Friday, July 7, 2017

NXT Lakeland 7-6-17

Written by Wayne Mason

Last night NXT started its weekend loop before a packed house at The National Guard Armory in Lakeland, FL. Fans were treated to a meet and greet of Liv Morgan, Buddy Murphy, and Ho Ho Lun before a night of hard hitting wrestling action.

The night kicked off with Roderick Strong taking on Adrian Jaoude. The match started with some back and forth grappling, with both men looking impressive. The more experienced Strong took control for much of the match with intermittent offense from Jaoude, who briefly worked the leg of Strong, before a fiery Roddy came back for the finish.  This was a solid opening contest, as Roderick Strong is always a wise choice to get the crowd fired up. Adrian Jaoude continues to impress me, with top notch grappling and realistic strikes he looked right at home with his veteran competitor. 

Next up, Lacey Evans took on the newcomer Taynara Conti. There were some rough spots early on, but those were forgotten as the match went on with Evans working most of the contest underneath. Ultimately though, the lady of NXT Lacey Evans would make a comeback and tap out Conti with an armbar. Taynara worked better once the pace slowed, mixing some limb work with a few nice looking judo throws. With a very expressive face, Conti sold both her offense and defense well, while displaying a believable mean streak. Lacey Evans has gotten really good in a short amount of time, and fans on the Florida loop have taken notice, as she has become a big fan favorite. Looking forward to seeing both of these women shine in the Mae Young Classic. 

In tag team action The Ealys took on Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford aka The Street Profits. The match begins with shenanigans and laughs, as one can expect with Ford and Dawkins. The two controlled the pace in the early goings until The Ealys took advantage with a cheap shot. The Ealys controlled the rest of the match punishing Montez until he managed to make the hot tag. Dawkins cleared the ring and layed out one of the Ealy Brothers, allowing Ford to finish with a frog splash for the win. The Ealy Twins are two big and capable athletes who definitely have a place in WWE, once they find that something to give them a connection to the crowd they will do fine. On the other hand, The Street Profits are very over, very fun, and are about as tv ready as you can get, I'd go as far as saying the NXT tag division needs them right now. 

The evening kept rolling with the monstrous Lars Sullivan taking on Marcel Barthel (formerly Axel Dieter Jr). The match began with Barthel making several unsuccessful attempts at taking down Sullivan. The much larger Sullivan would simply swat Marcel away or run him down like a freight train. Eventually, Barthel sees an opening, attacking the knee of Lars Sullivan. Ultimately, the big man would comeback though, planting  Barthel in the ring with a huge side slam for the win. Lars Sullivan continues to get over with the crowds here. I'm glad to have Marcel Barthel here in NXT, I'm looking forward to seeing him in a more evenly contested match. 

Next up was Kona Reeves taking on Aleister Black. The match was mostly all Aleister, who started off very strong. Reeves took over briefly after a cheap shot, but it was short lived as Black came back with his trademark flurry of sick strikes. Finally, he picks the limp body of Reeves off the mat to finish with his devastating Black Mass. Besides an impressive arsenal of strikes, Black has such a presence and charisma, he could put on a good match with anyone. The NXT fans have taken notice, and he could easily be top guy right now. Kona Reeves has been in the system for a while now, and is still looking for that gimmick that will give him a connection to the crowds. Once he does I believe he will do well, he has all the tools and a WWE look that will serve him well.

credit: @gravenbabies

After a short intermission, we continued with tag action as Heavy Machinery took on the new formed team of Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake. With a standard tag formula on display here, Heavy Machinery stayed on step ahead of the bad guys for much of the early goings until a distraction allowed them to turn the tide. Employing frequent tags, Blake and Cutler worked over Otis for most of the match until he made the hot tag to Tucker Knight, allowing for a quick turn around and a double team finish. I dig Blake and Cutler as a team, the two have gelled together rather well in a short time.

In our second women's match of the night, Mae Young Classic competitor Bianca BelAir took on Liv Morgan. This was a fun back and forth match that saw a lot of offense from both women. Liv Morgan is looking better with every outing these days, but after a hard fought match she would find her self on the recieving end of a mean spear giving BelAir the victory. Bianca is another PC standout who has picked up the business fairly quick, and regardless of how far she makes it in the upcoming women's tournament, one gets the impression she is being groomed for big things.

In one of those head scratcher of a main events, The Velveteen Dream and Dan Matha took on No Way Jose and Drew McIntyre. Despite the weirdness, this was a really good match, and easily the most fun of the night. After the opening moments of the match, the latter half had Dream and Matha working over Jose until he finally made the hot tag to McIntyre. Ultimately Drew would level The Velveteen Dream with his Claymore kick for the win. Love him or hate him, Patrick Clark absolutely owns it as The Velveteen Dream, and it's difficult to not be entertained in some capacity by him... it's been awhile since we've seen someone this androgynous in the WWE. However, it was McIntyre who was the star of the match, obviously, and it feels huge having the Scot here in NXT. How long before he is wearing the big belt?

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.