Lafayette, which is where fucking Purdue is, is a place I've never been to. But this was such an amazingly good card that we decided around three hours wasn't THAT big of a drive, at least this one time. We got on the road at 5:30 eastern, the show was supposed to start at 9. This gave us time to eat and possibly get lost, though we never get lost, so mostly just stop and get something to eat real quick. It was around exit 16 (we needed to get onto I-65 at 12A) that all hell broke loose and time stood still. HUGE traffic jam that took an hour to get out of. Interestingly enough, it was an international incident, as I decided to collect license plate information to help pass the time. Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Utah, California, Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec were all represented in this stretch of death.
We decided the best thing to do would be to listen to classic rock radio after we'd been stuck for like 40 minutes. Boy, that's true. Dylan, "Signs," and eventually Fleetwood Mac, which was the song that got us out of the jam. "Go Your Own Way." Goddamn right I can go my own way. So we got on 65 and stayed with various classic rock stations as one would go out and we'd have to find another. There is really not much in life better than driving through the rural flatlands of Indiana listening to "Ramblin' Man." This was good stuff.
We got in at 9:05 after speeding most of the way on 65 (usually going about 80 in a 55) and thought we might've missed a bit, but of course the traffic jam blocked a lot of the traffic coming in from Chicago, too, which meant a lot of the wrestlers, so they were delayed. Who'da thunk it? It could be worse.
The Lafayette Armory is a nice little place and it was a good night for wrestling, plus we'd driven through a lot of shit to get there so I was in a mood to have a fine time. We bought first row tickets for $20 because we deserved the luxury of slapping hands and such, which usually I can do without, but seriously, three and a half hours on the road, I wanna slap hands with Daizee Haze. And do lots of other things with Daizee Haze. But that's just being crass. I guess usually they draw 50-60 people but I'd say there were about 100 or so for this show, plus the place is a huge, hollow room, so everything is really loud, and the crowd was probably louder than the 200+ the Highland shows I've been to drew, except for Hero/Joe.
JASON DUKES v. HILLBILLY JED
Look, no offense whatsoever to these two guys, I'm sure they're really nice and they worked hard in this match, and it wasn't that they had a terrible match or anything like that, but these were two big fatasses that absolutely did not need to be on this show. There was plenty on this show that this did not need to be here on a show running late to begin with. This was also longer than it needed to be. Dukes was the lighter of the two, I'd say he only went around 350. At one point he pulled down the straps on his singlet and slapped his tits around, which drew an amusing chant of "that's disgusting." Jed did one really amazing thing where he landed on his feet out of a monkey flip, which really was a sight to behold. This is what you'd expect two big fatasses to do in a match in 2004, throwing in some aerial stuff to wow the crowd, with Jed winning on a twisting splash from the second rope. Just completely unnecessary and a waste of time that they didn't have available.
SAMOA JOE v. HOMICIDE
Yeah, this went on second, I guess due in part to the big traffic jam. But it's really funny that a ROH main event went on second for IWA Mid-South in Lafayette at the Armory. Homicide's right hand was taped up from the injury he suffered in the Jeff Peterson Cup. The IWA crowd's relentless fawning over Samoa Joe has really started to bother me, because Joe has *really* tried to play a big monster heel in his IWA run, save for his first match against BJ Whitmer. Something unfortunate about these high-end indies is you get so many smarks, and there was not a single little kid at this show. 95% of the audience was between 16 and 25, and despite that I'm in that age bracket, that is not the crowd to have for quality crowd reaction. It's a shitty age group for a wrestling show because everyone has seen Kevin Smith movies and every Simpsons episode waaay too many times, and they spend most of their time attempting to be fabulous instead of anything else at all, and if you eavesdrop on their conversations, you find out that they all know everything there is to know about everything on earth. They also tend to scream out stupid shit repeatedly in a fake yelling voice, like how back in the day everyone would start talking in the Beavis voice at random times. With Homicide's injury, this was the second time I've seen Homicide live that his opponent focused a lot on his hand. I really appreciate that Joe is on these shows, he has a definite star quality about him and his matches are never boring, but I don't think Samoa Joe is the guy for me, and I think that more and more every time I see him. He seems like a positively great human being and he's a stud in the ring, but his matches just don't do anything for me for the most part. The thing about the Hero match was that Joe was matched up with someone that was as tall as he was, so the visual was there as a battle of big stars as well as me being interested in the match. I'm not saying it really matters, but if it's there it's there, and it adds something. This match was alright and I'd assume they could do a lot better with Homicide at 100%. Honestly I thought Homicide would pull out and he's a hell of a guy for still doing the show. Homicide worked the neck and Joe worked Homicide's bad arm. Very stiff match, as you'd expect. Lots of good matwork. Joe used my chair on the second ole spot outside the ring, and I guess that was cool. At least he didn't break the chair. Joe won on a chokeout.
DANNY DANIELS v. NATE WEBB
Daniels gets a half-and-half reaction now, but Nate is impossible to hate. Webb came out, went back into the dressing room, and came back with a basketball. He challenged Daniels to a game of horse and gave the ball to him. Daniels threw it at him because he'd rather play dodge ball. Webb caught the ball and declared him to be out. Webb gave referee Tommy Thompson (who worked the first two matches, as well) the ball, and Thompson missed a jumper from the ring on a total airball. This was all very cute. Maybe these two just don't have any chemistry, or maybe Nate's body is finally so beat up that he's losing a step, but this match was not very good. And that sucks because I really love Nate Webb and Danny Daniels is just constantly improving. Webb hit the Soylent Green, but Daniels got out of that and Webb tried a chair-assisted moonsault, which missed. Daniels tombstoned Nate on the chair and it was declared a DQ, since they have those now with the NWA association. This got booed big-time and they're playing up that the IWA wrestlers hate the NWA affiliation, which is probably a good idea because while *I* like that there are DQs and rules and shit now, most of the crowd doesn't. Daniels then piledrove the referee. Once Webb came to and fought out what happened, he gave Thompson the Soylent Green and screamed about how this is the IWA. This got cheered. You people have no class! Tommy Thompson was then replaced by Mickie Knuckles, returning to her roots as a referee. She's such an adorable person. Everyone loves Mickie Knuckles.
COLT CABANA v. DELIRIOUS v. HC LOC
This match wasn't properly announced, but they announced that Colt and Delirious would be there. Loc's IWA MS debut was a surprise and a welcome one at that, because I've really liked the tag team of him and DeVito. This was a really fun match with Cabana being fun but not a total dick, just kind of calling Delirious a 'tard a few times, which Delirious sort of is. Loc just didn't feel like taking any shit. Cabana and Loc teamed up on Delirious and tried to eliminate him from the match (not eliminate via pin but just get him out of the way), which didn't work because Delirious just kept coming back for more, occasionally getting a little offense in. Cabana did more here than he did in most of the tag tournament and his 04/10 match with Danny Daniels, but he's just not going full-on anymore. This is not meant to be insulting because hey, maybe he's saving his body, and he's still a good wrestler and entertaining as hell. I don't remember the finish, but Delirious won after the Cabana/Loc partnership finally broke down. Cabana accepted his defeat and said something similar to, "Hey, Delirious! Delirious! Aba blada yaba!" To which Delirious responded, "Shadow Stevens!" Loc got the please come back chant and I agree with that. Fuck, I'd take Bradley & Boz v. Carnage Crew any day.
Intermission was here, I bought some runny-cheese nachos and a Dr. Pepper. One of the dudes by us came back in toward the end of intermission, having GONE AND CHANGED HIS SHIRT so he could put on a Chris Hero shirt he'd bought and put black tape over the logo. This annoyed me because I'm sick of the lame Hero player haters and I got up to go buy a fucking Chris Hero shirt. They didn't have any, but Tracy Smothers struck up a conversation with me about my Johnny Cash shirt, and we briefly talked about the movie that's being made about him before that prick Danny Daniels interrupted us. I bought a Tracy Smothers pin because the guy was cool enough to just start talking to me like that, plus I really respect the hell out of the dude in a way I don't respect the other guys I like. Kind of in appreciation of who he is and what he's done and how underrated he's been forever. He even signed the thing without me asking him to do so. So if somehow Tracy Smothers ever reads this, thanks. And I get to say that I have briefly bullshitted with Tracy Smothers regarding Johnny Cash.
KNOCKOUT OR SUBMISSION MATCH IWA MS/NWA MIDWEST WOMEN'S TITLE LACEY (c) v. DAIZEE HAZE
I think what led to this was Daizee blacking Lacey's eyes with some kicks some months ago, and these two were two of the three women's title tournament finalists, too. I'm not going to say this was a great or even good wrestling match, but these two beat the shit out of each other and broke out a lot of nice submission stuff. Daizee's chops had a dull thud to them, like what a real chop to the chest bones would sound like. Daizee hit hard on some of the ringside chairs at one point. I dunno, what's there to say about this match? They entertained and did a great job with the stipulation. Lacey tried repeatedly to make Daizee pass out, and busted out some nice high-impact offense trying for the KO. Daizee had a few shots at the submission win but never got it. Lacey is good as the arrogant heel as she's pretty enough to pull off being super cocky about herself but not SO pretty that you can't get pissed off with her for it. The best part of this match live was looking over at the announce table, with Prazak and Jim Fannin calling the match and Delirious sitting there staring in horror at the strikes, staying entirely in character. I don't know that there's anyone as dedicated to their character as Delirious. That guy is great. Lacey won by making Daizee pass out finally and I had a good time with this match, which was about what I expected but probably better.
ARIK CANNON v. TRACY SMOTHERS
Cannon came out with a big NWA flag to get heel heat and it worked, and I loved it but didn't cheer him because that wasn't his intention and no one else was, so who am I to ruin it? Smothers came out to "If the South Woulda Won" by Hank Jr. and that's enough to make this guy awesome, but you add in that he has a real good match here and makes Cannon look better than I've ever seen Cannon look, and you realize what a great wrestler you're seeing. Smothers can still go like nobody's business and works circles around any of his American contemporaries that are still going, as far as I know. And that's not to discount Cannon, who I think has a real future in the IWA and looked sharp in this match. Real stiff match and they were really laying it in with the strikes during a couple exchanges. Smothers had control of the match, and then Cannon rolled him up and used the middle rope for leverage to get the pin. It kind of put it all in perspective that Smothers, who can be a crazy, uncontrollable son of a bitch, got outfoxed by Cannon. Smothers took the mic and told us to give Cannon a round of applause, then shook his hand. Tracy deked a left hand and Cannon jumped back, but Tracy didn't throw it. He then offered his left hand for a second handshake, and Cannon was funny here, saying, "Bullshit!" They shook, and Tracy clotheslined him, but Cannon came back with a low blow and did Smothers' dance, then gave him the ol' up yours. I don't think that's the end of these two.
IWA MS TAG TEAM TITLE BRAD BRADLEY & RYAN BOZ (c) v. DUNN & MARCOS
The Ring Crew Express came out and did the jumping double high fives with Mickie Knuckles, which was really cute. Bradley and Boz are just so fucking big and menacing when compared to most indy wrestlers, and they also wrestle as a well-oiled, destructive tag team, and that makes them different than the average big guy duo. Bradley said that about a month ago in Highland, they destroyed these two, which is true, and then he said they'd take the night off because Dunn and Marcos didn't deserve the shot. Prazak pointed out that Bradley and Boz lost in the first round of the tag title tournament so they should consider themselves lucky to even be defending, and ordered that the match would take place. And it did. Dunn played face-in-peril and just got killed. Once Marcos got the hot tag, the RCE would have these little flashes of offense that gave the impression that they could pull the upset, which Bradley and Boz do very well. Also, having them lose a few times during the buildup to the tournament helps this cause. While you could say it makes them look less monstrous, the truth is, they're so big that they're going to look monstrous either way. Giving the impression that they can lose makes them interesting and keeps their matches fresh. I think Dunn got knocked a little loopy at one point as it got sloppy with him toward the end. The top rope was also really lose all night and made all the jumps seem super dangerous, and a few guys slipped. Bradley and Boz won with their big flipping slam finisher. The other thing I like about Bradley and Boz is that every time I've gone to an IWA show, Boz has almost gotten into a fight after the match, which gives him a serious air of unpredictability, which is dangerous and thus entertaining.
IWA MS LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH MATT SYDAL (c) v. AUSTIN ARIES
Sydal worked this match with a cast on his left arm, and I think he has a sprained wrist. Sydal is left-handed, and he couldn't even throw a punch. Now you might say, hey, he could just hit him with it and get DQ'd and keep his title. But you are ignoring Matt Sydal's sense of honor and that he wants to play fair. What a sucker. Aries wasn't having any of the cheering for him, which is going to get increasingly difficult for him, because he is really good. This was a really impressive performance from both guys as they managed to break out a ton of good offense and Sydal was about as good as always, he just couldn't punch. Aries was a total dick, freaking out over cast contact to his head on collar-and-elbow attempts. They did a couple dives to the floor and I'd like to say anyone bumping to the floor in this building is nuts and deserves all the props in the world because the floor is uncarpeted and pretty much the equivalent of falling on flat rock. The one big spot I really remember was Sydal being on Aries' shoulders, jumping, twisting, and hitting a DDT. Really impressive, both of these guys are very slick wrestlers, Aries especially. Aries is one of the best out there right now, in my opinion, and I'm not super big on cruisers. This guy is just flat-out good. Sydal retained but I don't really remember the finish. I think it was a roll-up of some sort but I'm not entirely sure. Good match.
CM PUNK v. CHRIS HERO
Well, this is what the three-hour drive was for. I didn't feel right missing out on the rekindling of the rivalry that got me into this promotion in the first place. This match is everything we've come to expect from these two. Super slow, extremely methodical wrestling. Sure it's a little cliche with them at this point, and you can argue that it's a bit masturabatory, but the fact remains that these two have a chemistry together that doesn't come along often in wrestling. They just work extremely well with each other, they always seem to be on the same page. This wasn't as good as the 93-minute marathon or the 55-minute tables-and-ladders match, but it is a fantastic match nonetheless. They singled out body parts, Hero working the arm and Punk working the neck, and both tried to avoid the big moves at all costs. I think Punk must've fought away from the hangman's clutch four or five times before Hero finally locked it on, and then Punk got the ropes. I don't know, there isn't a lot to say about this, it was a classic Hero/Punk match and you should see it because it's really good. They seemed to be trying to have Punk play heel, but he got cheered, so Hero came off as the heel, yelling at Punk during the match about Fit Finlay and shit. The finish was on a sleeper, with Punk using the ropes and Hero passing out. Prazak announced the time at 56'14". Three shows I've been to, three shows that Hero had to be woken up with water after the match. Samoa Joe left the commentary position to hug Punk and congratulate him, and then came into the ring to help revive Hero and tell him it was a hell of a match. He offered his hand and they shook, and then it broke down.
Joe STO'd Hero and handcuffed him, and all of a sudden I felt like I was in Memphis watching someone beating Jerry Lawler down to what would have been huge heel heat, but instead here gets a face pop, and fuck, man, I don't get it. How hard can these guys try? Joe is trying with all he's got to be a completely despicable bastard, and these fucking people cheer him anyway because the heels are cool. This is a classic wrestling angle and I loved it, and it came off really well. Joe choked the handcuffed Hero out, which is a completely cowardly thing for a badass tough guy to be doing to someone who just wrestled a 56-minute match. Once Joe left, Prazak freaked out trying to get the key for the cuffs, and Nate Webb and Colt Cabana came down to the ring to try to help. I thought Cabana coming down was a great touch, as even Punk's tag partner couldn't support what had gone down. They got Hero uncuffed and he was a work of art selling it all, having this look of combined fury and embarrassment on his face. He paced around for a minute or two before heading back out, and this feud isn't over, which is great because this could end up being the feud of the year. All the seeds planted here say Hero should go to ROH and challenge dominant champion Joe for the ROH world title on his turf, but that probably isn't going to happen. I think it would be fucking awesome if it did, because these two have shown they can bring a house down together. Either way, these guys are great together, and this whole feud between them has been excellent so far. If only the crowd would curb their jacking off over themselves and how trendy it is to hate Chris Hero to really let themselves dive into this.
STEEL CAGE MATCH ALEX SHELLEY v. JIMMY JACOBS
This was booked as the finale to the best-of-seven series between the two that got put on the shelf last year when Shelley broke his collarbone. Shelley held a 3-to-2 advantage coming in and it would go as many falls as it took to complete the series. Shelley properly displayed awe and fear at the sight of the unforgiving steel, and even goofball Jimmy Jacobs seemed more serious than usual. Which is not to say he seemed completely serious. Lots of both guys avoiding going into the cage, and a great performance from Shelley in this match. Not a great cage match, but good nonetheless, and it could have been better than I noticed, because it was 2:30 in the morning when we got out of the building after this match. Jacobs pulled out the railroad spike and it was ON. He didn't get to use it, but scored a pinfall on a small package to tie the series at three. Shelley was pissed off from then on out, using the spike and trying to bust Jacobs open with it, but Jacobs had a hard time blading and didn't get much blood. He did have a hole in his forehead, so maybe he just doesn't HAVE much blood. They were both down, and Tommy Thompson counted to ten. The match was declared a draw, but IWA commissioner Mark Wolf ordered that the match would continue until a winner was decided. Shelley was not pleased. A bunch of convincing near-falls followed, one with Shelley hitting a stunner from the second rope with Jacobs' legs wrapped around his body, which looked brutal. Another came where I really expected it to end, as Shelley hit the Shellshock off the cage, and followed it up with a normal Shellshock, but it amazingly only got two. Jacobs hit a hell of a big boot, and got the win on the Contra Code, which surprised me, but marked the right ending to the feud with the babyface winning. Shelley was totally despondent after the match and Jacobs seemed like a big-time winner, which is as much a testament to Shelley's performance as anything. A great way to end a really good night of wrestling.
The ride home was as bad as the ride in, only this time there was no traffic jam, just hellacious rain. So we didn't get back in town until fucking 6am. That's 12 and a half damn hours for a wrestling show. Goddamn. I would definitely recommend the tape of this show as everything here delivers in at least some way past the opening match, and if you liked the other Hero/Punk matches, you'll like tonight's, too.
The Obtuse Angle Inside the Mind of a Wrestling Columnist Vol. I After observing recent weeks of WWE programming, I've come to the realization that there are quite a few people who are secretly really enjoying the shows.