The last wrestling event that I reviewed was Beyond Wrestling “Hit & Run” which took place in….holy shit, January 2015! Needless to say it’s been awhile. That review was posted on October 15, 2015, which makes this a review 14 months in the making. That’s a lot of hype.
To say that things have changed in Beyond since the last time I reviewed a show would be an understatement. “Over-Nite Sensation” comes to you live from Memorial Hall in Melrose, Massachusetts. A venue that was a mere glimmer in the eye of Denver Colorado (are we still calling him that? I genuinely don’t know), the last time you heard from me. We’re live on FLOSLAM, and Beyond is the lede-in event for a WWNLive, Evolve iPPV being headlined by Drew Gulak and Tracy Williams. That’s, a lot to digest.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The formula that has made Beyond Wrestling a beloved fixture in the Northeast is still here. Drew is still here, Momma Colorado is still making amazing food, and many of the same rabid devotees to Beyond Wrestling are still here. Having two kids has made it very difficult for me to travel to shows, but two factors contributed to getting me to Melrose on a Sunday afternoon. The first, my Wife joined me because a member of her actual family was involved in the event (more on that later), and it was probably the last time we’d get Kimber Lee in a Beyond Wrestling ring, so let’s start there.
Thank You, Kimber…*clap, clap, clap, clap, clap*: Few performers are as associated with Beyond Wrestling as Kimber Lee. Way the hell back at Feeding Frenzy, Kimber Lee had an open challenge and Chuck Taylor answered. In my review of that show I noted that while Kim was good, the Beyond crowd was not really warming up to her. But here’s the thing, Kim kept showing up, and she kept putting on really good matches, and suddenly people start dropping away, but Kim remains, and before long Kimber Lee is the ace of Beyond Wrestling. For my money, it was Biff Busick before he was shot into the sun and returned as Oney Lorcan, and then it was Kim, and she’s carried that baton through the growth in popularity that Beyond has gone through in the past 18 months or so. I know she held the CHIKARA Grand Championship, which is a significant achievement, but I don’t know that any of that happens without her performance in Beyond. Last Wednesday, Kimber Lee popped up on NXT taking on Ember Moon. Our Kim got on TV, and she took an O-Face, and it was special. But then it came out that she had been signed, that Kimber Lee, our Kimber Lee, was going to the WWE. Which is why her match with LuFisto was so emotional for a lot of people in Melrose. This was it. LuFisto was the perfect opponent. A women’s wrestling legend who at this point in her career is almost defined by the fact that she showed up too early, and never got to WWE, taking on Kimber Lee, who showed up right on time, made the most of her opportunities and now has a chance to go be a TV star. The match itself was okay, I’m not a huge LuFisto fan at this point, but both women laid it all out there. It was hard hitting, and told the story that needed to be told. LuFisto hit Kim with a burning hammer, and she kicked out — a fitting tribute for Kim to leave Beyond with. It wasn’t enough though, LuFisto caught her on the top turnbuckle, hit a double stomp and ended it with a second Burning Hammer. The match was followed by a standing ovation, which was absolutely deserved, and then Kimber Lee went off to a be television star, which she earned. I’m glad that I was able to be there for the end of her journey in Beyond, and though I know we’ll all miss her, I hope that she never has to come back.
Since we’re here, let’s talk about the Burning Hammer: My biggest problem with the show was the spamming of the Burning Hammer. Contextually Misawa invented the Burning Hammer and used it a grand total of 7 times. It was the proverbial “In Case of Emergency” move. You know that if Misawa thought enough of you to bust out the Burning Hammer, that you were in elite company. I don’t want to sound like the old man complaining about everything, but on Sunday afternoon I saw 5 Burning Hammers within the first 90 minutes of the show. After the opening six-man scramble, Da Hit Squad came out and basically murdered everyone in the ring, including two burning hammers. The very next match, LuFisto vs. Kimber Lee included Kim KICKING OUT of a burning hammer, and then Lu hitting a second burning hammer for the win. Shortly thereafter, Chris Dickinson hit a burning hammer. FIVE BURNING HAMMERS in the first half of the show, that’s literally FIVE Burning Hammer’s too many. Seriously, Da Hit Squad never should have use the BH in context of their beat down. It was completely unnecessary, but also, you have to know that LuFisto who uses the move regularly, is coming out right behind you. Four burning hammers in the first half hour, and then Dickinson, who presumably has been in the building for this whole ordeal, uses the BH himself later. I dunno, maybe I am just that old guy screaming into the void, but the whole thing seemed unnecessary and ridiculous.
Chris Hero used zero burning hammers: During the show news started to leak out that Chris Hero had made plans to return to the WWE in 2017. Hero, who has been on an absolutely tour de force in 2016 has put on good to great matches with basically everyone he’s been in the ring with. It’s one thing to get a great match out of Pentagon Jr. It’s a whole different animal, when you’re in the middle of the show, wrestling John Silver. That’s not intended to be a knock on John Silver, but this card featured Ricochet, AR Fox, David Starr and a host of other “top of the card” names. Silver isn’t there yet (though he’s delightful and always delivers huge in Beyond). The fact that Hero can put on a great match with Dick Togo shouldn’t shock anyone, but it’s a completely different style to put together something as effective as his match with Silver. Hero’s a technician and it showed in this match. The whole thing was paced and delivered perfectly. Silver is significantly smaller than Hero, and they played that up throughout. Silver, who is constantly flexing and showing how strong he is, trying to life the *much* bigger Hero played throughout the match. However, Hero disrespected Silver throughout the match (because of the size difference) and it ultimately cost him as Silver was able to get the pin and defeat Chris Hero. If the stories about Hero going back to the WWE are true, Silver getting the pin over Hero in this match should be used as a HUGE stepping stone towards more high profile matches for Silver.
The match that made my Wife audibly say “OW!”: To say that Ricochet and Jonathan Gresham was good, would be to state the obvious. Both of these dudes could wrestle a potato sack to an interesting match. Ricochet operates on another level, but Gresham is like his perfect opponent. Everything that Ricochet does aerially that sets him apart, Gresham can match with mat technique. Gresham’s joint manipulation in this match was other-worldly, and at one point as he bent Ricochet’s arm, wrist, and fingers my Wife audibly said “ouch”. It was visually compelling, and it was joint manipulation. That doesn’t happen very often. I’m going to give a huge tip to Ricochet for a moment. Remember two paragraphs ago where I talked about the Burning Hammer, and how nobody seemed to care who was up next, so they just kept spamming Burning Hammers? Well, during the Ricochet/Gresham match, Ricochet stayed pretty grounded and it was a little jarring. I mean, why show up and grapple with Jonathan Gresham? After Ricochet tapped out to Gresham, it all made sense.
International Man of Mystery David Starr: On Saturday, David Starr wrestled for wXw in Germany and became the wXw Shotgun Champion. On Sunday afternoon he’s standing in a wrestling ring in Melrose, Massachusetts putting the belt on the line. I cannot imagine how exhausting that must be. But, with Joey Janela almost dying at Cage of Death, AR Fox was set to return to Beyond, and had no opponent. So, Starr comes out, puts his wXw title on the line and the two blow the goddamn roof off, in what felt like a 4 minute sprint where they both got all of their shit in at once. Of everything on the show, this stood out to me as the highlight. Fox was his insane best, at one point bumping directly on his skull when Starr did nothing more than sweep his foot out from under him. See, the sneaky great part of AR Fox is that he over sells on everything for a reason. Everything about Fox is exaggerated. His offense is insane, he flies higher than anyone, he jumps higher, he hits harder, and because of that he also sells more intensely, which makes everything he does seem like it has purpose. This match was an excellent use of a short amount of time. Starr retained, because of course the xWx Shotgun title isn’t going to change hands in Melrose, Massachusetts. However, this match was also why I think Ricochet stayed somewhat grounded in his match. Ricochet can’t come out, do insane aerials, and then have Fox come out and do the same type of match — because it KILLS the Fox effort. Ricochet knows this, so he wrestles a more conservative (for Ricochet) match against Gresham and lets Fox blow the roof off the joint. As an additional aside, David Starr has felt on the verge of being a major “thing” on the independent scene for a year now, and if something huge doesn’t happen for that guy in 2017 I’d be shocked.
Brian Fury’s Goodbye to Beyond: During the introductions for the main event this is how I described Brian Fury vs Donovan Dijak to my wife (a novice). Fury trained a bunch of the wrestlers in this room, and is a significant fixture in New England independent wrestling. Dijak is one of his students, and is going to headline Wrestlemania someday. The first time I saw Dijak I said he was going to be a star, and so far that prediction has proven to be correct. I don’t just say this for no reason – ROH should pull the trigger on Dijak yesterday. As a company ROH’s biggest problem has always been that they wait to long to put the belt on someone. Dijak is basically built of money, if you can’t do something with him better than opening match scrambles, then let him go to Orlando and wrestle Samoa Joe. Fury got the crowd to push in towards the ring because he deserved a traditional Beyond Wrestling send off, which does highlight one of the issues with Beyond getting more popular and running these different venues. There is a bit of the old vibe that is gone when everyone is sitting in seats, and watching a show comfortably. Fury is a reminder of an era of Beyond that is gone. As of last night, Kimber Lee, Chris Hero and Brian Fury are likely all gone from the company, the question becomes who is prepared to step up and take advantage of the sizable vacuum created by those losses.
I confess that I love the Spirit Squad. Full disclosure, my Wife came with me to Melrose on Sunday because Kenny of the Spirit Squad is her cousin. If that somehow taints my appreciation of them than so be it. The Squad (we’re tight like that) is an acquired taste, a gimmick so repulsive to wrestling fans that these guys are still getting heat out of it a decade after they debuted (Jan. 2006). The thing about the Squad that I struggle with is, the gimmick handcuffs the performers. Kenny is like a shredded 6’3. Mikey is a fantastic performer with charisma for days. Unfortunately, because they’re wrestling as the Spirit Squad and not Ken Doane and Mike Mondo you sometimes can’t get past the gimmick to see the performer. The match with EYFBO took awhile to get going, but what you actually got was a solid, tag team match with good work from both sides. There was nothing particularly “flashy” about the match, EYFBO had a couple moments that picked up the pace, but with the heel Squad controlling the action it was a slow, deliberate paced tag team match, and I for one, enjoyed it. I was shocked when the Squad picked up the victory, and I actually hope that this is a sign that they might not have been one a “one off” performance in Beyond. I actually think Mikey and Kenny have something to offer in Beyond, and there a plethora of tag teams that could benefit from working with them.
Da Hit Squad Again. After the Squad picks up the win Da Hit Squad comes to the ring and all hell breaks loose. Basically insulted that EYFBO couldn’t even beat The Spirit Squad, Da Hit Squad beat the tar out of them, only to be interrupted by Chris Dickinson and Jaka. When Dickinson and Jaka challenge Da Hit Squad, they bail. Though I wasn’t a huge fan of multiple burning hammers, I do like that Da Hit Squad are making a statement that they are the alpha dogs in Beyond Wrestling now, and Dickinson and Jaka, who have for a long time held themselves as the lead dogs in that yard, are having to confront them head on.
The Blitz in the Middle of the Show: So with Dickinson and Jaka in the ring, we get a bit of a blitz of three matches. Jaka takes on Sean Maluta in a match that I genuinely don’t remember. I don’t mean for that to be insulting, I just kinda don’t have much to say about the former partners facing off. Maluta to me seems like a guy who got that run in the Cruiserweight Classic and is now stuck in a world where he’s “WWE’s SEAN MALUTA” but also not really. After they’re done, Dickinson comes into the ring to hug it out and Chuck O’Neil comes out to confront Dickinson, calling him fat and genuinely being kind of terrible on the mic. O’Neil can’t compete (or “can’t” compete) tonight so he brings out Jeff Cobb to wrestle Chris Dickinson. Jeff Cobb is fucking awesome, and actually the more I have thought about this match in hindsight, the more that I liked it. Cobb to me feels like a guy who should genuinely be a super-duper star and that isn’t even with a mask on. He’s so strong it’s incredible, the force and quickness that he snaps off moves is awesome and these two had a really hard hitting match. After that ends, O’Neil comes back out and gets into the ring to fight Dickinson who like quickly takes him down and starts beating his ass. This was weird — O’Neil playing the chickenshit heel role, watches Dickinson have a grueling match and tries to take advantage of that, but before he can even get one shot in, Dickinson just murks him, kind of proving the whole point that Dickinson is just better than he is, awkward. In the melee that ensues, Matthew Riddle comes out and starts just kicking Dickinson in the head, which brings out Dan Barry and we get this weird moment where Dan Barry is working with Chris Dickinson and Jaka to beat up Matthew Riddle. When things finally calm down we get Dan Barry working over Matthew Riddle’s knee, until Riddle can regain his composure and then proceed to just pummel Barry. I know that you don’t need me to tell you this, but Matthew Riddle is so good at professional wrestling it’s crazy. Dude moves so fluidly, his offense has genuine heft. Everything he does has force (if that makes sense) and it’s actually alarming how good that dude has gotten, in such a short amount of time. That’s not to take anything away from Barry, who I adore, but the whole story line of this match going in was that Barry, upset that Riddle destroyed his merch table, was biting off more than he could chew, and that actually played itself out during the match. At the end of the day there is a hierarchy to this stuff and Matthew Riddle > Dan Barry I guess.
Closing: So, what did I think of my first Beyond Wrestling show in what felt like a lifetime? I was very happy to have been in Melrose for this show. Ricochet/Gresham and AR Fox/Starr were really fun. Even though he’s on Lucha Underground now, AR Fox somehow still manages to be the most underutilized talent around. Meanwhile, John Silver pinning Chris Hero feels like it was important for the growth of a guy who has connected with the Beyond audience, and it was bittersweet to say goodbye to Kimber Lee. I’m not entirely sure where Beyond goes from here. There is one more show in 2016 before they turn the page to 2016, but this year has felt like a significant growth step for the company, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain that growth moving forward. The independent wrestling scene is a changing landscape, and nowhere is that more evident than Beyond Wrestling who have already lost some of the most trusted names to the WWE and really feel primed to lose a few more before too long. Personally, this show revitalized me a bit, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.