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Originally, my plan for this show was to simply watch it on IWTV, as I do with most wrestling shows that I feel will be good. After going to Beyond Wrestling's Heavy Lies The Crown I was also, seemingly, ready to take a break from driving around, state to state, to see profession wrestling every weekend (even though that was on a Tuesday) This would be my second Saturday night in a row going to New Jersey. So many signs pointed to "Stay home. Relax. Watch this on IWTV"
And then my grandfather died. And I went to his funeral and heard stories about him. About how much he loved life. How much he loved to party. And how his death, like all death, is a reminder that life is short and we really need to live it up every day. So I said fuck it. I bought a general admission ticket and prepared myself for the near three hour drive by myself, to think about life and the new year.
Now back when the year of 2019 was ending I created this list of wrestlers I wanted to see in 2020- a Top 10. It's still my pinned tweet. One person on that list was Mance Warner, who was on this show, so that was one of my reasons for going to this as well. But the funny thing is, going to this show, I was able to meet Tessa Blanchard and one of the reasons why she wasn't on my Top 10 list is because I didn't think this would be possible. I hadn't planned out a scenario where I saw Impact Wrestling live, so I didn't even consider it a possibility (Which is funny because Jordynne Grace is on my Top 10)
Driving to NJ feels so long because it takes seemingly forever to get out of CT and then you have to go through some of NY before you're finally into the state. My maps took me through all of these weird backroads to "avoid tolls" but it's so funny when I choose the route without tolls and they keep telling me "Bear right toward George Washington Bridge" and I feel like I'm about to have to pay $15 that I don't want to pay. Anyway, I made it to NJ in good time and the White Eagle wasn't difficult to find but parking was. I need to start leaving earlier to plan for driving around for twenty minutes trying to find somewhere to park.
Knowing that this was streaming live on IWTV, I was expecting it to keep to a strict time schedule and doors were to open at 6:30 and the meet and greet with Tessa Blanchard was from 6:45 to 7:30 with the show starting at 8. I showed up right around 6:30 but didn't park until almost 6:45 so I'm running blocks to the venue and no one is going in quickly so I'm kind of stuck in line for a bit anyway.
After being patted down I asked the security guy where to go to meet Tessa Blanchard and he didn't seem to care but I basically got put into another line. They gave us these cool No Holds Barred towels for the event, which I would later find out why, and it was a scene that when I walked into it I was glad I didn't bring Quentin, mainly because I knew he wouldn't have wanted to stand all night. I kind of wished I had planned it better and dished out the money to sit on the stage but, fuck, I was just happy to be there even if I had to stand all night among the people.
Tessa Blanchard is really cool. I paid $20 to take a photo with her and I don't care. It was well worth it and one of those things of "Well, I'm driving to NJ so I might as well go all out" or whatever. I told her how I had seen the Top 3 wrestlers in the world all in the same week- them being her, KrisStat and David Starr- and then I told her that as much as I like Sami Callihan I hope she takes that title from him. She was all smiles and couldn't have been nicer meeting me and all of her fans. She also fought in the first match and seemingly bailed afterwards, but hey, that's why they did the meet and greet before the show.
This show was one of the first times where I really felt like I was getting a different experience being there than watching at home simply because I had earlier in the day that Chris DIckinson was sick and wouldn't be there to fight Killer Kross, but I kind of wanted to know what was going to happen. They had a table set up for Tessa Blanchard, but they were also selling photo opps and autographs with Killer Kross and I didn't see him beforehand so I wondered if he had dropped off the show as well since he didn't have an opponent now. I also literally didn't find out Eddie Kingston wasn't showing up until Tony Deppen told us.
But this show was everything that I wanted it to be and more. My first match of 2020 was technically Bear Country vs. Team Tremendous, but my first match of 2020 on a different wrestling show (One that didn't start in 2019 and end in 2020) was Nick Gage vs Tessa Blanchard. How fucking cool is that?
One of the other reasons why I wanted to go to this show in person as opposed to watching it on IWTV is because the special No Holds Barred stipulation meant it was going to be a one of a kind fight experience. The ring ropes were replaced with chains and this just had a feeling to it like some kind of underground fight club. The atomosphere was crazy and the crowd was intense. I just feel like there was something in this crowd on this night which couldn't translate through the tv, which is why I'd recommend everyone going to an ICWNY show (and why I'd go back to NJ to see them again)
I don't want to be a wrestling booker type because I have no idea how I would order matches on a card like this, a card where every match feels like a main event. Right after the Blanchard-Gage match we go into Homicide vs. Casanova Valentine, which was perhaps the most violent match on the show. I had not seen Casanova Valentine wrestle prior to this, but thanks to Twitter (and Tony Deppen) I knew of him by name. Abudullah the Butcher vs Cactus Jack? New Jack vs Balls Mahoney? I've never really seen matches between them go quite this far.
Also, I found out that the towel was because not only did I get blood on me I also got bleach on me. This was just insane but so much fun to be a part of live. If viewers at home were questioning whether or not the bleach was real... It landed on my glasses. It was 100% real bleach. And just wow.
So there was this one guy- and I want to watch the replay on IWTV to see if this translates there as well- who was not too far away from me. If you look at the venue from the standpoint of entering as a wrestler then we would have been on the left side of the ring. This guy kept yelling and getting mad that the wrestlers would fight on every side but not in front of us.
This funny moment happened after intermission when the same guy moved further into the corner of the side we were on and kept yelling about how he couldn't see and wanted the action to come to our side (which it did a few times) Someone behind me said, rather loudly, "You could have moved during intermission. That's on you" And don't get me wrong, I'm not implying this guy was upset or anything- he might have still had a blast- but it reminds me so much of what many wrestling fans can be like online: never happy even if they have the option to be.
Jimmy Lloyd vs Alex Colon was unexpected and I assumed it was to make up for the Chris Dickinson-Killer Kross match not happening and it turns out I was half right. Tony Deppen told us Eddie Kingston wasn't there because he was scared and this turned into a Tony Deppen vs Killer Kross match since neither of their opponents were there. I was waiting for Deppen-Kingston and possibly someone else vs Killer Kross but I didn't know what was going on.
I've honestly never seen Killer Kross wrestle before and don't know a lot about him outside of him seemingly wanting to get out of Impact forever and not being able to, but if given a bit of grooming he could become a decent star but I don't think he's quite this big deal everyone makes him out to be. Maybe I just need to see him in different circumstances, but this match still made Tony Deppen look more like a star because he's the one who flew through the ring and at times we even thought he might somehow win.
I keep thinking about how much I loved this card because of where everyone came from. Nick Gage was in CZW but is more recently in GCW a lot, Tessa Blanchard is from Impact and perhaps Killer Kross is best known from being from there as well. Mance Warner I relate with MLW and then you have guys like Low Ki who have just been seemingly everywhere. From Impact to TNA to ROH to MLW to... really everywhere except WWE, it just felt like this card brought the best talent together in one room, such as it asked each promotion to send them their best fighter.
This was my second week in a row seeing Shlak (and Jimmy Lloyd for that matter) and seeing him against Necro Butcher was kind of sad. When I watched wrestling in the early '00's, I wasn't really going to live shows in a way where I could see Necro Butcher, so I'm glad I got to see him because I never had before. But during this match, I caught myself doing the math in my head like "When I saw Necro Butcher in the early '00's was he 40 back then?" because he looks like he's about 65 now.
He's very skinny. He's frail. It didn't seem fair for Shlak to beat the shit out of him. I felt legit concern for Necro Butcher and really hope this was his last match because I don't know how much his body can take (Though haven't we always kind of thought that about him?)
Mance Warner vs Dan Maff was great. Seeing Dan Maff trade blows with a big man like Wrecking Ball Legursky is fun, but seeing him cave in the chest of Mance Warner is a different kind of fun. This was my second favorite match on this show, easily, because even though these two used an array of weapons they also just flat out beat the shit out of each other.
This show had the type of card that I don't know if it could be done again, but I fully put my faith into ICWNY and hope that when they return to NJ they will build an equally awesome kickass lineup which I will potentially view from a seated area at that time. I just keep thinking over and over about how this felt like a fight club and I really like that vibe.