Monday, November 30, 2015

WWNLive SuperShow: Mercury Rising 2015 Review

Generation Next reunites, while Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano do battle in a Unification Match!

WWNLive SuperShow: Mercury Rising 2015
San Jose, California 3/28/15

The show kicks off with Rich Swann coming out and singing “All Night Long”. Swann talks about the injury he suffered the night before at Evolve 40, and how he wants a rematch, teaming with Johnny Gargano against The Premiere Athlete Brand, with the Open The United Gate Titles on the line! This leads to The Premiere Athlete Brand coming out, and they attack Swann, going after his injured ribs. Johnny Gargano & Ethan Page run out to make the save, and Page calls out Caleb Konley for a match right now!

1.) Ethan Page vs. Open The United Gate Champion Caleb Konley (with The Premiere Athlete Brand): **1/2

This was a fine opening match. It wasn’t spectacular, by any means, but it was decent. The only real notable items here are that Brian Cage tried to interfere, but accidently hit Konley, which led to Page getting the win via heel shenanigans (pulling the tights on a rollup). Not much else to say about the match itself.

Afterwords, Andrea gave Brian Cage a low blow for screwing up, and Konley hits him with his Open The United Gate Title.

2.) Six-Women Tag - The Canadian Ninjas (SHIMMER Champion Nicole Matthews & Portia Perez) & Andrea (with SoCal Val) vs. SHINE Champion Mia Yim & SHINE Tag Team Champion The Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee & Cherry Bomb): **1/4

I was actually looking forward to this match, but then SoCal Val sends Andrea out to attack Nikki Storm, and take her place in the match! Why would you take out arguably the most entertaining woman of the six involved in this match?! Plus, Nikki Storm is a much better wrestler than Andrea. As far as the match goes, it was pretty slow when the heel team (The Canadian Ninjas & Andrea) was in control, but it got better in the closing stretch, particularly when Mia Yim was in the match. The team of Mia Yim & The Kimber Bombs would pick up the win in the end.

After the match, SoCal Val is berating The Canadian Ninjas, when Nikki Storm comes back out and takes down Andrea! She then challenges her to a match at Shine 26 on April 3rd (just a week later).

Up next, we have Evolve World Champion Drew Galloway coming out. He talks about how he’s been trying to prove that he’s one of the Best in the World over the past several months. This leads to him saying that he has to catch a flight to Scotland, as he’s wrestling in ICW the next day, and he calls out Johnny Gargano to have their Title Unification Match right now! Gargano comes out and the match is on!

3.) Evolve Title vs. Open The Freedom Gate Title - Drew Galloway vs. Johnny Gargano: ****

So just to be clear, this is a Unification Match, but the winner will be holding both titles, which will continue to be separate entities. I’ve seen a lot of criticism towards this match with regards to some of the things that were done here. First, there was the fact that the first part of this match consisted of a lot of crowd brawling. While it wasn’t totally “ideal”, I didn’t hate it as much as other people did. Then there were two ref bumps when they made their way back to the ring. Now, I could understand the first one, since it led to Ethan Page coming out, as he tried to convince Gargano to use a rope on Galloway, like Gargano did against Shingo two years prior (leading to Gargano’s heel turn). However, the second one was a little excessive. As far as the action in this match goes (and it took me this long to get to it), it thought it was a great. Was it the “greatest match in WWNLive history?”, as commentary proclaimed? No, it wasn’t. Was it as bad (not really bad, but disappointing, I suppose), as others claimed, due to all of the shenanigans? No, it wasn’t. I thought, despite the issues, this was a really great match. In the end, Drew Galloway picked up the win, becoming a Double Champion in the process.

After the match, Galloway cuts a passionate promo saying how this is his “WrestleMania Moment”. Then, as Gargano is recovering, Ethan Page turns heel on Gargano, and starts beating him down! Page says he’s going to end Gargano’s career. It’ll be interesting to see how this Ethan Page/Johnny Gargano feud works out (I know, but I obviously won’t say that now), but I’m glad that Ethan Page turned, as he’s much better as a heel.

4.) Four Way Freestyle - Tommy End vs. TJ Perkins vs. Drew Gulak vs. Biff Busick: ***3/4

This match had a lot of potential going into it, and I think that it definitely lived up to my expectations. Easily one of the most entertaining Four-Way Matches that I’ve seen in quite some time. I was curious to see how the styles of these four guys would work in this type of match, and it turned out pretty well. I had a lot of fun watching this match. TJ Perkins would end up getting the victory, forcing Drew Gulak to tap out.

5.) "Darewolf" PJ Black vs. AR Fox: ****

At Evolve 40, we saw PJ Black take on an excellent high-flyer in Ricochet. Here, he’s taking on another high-flyer in AR Fox. I thought this was a pretty great match. I would say it was about on-par with the PJ Black/Ricochet match from the previous night. It was pretty entertaining, as you would expect this kind of match to be. If we’ve seen anything from PJ Black’s run in Evolve, it’s that he’s much better suited against high-flyers like AR Fox & Ricochet. In this particular encounter, PJ Black would get the win, in what would end up being the final match in WWNLive for both wrestlers (more on that later).

6.) Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher: ****1/2

The concluding chapter in the story of Chris Hero vs. the new generation of Evolve wrestlers comes to a head in this match, as Hero takes on Timothy Thatcher. Hero is coming off of victories over Thatcher’s contemporaries, Drew Gulak & Biff Busick, at Evolve 38 & Evolve 40, respectively. Going against Thatcher, however, proved to be an incredible challenge for Hero. This was an awesome match!!! It was just as good as the Hero/Busick encounter from the night before. The first half was very much Thatcher’s kind of match, and while that was definitely good, the second half was just an incredible battle. After a lot of hard-hitting action, Thatcher locked on a Fujiwara Armbar out of nowhere and gets the submission victory!!! Just an incredible match.

7.) Generation Next (Austin Aries & FIP World Heavyweight Champion Roderick Strong) vs. Ricochet & Uhaa Nation: ***3/4

Here we have a reunion of arguably the greatest tag team/stable in Ring of Honor history in Generation Next, taking on two of the best to come out of the WWNLive Universe in Ricochet & Uhaa Nation. It’s match that you don’t realize is a dream match until it actually happens. While it wasn’t quite as good as the amazing Hero/Thatcher match that preceded it, this was still a really good Main Event. All four guys put forth a good effort that resulted in an entertaining match. In the end, Strong would get the victory after scoring the pin on Ricochet.

After the match, Strong cuts a promo thanking the crowd, and putting over Austin Aries & Uhaa Nation. Things go south very quickly, however, as Strong attacks both Aries & Uhaa Nation. He calls out Galloway, saying he’s going to take both of his titles. Timothy Thatcher comes out and chases Strong off to close the show.

Overall: 8.5/10

While this wasn't quite as good as Evolve 40, I thought it was still a really, really good show. Hero vs. Thatcher was spectacular, and there were some other very good matches on here as well (The Four-Way Freestyle, AR Fox vs. PJ Black, & The Main Event). Obviously the big controversy was with the Galloway/Gargano Title Unification Match, and some of the things that were done. I know some people really disliked it. While there were some bits in it that weren't the best (two ref bumps), the last portion of the match is just too good to ignore, and the crowd being really into it certainly lifted the match up in my eyes. If the first two matches on this show weren’t as average (or disappointing, in the case of the women’s match), then this would have definitely been on par with Evolve 40. Despite that, this was still a pretty great show.

SHIMMER 71: The ChickFight Tournament Review

Who will earn a shot at the SHIMMER Title?

So this is my first time watching a show from SHIMMER. Obviously, I’ve heard a lot about them, I’ve just never got the chance to actually take a serious look (WAY too much wrestling to watch in 2015). With this being part of the WWNLive Experience during WrestleMania Weekend, I decided to give a shot. What was also enticing was the fact that this was a tournament. I felt that a tournament show is always a good way to introduce someone to a promotion. Let’s see how this show turned out.

The ChickFight Tournament features twelve competitors, and works out similar to Night 3 of PWG’s BOLA in recent years (when they use twenty-four competitors). There will be six first round matches, three second round matches, and a Three-Way Elimination Match in the Finals. The winner will get a future shot at the SHIMMER Title.

SHIMMER 71: The ChickFight Tournament
San Jose, California 3/28/15

1.) ChickFight Tournament - First Round - Portia Perez vs. Evie: **3/4

I feel like that, throughout this review, there will be a ton of matches that feature someone who I’m familiar with, and someone who I’m totally unfamiliar with. This is just the first example. I’ve very familiar with Portia Perez, a longtime SHIMMER regular who is one half of the Canadian Ninjas with the current SHIMMER Champion Nicole Matthews. Here, she’s taking on Evie, an Australian competitor who I knew nothing about coming in. As far as the match goes, it was fine for an opening match. Perez always plays a good heel, and Evie looked good here as well. Simple stuff, but solid. Perez tries to coordinate interference with help from her partner Nicole Matthews, but it backfires, allowing Evie to pick up the win. She advances to the next round.

2.) ChickFight Tournament - First Round - Nicole Savoy vs. Candice LeRae: ***1/4

I’m sure EVERYONE knows who Candice LeRae is at this point, but much like Evie in the opener, I have no idea who Nicole Savoy is. What’s interesting is that both are relatively new to SHIMMER (if I recall correctly). This was a pretty good match. You can always count on Candice to put on solid performance, but Nicole Savoy looked good in here as well. Much like Evie, she was pretty impressive. A really fun match to watch. At one point, towards the end of the match, Candice looked to have broken her nose, as she finished the match with a bloody face. Savoy would pick up the upset victory to advance to the next round.

3.) ChickFight Tournament - First Round - Nikki Storm vs. Cherry Bomb: ***

Again, another match that features one person who I’m familiar with and another who I really hadn’t seen. I’m sure most people know who Cherry Bomb is. Nikki Storm is someone who I’ve heard about, but I’ve never seen. She’s from Scotland, and is probably best known for her appearance on TNA’s British Boot Camp 2. She likes to refer to herself as “The Best in the Galaxy”, and has a really entertaining character to say the least. She cuts this hilarious promo before the match that needs to be heard (I’ve haven’t even seen her wrestle yet, and she’s already a great character). The match itself starts with Nikki Storm & Cherry Bomb just screaming at each other. Aside from the comedy, the action here was pretty solid. Another fun tournament match. Nikki Storm (who has AMAZING charisma) picks up the win to advance to the next round.

4.) ChickFight Tournament - First Round - Kimber Lee vs. Kay Lee Ray: ***1/4

The trend continues! I (obviously) know a lot about Kimber Lee, but I am relatively unfamiliar with Kay Lee Ray. Much like Nikki Storm, she’s from Scotland, and I believe she also had a stint on TNA’s British Boot Camp 2. She has bright red hair, and she’s a good high-flyer! A pretty solid match between these two. I can always expect a good match out of Kimber Lee, and Kay Lee Ray showed a lot here as well. In the end, Kay Lee Ray would get the win over Kimber Lee via a crucifix pin to advance to the next round.

5.) ChickFight Tournament - First Round - Athena vs. Mia Yim: ****

Here we have arguably the best looking first round match, in terms of potential match quality, and unlike the previous matches, I’m very familiar with both competitors. Athena & Mia Yim are, without question, two of the best women’s wrestlers in the world right now, so it should come as no surprise that this match was pretty great. Easily the best match on the show. Both put forth valiant efforts, and there was a lot of cool stuff in this match. Eventually, Mia Yim would pick up the win via 450 Splash to advance to the next round.

6.) ChickFight Tournament - First Round - Cheerleader Melissa vs. Jessicka Havok: **

We now have the final match of the first round, and it features two women who are probably the most well known competitors in the tournament. Cheerleader Melissa has been a mainstay in SHIMMER for a very long time, while Jessicka Havok has also garnered a lot of attention for her time on the indie scene and, most recently, in TNA. Apparently this is the first time these two have ever met in a one-on-one match. Unfortunately, this wasn’t very good. I’m not sure what it was (probably a combination of things), but this match just didn’t work. Cheerleader Melissa would get the win via a rollup with her feet on the ropes to advance to the next round. A disappointing match.

Afterwords, Havok is pretty pissed, and vows to kill Cheerleader Melissa at the SHIMMER Tapings a few weeks later.

7.) ChickFight Tournament - Second Round - Evie vs. Nicole Savoy: ***1/2

Time to start the second round! Both Evie & Nicole Savoy had impressive showings in their first round matches, and they put together a really good second round match here. I really enjoyed this. The match was a lot of fun to watch, and there was entertaining action throughout. These two have really grown on me, just based on what I’ve seen on this show. In the end, Evie would pick up to the victory to advance to the Finals!

8.) ChickFight Tournament - Second Round - Nikki Storm vs. Kay Lee Ray: ***1/4

Scotland explodes! It’s pretty cool that these two are facing off. I believe Storm cut another entertaining promo before the match, putting down Kay Lee Ray as being from a lesser part of Scotland. While this match wasn’t quite as good as the match that preceded it, these two managed to put on a pretty entertaining match (which I’m not totally surprised at, since I imagine they’ve wrestled each other before). Both Nikki Storm & Kay Lee Ray are so much fun to watch, but in different ways (Storm’s charisma and Kay Lee Ray’s athletic ability). After some really solid action, Kay Lee Ray would get the win, punching her ticket to the Finals!

9.) ChickFight Tournament - Second Round - Mia Yim vs. Cheerleader Melissa: **

This match is fascinating in that we have one competitor who was in the best match of the show so far, and another competitor who was part of the worst match on the show. I was hoping that Cheerleader Melissa’s match with Havok earlier was just an “off-match”, so to speak, and that this match would be better. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The match was doing fine for a bit, but then there was a ref bump, which led to Havok coming out. She attacks Melissa, and when the referee eventually recovers and sees this, he disqualifies Mia Yim, giving the win to Cheerleader Melissa. Like I said, the match was going fine, but the finish ruined it. Sucks that Mia Yim, after having such a great performance earlier, got eliminated in this fashion.

10.) SHIMMER Title - Nicole Matthews vs. SHIMMER Tag Team Champion Tomoka Nakagawa: **3/4

Here we have the only non-tournament match of the show, as Nicole Matthews defends her SHIMMER Title against one-half of the SHIMMER Tag Team Champions in Tomoka Nakagawa, who recently retired from wrestling in Japan, and is finishing up her career in the United States with this show and the upcoming SHIMMER Tapings a few weeks later. The match was fine, but I don’t think it was as good as it could have been, especially for a SHIMMER Title Match. Portia Perez interferes, and introduces a chair, which Matthews uses on Nakagawa (with the referee distracted, obviously), to get the win and retain her SHIMMER Title. Again, this was a fine match, but I was expecting more.

11.) ChickFight Tournament - Finals - Three-Way Elimination Match - Evie vs. Kay Lee Ray vs. Cheerleader Melissa: ***

It’s finally time for the Finals of the ChickFight Tournament! Evie & Kay Lee Ray would team up on Cheerleader Melissa, but Melissa would fight them off. Then a major screw-up occurs, as Havok’s music plays, but nothing happens. They play her music again, and after about a good minute, Havok finally comes out. This distraction allows Evie & Kay Lee Ray to team up on and eliminate Melissa. The first half was just ok, but the botched interference made it worse. Fortunately, the second half with Evie vs. Kay Lee Ray totally made up for it. Really good stuff from these two in this part of the match. After some very solid action, Kay Lee Ray would eventually put Evie away to win the ChickFight Tournament and a future SHIMMER Title shot!! Again, the first part with Melissa wasn’t good, but the second half of the match was much better. Evie & Kay Lee Ray were very impressive throughout the tournament, and it was really cool to see them in the final two. Kay Lee Ray celebrates her victory to close the show.

Overall: 7.5/10

As I said towards the beginning of the review, this was my first time watching SHIMMER. For the most part, this show was very solid. Athena vs. Mia Yim was the Match of the Night, which should surprise nobody. Anything that involved Evie, Kay Lee Ray, Nicole Savoy & Nikki Storm was (for the most part) pretty good. All four of them were very impressive, and I can’t wait to see more of their work. On the flip side, anything that involved Cheerleader Melissa & Jessicka Havok, which included bad finishes & interference, was pretty bad. It's a shame because, outside of her one or two matches in Quintessential Pro Wrestling, I've only really known Cheerleader Melissa as Raisha Saeed/Alissa Flash in TNA, and I've heard great things about her work in SHIMMER. Unfortunately, she just didn’t perform well on this show, for whatever reason. There were a number of bad finishes & interference spots in this show that brought things down. If you want to do it once, ok, that’s fine, I can live with that, but having it happen multiple times (including in the final three matches) was not a good decision. Still, there is enough good stuff on here that I'd say makes this show worth checking out.

Evolve 40 Review

Chris Hero takes on Biff Busick, while PJ Black goes up against Ricochet!

Evolve 40
San Jose, California 3/27/15

1.) Non-Title Match – Evolve World Champion Drew Galloway vs. Uhaa Nation: ***1/4

It’s a little weird seeing Drew Galloway, the current Evolve World Champion, going from the Main Event the night before, to the opening match on this show. Even though this was a non-title match, Galloway still had a tough task ahead of him in the form of Uhaa Nation. This was a pretty fun opener. Seeing two of the bigger men in Evolve going at it was certainly a unique sight. Solid work from both guys here. Galloway would eventually pick up the win.
After the match, Galloway cuts a promo putting over Uhaa Nation and hyping up his Title Unification Match with Johnny Gargano at Mercury Rising 2015.

2.) Tommy End (with Chris Hero) vs. Timothy Thatcher: ****1/4

End had a solid debut performance against Biff Busick at Evolve 39. On this show, he’s taking on Timothy Thatcher. Chris Hero, who “endorsed” End, is in his corner at ringside, probably scouting Thatcher ahead of their match at Mercury Rising 2015. It was going to be interesting to see how this match played out, as you had the grappler (Thatcher) vs. the striker (End). The first part of the match had a lot of that grappling style, but then the heavy strikes were turned up in the second half, which really helped this match. Great stuff from these two. I think it’s been proven at this point that while the grappler vs. grappler matches (Thatcher vs. Gulak, for example) get most of the negative buzz, when it’s a grappler vs. a striker (guys like Thatcher & Gulak vs. guys like Busick, Hero, & Tommy End), the matches are significantly better and more exciting. Thatcher would get the victory over End via submission.

Afterwords, while End shows respect to Thatcher, Hero gets into a confrontation with Thatcher, who purposefully bumps into Hero as he exits.

3.) Drew Gulak vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4

I made have mentioned this before, but it’s nice to see TJ Perkins back on the independents, especially in a place like Evolve, which I think is a perfect fit for him. Here, he’s taking on Drew Gulak. Perkins is a great example of a guy who makes this grappling style entertaining. He & Zack Sabre Jr. are similar in that they’re just so fluent & smooth in their holds, submissions, counters, and so on, that it just makes their matches way more interesting. Both guys got to show a lot here, as we saw plenty of counters and reversals. After some cool exchanges, Gulak would pick up the win over Perkins, who suffers his 2nd loss of the weekend.

4.) AR Fox vs. Ethan Page: ***1/2

As I mentioned in my review of Evolve 39, Ethan Page was “endorsed” by Johnny Gargano, and here he’s taking on the man who Gargano defeated at Evolve 39 in AR Fox. This match was a nice change of pace after two matches that were showcases of the grappling style. A really good match here. Page is so charismatic, and AR Fox was his usual crazy self. Not much else to say other than this was a fun match to watch. AR Fox eventually picked up the win, giving Ethan Page his 2nd loss of the weekend.

After the match, Page cut a promo regarding his losses, seemingly upset at letting Gargano down. This leads to Gargano coming out, and he says that he believes in Page, and that what matters most is giving it your all. He then talks about his Title Unification Match with Drew Galloway. If you think this is all a swerve, and that Page is going to turn on Gargano, stay tuned…

5.) Chris Hero vs. Biff Busick: ****1/2

This is one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend. This rivalry kicked off when Hero went after Biff Busick, Drew Gulak, & Timothy Thatcher at the end of the 2014 Style Battle Tournament at Evolve 33. Hero defeated Gulak at Evolve 38, and now, he’s taking on Busick. This match was as awesome as you would have expected it to be. You really got the sense that these two just didn’t like each other, and it translated into a really intense encounter. Amazing stuff from both guys in this match. After a really hard-fought contest, Hero was able to score the victory over Busick. One of the best matches of the weekend by far!

6.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Open The United Gate Champion Caleb Konley & Brian Cage with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. Ronin (Johnny Gargano & Rich Swann): **1/4

Brian Cage is stepping in for Anthony Nese for these shows. This is a non-title match, but Gargano & Swann could potentially earn a future title shot with a victory here. The match was going along fine until Rich Swann appeared to get hurt (I believe it was some kind of rib injury). Gargano then locked in the GargaNo Escape on Konley, who tapped out very quickly. It appeared as though Ronin had won the match, but the referee announced that the match was stopped due to injury, and that The Premiere Athlete Brand had won the match! This was a very odd ending. It would later be confirmed that Swann was ok, which was good news.

7.) "The Darewolf" PJ Black vs. Ricochet: ***3/4

This is a dream match of sorts, as one of the best high flyers to come out of the WWE in recent years, taking on “The Future of Flight”. I like the fact that these two are wearing really colorful tights here. This was a really solid Main Event. A much better effort from Black here, compared to the Main Event from the night before at Evolve 39 against Drew Galloway. This was also by far the best match for Black thus far in Evolve, and it should be no surprise that it was against another high-flyer like Ricochet. Entertaining stuff from these two. Also, AR Fox was on commentary for this match (he faces Black at Mercury Rising 2015), and it was interesting, to say the least. In the end, Ricochet would get the win with his 630 Senton.

After the match, both guys cuts promos, complementing each other as the show comes to a close.

Overall: 8.75/10

Aside from the issues with the semi-main event (mainly having to do with Rich Swann's injury and how they did the finish), this was significantly better than Evolve 39. Chris Hero vs. Biff Busick was easily the best match on the show. You also had a great match in Timothy Thatcher vs. Tommy End, and a couple of other really good matches PJ Black vs. Ricochet and Drew Gulak vs. TJ Perkins. The only thing that really takes this show down a bit was the unfortunate injury to Rich Swann and the wonky finish of the Ronin/Premiere Athlete Brand tag team match. Other than that, this is a can't miss show.