impressive comeback for the win. This was another stand out of the night. Ruby Riot has gotten over with the NXT crowds in a big way very fast. 

Roderick Strong and No Way Jose vs Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler
The match started with many shenanigans, as one would imagine with the animated Jose. After a rough start Blake and Cutler take over working over Strong. Finally, Strong makes a hot tag to Jose who looked to be turning around. However, thanks to a distraction Blake nailed Jose with a backstabber, and got the pin with the assistance of the foot on the ropes. Dory Funk (who had accompanied the good guys to the ring) told the ref, who restarted the match. Eventually, Jose makes a hot tag to Roddy who comes in a cleans house. Roddy hits Blake with his finisher for the win. Afterwards, the two celebrate in the ring with Funk. Jose wears Funks hat while all three men dance in the ring to send the crowd home happy. Ladies and gentleman, professional wrestling in 2017. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mania Weekend: Axxess, Progress, Evolve, and ROH

The biggest weekend in professional wrestling is done for another year. I watched WrestleMania 33 from the comfort of my couch, despite the fact that biggest spectacle in pro wrestling was happening a mere hour down the road in Orlando. It simply doesn’t get any bigger than WrestleMania, and admittedly, a part of me regrets missing it live...especially in retrospect, lamenting the Undertaker’s last ride. However, the craziness Wrestlemania brings with it is just as exciting. For one week, central Florida was the wrestling capital of the world as wrestlers and organizations from all over converged on Orlando. There were more events going on than time or money would allow no matter how hard you tried… and many wrestling fans made of sterner stuff than I certainly tried at the risk of their sanity and their wallet. Many people I know attended shows for four solid days from morning until the wee hours of the night, they could do a write-up truly worth reading. While I lacked their dedication, I certainly wasn’t going to sit out the biggest weekend of the year. The weekend began at Axxess and ended with The Young Bucks superkicking Matt and Jeff Hardy off ladders. In between were some of the best indie wrestlers from here and abroad. In lieu of the traditional write-up, here is my weekend in pictures.





Sunday, December 18, 2016

NXT Tampa 12-17-16

NXT finished its weekend loop by returning to its home away from home, the UACDC Gymnasium in Tampa. Outside of Orlando, this gym probably pulls in the largest amount of ardent NXT fans. This Saturday night would be no different as fans piled in the last Florida NXT show of 2016. By nature, these house shows at Christmas are delightfully weird, with odd booking and seemingly thrown together matches. With much of the roster touring or heading home for Christmas, it is often an all hands on deck skeleton crew.

Steve Cutler vs Adrian Jaoude
The night opened up with former marine Steve Cutler taking on with the Brazilian Adrian Jaoude. This opener started with Cutler dictating the pace by avoiding the Jaoude, eliciting a chicken chant from the crowd. The action begins with lots of arm drags and arm bars in the favor of the Brazilian Jaoude. Eventually, Cutler takes control after a cheap shot. He punishes Jaoude with a slow-paced offense culminating in a mean lariat and a painful looking double stomp. Adrian Jaoude would soon make a comeback showing off his aikido background with an impressive flurry of strikes before tossing Cutler with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Adrian Jaoude then defeated Steve Cutler with a fisherman’s suplex. This was a good opener. I like Cutler as a heel, I say give him a house show push and see what happens. Adrian Jaoude’s amateur background is obvious, and impressive… all the man needs is a connection with the crowd.

Nikki Cross vs Macey
Macey started with a surprisingly strong offense. Cross rethought her strategy and attacked only for Macey to thwart her again. Some of Macey’s offense is still worrisome to me, but she did do a nice 619 spot around the ring post. Much to my chagrin, it was an unusually one-side match. Finally, thanks to a distraction from Eric Young, Nikki took control and defeated Macey with a beautiful and brutal looking fisherman’s neckbreaker. Like I reiterate every blog post and to everyone that will listen, Nikki Cross is a gem of the women’s division, her body of work speaks for its self. Macey has a lot of potential but is getting pushed way too fast.

Kona Reeves vs Gran Metallik
This match had much of the high flying and impressive ringwork you have come to expect from Metallik. However, there were several blown spots too due to Kona having a hard time keeping pace with the speedy luchador. When the pace slowed, Reeves did fine grounding Metallik. After a back and forth battle Gran Metallik countered a fireman’s carry into a DDT for the win. I really enjoy Gran Metallik, he is easily going to be a major player in the cruiserweight division. Kona Reeves has the tools to go far, just a matter of honing them and finding a gimmick that works with the crowd.

Next, Kayla came out to interview Dan Matha. He’s in a bad mood and says all everyone is talking about is Roderick Strong. He makes fun of Strong’s size and the fact it took him so many years to make it to NXT. He claims that when he walked in they took one look at him and exclaimed “Your hired!” It didn’t take long for Roderick Strong to come out where they exchanged words before calling out a ref to make it official.

Roderick Strong vs Dan Matha
This match was your standard David and Goliath battle, with Strong much of the match unsuccessfully trying to control the much bigger Matha. Early on Strong did find an opening with a flurry of offense, but Matha caught him on an outside dive and drove him into the ringpost setting the pace for the rest of the match. Matha kept Roderick grounded for the most part, shutting down Strong’s comebacks with some hard punches or a big boot. Finally, Roddy makes a last attempt at a comeback, rocking Matha with a high knee in the corner, and ultimately finishing him with a single leg dropkick for the win. Roderick Strong is such an asset to NXT, in a few short weeks he has put on some of the most memorable house show matches of the year. This wasn’t one of them, but then again not every match can be a dream match. One of the reasons NXT works is because of established starts working with rookie talents. At 6’7” and 290lbs Dan Matha is eye catching and moves well for a big man. He’s also strong and confident on the mic. With all that said, I believe he is still very much a work in progress though.

The Authors Of Pain vs Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford
Dawkins and Ford are really melding well as a team, and it showed tonight. They came out and immediately took the fight to the Authors with a flurry of offense that included a beautiful running shooting star press from Ford. This match wasn’t as one sided as one would guess, and had a lot of back and forth. However, in the finishing melee Ford was tossed high over the top rope to the outside leaving Dawkins alone to suffer the Authors double team finish. I’m just going to say it, I’m not a fan of the Authors Of Pain… like it says in the bio, I am no critic… that’s just my personal opinion. Dawkins and Ford on the other hand are great together. Angelo Dawkins has been in developmental for a while, but Ford is bringing out something in him. It reminds me of when Jason Jordan was in the system forever, missing that something, until he was matched up with Chad Gable. Dawkins and Ford are going to get over, guaranteed.

Mandy Rose vs Daria Berenato
I’ve seen these two compete… a lot. However, the two have a lot of chemistry and it shows. Daria started off strong with some nice MMA striking, but Mandy would come back and dominate with some nice limb work. Rose worked the leg consistently through the match with several moves and holds including a nice looking dragonscrew leg whip. Daria also sold the legwork like a champ. However, Daria would make a comeback and finish Rose with a huge spinebuster for the win. I’m becoming more of a Daria Berenato fan with every match.

Sanity (Wolfe & Damo) vs Heavy Machinery
I like both of these teams a great deal, but again, I feel like this is something I have seen quite a few times. Nonetheless, this was a fun battle between four really big dudes. Unfortunately, Nikki Cross got ejected from ringside early on (watching her shenanigans at ringside great), but this still left Eric Young at ringside. Young was excellent at ringside throughout the match, verbally tearing apart the crowd while interjecting himself in the match. The highlight of the match may have been the stalemate between two hosses, Big Damo and Otis. The two ran the ropes and collided several times before Otis miraculously toppled Damo. This was a fun back and forth match with several false finishes until Sanity finally got a double team finish on Tucker Knight for the win. I’m a fan of all parties involved here. As the Sanity act continues, they continue to meld together greatly. Alexander Wolfe has went from showing glimmers of potential to being absolutely fantastic just on demeanor alone. Big Damo impresses the hell out of me… big, fast, intimidating man… an absolute beast.

Well, that’s a wrap on the NXT Florida Loop 2016. Whether I’m rooting for you or booing you, thanks to all the talent that make all of my weekends so memorable. I can’t wait to see where the new year takes all these guys.

Happy Holidays to all my readers, and be sure to check back on the 29th for a recap of Pro Wrestling 2.0 which has already confirmed Shane Strickland, Martin Stone, "Deathproof" Aaron Epic, and The Tokyo Monster Kahagas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

NXT Citrus Springs 12-16-16

One of the best parts of the three years I’ve been frequenting NXT shows, besides the wrestling, has been having an excuse to drive all over the state. From metropolitan areas to rural nowhere towns, I’ve seen many places I never would have seen via the highways and backroads of Florida. One of those rural spots is Citrus Springs, a sleepy town somewhere in between Crystal River and Ocala. Driving the wooded back roads past “Bear Crossing” signs, you’d swear you were more likely to find a sasquatch out here rather than world-class international wrestlers. As the sun begins to set and your cell phone signal wanes you begin to feel hopelessly lost, but suddenly you see a gorgeous community center smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

The brand has cooled considerably on the Florida loop in recent months, call-ups and near constant touring for the marquee stars have caused a huge drop off in the casual fan base, and NXT looks a lot more like it did when I first started going. However, Friday night had a great turn out thanks to a last minute surge in ticket sales. I’m glad to see it because the arrival of the cruiserweights and several other fresh faces have reinvigorated the brand; I haven’t seen anything I’d categorize as a “B” show in a very long time. This show would be no different.

Jack Gallagher vs Noam Dar
I can’t think of many better ways to start a show than with than these two charismatic cruiserweights. When most people think of cruiserweights they think of flying and flips, but these two show that they can put on a ground game and be every bit as entertaining. Noam and Jackie boy put on a grappling clinic that went back and forth. Gallagher paid homage to Johnny Saint with the spot where he rolls into a ball, much to the chagrin of Dar. Both men came out of this match looking really good and it could have went either way, but Jack Gallagher got the win with a backslide pin.

Lince Dorado vs Brennan Williams
The opening of this match saw the underdog Dorado trying to find a way to compete with a much larger opponent. Dorado attempts a few dropkicks only to be swatted away like a fly. An attempted springboard didn’t do any better, as Williams just caught him with ease. Thus went most of the match, with Williams punishing the luchador. I’ve only seen Williams a handful of times, but I see a lot of potential. He’s a big, intimidating dude that showed some really impressive striking. He controlled much of the match, but after a few superkicks and a spinning heel kick Dorado would drop the big man. Then Lince Dorado would defeat Brennan Williams with a shooting star press for the win.

Next, ring announcer Kayla Braxton came out to interview the tag team of Angelo Dawkins and Kenneth Crawford. Crawford is now going by the name Montez Ford. They gave a short interview that really didn’t go anywhere, and culminated with them dancing around in the ring until Sanity came out to crash the party, setting up our main event of the night.

Mandy Rose vs Macey
This one was a textbook back and forth battle, and I’ll be honest, it was a lot better than I thought it would be considering there was no ring general here. Macey misses her strikes by a mile and her bodyslams are worrisome, but for no more matches than she’s had, she’s doing okay. And while Mandy has a lot of room to grow, she is at least as good as a Carmella or Nikki Bella. Mandy Rose defeated Macey with a facebuster.

Roderick Strong vs TJ Perkins
This was easily match of the night. Strong and Perkins started it slow, feeling each other out before the match would build into a frenetic crescendo. This was another one with a lot of grappling and submission spots from both competitors. Eventually, the pace quickened and we saw some signature strikes and a high knee from Roddy. TJP would later drop Strong with a dropkick to the knee and then a roll-up into a knee bar for the win. I can’t do this one justice, but if you are reading you probably know enough about both guys to know it was great. I’ve been a fan of Roderick Strong for a while and he has delivered some of the best house show matches I’ve seen this year in a few short weeks. TJ Perkins, I give him a lot of crap for his dabbing (and well, to annoy my teenage daughter) but honestly, he is impressive as hell, and is constantly raising the bar.

The Authors Of Pain vs Heavy Machinery
If you are a fan of a big old hoss battle, you would have enjoyed the hell out of this match… but I feel like I’ve seen this one too many times. I dig Heavy Machinery, I’ve been behind Tucker Knight through several gimmick changes, and Otis has “it”. I’ll say this about the Authors Of Pain, they really do come off as dangerous and destructive. When they hit the ring you really feel as if someone is going to legitimately get hurt, probably because we’ve actually seen it happen. After a hard fought, hard-hitting battle, the Authors Of Pain defeated Heavy Machinery after a double team to Otis.

Nikki Cross vs Daria Berenato
Nikki Cross is amazing, and she has embraced the Sanity gimmick with fervor. Meanwhile, Daria is at this point the standout alumni of Tough Enough. Together they put together another standout match of the evening. Daria started out strong with her speed and quick strikes, but thanks to a distraction from Alexander Wolfe, Cross was able to take control of the match and punish Daria for the remainder. Berenato made a strong comeback, but thanks to yet another distraction, Cross took advantage and defeated Daria with a swinging fishermans neckbreaker. I enjoyed this match a lot, Daria is improving at an exponential pace, and Nikki Cross… well, I can’t wait to see her with a belt around her waist.

Sanity (Eric Young & Big Damo) vs Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford
This was a fun, albeit odd main event. Most of the match was very much a back and forth battle… until Big Damo tagged in, The Beast from Belfast is a mountain of a man that moves way too fast for someone his size (imagining Damo vs Strowman) and he dominated the match when he was in the ring. All the while, Wolfe and Nikki were great outside the ring being crazy and yelling at the crowd. Nikki Cross being antagonized by three little boys in the front row before yelling at them that Santa wasn’t bringing them presents may have been the highlight of the night. Kenneth Crawford, aka Montez Ford is a standout with a sweet running shooting star. Ford came in on the hot tag and cleared house until yet another distraction allowed Cross to pepper spray him in the face. Eric Young took advantage with a dirty pin for the win. Afterwards, Sanity began a post-match beat down, but Dawkins and Ford turned it around and sent Sanity packing to send the crowd home happy.

NXT is on a roll, and it finally seems as if they have achieved a nice balance between their touring shows and Florida loop. So whether you catch them in Australia or Citrus Springs, you are going to get a fun night of professional wrestling!