Initial Thought: The crowd looks really big.
JT fixes my bitch from “Tournament For Tomorrow 3”: If you read my TFT3 review you know that I was way down on the way that the JT Dunn/David Starr “break up” story unfolded. I thought the whole thing made both Dunn and Starr come off bad and I didn’t understand why they’d choose to handle things in that manner. This show opens with Dunn basically admitting that he was a baby at TFT3, and telling the crowd that he’s being helped by Chris Hero to get his mind right. Basically Dunn says he was wrong, and it’s time to move forward. I’m a fan of that being the story moving forward so lets see if they can keep the momentum going.
EYFBO v. Doom Patrol (w/ Larry Legend): Is this match still happening? The introductions for this match started around the 13 minute mark of my video, Jaka steps out f the ring at 44:00. The opening match, with no feud, no rivalry, no storyline support — took up 31 minutes. My criticism here isn’t of the match itself, lost somewhere in this bloated mess was an excellent tag team match. My problem is that this absolutely felt like four guys, going into business for themselves and deciding that they had thought of so many great spots that they’d just use them all and ignore the clock. I hate that. I’ve heard it said many times in conversation that anyone can have a compelling 20 minute match, it takes true artistry to tell a story in 4 minutes. This match was fine, but the length should be reserved for blood rivalries and well developed stories. You don’t need five different hot tag exchanges, you don’t need four different chop/slap exchanges, you don’t need a brawl to the outside including a pazuzu bomb off the stage into the crowd. You can have some of those things, but you don’t need all of those things. So was this match fine? Sure, but if it had come in closer to 15 minutes than 30 it would’ve been a lot better. Also, admittedly I’m looking through this lens with the benefit of knowing the future – but Angel Ortiz and Mike Draztik become member of Team Pazuzu — so, I dunno, if you’re ultimately going to be friends maybe don’t spend 30 minutes beating the holy hell out of each other including, like I said before, a pazuzu bomb off the stage.
Tommaso Ciampa v. Drew Gulak: There is a lesson here folks. The opener was a bloated mess that went almost a half hour. It was followed up by a brilliant, brutal, emotional fight between two longtime Beyond Wrestling rivals that clocks in under 10 minutes. This match is simple and gorgeous. From the minute Gulak hits the ring it’s a war between two guys who have a history in the promotion. The thing I love about both of these guys is that when they’re in the ring it feels like a fight. Yes, professional wrestling has a choreographed element, but the beauty is in constructing something so that the audience doesn’t see the wires. When Jay Lethal does a Lethal Injection without every looking over his shoulder because he knows his opponent is in position (because it’s rehearsed for him to be in position) that is bad. When Drew Gulak bounces off the ropes, hits his knees and slides into position to take Ciampa down into an ankle lock and it looks kind of ugly and disjointed – that’s the brilliance of two guys who know what they’re doing. Honestly, I wish the last match had gone 15 minutes shorter and this match went 5 minutes longer. In the end Ciampa hits Gulak with a lariat and knocks his effin’ head off to get the pin. At the end the crowd chants “WE WANT MORE” and I don’t need to tell you that they didn’t say that after the opener.
*Chile Lucha Libre All Stars World Championship*
Shynron © v. AR Fox: AR Fox is terrific in making you believe that he has absolutely no respect for Shynron. Gulak and Busick don’t like each other and that’s the story they’re telling. I don’t get the feeling that Fox doesn’t like Shynron. I get the feeling that he honestly can’t fathom a situation where Shynron is better than him and that it is’ own specific skill. That story actually works here too because Shynron absolutely proves that he’s the equal of AR Fox and at the end, Fox needs the help of the lovely Mrs. Foxy, a low blow to Kevin Quinn and a shot to Shynron’s head with the CLL belt to try and get the victory. But in an example of intelligent booking, Fox hits Shynron with the belt and tosses the belt to the point where it almost hits Kevin Quinn in the face. There is no doubt that Quinn saw the shot, so when a secondary ref tries to count three, Quinn interferes and throws the match out. So often you’d have the referee clearly in the line of sight of the interference and pretend they hadn’t seen anything. This was much more satisfying and sets up the inevitable feud ending speciality match (in this case a ladder match on March 1st).
Pinkie Sanchez (w/ Larry Legend) v. Colt Cabana: This was a match that happened. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t like comedy in my wrestling – Chuck Taylor v. Archibald Peck remains one of my favorite matches of all time. That being said, this match combined a lot of things that I don’t particularly like into one place. I enjoy Colt Cabana as a podcast celebrity more than Colt Cabana the professional wrestler at this point. I’m not going to say much about this match because the whole thing just felt like going through the motions to get to the post match where Colt offers to tag with Pinkie and Jaka and Dickinson run out and beat Colt to a pulp. Then EYFBO come out because their 40 minute blood feud wasn’t enough earlier. Oh did you think that earlier brutal brawl indicated that these guys weren’t friends? Well you’d be wrong because now they’re all working together to beat up Colt Cabana. The entire segment, from the beginning of the match to the end of the interminable beat down lasts about 40 minutes. If you’re wondering 80 minutes of Team Pazuzu is *WAY* too long. Here’s my biggest problem – in the last 18 months we’ve seen this from Dickinson before, and then the next month he’s right back to looking for applause and trying to be a good guy. I’ll give this a general “wait and see” rating but man it took these guys a really long time to get the fireworks factory.
M1nute Men v. Garden State Gods: Let me start with the good. The M1nute Men turned “heel” at TFT3 by joining the Crusade For Change in the dumbest non-interference, interference spot that I can remember. This month they come out with new gear, face paint and (and this is the key) wrestling a different style. The key to getting a team over as having changed is to actually change them — M1nute Men did a great job of being more aggressive, but more grounded and doing things that actual bad guys would do instead of doing high spots to pop the crowd and then like, flipping them off. So, nice work by the M1nute Men in showing some actual growth and change. Unfortunately it wasn’t all good — for some unknown reason Mike Quest thought that the midway point in this match would be a great time to just take off all his clothes and wrestle in a speedo and skirt combination. It didn’t make any sense and kind of put an air of comedy on this match which was absolutely out of place and not called for. The second problem that I had is that the match ends with a Crusade For Change beatdown of the Garden State Gods — the second consecutive match that ends with a prolonged gang style beat down. At least this one had some semblance of storyline behind it – the Gods had won the right to face Carter and Marconi, so Darius, after the beat down, gets on the microphone and forces the match to take place right then and there. Of course at this point it’s semantic and the Crusade pins the Garden State Gods with ease. Unlike the previous beat down that just went on forever with no real pay off, at least this had some direction and the crowd was legitimately involved in this one — so in that regard it’s a significant step up. But at some point I assume somebody watches these shows and maybe decides not to run two consecutive matches/angles that are strikingly similar.
David Starr v. Kimber Lee: At this point Kimber Lee’s alligator clutch pin is the most lethal move in Beyond Wrestling right? It can come at any point and it’s an automatic critical kill. My only problem (again) with this match was that it felt like it was only here to set up the post match stuff. After Kim gets the pin, Starr continues to argue with her and JT Dunn comes out to calm people down. This of course brings out Chris Hero who interjects himself into the fray and calms everyone down. After Starr and Kimber leave, Hero slaps Dunn in the face and admonishes him. I guess we’re going right into the next match.
Chris Hero & JT Dunn v. Brian Myers & Ryan Galeone: I have a confession to make — I’m not a big Chris Hero fan. Hero is one of those guys that is absolutely in my wheelhouse. I had kind of fallen out of love with independent wrestling around 2008/09 which meant that I missed a lot of Hero’s “peak” but I was never really a fan. With that being said I really liked Hero in this match, to the point where I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say this is my favorite Chris Hero match ever (hyperbole!). I can’t even explain why I liked this match so much. Hero’s strikes all seemed to have purpose and force, which is no small feat but an important aspect of striking for a guy who claims to be a world class striker. I also thought the way all four guys interacted was interesting. I was going to say that Hero and Dunn pausing near the end to time their strikes together showed a lack of focus — but then that exact thing (lack of focus) winds up costing them the match with Dunn being pinned by Galeone via backslide. I also really liked the post match stuff where Dunn reacted childish, shoving both Myers and Galeone until Hero got between them and basically had to straighten Dunn out. It plays off their mentor/mentee relationship while also establishing Dunn as the wildcard in this relationship. I am interested to see where this goes — which is a significant step up from some of the other things I’ve said in this review.
*Fans Bring the Weapons*
Matt Tremont v. Stockade: At the outset I need to mention that Matt Tremont is in rarified air at Fete Music. I don’t think his popularity rises to the level of Biff Busick or Dan Barry but I’d argue that outside of those two, there isn’t anyone in Beyond Wrestling more connected to the fans than Tremont. This match is a great example of why because this match is awesome. I am not a fan of deathmatch wrestling, or ultraviolence, but Tremont has a way of working these matches so that they don’t just seem like blood and gore fests. I defy anyone to not enjoy a match that features a barb wire Christmas tree. Stockade deserves some love as well because he upheld his end of the bargain, dishing out some violence but also taking some shots so that you understand that both guys were invested in this type of mayhem. I don’t think this was better than Busick/Tremont which was the first “Fans Bring the Weapons” match in Beyond Wrestling, but it was still excellent, and the finish was awesome. I was surprised that Stockade won the match, having already won the Bullrope Match at “TFT3” but I don’t think it was a bad decision either. Tremont is obviously invested in the success of Stockade as he’s essentially making him all over the wrestling landscape and this was no difference. At this point I’d watch Matt Tremont in literally any situation but it’s obvious that he’s incredibly talented in laying out these ultraviolent matches and even to a non-fan his passion and his skill in this environment is recognizable. So yeah, keep up the great work Matt Tremont, you’re awesome.
Team TREMENDOUS v. Da Hoodz: Let me just start by saying that I’m glad Dan Barry isn’t dead. If you’ve seen this match than you know what I’m referencing. This match really convincing me that I’ve watched too many tag team matches in the last couple of days because it had every element that I really love and yet, I dunno, it didn’t exactly work for me. One thing about independent wrestling that I think can end is the idea that every tag team match has to be tornado tag rules. Most matches start off with like six minutes of regular tag team work and then everything just breaks apart and we never really get tags again. I’m kind of over that. If that’s going to be the system I’d prefer that U.S indys use Dragon Gate rules which at least require someone to go out of the ring before the next guy comes in. This match started like that and then devolved into chaos, which in a four team or more situation I understand but this was a standard tag match between the top two regular tag teams on the Beyond roster. I’m just not crazy about everyone in the ring together at the same time. I’m also going to cut this match some slack – Dan Barry legitimately landed on his skull on the floor and I have to imagine that the brain damage he was suffering through might have played into the final five minutes or so. Even in a match that I didn’t totally love, this was still two great teams working a solid match together – the issue I really have is that I’ve seen these two teams in the ring together in better matches. I know what they’re capable of and I’m not sure this ever reached that extra level (again, keep in mind, Dan Barry almost died so all is excused, survival trumps all).
Michael Bennett v. Biff Busick: This match is excellent. It’s kind of everything that I’ve talked about in this review which is to say focused and with a point. This match is intending to tell a story and they don’t waste time telling it — well almost, there are two different spots on the stage which probably weren’t really needed, but for the most part nothing felt unnecessary. I don’t need to tell you that a Biff Busick match in Fete Music was great, it’s a bit redundant at this point so instead I’m going to give some love to Michael Bennett. How many wrestlers embrace being true heels on the independent circuit? Not many. I assume a lot of that has to do with the fact that these guys make money on their ability to connect with a crowd, and nobody really wants to be universally loathed. I mean I criticized Chris Dickinson for it in this review. When you think of the top heels, guys like the Bullet Club, Adam Cole, Eddie Kingston — these guys are all bad guys who are popular and as such, sell merchandise. Bennett really isn’t that. Bennett does bad guy things, he rubs it in your face that he’s married to a woman that basically every male wrestling fan over the age of like 22 has had a crush on for years and oh by the way he’s also stealing your favorite WWE (former) wrestlers moves while being married to that guys ex-girlfriend. Bennett is also now incorporating attacking the crowd verbally into his schtick, which makes him about a pair of basketball shorts away from actually becoming early 2000’s CM Punk. Except, hell even early 2000’s CM Punk had the straight edge thing that endeared some members of the crowd to him. Bennett doesn’t even have that. He is literally only a heel with basically no redeeming quality (please disregard the fact that Michael Bennett has been incredibly gracious and kind to me when we’ve been within talking distance). I really admire the fact that he’s embraced being a true heel in an era where almost nobody wants to have that label. For the record I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Darius Carter has a similar trait which I equally respect.
*Best 3 out of 5 Falls*
Dave Cole v. Anthony Stone: Incredible. Bell rings, Cole hits a brutal looking bit boot in the corner, top rope Dave Cole bomb and Cole pins Stone within the first twenty seconds of the match. That basically set in motion how the rest of this match was going to play out. By way of history I should mention that to this point these two had previously been involved in 7 singles matches against each other, and were tied 3-3. So this is the tie breaker/feud ender. It’s the perfect type of match for this feud because though there has never been a 3 out of 5 falls match in Fete Music, it is a signature Beyond Wrestling match. If you go back through the history of Beyond Wrestling you’ll see that this match style pops up often. So to have it as the end-all-be-all of this particular feud seems fitting. One thing that I don’t really like about these types of matches is that they necessarily require you to break the rules of professional wrestling. You have to ignore the fact that in this match 5 falls take place, which means 4 times someone just got pinned and then got back up and continued a match where these two guys brutalized each other. I accept that as a necessary element of any multiple falls match – and I’m willing to excuse it here because holy mother of shit this match was excellent. Stone played a great underdog here, going down quickly 2-0 before storming back and winning the match 3-2. Cole for his part was excellent as the heavy, hitting some stiff and brutal looking strikes and keeping everything moving towards a logical conclusion. I’ve said before that these two were born to wrestle each other and nothing that happened here disproved that theory. This was a great choice for the main event, and a perfect match to end 2014 on. For a company that booked most of the biggest names on the independent circuit to come to Fete Music in 2014 to go out with two essentially home grown talents putting on an amazing match is fitting. Even though names like the Young Bucks gain all the attention, guys like Stone and Cole were secretly the engines that powered the Beyond Wrestling machine in 2014 and it was great that the company let them close out the year in this fashion. This is a great motivator for everyone, Stone/Cole 1 took place at the RWA Chop Shop, the feud grew and grew and wound up being the main event of the final show of 2014 — that’s a great motivator for anyone who gets booked on the Dojo Wars shows, and it’s a great sign that while Beyond does bring in the big names, they’re always looking to build from within.
Verdict: This was a great show. I know I bitched about the pacing in some of the segments, but honestly the good stuff far out weighed the bad stuff. Essentially everything from David Starr/Kimber Lee to the end was really good, and AR Fox/Shynron was excellent. I really liked this show, I loved the main event. I do think that there was a little too much emphasis on “post match” stuff, mainly the Team Pazuzu stuff drove me crazy because their matches all went too long, and their post match stuff was all too long as well. On the flip side i did like the Crusade For Change stuff because it elicited a response from the crowd and if they’re booing it’s better than if they’re silent. I would absolutely recommend this show, and I bet if you were there live that it’s translates even better on video because this seemed like it was a *super* long night at Fete Music and bless the crowd for hanging in there and giving some passion during the main event. I know how hard it is to stand around Fete Music during these drawn out shows and sometimes you lose the crowd by the end of the night, but it’s a testament to the crowd and to Anthony Stone and Dave Cole that everyone seemed to remain invested right to the end.