Written by: McXal
IWA-MS Ted Petty Invitational Tournament Night One– September 17th 2004
Right then, the TPI is one of the biggest events in IWA-Mid South’s calendar year. Dedicated to former Public Enemy member Ted Petty (Rocco Rock) the tournament brings together 24 of the best pure wrestlers in the country in a tournament over two nights, with three men advancing to a triple threat elimination final to crown the eventual winner. The 2004 instalment of the annual event (formerly known as the Sweet Science 16 – they expanded it) is acknowledged not only as perhaps the best TPI ever, but also one of the best shows in American wrestling in 2004. It takes place over two nights, but unlike, say an ROH double shot, I won’t be reviewing this as two shows. The show is sold complete as a two night deal, over six DVD’s or two tapes – 10 hours total. Yep, you bet your ass this is a long ass review. Competing in the tournament this year is a superstar line-up, pretty much your who’s who of US indy wrestling. Including the likes of Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, AJ Styles, 3 of the 4 Generation Next members…basically all the guys you know and love in ROH, plus guys like Chris Hero, Arik Cannon, Super Dragon or Petey Williams that you don’t get to see there. I’m honestly pretty damn excited about this. IWA-MS’s recent stuff has a lofty reputation, with at least one great match a show. My last visit there was back at the start of 2003 and the ‘When Hero Met Punk’ event. Sure the 93 minute Hero/Punk match was worth it, but the rest of the show was utter dredge. I have high hopes of something much more tonight. We’re in Highland, IN for both nights. Your host is Dave Prazak, and he is joined by a number of wrestlers throughout the two nights.
The show opens up with a nice video package highlighting everyone in the thing. Loads of guys get to comment on the tournament and what winning it would mean to them.
Lacey gets interviewed about her IWA-MS Women’s Title defence against Mercedes Martinez tonight. She’s coming back off a knee injury, and says she’s not 100% and hasn’t been cleared by doctors. The only reason she’ll be wrestling is because she’ll be stripped of the belt if she doesn’t.
Elsewhere Mercedes Martinez says it was a fluke that Lacey pinned her in the final of the women’s title tournament. Tonight she wins the belt.
Ian Rotten opens up the show. He announces the 2005 King of the Deathmatches tournament (IWA’s other big annual tournament) will be held in Tokyo, in conjunction with BJPW. He shills a travel package where IWA fans can go watch it – only $1000 bucks. A grand to watch a bunch of deathmatches? Good luck selling those bastards, Ian. Anyway…a bunch of IWA-MS talent will be going to BJPW in the meantime to gain exposure for themselves, for the IWA and for the show. He moves on to give a nice little speech about Ted Petty. 20 minutes into the tape, it’s time for our first match.
Lacey vs Mercedes Martinez – IWA-MS Women’s Title Match
Lacey won the belt at a tournament back at the Volcano Girls show back in May. Apparently that’s a good show if you really like US female wrestling. She pinned Mercedes in a final which also included Daizee Haze. Anyway, since then she’s defended the belt or been injured, so it’s only now that Martinez gets her shot. As Lacey said in her interview, she’s still carrying an injury, so that could well play a factor here. I’m gonna get this out of the way now so I can focus on the match and the wrestling when it starts – Lacey and Mercedes are really hot.
Mercedes tries to go right for the knee, but Lacey kicks her away. Lacey comes back and holds her down with a headlock. We breeze through some near-falls, with neither woman able to secure the three count. Lacey sends Mercedes shoulder-first into the ringpost, and immediately targets the shoulder like a shark. She wraps the arm around the ringpost repeatedly, then goes to a hanging cross armbreaker around the ringpost. Lacey wraps Martinez’s arm in the rope and stretches it as she continues the assault. Drop toehold from Mercedes, and she goes to the knee with an Indian deathlock. Lacey screams and tries to bail. She drops Mercedes’ arm over the top rope to buy herself some time. Knee drops over the arm, then a legdrop over the same injured body part for 2. Half crab from Martinez with some extreme crank, but Lacey crawls to the ropes. Lacey with a STIFF forearm to the face. Armbar DDT on Martinez for 2. Lacey goes for a sunset flip out of the corner but Martinez rolls through and slingshots her into a Boston crab. She can only hold onto one leg due to injured arm though, and Lacey makes the ropes. Cross armbreaker from Lacey but Martinez just muscles her up into a powerbomb. Martinez goes for the Fishermans Buster…IMPLANT DDT FROM LACEY…FOR 2! Lacey goes for the Fisherman’s Buster of her own, but Mercedes escapes – AND THIS TIME hits her Fisherman’s Buster…FOR 2! Deathlock applied by Martinez, and Lacey can’t get to the ropes. She doesn’t tap, but the pain is wearing her out, and finally her shoulders are counted down for three at 11:06. Martinez wins the title!
Rating – ** – Granted I haven’t seen a lot, but that there be the best US women’s match I have seen for a long time. I’m still not the biggest fan in the world, but yeah, that was a solid, technical bout. I liked the way everything they did was focused on their respective injuries, and the finish was relevant to it. If that Volcano Girls show features more encounters like this, it might be worth looking out for.
Dave Prazak takes to the ring to introduce the 24 entrants into this year’s TPI. They all come to the ring to have a picture. Prazak makes the announcement that anyone attempting run ins etc will be suspended from IWA-MS for a year. This all takes a while, so I’ll take this opportunity to pass a few thoughts on each competitor.
Austin Aries – 2004 has been a breakout year. ECWA Super 8 finalist, ends year as ROH Champion.
Todd Sexton – From Wildside. He’s a solid technician, although I’ve always felt a tad overrated.
Claudio Castagnoli – I’ve never seen him, but he competes mostly in Europe and is reportedly pretty good.
Arik Cannon – First time I’m seeing him as well, but has had a great year with a few MOTYC’s in IWA.
Nigel McGuiness – His British style has seen him really become popular all over the US in 2004.
Mike Quackenbush – Co-Trainer at Chikara. Works a hybrid style that makes him pretty popular.
Roderick Strong – Member of ROH’s Generation Next. Hard-hitter from Florida scene.
Hallowicked – He’s touted as the top Chikara student. He’s in this as an obvious first round job.
Sal Rinauro – Another Wildside guy. Another jobber to make the numbers – decent worker though.
Nate Webb – A popular light heavyweight competitor from IWA-MS. His third consecutive TPI.
Rainman – Yet another Wildside guy. He always strikes me as budget Homicide, but is that a bad thing?
Jimmy Rave – He’s a popular indy worker, but always under-achieved. Fun new ROH gimmick has helped.
Super Dragon – The premier guy from the SoCal scene. I’m a big fan of his.
Alex Shelley – Generation Next leader, awesome talent ROH career has stalled due to TNA commitments.
Matt Sydal – Has had a great string of IWA matches with AJ Styles. 2005 could be his year.
Chris Sabin – Former TNA X-Division Champion, one of the brightest independent workers around.
Bryan Danielson – NJPW star, and one of the best technical wrestlers in the world.
AJ Styles – Former NWA Champion. Probably the independent scene’s premier worker. His third TPI.
Samoa Joe – ROH World Champion. In 2004 he has proved himself one of the world’s top wrestlers.
CM Punk – Multi-time Sweet Science/TPI entrant. Former IWA Champion, another top indy worker.
Petey Williams – IWA Heavyweight Champion, TNA X-Division Champion. Canadian Destroyer baby!
Chris Hero – Former IWA Champion, and 2001 winner. One of the top independent workers around.
BJ Whitmer – 2002 winner, former IWA Champion and a major heel in IWA.
Danny Daniels – 2003 TPI winner. I really don’t like him, but he’s a big star in the IWA.
So that’s your field, and it’s definitely a strong one. Obviously amongst the favourites have to be the big indy stars like CM Punk (who’s never won this tournament), AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe (who is undefeated in the IWA). I’m looking forward to seeing guys like Arik Cannon and Claudio Castagnoli for the first time. There’s a lot of Wildside talent I notice in this, with Rainman, Sal Rinauro, Todd Sexton, Matt Sydal, Jimmy Rave and AJ Styles all with strong connections there. As is pointed out at numerous times tonight, there’s also a lot of trainers amongst them. CM Punk is the trainer at the ROH Wrestling School. Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush teach the Chikara students. Roderick Strong trains guys in Florida. Todd Sexton trains guys down in Wildside. I think I’m done analysing the field. Lets rock and roll…
Sal Rinauro vs Matt Sydal
So kicking things off in the TPI is this, and it’s quite an interesting match. Neither one of these two are guys you’d pick as overall winners, so no matter which one wins it, they’ll make for a somewhat surprising face in the second round. Sydal is the more established of the two, particularly in IWA-MS, where a couple of matches against AJ Styles (including one earlier in the same week) have really started to put him on the map. He’s also a former Light Heavyweight Champion. Rinauro is from Wildside and is a solid enough worker considering how scrawny he is. This is his second TPI appearance.
They work the mat to kick things off, and it’s all pretty even. Rinauro goes to the eyes, but Sydal comes back with a spinning heel kick. Rinauro bails to the floor…SO SYDAL SUICIDE DIVES OVER THE ROPES AFTER HIM! He snapmares Sal on the floor then gives him a swift kick to the head. Sydal misses a charge in the corner and Rinauro scores with a springboard clothesline. He stomps on Sydal’s face and gets a count of 2. Front suplex over the ropes on Sydal, and he hangs there. Rinauro climbs up after him for a SECOND ROPE SUPLEX for 2. Crossface chickenwing applied on Sydal as Sal looks to force the submission. Sydal escapes but gets taken down with a facebuster into a neckbreaker. Back suplex from Rinauro for 2. SUPLEX SIDE EFFECT FROM RINAURO…but Sydal still kicks out. He scores with a gourdbuster then goes to the top rope. He gets caught up there by Sydal but Rinauro blocks the moonsault belly to belly. They trade shots, before finally crotching each other with simultaneous right hands. Sydal strikes first on the way back with a clothesline. He stands on Rinauro’s back and hits a standing shooting star press for 2. He takes Rinauro to the top rope again but Sal shoves him off and hits a DOUBLE STOMP to the back. Rinauro looks for a pumphandle but Sydal blocks. Sal to the top but Sydal NAILS him with a jumping enzi. MOONSAULT BELLY TO BELLY SUPERPLEX! Sydal advances at 09:37.
Rating – *** – It’s spotty but I thought both men really gave a good account of themselves. I was actually surprised they let Rinauro look as good as he did in the end. Sydal appears to be being pushed hard as a midcard talent, and they let Sal get a lot in on him before finally being put away. Sydal, meanwhile, impresses me more with each time I see him wrestle. He advances to tomorrow night’s second round.
Hallowicked vs Nate Webb
Probably the least interesting of the first round matches, as two huge underdogs to win go at it. Hallowicked is from Chikara, and the Chikara students tag matches are all the rage at the moment, cropping up on cards all over the place, including IWA and CZW. Hallowicked is, in fairness, amongst the best, but I’m not overly excited about seeing him in singles competition. His opponent, Nate Webb, is, however, a big favourite of mine. I think he’s really underrated as a wrestler, who’s very capable of putting on good matches with the right opponents. Meanwhile he’s just an entertaining guy, and has one of the best entrances around, as he grooves to ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. He must surely be the favourite to win here and make it to the second round of the TPI for the first time. Webb is the only man to compete in both the 2004 TPI and the 2004 King of the Deathmatches.
Nate tries to innovate a submission from a headscissors to start, but Hallowicked grabs the ropes. They tee off on each other with big forearms until Webb slaps Wicked in the ass. Satellite headscissors from Webb, then some armdrags, as he dominates the match. Nebraskan tumbleweed from Nate. He goes for another tumbleweed but Hallowicked moves and Webb is hung in a tree of woe. Wicked drives Nate’s neck over his own knee for 2. Iconoclasm from Hallowicked, but Webb pops back up and attempts a comeback. Vertical suplex from Wicked for 2. He follows up with a backbreaker. Hammerlock faceplant from Webb, and both men are down. Nate is up first and hits a dropkick, then a big clothesline. Hallowicked begs off but is playing possum. Nate blocks a low blow and BOOTS Hallowicked in the face for 2. Hurricanrana from Wicked, then a Michinoku driver for 2. BIG GERMAN from Hallowicked, but Webb pops right back up and scores with the Arachnid kick. Both men are down again. Webb hits Soylent Green #2 and takes a place in the second round for the first time in three attempts at 08:44.
Rating – * – Pretty much a non-entity. They’re two of the lowest profile guys in the tournament, and the match reflected that. Unlike Sydal/Rinauro, neither man looked like they were working particularly hard out there, but just ran through a few crowd-pleasing spots before finishing the match. I like Nate though, and the right man won, so I have no real complaints. Not a bad showing…just nothing memorable at all.
Rainman vs Chris Sabin
Rainman doesn’t have too many IWA appearances under his belt, but is a regular in NWA-Wildside. He’s also made a couple of appearances for ROH when they venture into the Midwest (Battle Lines Are Drawn and World Title Classic I think). Sabin, meanwhile, despite only having been a pro for a couple of years, is a very talented guy. He’s been TNA X-Division Champion, and has shone in pretty much anything they’ve asked him to do. He’s not an overwhelming worker in his own right, but he’s so solid, and with men who can work with him, he really could put on a stormer. I’d point to the Doug Williams match at ROH’s Second Anniversary Show as an example. They almost stole the show in a 10 minute match in the first round of the Pure Title Tournament.
Sabin flips around early and almost puts Rainman away with a quick pin. Headscissors takedown from Sabin for another 2. It’s all handbags as they shove each other, then start throwing chops. Sabin escapes a powerbomb attempt and hits a European uppercut. Moonsault kick in the corner from Sabin, then a front dropkick to the face. He tries to run the ropes with a bulldog but Rainman counters with a sidewalk slam. Nice dropkick from Rainman for 2. He drops Sabin again with a clothesline, then starts to choke him on the canvas. Double underhook suplex for another 2. Brisco roll-up from Sabin, but Rainman rolls through. Sabin sends Rainman to the floor with a headscissors…THEN SCORES WITH A BIG SOMERSAULT SENTON! Scoop powerbomb from Rainman back in the ring for 2. He follows with a Rydien bomb for another nearfall. Sabin blocks a suplex attempt and nails a big stepping enziguri. Rainman stays on his feet and Sabin hits another enzi kick to knock him down. Sabin goes to the apron and flies in with a springboard dropkick to the back. Rainman blocks a dragon suplex but Sabin just hauls him over anyway with a tiger suplex. Sabin follows Rainman into the corner, and Rainman uses the turnbuckles to launch himself into an Edge-O-Matic for 2. Sabin with a dropkick in the corner…PACKAGE PILEDRIVER SCORES! That would be it but Rainman’s foot is on the ropes. He goes for the Future Shock…HILLSIDE STRANGLER FROM RAINMAN! Sabin escapes the cobra clutch…but walks into a pumphandle powerbomb. THREE COUNT! At 10:16 Rainman has caused a big upset and dumped Chris Sabin out of the tournament in the first round.
Rating – ** – It wasn’t brilliant, but the effort was there. You could tell Rainman was really new on the IWA crowd, as they totally weren’t buying him as a threat to Sabin at all. There was no heat on either of his finishing moves which took away somewhat from the upset, but it’s still decent. It’s a shame to lose Sabin from the tournament though.
Austin Aries vs CM Punk
One of the major draws from the first round, this is undoubtedly a huge match. Austin Aries has really taken off in 2004, from his classics with Bryan Danielson in ROH to his run in the ECWA Super 8 which saw him get all the way to the final before losing to Christopher Daniels. Punk, meanwhile, is an IWA veteran, and is making his fourth Sweet Science/TPI appearance – and has yet to win despite being a finalist in 2002. This is one of two rematches from ROH’s Glory By Honor 3, which took place the week before this show, in the first round of the tournament – the other being Bryan Danielson vs Alex Shelley. I’ve been kinda disappointed with both their ROH matches (Glory By Honor 3 and Weekend Of Thunder Night 1), can they top it here?
Punk works a headlock early but Aries is able to free himself and they engage in some competitive chaining. Headscissors on the mat from Punk. He avoids a dropkick from Aries and almost rolls him up for a quick pin. Aries stomps Punk in the chest then takes him into the corner with forearms. Punk goes to the second rope but Aries goes after him and hits a super rana for 2. Aries rolls through a sunset flip attempt and dropkicks Punk in the face. Dropkick to the side of the head, then another right in the face. Punk gets up in the corner…SO ARIES DRILLS HIM WITH ANOTHER DROPKICK! That was brutal, and Punk takes a powder. Punk avoids a pescado attempt from Aries…THEN FLIES OUT WITH A TOPE! They’re out in the seats here, and when they return to the ring Punk heaves Aries into a tilta-whirl backbreaker. Aries blocks the Pepsi Twist and DRILLS Punk with a lariat. Punk bails again and Aries goes after him with the CORKSCREW PESCADO! On the floor again and Punk rests against ringposts and takes a series of chops. Finally Punk ducks and Aries chops the post. They fight over a suplex, before Punk shoves Aries against a post. SHINING WIZARD MISSES! Punk connected hard with the ringpost there, and right away he’s in trouble.
Aries opens up a chair and gives Punk a big shinbreaker right down onto it. Punk battles back into the ring, but Aries delivers a slingshot hilo over the knee. He kicks away at the injury despite some chops in response from Punk. Chops and forearms from Punk, and despite his bad knee he tries to kick Austin. DDT ON THE LEG from Aries, or a ‘KneeDT’ as Eddie Kingston on commentary calls it. Standing figure 4 from Aries, but Punk breaks it. Punk goes for a big boot but Aries catches him and hits a leg stunner. He follows with a swinging elbow drop over the knee, then applies the Boston crab. Punk literally claws at the canvas as he drags himself to the ropes. More kicks to the leg from Aries, and he throws in some stuff forearms as well. SHINING WIZARD FROM PUNK! That hurt his leg so much that he can’t capitalise though and both men are down. Chops from Punk, and a diving forearm as he can barely walk on the injured knee. Aries blocks the mule kick and rocks him with a shinbreaker into a back suplex. Aries wants the 450 but Punk moves. Aries goes for a crossbody but Punk rolls through for 2. Punk blocks the brainbuster – ONE LEGGED GERMAN SUPLEX FOR 2! Punk shunts Aries to the top rope but Aries headbutts him off. 450 SPLASH MISSES! PEPSI TWIST FROM PUNK…BUT ARIES KICKS OUT! The fans are on their feet now as Punk takes Aries to the corner. Aries blocks the Pepsi Plunge…SUPER BRAINBUSTEEEEEEER!!!! PUNK STILL KICKS OUT!! Aries goes upstairs for the 450 again…but Punk is up! PEPSI PLUNGE SCORES! PUNK WINS…PUNK WINS!
Rating – ****1/2 – Holy sh*t! That totally smoked their ROH matches. Like, literally pissed all over them, it was that good. Big moves, a fun story and lots of tension and excitement as the match went along. Their ROH matches always seemed a little forced and mundane, this one was all-action. That’s an early contender for match of the tournament right there. Both men get standing ovations for that, and rightfully so.
Todd Sexton vs Danny Daniels
Sexton is another guy in from Wildside, and is making his second TPI appearance. Lots of people rate him as a good worker, but he’s always disappointed me. Not that I’ve seen a vast amount of his work, but on the outings I’ve seen on numerous indy shows, plus Wildside on TWC, I’ve never been that impressed. I don’t like Daniels either for that matter. I’ve always found him bland and thoroughly average. However, he’s a big deal in the IWA. He won the 2003 tournament, successfully defending his IWA-MS Heavyweight Title all the way through the event as well, defeating Alex Shelley and Chris Hero in the finals. Both men have made appearances for ROH, but neither has made a huge impression. Hopefully these two surprise this writer now.
Daniels goes for a few headlocks to start things out, using his power to establish early control. Arm wrench from Daniels, but Sexton rolls out and connects with a dropkick. Goku Raku neckbreaker from Daniels, but Sexton sends him to the floor. Sexton goes for a dive but Daniels trips him up before he can take off. Getting back in the ring Sexton meets Daniels with a knee to the head, then gives him a swinging neckbreaker as he’s still tied up. Sexton with a dropkicks to the knee as he looks to soften Daniels up for a sharpshooter. He follows that with a dragon screw. Leglock from Sexton, but Daniels’ arms are free and he’s able to strike his way free. Sexton goes back to the dropkick to the knee before Danny can mount any kind of comeback. He goes to the top rope and hits a missile dropkick, once again aimed at the knee. He locks in the sharpshooter and looks to force the submission. Daniels escapes the hold and comes back with the double stomp senton. Daniels sidesteps another attempted dropkick to the knee and takes Sexton over with a German suplex for 2. Daniels to the top rope, but Sexton cuts him off. Super rana from Sexton, but Daniels rolls through. Sexton rolls through that and almost pins the reigning TPI Champion. Daniels goes for a piledriver but Sexton escapes – ANKLELOCK! Daniels fights to his feet and they start smacking each other with forearms. Low blows from Daniels…and a Tombstone for 2. He goes to the ropes for a piledriver from there, but Sexton recovers and DRAGON SCREWS Daniels off the top. SHARPSHOOTER AGAIN! Daniels counters with a lion tamer but he doesn’t have the base and Sexton can escape. Kicks to the leg from Sexton, but as he leaps out of the corner Daniels catches him on his shoulders. RUBIX CUBE! That takes Daniels through to round 2 at 10:54.
Rating – *** – It was actually a decent match. It had some flaws, like Daniels no-selling the leg to hit a Tombstone, and Sexton’s only real attack on the knee being dropkicks, but it was entertaining. It told a story and went with it, making Sexton look credible before the established man went over with his cool finisher.
BJ Whitmer attacks Danny Daniels after the match. He’s pissed because Daniels walked out on Whitmer and manager Jim Fannin. He’s not suspended because the match was over though. That exploder into the chairs looked brutal.
Delirious and Jimmy Jacobs cut promos for their ladder match which is next. I say cut promos, Delirious just pants like a maniac, and Jacobs chatters like a nutter. He’s done with the HUSS gimmick though.
Delirious vs Jimmy Jacobs – IWA-MS Light Heavyweight Title Ladder Match
This is non-tournament action, as these two gave up their spots in the TPI to contest the vacant Light Heavyweight title here and now. Jacobs previously held the belt, but after these two wrestled to a double pin it was declared vacant. Now we have a ladder match to crown the champion once and for all.
Both immediately go for the ladder, which leads to a brawl on the floor. Delirious finally gets the ladder but has to avoid a baseball slide attempt from Jacobs. Delirious sends Jimmy into the ringpost and sets up the ladder going for the belt. Jacobs cuts him off but gets a rake in the eyes. Delirious tries to powerbomb Jacobs into the ladder but Jimmy counters and drives Delirious into it instead. Delirious to the floor so Jacobs THROWS THE LADDER ONTO HIM! On the outside Delirious gives Jacobs a flapjack onto the ladder. Inside the ring Delirious jams the ladder into Jacobs’ ribs, then slams him down onto it. Big clotheslines on Jacobs in the corner, before Delirious goes for the belt again. He touches it before Jimmy pulls him down. Delirious traps Jacobs in the ladder and dropkicks the ladder hard. But, still sandwiched in the ladder, Jacobs starts to fight back and LADDER SPEARS Delirious in the chest. Jimmy pulls a spike out, but Delirious has one as well. Delirious runs headfirst into the ladder, and Jimmy follows up with a spike shot to the head. On the mat Jimmy starts slashing at Delirious’ mask with the spike. Delirious shrieks as Jimmy starts making him bleed. Jacobs goes for the belt but Delirious climbs the ladder after him. He headbutts Jacobs off THEN DIVES OFF AFTER HIM WITH A SPLASH TO THE BACK! Delirious wanders off and returns with a table. Delirious tries to powerbomb Jacobs off the apron, but no dice. Mafia kick on the apron from Jacobs. He tries to hit Delirious with the ladder, but that’s ducked, and Delirious gives him a spinebuster on the ladder. Delirious climbs again but Jacobs goes after him. He knocks Delirious down then comes off the ladder with the inverted Pedigree. He puts the bloody Delirious on the table on the outside but he bails before Jacobs can come off the top rope. BACK DROP INTO THE SECOND ROW by Delirious! Delirious tapes Jimmy to the second rope and tries to climb but Jacobs cuts himself free with a spike. Jimmy shoves Delirious off the ladder then clotheslines him over the top to the floor. Delirious on the table again…BUT JACOBS FALLS OFF THE LADDER AND ALMOST KILLS HIMSELF! Delirious puts him on the table and goes to the top…but now Jacobs is up and pulls Delirious back to the floor. Delirious on the table again. TOP ROPE SENTON SPLASH THROUGH THE F*CKING TABLE! Jacobs goes for the belt, but Delirious is back up. MISSILE DROPKICK ON THE LADDER, BUT JIMMY HOLDS ON! He swings from the belt, before unhooking it and dropping to the mat at 17:05 as new Light Heavyweight champion.
Rating – *** – I’ve seen varying reports on how good that match was, but I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t a crazy spotfest, but it was a thoroughly believable fight. It wasn’t always pretty, and Jimmy falling off the ladder was downright scary, but still a good match. The spike use with Jacobs slicing open Delirious’ mask was a unique thing that added to the match too.
After the match we get shots of both of these guys in the locker room. Jacobs says the spike was given to him by Kevin Sullivan, and doesn’t fear anything aside from losing. Delirious lies on the floor looking scarily like he’s dead.
Mike Quackenbush vs Chris Hero
Back To TPI action now, with the two trainers at the Chikara Wrestle Factory clashing here. Quack is a popular indy worker. He brings together elements of lucha, puro and American wrestling that make him fun to watch. I’m not his biggest fan ever since I don’t find him to be particularly fantastic in any one of those styles, but what the hell. I’m sure with the right opponent he clicks superbly. Hero is an established star of IWA-MS. He’s been in all five Sweet Science/TPI tournaments and advancing to the finals last year alongside Shelley and Daniels. He hasn’t won in an IWA ring in Highland since November 2003 though – is he jinxed in this building? Right here right now I’m gonna add my name to the hundreds of others who’d really like to see Chris Hero in ROH. It’s unlikely to happen sadly…
Handshake between the two friends as they enter into the initial exchanges. It’s all very gentlemanly as they run through some pretty swish matwork. We’re three minutes in and they haven’t let go of each other, just chaining around arm holds non-stop. On commentary Arik Cannon is cracking me up with his self-obsessed talk. Five minutes and finally they let go of each other for long enough for Quack to work Hero into an inverted crossface. Hero comes off the second rope with an armdrag as they go for some lucha exchanges now. Tilta-whirl backbreaker from Hero for 2. He works a headlock as these two stop chaining for the first time at around the 7 minute mark. Anklelock from Quackenbush but Hero rolls him up again for 2. He busts out more pinning attempts but still can’t get three. He goes to the arm again but Quack escapes that and goes to a deathlock. He rolls it over into a stepover toehold full nelson. More pinning attempts, until Hero gets trapped in a grounded octopus stretch. Hero goes to the top but misses a missile dropkick. Stretch plum from Quackenbush looking to force a submission. Hero is too strong though, so Quack traps him in a modified abdominal stretch. Hero escapes that and looks for an STF but Mike goes to the ropes. Quack goes to the top but Hero looks to press slam him off. Rolled through by Quackenbush, but Hero grabs him and gives him a hammerlock suplex. Both men are down. Arm wrenches from Hero, with headbutts to the wrist as he steps up the intensity. Shinbreaker now, with an arm hooked as well. Hero literally folds Quack up with a figure 4/armbar submission. Springboard swinging DDT from Quackenbush. He follows with another DDT, into a double underhook submission. HEAD DROP KRAVATTE SUPLEX FROM HERO! He had the arm trapped up in there as well. He goes to another kravatte, with the arm folded between his legs for more punishment. Mike blocks a Hero’s Welcome attempt but gets an Alabamaslam. Springboard armdrag attempt from Quack, but Hero rolls through it…BUT QUACK ROLLS THROUGH THAT AND ALLIGATOR CLUTCHES HERO FOR THREE! 16:34 is your time, Hero still can’t win in Highland.
Rating – *** – That was pretty decent. It wasn’t as good as many have led me to believe, but it was a real solid match. Technically, for these two to be able to chain non-stop for almost 10 minutes and still not look stumped for ideas was a sight to behold. I liked the story of Hero attacking the arm as well. But here’s the bad parts. There was almost zero emotion in this. It was like an exhibition. Technically, they were perfect, but with Hero dominating and never looking like he was going to lose, then Mike stealing it out of nowhere, all this looked like was a technical wrestling clinic that was really rather unfulfilling. It was never really truly exciting…still, you have to count that as a second upset.
Chikara students pour into the ring to pay respect to their trainers as the two shake hands. Ian Rotten comes out and announces that Hero is going to tour Japan as part of the IWA/BJPW deal. It’s his first ever tour of Japan and he leaves tomorrow morning meaning he won’t be on the night two show. The fans give him a big ovation, and Rotten wishes him well.
Jimmy Rave vs AJ Styles
These guys should know each other pretty damn well. They’re friends, they’ve been all over the place together. I think AJ had a hand in training Rave as well. Anyway, Styles is one of the big guns in this tournament. He’s a main eventer across the US indy scene, is a former NWA World, Tag and X-Division Champion, he’s held the Pure and Tag Titles in ROH, and lots more besides. Rave, meanwhile, is a solid wrestler, but someone who’s always lacked some emotional substance and physical presence to supplement his undeniable wrestling talent. He’s looked much better in Ring Of Honor since being rejuvenated by Prince Nana and The Embassy gimmick, and has developed far more of a character since then. However, he’s not a heel tonight I don’t think, so may be going back to bland, dull, uninteresting babyface Jimmy. Whatever. These two due have a natural feud with each other stemming from ROH though, were Jimmy has stolen AJ’s Styles Clash finisher, and renamed it the Rave Clash.
Standing switches to start, and they start pulling hair to gain an advantage in a wristlock. They lock up, and Rave takes AJ over with an armdrag. Cross armbreaker from Rave but Styles escapes. Jimmy again targets the arm but Styles comes back and works a wristlock right back. Rave resists so Styles just throws him to the floor. Back in the ring Rave goes for another armbar but Styles muscles him up and DUMPS him on the turnbuckles. He goes for the Styles Clash but Rave escapes because the arm is injured. Rave avoids AJ’s trademark dropkick but Styles pops right back up and hits the dropkick anyway for 2. He follows that with a body slam, then a knee drop. Big forearms on Rave, then the swinging neckbreaker. Rave tries to go to the eyes but gets a big kick for his trouble. He fires back with a big clothesline to the back of the head. Baseball slide to the groin from Rave for 2. Suplex, rolled into a cross armbreaker as Rave goes for the submission. STO backbreaker, followed by a Russian legsweep, into a royal octopus, as Jimmy is really working the arm over. He goes for the crossface but AJ gets the ropes. Armdrag from Rave, into another armbar. AJ goes for a press slam but can’t do it because of the arm. He can’t lift Jimmy onto the top rope either, but does crotch him on the top rope, which leaves him prone for a JUMPING ENZI! Inverted powerslam from AJ for 2. He follows it with a brainbuster, but again Rave kicks out. SATELLITE CROSSFACE from Rave! Styles rolls out of it though, but almost gets cradled for three. Back suplex from Jimmy for 2. He sets up for the Rave Clash but Styles blocks. Alabamaslam from AJ…NECK CRANK! Rave taps at 12:42.
Rating – *** – I enjoyed that one much more than I expected to. These guys had a match that was as good, if not better than Quack/Hero without looking anywhere near as technically able. The key is, tell a decent story. Rave’s tactic of going after the arm worked because it meant AJ could hit none of his usual stuff – like the Styles Clash or the swinging backbreaker, both of which he attempted. The finish was also nice, as it showed AJ using something else since Rave had taken away his prime finisher. If Rave had carried his heel stylings from The Embassy and ROH into this it could have been even better. As was, he still looked a little flat and uninspired, even though his attack on Styles’ arm was entirely logical and convincing.
Roderick Strong vs Samoa Joe
Expecting some stiffness here? It’s a shame Joe’s title reign in ROH ended without Strong really getting over enough to challenge for the title, since, I really think these guys could have an entertaining match. That’s really all I have to say. Joe is undefeated in IWA, and is generally pretty unstoppable right now. I think many are expecting him to breeze past Strong.
Strong goes for an early backbreaker, but gets thrown over judo style. Joe focuses his attack on the arm in the early going. Knee strikes from Joe, into a chinlock. Strong tries to heave Joe onto his shoulders and gets a chop. STIFF chops bring the crowd to it’s feet…HUGE SLAP FROM JOE! Strong has to bail he got hit so hard there. Clubbing blows from Strong as he beats Joe back into the corner. Strong comes off the ropes…AND GETS AN STO SLAM! Chop/kick combo into the knee drop follows up. Bootscrapes in the corner, then the running facewash as Strong is on the ropes with a busted mouth. Chops and jabs continue the punishment, and Joe is just abusing Roderick. CHOPS FROM STRONG! Joe lifts him onto the apron and gives him a rolling legsweep to send him into the front row. ELBOW SUICIDA SCORES! Joe wants an Ole Ole Kick, and E HONDA SLAPS Rod into a chair. He charges…AND GETS A SIDEWALK SLAM THROUGH THE CHAIR! Back in the ring Strong goes to the second rope and drops an elbow across the back. HALF NELSON BACKBREAKER on the ROH Champion for 2. He gives Joe more shots to the back, then a double underhook suplex. Strong stomps on Joe’s head and comes off the ropes only for Joe to make him EAT a lariat. Powerslam from Joe for 2. Powerbomb, into a Boston crab…into an STF as Joe wants a submission. Strong still isn’t tapping so Joe switches again to a Crossface. Strong makes the ropes, and goes low. Pumphandle suplex from Strong for 2. More stiff chops and he hits a back suplex, but it’s still only 2. Joe avoids a Yakuza kick…CHOKE! Strong shoves him into the turnbuckles. Neck chops from Strong…DOUBLE KNEE GUTBUSTER! Joe is on the rack…BIG BOOT TO THE FACE! JOE KICKS OUT AT 2!! Strong wants a powerbomb, but Joe lifts him onto the top rope. Big slaps from Joe…MUSCLEBUSTER! Strong is finally put down at 14:20.
Rating – **** – Absolutely brutal strong style action, as you’d obviously expect from them. Some of those strikes were horrifying. As the replays show, Strong really did hold nothing back, especially on that big boot – it honestly looks like he broke Joe’s jaw. What I wasn’t expecting from this was an attempt at psychology as well. Strong’s attack on the back was very cerebral, and got him back into the match as he was taking a pasting early on from the ROH World Champion…plus, he’s the Messiah of the Backbreaker, anything that softens Joe up for those babies has to be useful. Cracking stuff…
These guys get the standing o treatment and they deserve it. Joe shows Strong respect and shakes his hand amidst all the applause. But for Punk/Aries that would’ve been a total showstealer.
Claudio Castagnoli vs Nigel McGuiness
We’re going European style for this one, as it’s McGuiness, the Brit, taking on Double C, who has spent the majority of his career thus far competing in Europe. He’s the WXW Champion out of Germany, and I talk to a few people who are huge fans of his work. This is the first time I’ve seen him, and am looking forward to it. I think he had an ROH Pure Title shot against in the UK whilst Doug Williams held that belt too. McGuiness, meanwhile, is pretty well-known to anyone that follows ROH. He brings the loopy British style…but in a unique twist, for me at least, he’s more of a heel in IWA. How will that change up his game?
Surprising no-one, they start out with some chain-wrestling. Castagnoli tries to pin Nigel’s shoulders to the mat but can’t quite keep them down as his opponent rolls himself up into a ball. McGuiness grabs a leg and to bring himself back to his feet. They go to each others arms as CM Punk is on commentary ripping on the NWA rulebook. Claudio tries to throw McGuiness face-first into the canvas, but Nigel rolls through it. He tries a second time, and again McGuiness is wise to it. McGuiness tries to do it, but when Castagnoli rolls through it McGuiness grabs him right away and dumps him into the mat. Neck crank from McGuiness, but Castagnoli counters into an armbar. Back to the neck crank, and McGuiness counters whatever Double C tries to break it. A big forearm finally does the trick. Artful Dodger sh*t from McGuiness, but Castagnoli is equal to it, and neither man can get an advantage. Claudio tries to do the Artful Dodger, but McGuiness is equally capable of keeping up. Claudio wants a handshake, but when Nigel goes to shake it punches him in the face. Chinlock applied, but Claudio changes it up by cranking the head at the same time. Cobra clutch is locked in next, but Nigel rolls through and traps him in a crossface. European uppercut from Castagnoli, then as McGuiness goes down, he dives him another one to the neck for 2. Back to the chinlock, and in the last few minutes Double C has really focused his offence on the neck. McGuiness breaks free and tries to run the ropes but Castagnoli uppercuts him down again. McGuiness headstands in the corner, and Claudio gets a couple of boots in the face for rushing in. McGuiness rolls out of the headstand into a DDT for 2. Swinging neckbreaker from Castagnoli for 2. Hammerlock DDT from McGuiness, then his shortarm scissors. Castagnoli escapes that, but McGuiness switches to a Regal Stretch. Claudio taps at 13:31.
Rating – ** – That was really similar to the Quackenbush vs Hero match earlier, only not as good. There was some absolutely gorgeous wrestling exchanges, and Castagnoli did indeed impress me with his abilities, but there just wasn’t enough substance to go with the style and pretty stuff. Double C’s attack on the neck didn’t really go anywhere since he didn’t even break out his Swiss Money Holding sleeper hold, and McGuiness completely no-sold the neck stuff anyway by using a headstand. Plus, what work did he really do on the arm to soften up for the finish? It was pretty wrestling, then a finish. It was ok to watch, but it really didn’t do enough to be worth anything more.
Alex Shelley vs Bryan Danielson
The other Glory By Honor 3 rematch is here and now, and like CM Punk and Austin Aries, both will be looking to better their effort from the previous week, which was disappointing by their own high standards. I don’t know if it’s just Smart Mark Video’s cameras or what, but Shelley looked much bigger than usual as he walked to the ring. I don’t know if I mean fatter by that or not. He’s also the last chance for any of Generation Next to make it through to the second round, since Aries and Strong are already gone. Shelley was a finalist last year, and was eventually pinned by Danny Daniels at the tournaments climax to lose out. Danielson has taken IWA by storm since coming in to their shows. He’s had classics with the likes of Chris Hero, Arik Cannon and AJ Styles, and now looks to win the TPI as well. He’s also heeling it up a little in IWA. Ian Rotten is walking around in a sling tonight after Jim Fannin and his crew had Dragon put Ian in the Cattle Mutilation the previous evening (the TPI is taking place on nights 3 and 4 of a quadruple shot week for IWA-MS). Danielson also disappoints me by not wearing his cape of awesomeness to the ring.
‘Byron Dragonson’ – CM Punk. Shelley grounds Danielson with a headlock, but Dragon counters with a headscissors. Danielson hits a dropkick and Shelley heads to the floor to take a break. They fight over a knucklelock, but Danielson finally wins out and forces Shelley to the mat with it. Shelley comes back, and drives knees into Dragon’s sternum as he bridges. Japanese stranglehold from Danielson, complete with two knees lodged deep into Shelley’s back. Goku Raku camel clutch from Shelley, then a knee drop to the neck, and now it’s Dragon that takes a break on the floor. Abdominal stretch from Shelley, reversed by Danielson. Dragon sits down on it, much like how he made CM Punk tap at Reborn Stage 1. BORDER CITY STRETCH FROM SHELLEY! Dragon gets to the ropes but that’s an early wake up call from him. Clothesline backbreaker from Shelley, as he has worked himself an advantage here. Danielson unleashes some European uppercuts to come back. Mexican surfboard from American Dragon, into the dragon sleeper. Shelley breaks that by slapping Dragon in the ears. Shelley comes back with the Skullf*ck for 2. Golden Gate Swing from Shelley and he’s still going after the neck. AJ Styles on commentary confirms Shelley has put some muscle mass on. Shelley goes to the top but Dragon meets him with another uppercut. SUPERPLEX from Danielson, but that leaves both men down. Uppercuts from Dragon, then a running elbow smash in the corner. BORDER CITY STRETCH APPLIED AGAIN! Shelley is really cranking back but Danielson makes the ropes again. Danielson comes back by heaving Shelley onto his shoulders for the airplane spin. Dragon is still dizzy and tries to dropkick the referee quite hilariously. Shelley ducks a roaring elbow…but Dragon traps him in Cattle Mutilation. But the neck is week, and Shelley counters…BORDER CITY STRETCH ONE MORE TIME! Countered back to the Cattle Mutilation, and he rolls that into a quick pin to eliminate Shelley at 14:42.
Rating – *** – I don’t think it’s actively better than their ROH match, but by shaving five minutes off the match time, and packing in more action and getting rid of all the aimless filler, I found this much more enjoyable. I enjoyed Shelley dominating the match, and it really made him look good in losing. It also nicely established Dragon’s fledgling heel character, as he got owned for large parts of the match but still snuck past his opponent. Plus the dropkick to nobody was really funny. Is it me, or does Alex Shelley seem way more subdued from months of TNA mediocrity?
‘The use of kung fu or karate thrusts is prohibited’ – AJ Styles reading the NWA rulebook.
‘That’s why Low Ki doesn’t work here’ – CM Punk in response.
Super Dragon vs Arik Cannon
Super Dragon is the darling of the SoCal scene, and one of the most underrated workers in the world in my opinion. People think of him and they think of his stiffness and that’s it. I think he’s way underrated as someone who can really work a sensible match, telling clever stories with it. This is his second TPI appearance apparently. This is my first time seeing Cannon, who I’ve heard a lot about. He’s a short chubby guy dressed in what appears to be bin-liners…but apparently he’s quite the worker. He was good on commentary earlier. Lets see how he does in the ring. Styles, Punk and Prazak are all ripping on how white Super Dragon is. They make a hilarious trio…
They seem pretty even as they go hold for hold to start with. Dragon breaks out some hard strikes in the corner but Cannon comes back with a spinebuster. Flipover neck snap from Cannon. He’s bleeding from those shots in the corner. They throw some forearms at each other, then slaps. Back to forearms, before Dragon sweeps Arik’s legs and hooks him up for a CURB STOMP! Dragon isn’t done though, as he hooks Cannon up and gives him a second brutal stomp for 2. Headscissors from Dragon, but Cannon escapes and CURB STOMPS DRAGON! Dragon sweeps Cannon’s legs again…ONE MORE CURB STOMP BABY! He drops a knee and gets another two count. Leglock from Dragon, but Cannon makes the ropes before too much damage can be done. Dragon rakes the eyes as these two seem to be trying to out-heel each other. EXPLODER INTO THE BUCKLES from Cannon. Goku Raku from Arik, but he switches and applies a neck crank instead. Cannon gets 2 from another hard forearm shot. They trade chops again, and Dragon gets an advantage. He hits an elbow smash combo that floors Cannon for 2. Slingshot swinging neckbreaker from Cannon, and he comes right back up and does it for a second time. He goes to the top rope but misses the Cannonball senton splash. LARIAT FROM DRAGON! VIOLENCE PARTY IN THE CORNER! HEADBUTTS…KICKS TO THE BACK…KNEE STRIKES…KAWADA KICKS! TOP ROPE DOUBLE STOMP TO THE GODDAMN HEAD! ONLY FOR 2!! Dragon wants the Psycho Driver but Cannon escapes…GLIMMERING WARLOCK! That’s Cannon’s finish, but Dragon rolls to the floor. Back drop driver from Cannon once he’s got Dragon back inside. ANOTHER back drop driver. GLIMMERING WARLOCK! Cannon advances in 13:44.
Rating – *** – Well, I liked that. It was an engaging, hard-hitting contest that held my attention throughout. Not as well-worked as Joe/Strong from earlier, but the striking was equally violent, and it was still great fun. I enjoyed the segment in the middle where Dragon was almost out-heeling Arik. I like Dragon, but I’m almost glad Cannon has gone through here so I can see more of what he’s capable of tomorrow night. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.
Cannon gets a big ‘F*ck you Cannon’ chant as he poses on the corners before walking off. Dragon gets a ‘Please Come Back’ chant…so Cannon feels obliged to return to the ring and remind everyone that whilst Dragon might come back, he’ll be here every night. Cannon is an awesome heel!
Petey Williams vs BJ Whitmer – IWA-MS Heavyweight Title Match
This is TPI action, but much like CM Punk in 2002, and Danny Daniels last year, IWA Champion Petey Williams has agreed to defend the title throughout the tournament, meaning if he loses, we have a new champion. Whitmer is a former Champion himself, having won the belt from CM Punk in the final of the 2002 tournament. He was also the guy that Williams beat to win the title. He’s ALSO aligned with Jim Fannin, as we saw earlier and is a big heel. Petey has really taken off in 2004. He comes into this not only as IWA title holder, but also TNA X-Division Champion. His finisher, the Canadian Destroyer (Flipping Piledriver) is truly a sight to behold. He is absolutely minute though. Whitmer has Fannin with him at ringside.
Fannin gets into a spot of verbal with a fan, wearing the awesome Samoa Joe ‘Brutality Defined’ t-shirt. I need to get me one of those. Punk and Styles back the fan to kick his ass. Fannin calls out Daniels next, and security has to restrain him to stop him being suspended for a year. Amidst all of this, Williams comes through the crowd and almost rolls BJ up for the win. Armdrag from Petey, but Whitmer comes back and stomps on his chest. Springboard crossbody from Williams, followed by a flurry of right hands. Whitmer throws Petey through the ropes, but he bounces right back and comes off the top with a PERFECT flying hurricanrana. BJ goes to the floor…SLINGSHOT rana from Williams! Spinebuster from Whitmer as we go back into the ring, using his power advantage. He follows with a backbreaker for 2. Big kicks to the spine from Whitmer, and he’s isolating the back it seems. BJ swipes aside a dropkick attempt…AND GIVES PETEY A GERMAN SUPLEX ONTO THE BOTTOM TURNBUCKLE! Chinlock from Whitmer, sapping the energy from Petey’s body as he looks to win the title. Crucifix driver from Petey…and now both men are down. Right hands from Williams, then a headscissors into the middle rope. Stepping enziguri connects, but Whitmer shunts him into an STO backbreaker, then a straight STO. Side choke from BJ, again trying to choke Williams out. Petey goes for a couple of quick pins but can’t finish it off. SHINING WIZARD from Whitmer for 2. German suplex from Whitmer, but Williams comes back and hits a hurricanrana for 2. They go to the top rope, and Williams counters a back superplex attempt with a crossbody for 2. He calls for the Canadian Destroyer, but Whitmer blocks. DDT from Petey gets 2. EXPLODER ’98 FROM WHITMER…for 2. Williams hits a shinbreaker, then a dragon screw, then locks in a sharpshooter. Williams seems to want a top rope Canadian Destroyer, but Whitmer blocks that. He goes for the Wrist Clutch Exploder…BUT WILLIAMS ROLLS HIM UP FOR 2. CANADIAN DESTROYER! Petey retains the title and advances in the Invitational at 13:00.
Rating – *** – It was basic, but I’m a sucker for a well-executed underdog story, and I thought this did a pretty effective job. The crowd was almost entirely dead (understandable given that it was almost 1am and the show was almost 5 hours long by this point) and that really didn’t help this. Some of Whitmer’s offence was brutal, and Petey played the underdog well. I definitely prefer him as a heel having seen some of his TNA stuff, but he’s a good worker, and class always shows.
Ian Rotten comes out and pats everyone on the back for a great show. He puts over tomorrow night’s show and announces the second round draw.
Petey Williams vs Arik Cannon
AJ Styles vs Matt Sydal
CM Punk vs Bryan Danielson (‘I quit’ – CM Punk)
Mike Quackenbush vs Nate Webb
Rainman vs Danny Daniels
Samoa Joe vs Nigel McGuiness
HALF TIME THOUGHTS – So that’s the end of the first night of TPI action. 10,000 words into this review…and I’ve honestly never seen a more solid night of wrestling. There was nothing bad at all. The only thing that actively wasn’t good was Webb/Hallowicked, but that was more forgettable than anything else. Every match was a little different, everything had something to enjoy, and even at this stage I can’t recommend this show highly enough. Tonight oozed workrate, it oozed brutality and it was great throughout. Punk/Aries and Joe/Strong were flat out awesome, plus there’s ample support from the likes of Cannon/Dragon, Shelley/Danielson, Styles/Rave and Quack/Hero. There’s even little surprises tucked away in here, like the hard fought Jacobs/Delirious match, the remarkably watchable women’s match…and I thought for a spotty undercard match, Sydal/Rinauro was great. Night 2 doesn’t look as good, as away from the tournament action there looks like some crap floating around. But hey, with Williams/Cannon, Styles/Sydal, Punk/Danielson and Joe/McGuiness to look forward to…I’m more than anxious to keep going. Meanwhile…if you haven’t already decided to go ahead and order this, you might as well keep reading.