LIVE IN ORLANDO
March 31, 2017
Marty Scurll . . . carries on the Eddie Guerrero tradition of being loved for doing things to be hated.
Ryan Smile . . . is the anti-Ricky Morton, he takes a beating and gets booed for making the improbable comeback.
Zack Sabre, Jr. . . . tries to amputate the hand of a luchadore as punishment for his flipping the bird.
JAY WHITE vs. SAMI CALLIHAN
If their only goal was to make the crowd make noise, then they succeeded with flying colors, but, you’d think they’d have some loftier standards. The biggest issue is that Sami doesn’t do much of anything to make his big moves seem important. Sami doesn’t do anything to wear down Jay’s leg for the stretch muffler, and, his biggest spot of the match is the DVD into the corner, and he follows that up with a kick to the face that doesn’t even take Jay off his feet. Jay looks much better by comparison, his first big spot in the brainbuster on the apron to tease the count out, and when Sami rolls back in, Jay takes advantage with the Muta lock. Jay’s method of blocking the powerbomb by lowering his base is also a welcome sight. The finish is Jay outwrestling Sami, and countering the stretch muffler into a Boston crab for the submission. Jay outwrestling Sami and tapping him out is fine, but, the Boston crab is a lame finish for 2017, especially without any real build that would make the hold seem lethal.
JEFF COBB vs. MARTIN STONE
These two have a perfectly fine back and fourth match, but, it’s not much better than fine. Cobb’s matwork and penchant for suplexes reaffirm my notion that he would have been a perfect fit for a UWF/UWFI promotion. The ‘wrestler versus striker’ story, with Stone using his quickness to tire out Cobb, and then chopping him down to size with his strikes comes off OK. It’d have been nice to see a little more focus from Stone, like him targeting a specific body part. Then again, the finish sees Cobb jumping right into a straight punch, which stuns him enough for Stone to do his hanging DDT. Stone’s strategy may not have played out in the most interesting way, but, it was good enough for him to put away Cobb.
LORD GIDEON GREY vs. SWOGGLE
It’s amusing to watch Grey bump like a pinball for Swoggle, although it begs the question of why he’s going along with it, if he’s sick of being considered a comedy wrestler. Swoggle taking him to ‘Suplex Village’ is funny, but, when Grey takes five Germans and then easily pins Swoggle afterwards, it doesn’t much about how effective the German is.
KING RICOCHET vs. MARTY SCURLL
If you can watch this match and not completely love Marty Scurll afterwards, then, you have no soul. As fun as Scurll’s antics are, the actual wrestling isn’t anything great. The story of them both getting too caught up playing to the crowd, and losing the advantage is a good one, but neither of them does much with their control segment. This is an especially big failing from Scurll, who gets his first control segment by countering a brainbuster and dropping Ricochet on his shoulder, and not doing anything else to work over the arm, even though his finisher is the Chickenwing. The closest that he comes is the straightjacket hold, and that only amounts to a vehicle for Ricochet to do a flashy escape. The vertical suplex into the Chickenwing would have made a much better finish, and shown that Scurll learned his lesson about telegraphing his moves. Instead, Ricochet escapes and handsprings himself right back into it a minute later for Scurll to make him tap. Both of them are very fun to watch, and this match is as good example of that as anything you’ll find, it’s just a shame that they passed up the openings they had to take this in a much better direction.
JOSH BODOM vs. DAVID STARR
This is actually a pretty fun match, even if it’s not exactly good. They have some goofy moments that hold this back, like the NOAH-like strike exchange, complete with Starr making a big production out of preparing to throw a chop, complete with Bodom standing there sticking out his chest waiting for it. There’s also a couple of exposing moments, like Bodom’s missed senton, where he makes it obvious that he’ll be rolling through it. Those issues aside, this is the first match that seems to have some real intensity, even though they seemed to be holding back when it came to showing it. A good example is Bodom’s near fall from the powerbomb backbreaker, instead of showing a mean streak and working over the back, he just moves to something else. Starr does the same thing, after he targets Bodom’s leg for a minute and attempts a Scorpion deathlock, only for Bodom to counter to a small package. Starr kicks out and then never goes for the leg again. Between the intensity, and the smart finish, with Bodom outsmarting Starr to hit his piledriver after a previous attempt failed, there are certainly things to like about this match, and I’d definitely like to see more of them both.
WILL OSPREAY vs. REY FENIX
The first few minutes showed some promise, after the obligatory stalemate sequence, with Ospreay outsmarting Fenix to take control of the match, and trying to wear him down on the mat, and make him more susceptible to his offense. But, once Fenix takes over, this take a nosedive and turns into the sequel to Ricochet/Ospreay, with tons of flashy spots, flashy counters, and blowing off big moves like suplexes and reverse ranas in the process. Yes, their execution is great, and it’s impressive how effortless they make it look. But, why should we care about Fenix hitting a Canadian Destroyer, when Ospreay is able to kick out and then easily go back on offense? There is a little bit of smartness to the finish, with Ospreay stunning Fenix with a knee strike before hitting the Ospreay Cutter, which came after Ospreay had tried it earlier and had it blocked. But, that one smart moment hardly makes up for everything that came before it.
RYAN SMILE/SHANE STRICKLAND vs. MICHAEL ELGIN/BRIAN CAGE
There is some nice stuff to see here, provided you’re willing to ignore the obvious cooperation and the unnecessarily contrived spots. The idea of Speed versus Power is a good one, and, it’s nice of Cage and Elgin to be willing to bump for Smile and Strickland, but, they do it so cleanly that it looks like Shane and Strickland are putting virtually no effort, when, in reality, they ought to be putting everything they have into things. The Brits flashy offense is fun to watch, but, like Ospreay and Ricochet, is taken way too far. There is just no good reason for things like Strickland moonsaulting Elgin, by springing off of Cage, and no good reason for Cage to just stand on the apron and let it happen. And, it’s not like they don’t have good ideas, the assisted Codebreaker to Elgin, with Smile taking out the knees was a great example of them working smart.
It really shows how little thought went into the match, when Smile takes a pile of bombs from Elgin and Cage, kicks out, and gets booed for it, because it’s so ridiculous. The announcers try to explain it as Smile being out of it and going on instinct, which might have worked, had they not followed that up with Smile showing the wherewithal to push Strickland out of the way to eat a backfist from Elgin. The match isn’t completely void of anything good, besides the smart double-teams, there’s also the early control segment on Smile, with him taking some huge bumps from both Elgin and Cage, and going all out to sell a shoulder tackle in the corner. So, it wasn’t like they couldn’t have told a genuine story during the match, they just chose not to.
ZACK SABRE, Jr. © vs. PENTA EL ZERO M (British Heavyweight Title)
This is fun, but it’s nowhere near the level of the Sabre/Thatcher EVOLVE Title change. It’s not even as good as Sabre’s British Title win over Shibata in New Japan. The first half is the most literal definition of taking turns that you’ll ever see. Sabre puts Penta in a hold and lets him up. Penta puts Sabre in a hold and then lets him up. Rinse and repeat. It looks more like a seminar demonstration than it does an actual contest.
Things start going somewhere when Penta chops the post, and Zack sharks on the hurt hand. He has a few nice moments, like bending the hand in order to get the Octopus hold, but, Zack is just toying with him more often than not. The injury also doesn’t do much to slow down Penta. You’d think that he could at least sell his own hand after throwing a strike. But, at one point he gets his hand out of Zack’s grip, stuns Zack with a chop, and then piledrives him on the apron. The piledriver spot works just fine, but, Penta could have at least bothered to try to get from Point A to Point B without screwing up the story, in one of the very few matches that bothered telling one. The finish is good, with Zack literally trying to tie up Penta in a knot, and starting the process by bending the bad hand, but, Penta having to blow off a flipping piledriver and roll to his feet, to set up Zack’s flying triangle choke was an awful way to get there. It’d have been just as easy to have Zack get a near fall, and, when Penta lifts his arm, to grab it and then start stretching him out. At best, this blows away everything else on the card, and coming after that horrendous tag match makes it look even better. But, it’s still a letdown from what I’ve come to expect from Sabre. ***
Conclusion: Only the tag match was offensive, and at least the Swoggle debacle was short. It’s a fun show overall, but, I’ve seen much better from both Sabre and Scurll, who were the two standouts.