Since I had a good time at the 05/08 show, even though it wasn't great or anything, and Highland is within perfectly fine driving distance, I've decided that it would be good for me as a human being to become a Highland regular. Plus, this show had the first-ever meeting between Samoa Joe and Chris Hero, so how could I not go? HOW? And a tag team title tournament featuring the IWA returns of CM Punk and Colt Cabana. And Jerry Lynn! And SABUUUUUUUU
I've had bronchitis for exactly a week and thanks to the wonders of modern medicine am just now getting over it to any reasonable degree. We got on the road early, because I was thinking this show could possibly do a sell-out. The building isn't very big, I think Dave Prazak said on the chicagowrestling.com board the capacity is like 350. And there were 200 or so at the last Highland show, which I know was low, but this is a bigger card with a lot of Big-Name Indy Stars, and I couldn't decide if Memorial Day weekend would mean MORE people or LESS, so we went early to cover either way.
First we returned to the Miner-Dunn, because when you visit someplace often, if you don't have traditions of where you eat and stuff like that, you're not really getting the full experience of being a regular visitor. That saucy number was indeed there, though it is with regret that I inform you I did not bed her. Ah well. We ate some hamburgers and we were talking about Jerry Lynn, then we went to pay, and over there is Jerry Lynn, eating a sherbert. That's a weird fucking thing to see.
The event very much did not sell out, though I would wager there were maybe 300 people in attendance. That seems right anyway. The tickets were hiked $5 but with the talent they were bringing in, $20 for a third-row seat that became second-row when those seats were empty was totally worth it. On with the show!
Dave Prazak plugged the women's title tournament tomorrow in Hammond and had the belt with him. It had purple leather and looked like the Ultimate Warrior's belt. They also announced a Hero/Homicide/B-Boy v. Punk/Whitmer/Joe six-man elimination tag match for that show, which doesn't make a lot of sense when matched up with ROH storyline and Punk and Whitmer hating each other.
DANNY DANIELS v. EDDIE EDWARDS
Daniels and Jim Fannin were out first, and Fannin informed Daniels that he would have to go it alone tonight. This was okay with Daniels. And why not? I don't know who Eddie Edwards is. This match was a generic opener, solidly worked but short and there to just put one guy over and get a new guy out there. Daniels won with a piledriver.
RAIN (w/Lacy) v. SUMIE SAKAI
Lacy is way cuter in person than on video. Sumie Sakai totally did some Dick Togo Muscle Pose Without Muscles shit and I was all about that. She was really a lot of fun. The match was no super duper gem but it was alright, and served as a nice warm-up for Sakai in particular going into the women's tournament for 05/30 in Hammond. Lots of roll-ups in this match, as I recall. I notice that women have a hard time acting sometimes because they're so giggly and can't stop from laughing if someone says something witty. Lacy had trouble with this once or twice. Sakai did a bit where she was in a camel clutch-type position on Rain and pulled her hair, and the referee would count to four, and she would release and switch hands and he would have to count over. Seems really heelish, but she made it all seem very playful and fun. So it went like, "1! 2! 3! 4! OHHH!" Sakai won with two missile dropkicks and a moonsault, and then Rain and Lacy proceeded to do a beatdown upon her, until the in-person gooorgeous Daizee Haze and the adorably awesome Mickie Knuckles ran in for the save.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND SOUTHERN COMFORT (Tracey Smothers & Chris Hamrick) v. THE WILDCARDS (Eddie Kingston & Jack Marciano)
This is a weird ass matchup. Smothers and Hamrick replaced Ian Rotten & Steve Stone in the tournament for reasons I have not heard explained, but it's Tracey Fucking Smothers and thus a welcome format shift. Smothers was having a lot of fun and the Wildcards are just plain a lot of fun. Hamrick looked bored or high or dazed or just plain uninterested or something here and he didn't do much, so Smothers was carrying the load big time. Smothers got to bust out some of the wicked awesome backwoods ninja shit, though sadly he wrestled with boots on. Smothers is also in phenomenal shape still. I don't remember a ton about this match other than I believe I may have achieved a boner when Southern Comfort came out to the theme from the Dukes of Hazzard because it's just so true. The style clash, in all senses, was enjoyable here, but it was not a good match. Smothers and Hamrick won with something or other and advanced to the semifinals.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND NIGEL MCGUINNESS & CHAD COLLYER v. CM PUNK & COLT CABANA (w/Tracy Brooks)
I know I'm saying a lot about the ladies so far, but whatever dude, I like ladies. I like pretty ladies. And TV does not do Tracy Brooks justice at all. The crowd was a little split here, I'd say 65-35 in favor of the Second City Saints. Cabana and McGuinness had a lot of fun together, and Cabana mostly goofed it up to the XTREEEEME all night long. Punk and Cabana played heel and it worked out because McGuinness has a fair number of fans. The Cabana/Nigel stuff here is most memorable, and Nigel ended up playing face-in-peril before getting the hot tag to Collyer, who came in and whooped a ass to little response. I don't really understand the Collyer hating, I like him a lot. But maybe I'm weird. I certainly like him a shit lot more than I like Nigel. Which is not to say I don't like Nigel. Oh, what am I saying? I like Chad Collyer. There. There was one point in the match when Nigel was supposed to leapfrog Punk off the ropes, but instead they collided skull-to-nuts. They covered for it very quickly and really well and nobody even had TIME to start whining. Punk pinned Collyer on a roll-up (I believe) and pulled the tights, then the Saints mocked them after the match and Nigel chased them all to the back.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND THE HAVANA PITBULLS (Ricky Reyes & Puma) v. BRAD BRADLEY & RYAN BOZ (w/Carmine DeSpirito)
Conventional wisdom says local boys Bradley & Boz ride out a win in this match. Carmine is really a great manager. The matchup looks weird because Puma and Reyes aren't very big and Bradley and Boz are, but the Pitbulls didn't play little guys and it made the dynamic kind of interesting. Puma used a lot of kicks to weaken the legs of Bradley early on, but Boz and Bradley got control back. There was a cool part of the match where Reyes tried to put one of them down with shoulderblocks but couldn't, but kept trying repeatedly. It was cool because Reyes is the power guy of his team, but he's real small compared to the opposition, so it was sort of like a tough guy from a little neighborhood going to the big city and meeting up with tougher guys, and instead of getting his ass kicked, he just figures out a way to kick their ass because he's that tough of a dude, and it doesn't matter that his neighborhood is small. After a decent match, Reyes pinned Bradley and pulled his tights, which made that two matches in a row with tights-pulling, but this was fun because the crowd actually boos Bradley and Boz. It occurs to me that homegrown guys are best to use as heels when you're a promotion like this that brings in lots of high-end talent, because let's be honest, most of the fans are smart marks and just appreciative that those guys come in, and they cheer them and won't boo them. Carmine and the boys were really pissed off post-match and Carmine yelled at the referee that he would be taking the result to the board. Bradley got on the mic and teased beating up Carmine, but then did not.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND M-DOGG 20 & JOSH PROHIBITION v. HOMICIDE & B-BOY
None of the matches up to this point had really stood out as like, you know, good wrestling matches. It wasn't an unentertaining first five matches, just that nothing really hit on all cylinders. This match picked it up a lot and right away. Homicide and B-Boy are really good as a tag team. I couldn't tell you how good M-Dogg and Prohibition are because they didn't do a ton. Well, M-Dogg did a lot, just not offense. M-Dogg took a hellacious beating in this match, I guess making them the faces, but the crowd was solidly behind Homicide and B-Boy so it didn't matter. Nasty chops, nasty kicks, nasty dives to the floor in front of us, M-Dogg took a horrible pounding. And I enjoyed it very much. Prohibition got in and got a little offense, but not much. The end sequence was just sick, with Prohibition jumping off the top for a shooting star right into a diamond cutter from B-Boy, then ate the Cop Killa from Homicide for the pin. Prohibition seemed pretty shaken up after the match but all was good as far as I could tell.
Intermission time and it was a nice time. Not like, "Yes, thank god, intermission." Just more of an, "Oh, intermission? That's nice." I spent my time outside taking in the air. And using my fucking asthma inhaler. NERD! I am disgusted with myself.
SEVEN-MAN ELIMINATION MATCH FOR A SHOT AT THE IWA-MS HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE ALEX SHELLEY v. RODERICK STRONG v. PETEY WILLIAMS v. NATE WEBB v. DELIRIOUS v. AUSTIN ARIES v. JIMMY JACOBS (w/Becky Bayless)
It was announced that the winner would face BJ Whitmer directly following the match. I kind of had some ROH scramble-type expectations for this match and it did not deliver at all. Nothing clicked here and it was just a hodgepodge of movery. Becky Bayless - a doll. These are high-end ladies tonight. Delirious got to "be Delirious," unlike at the ROH show when he didn't get to at all. So now I see why the Chicago guys love him, because he's really entertaining and can go in the ring to boot. I had heard a lot about Roderick Strong and he did not fail to impress. Shelley and Strong came out together, but it wasn't until mid-match when Aries started teaming up with them, which was a little weird considering the crowd was entirely aware of Generation Next. Jacobs and Delirious started off and this was about as wacky as you can really get in terms of wrestler interaction. These two should totally either feud forever or form a bizarre tag team. Even Jimmy Jacobs didn't know what to make of Delirious. Delirious did a bit where he laid on the mat, face-down, covering his head, and Jacobs couldn't get him to move. So he said huss some, and he kicked at him, and rolled him over, but still nothing. So he tagged Nate Webb. And he said to Nate Webb, in a whispering fashion, "Huss." Nate Webb eventually screamed and got Delirious to get up and tag out. The match just kind of blurred from then on out. Delirious was eliminated, which got booed. Jacobs was eliminated, which got booed. I believe the third elimination was Roderick Strong, which did not get booed. Nate Webb and Petey Williams kind of had to join forces to fight Generation Next, and Petey took a good beating before getting a hot tag to Webb, who cleaned a little house before being pinned and eliminated, leaving Shelley, Aries and Williams. Williams pinned Shelley, and then pinned Aries with that weirdo, sorta-retarded flipping piledriver deal, and he got the title shot.
IWA-MS HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH BJ WHITMER (champion, w/Jim Fannin) v. PETEY WILLIAMS
Whitmer ran in and did the initial beatdown and did not relent. This was done so, so, so well. Petey is over huge in Highland and for good reasons, he's a fine wrestler and does his country proud. Whitmer got a quick near-fall that he bitched about, and Fannin started in on Petey, telling him he'd already been wrestling for like eight years tonight, just give it up and maybe they'd give him a shot down the line. Williams rolled to the floor after an exploder by Whitmer, practically dead and trying to get a breather. Whitmer followed him out, beat on him some more, and brought him back in. And then, quick as lightning, WHAM! Petey hits his move! 1, 2, 3! New IWA-MS champion! The crowd did rise and they were indeed excited. They hate Whitmer. They love Petey Williams. All is good. Whitmer beat him up some post-match and I'd assume they'll be rematching rather soon. This was a well-executed title change, even though none the seven-man disappointed and this match was short. But that's what made it so perfect, Whitmer came in and beat the shit out of the dead-tired babyface, who hit one fluke move and stole the belt. Whether or not that makes him "look weak" isn't really an issue because these people hate Whitmer. This was fine stuff.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS THE HAVANA PITBULLS (Ricky Reyes & Puma) v. CM PUNK & COLT CABANA (w/Tracy Brooks)
This match just killed me. Just plain killed me dead. Punk and Cabana were playing the heels, so I decided I'd cheer the Pitbulls, plus they totally won me over with the neat match against Boz & Bradley and the way they didn't conform to being short. Also, Punk & Cabana were not using "Copacabana," and they weren't even using that stupid AFI song, it was some other song that I know but now don't remember. It worked for them as a duo anyway. They changed their tights here, as first match Punk was in the Misfits 138 shorts and Cabana had the blue/black singlet, this match they went red/black. The Pitbulls did not change their tights. The wrestling here was largely good if a little sloppy, and I started to get actually annoyed with Cabana being just soooo goofy as he did not really bring the full Colt package with him tonight, just the goofiness section. Which still makes Colt Cabana a totally entertaining motherfucker. Parts of this match were just ugly to look at, like when Punk blew the Welcome to Chicago, Motherfucker, but this is ignorable really. What really bothered me about the match was Punk and Cabana playing heel to start, getting cheered anyway, and then, after a long face-in-peril segment on Ricky Reyes, they switched the dynamic completely around, and suddenly the Pitbulls are playing the heels and there's a long face-in-peril segment on Punk. I dunno, man, stick to your GUNZ, you know? Punk and Cabana won, I don't remember the finish. I was bothered by this match and suddenly had turned on Punk and Cabana, which is what they had been trying to do all night anyway. The end result is all good.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS SOUTHERN COMFORT (Tracey Smothers & Chris Hamrick) v. HOMICIDE & B-BOY
Just a weird mix here. Smothers danced with Homicide some, and who can't enjoy that? Smothers again carries the load as Hamrick is on a joyride with Captain Tracey. Some pretty good wrestling in here but nothing terribly memorable, though B-Boy looked good again and Homicide was Homicide. Hamrick got in some nice chops to be fair. Homicide went for the Cop Killa on Hamrick, to which I instinctively said, "NO! THAT IS FOOLISH! IT IS FOOLISH!" Because fuck, it is. That guy is no spring chicken getting dropped on his noggin. Anyway, Hamrick got away but ended up hurting his ribs. I do not remember the finish here either, but Southern Comfort won on a pin on Homicide. All of them shook hands and raised arms and stuff after, it was a touching moment, and somewhat poignant as the inner city thugs were embraced by the backwoods confederates and vice versa. We CAN all get along.
SAMOA JOE v. CHRIS HERO
This is the reason I don't remember a lot of the finishes or a lot of the matches prior to this match. This show is worth the tape for this alone, and not because it's a super great match, but because the heat for this match is unreal. Something happened on this night in Highland. After progressive booing from a bunch of unappreciative fucks toward Chris Hero, many were fed up. We'd had enough of the booing and the lame "NOT MY HERO!!!!" remarks, and the fawning over ROH champion Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe is a cool guy, this is nothing against Samoa Joe. But that man is an outsider. Chris Hero IS IWA-Mid South. Chris Hero is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and he wrestles almost exclusively in the States for this promotion, and has been the cornerstone for years, but these ingrates get a little whiff of city when Samoa Joe waltzes into town, and all they can do is go, "NOT MY HERO!!!!" and "JOE IS GONNA KILL YOU!" And I, for one, had had it. I love Chris Hero. I love that he's the backbone of IWA-Mid South. Samoa Joe is just here to make a quick buck. Don't give me this Samoa Joe nonsense, you ungrateful jerks. We will rise against those of you chanting Joe is gonna kill you. We will become annoyed with Joe. We will call him Taz. We will demand that he "CHOKE HIM OUT BRUDDA!" We will not take this anymore. And we didn't. You know those dueling chant things, like say you were at this match, and you're thinking of what it would sound like if people started chanting, "Let's go He-ro," and then others countered back right after with, "Let's go Joe!" Well, ditch what you think that sounded like. It was nothing like that. It was voices being heard. Lines being drawn in the sand. Rabid support of two men ready to bash each others' faces in, split between those in attendance, ready for battle, desperate for a conflict and choosing their sides with undying support. The chants were not those of "ECDub!" They were a few hundred people standing behind their guy, getting seriously pissed off about everything. It was the sound of a few hundred people being sucked into a wave of anticipation. It was beautiful, and I'll probably never be part of something like that again.
As for the match, Joe and Hero seemed totally overwhelmed by the volume and uncontrollability of the crowd. This is not normally a vocal group, but all of a sudden, people are shouting at one another, demanding that one kill the other one, standing on chairs, screaming and ranting and raving and being drawn in. I think we all just lost our collective shit during this match. We lost our minds. We got that "release" people talk about. We were truly on one side or another, cheering for Chris Hero or Samoa Joe, and hating the other guy like he'd just stolen money from us or fucked our girlfriend. There were pauses where the guys just didn't know what they could do, but everything - every high-impact move, every chop, every submission attempt, every kick, every forearm - is reacted to with passion from the crowd. I can't tell you how good this match was because it was a mind-blowing experience. I lost my voice shouting at Samoa Joe and yelling LET'S GO HE-RO and telling Joe to CHOKE HIM OUT BRUDDA! I was furious with Samoa Joe. I was gone. I was lost in some alternate universe where somehow the fate of the world hinged on Samoa Joe v. Chris Hero, and Hero was the man to save it. At least I thought, anyway. There was plenty of nice stuff here, enough that I'd surely call it a good match, and it was match of the night with ease just because of the atmosphere. I could go to WrestleMania and I wouldn't get this. This was like a safe, contained meltdown. The match was also shorter than I expected. Much to my chagrin, and perhaps in some form of poetic whatever, Joe won by choking him out, brudda.
Post-match, Hero took the mic and told us not to cheer for him, that he didn't get it done against B-Boy or Homicide or Joe, and he's ashamed of himself. He said if he didn't make Joe tap out in the six-man in Hammond, he'd be done. He'd be going back to Europe. So I guess Hero is going back to Europe for a while. They couldn't have scripted a better moment for this, after Hero had suddenly collected a small army of dedicated soldiers that fought for him in the great war against Samoa Joe. You just couldn't have possibly timed this promo better. This was flawless execution of an angle and really a match I won't forget seeing live, and thanks to this match, a show I'll never forget attending. The atmosphere was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A second intermission came after this match and everyone is way right, having two intermissions on these shows is necessary and makes everything flow better.
NO-DQ MATCH JERRY LYNN v. SABU
This was a match I was glad to see on the card, if not particularly EXCITED for it. I mean, why would I be? I've seen these guys wrestle plenty of times and I never really liked it then. This match was the pits as they dogged it and phoned it the fuck in, and Sabu just ain't SABUUUUUUU anymore, though I readily admit to pointing at the ceiling like a fucking idiot repeatedly. I don't blame them for phoning it in and "dogging it" is probably harsh. Sabu isn't in great shape anymore (as far as ring condition he looks great, but let's be serious, this guy is beat the hell up by now). They went out onto the floor a little and onto the bleachers under the basketball hope. You can't dunk on those baskets, and they took my advice and did not. I moved around to the other side of the ring so I could see the fight, and was lucky enough to be caught behind the cute photographer lady on an Air Sabu into the corner right in front of me on my way back. I don't remember Lynn doing much of anything except backdropping and slamming Sabu on a chair in the ring, and trying to cradle piledrive him onto it but failing to do so. Sabu won with the camel clutch in a match that seemed to readily disappoint everyone, but I appreciate them coming out and being big stars anyway. I mean, fuck, it's not like I paid specifically to see them. In fact, I didn't pay to see them at all. So thanks for being big stars from the TV and eating up some time.
TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS SOUTHERN COMFORT (Tracey Smothers & Chris Hamrick) v. CM PUNK & COLT CABANA (w/Tracy Brooks)
I was so behind Smothers and Hamrick for this I couldn't believe it. Punk and Cabana again changed, this time into yellow/black, the ROH in Chicago Ridge gear. This match was a straight old-school tag match and was really good. Hamrick all of a sudden turned it up for this one, perhaps saving himself for this match? Either way, Smothers AGAIN carried the load, but this time because he's Tracey Smothers, men among boys, brilliance personified. The heel/face structure managed to stay intact the entire way. Smothers was great as face-in-peril and the Saints really did a good job as heels here. Hamrick's continual failures when trying to help his partner, getting him into further trouble, really went over well because it wasn't just once or twice, it was several times, making Hamrick look both desperate and foolish, and putting Smothers deeper and deeper into a hole. This was also good when looked at as maybe the last shot at gold for Smothers and Hamrick, against the ROH tag team champions, a couple of young studs on the rise whereas Smothers and Hamrick are getting closer and closer to that sunset on the horizon. Hamrick's eventual hot tag went really well as he busted out his best offense of the night. It broke down into a brawl and Smothers did a dive to the floor because he's the motherfucking king. The finish came when Hamrick superkicked the shit out of Punk, and Smothers got a sunset flip on Cabana for the pin, making Southern Comfort the new IWA-MS tag team champions, in what has to be looked at as a great upset. The crowd was largely pleased, maybe mostly because it was a really good match that was easy to get into, and they made it easier and easier as the match progressed to get behind Southern Comfort instead of cheering for the hipper Saints team. After the finish, Punk and Hamrick got into a shoving match, but calmed down pretty quickly. Smothers extended his hand to the Saints, and Hamrick followed suit, and they all hugged and loved on one another, and then OH HO the Saints swerved you!!! The Saints attacked and left Smothers and Hamrick laying, which can only hopefully mean a 06/19 rematch in Highland. IWA-MS really needs to put over that Southern Comfort beat the ROH tag champions and if ROH has some sort of stupid problem with that then fuck them.
Post-show meal at the Steer included many wrestlers, and they are a funny group to observe, particularly when Brad Bradley tells Trik Davis, "You don't need to watch anymore tapes! You've seen enough tapes! Next time you wanna watch a tape, eat and go to the gym." And when Chris Hero pours ice water down Jack Marciano's back.
A fine show. A fine time. 06/19 in Highland with ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER v. MAD MAN PONDO!
Hear the news? Kevin Steen and LI2000 pretty much parted ways. I won't spoil it, but it's pretty much on all the french-canadian wrestling news sites. Check out the IWS website for Steen's side of things.