Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Wrestling Review //
Black Girl Magik
@ Knights of Columbus, Ridgefield Park, NJ 

Time can go by so fast when you're not expecting it.  Invictus Pro Wrestling "Empire Rising" ended and when I checked my phone it was 6:00pm.  In seemingly the blink of an eye when I next checked my phone it was already 6:40pm.   Quentin and I needed to make our way to the Knights of Columbus we're always at in Ridgefield Park, NJ because the doors were 6 and the show was at 7 but luckily these shows were only seven minutes apart.  If something like this happens again in the future (two shows, same day, different times but so close in location) there should be some kind of system like "Goodbye from Invictus and see you at Black Girl Magik!"

To me, professional wrestling can be many things.  In some ways, professional wrestling can be whatever you want it to be.  Do you want to watch a comedy show? Do you want to see someone nearly die?  There is a promotion that does either one of those things or sometimes both.  I'll never pass up an opportunity to see a card which showcases all women.  I will also go so far as to say that if your show is all men- if you don't have a single woman on your card- then I'm definitely not going to it.  So to have a card entirely made up of women, I'm there.  On top of that, this was a card of entirely black women and that was also something I appreciate because the likes of it hasn't been done before.

This will probably be the last time that I type this, but once I saw this show I knew I needed to go to it.  I had tickets for Invictus Pro already but then I figured out the time and location thing and immediately bought tickets for Black Girl Magik based solely on the only advertised match at the time: Jazz vs Trish Adora.  First off, Jazz is on her retirement tour.  So if you have the chance to see Jazz in person you should 100% do so before she retires.  But Jazz wasn't just versus anyone in the main event- she was going up against perhaps one of the all around best wrestlers in the world today, Trish Adora.

As the matches were announced for the show, one thing which struck me is that there are a number of names (I can think of at least five off of the top of my head) who weren't booked for this show but could have been.  And, to me, that just goes to show the depth of black women in professional wrestling right now and how if you're not booking one of these women or Holidead or Queen Aminata or Vanity then why are you even booking shows?

The energy in the Knights of Columbus was just electric on this night.  Quentin and I had previously seen nine wrestling matches but that didn't stop us from cheering, booing, clapping and chanting because I still love all of these wrestlers on this show.   This was a special night and because it was the first time something like this has happened (to my knowledge) it cannot be duplicated only recreated.  

Black Girl Magik kicked things off with Jordan Blade vs Janai Kai.  I always try to trace back when I first saw someone- what I remember them for most.  I first saw Janai Kai during Camp Leapfrog- I believe- and since then she's seemingly been on every show including Battle Club Pro and I just keep thinking that she should be booked everywhere.  Jordan Blade is also someone who you don't want to mess with.   This match was so great because between the feet, the hands and the technical side of throwing suplexes or using knees, this was like an MMA fight more than wrestling at times and these two ladies just beat the absolute hell out of each other.  When I say they went all out, I mean it felt like this was the main event.

Bonesaw Brooks had an Open Challenge next and I was not familiar with either of her opponents before I saw them here but it was nice seeing some fresh faces.   From Pro Wrestling Magic to Battle Club Pro to Camp Leapfrog, Bonesaw Brooks is making the rounds in what I want to call the "NJ Scene" but Camp Leapfrog isn't from NJ so I'm not sure exactly what to call all these promotions which are seemingly connected and I love them all.  After the first two matches, I will say it: I want to see Bonesaw Brooks vs Jordan Blade.  I also want to see Bonesaw Brooks vs Janai Kai.  

Following the first two matches I had to run to the bathroom.  I missed the entrances for both Luscious Latasha and Joseline Navarro but what I love about professional wrestling is that I was back to my seat in enough time to sit down, hear the music start up and chant "Bam! Bam! clap clap" as Karen Bam Bam made her entrance.   If you ever wanted to hear an entire crowd chant "Bam! Bam!" in unison, this was the show to go to.  And I was so happy that this crowd was into it this much as well because I didn't want to be chanting by myself.

Before the match even started, Karen Bam Bam pointed out that the one and only lovely Faye Jackson was sitting behind me- something I didn't realize up until then- and so all three women in this match and even the referee spent some time twerking before the match started.  I'm not sure exactly how it would work, but I would love for a situation to occur where Faye Jackson (who is retired) kind of passes her torch onto Karen Bam Bam.  I'm not sure anyone quite deserves it more.

This match was hard hitting and it was a lot of one-on-one but also when they had a two on one situation it just felt like one of them really was somehow in control, which made it that much more meaningful.   Highlights of the match included Luscious Latasha hitting a double 619 (only she hits them in their back not face), a cannonball by Karen Bam Bam and Joseline Navarro throwing Luscious Latasha into the corner right near us so hard that she seemingly bounced back and then hit the corner again.   I really want to see the replay on that one.  

After three matches we took a brief intermission and I will say what I've said before here just for the official record.  We first saw Karen Bam Bam come out and got to meet her.  While in the middle of talking with her, someone came over and said "Excuse me", I gave them the go ahead and it just turned into this person giving Karen Bam Bam a whole speech of "Keep doing what you're doing and you're going to be a star"   You can always interrupt me to compliment one of my favorite wrestlers.

There's an area when you come in the Knights of Columbus- near the single bathroom- where they generally take tickets, etc. and I saw Joseline Navarro walking around in there.  I motioned for her to come to me because I didn't want to yell across the building and she was nice enough to oblige.  I asked her for a photo and was telling her about how excited I was to finally see her live after constantly seeing her on IWTV and a different person from before came over and started talking to Joseline Navarro about how great she is and how much they love her.  I love that I feel like I kind of brought Joseline Navarro into the people and then they all started showering her with the praise she so rightfully deserves.

After intermission we went into S'trella vs Ariela Nyx.   In this match, S'trella was the clear heel and Ariel Nyx the clear face.  It was the first time of the night that someone won (S'trella) and the crowd booed.  Also, it's the little things for me that make a performance.  While coming out to the ring- to play the heel- S'trella went to slap the hand of a child who was front row but at the last minute pulled her hand away.   The child seemed visibly upset and, I mean, that's how you play the heel.

The main event was something special.  The main event might never be able to be duplicated.   I saw both Trish Adora and Willow Nightingale on Sunday at WWR+ and was talking to them about this show and their respective matches.  Either Monday or Tuesday- a very short time later- Brooke Valentine comes on Twitter and says she doesn't want to face Willow Nightingale, she wants to face Jazz.  Where does that leave Trish Adora? Where does that leave Willow Nightingale?

Willow Nightingale responds saying that she also wants to face Jazz so we end up with Willow & Brooke vs. Trish & Jazz.  I didn't know how to feel about the match but I will fast forward ahead to spoilers (skip to the next paragraph if you want to be surprised) and say that after the match Jazz got on the microphone and said she had recently suffered an injury so that's why she worked limited in the tag match because she'd rather do that than miss the show entirely.  And so if not for the tag match the show might have been without Jazz and that just made me appreciate everything a little bit more.

The match itself was a little bit different but something you also have to see for yourself to understand.  Fans were actually booing Willow Nightingale and she was playing a little bit of the heel in this match.   Knowing what we know now and with this being one of Jazz's last matches, I just feel like this was one of the most special moments of 2021.   If Faye Jackson could pass a torch to Karen Bam Bam, then just by this match alone Jazz could pass the torch to Trish Adora.   This was one of the single best matches I have ever had the privilege of seeing live.

To take my own moment here, I first saw Jazz in ECW when I was an impressionable teenager.  Jazz was my first introduction to seeing a woman fight a man and win because before that it had been a lot of Miss Elizabeth and the such.   Jazz was also one of the first women to really break a lot of race barriers in wrestling as well because for such a long time I felt like WWE not only was relying having just one black woman wrestler (in Jacqueline Moore) but also they were just full of blonde women who all looked very similar.  Jazz broke so many molds when I was a teenager and that has helped shape it so that Quentin, at age nine, could see an event like this with me.   I don't think words can ever truly express how much Jazz means to me, to all of wrestling, and after the match I was truly humbled to be able to meet her.

Thinking about this show, the general consensus seemed to be "I hope they do it again. I want the sequel"  If this somehow turned into a full wrestling promotion with regular shows, hell yeah I'd be at them all.   You could easily keep this same roster of incredibly talented wrestlers or change some out (If someone isn't available, someone else could be who wasn't on this first show) and the show would still be everything I want when I buy the ticket and make the drive.  Watch this show when it comes to IWTV- I was there but I'm still going to watch it back- and perhaps most importantly book these talented women, buy their merch, go to a show to see them, follow them on socials-- do whatever you can to support them all because they all deserve all the respect and love in the world. 

Wrestling Review //
Top Rope Pro
@ The Eagle Event Center, Fall River, MA

When I found out about this show, mapped it out and saw it was about two hours away I figured it was over near Kingston and we'd just drive up north through CT into MA to get there.  Somehow, we went through Rhode Island and as it turns out, Fall River is right over the RI border into MA.   I've yet to see live wrestling in Rhode Island, so if this show was just ten minutes closer I could have made that dream come true, but alas, I feel like I went the long way around CT to get to MA but still was on the fast track.

This show was fun for a number of reasons and the first was that I didn't know a lot of the wrestlers on it.  It was advertised that Little Mean Kathleen was going to versus Becca and I figured that match alone was worth it, regardless of the other names on this show I did recognize.   This was also at the Eagle Event Center which is just such a unique place to see wrestling- it provides a look that other venues cannot and when you see photos from there you just know where they are from.

Oddly enough for perhaps the first time ever in my wrestling going existence this show said it was doors at 4pm, action at 5pm and they did not lie.  Jess and I showed up around 4:30-ish and a lot of fans were already inside.  We had front row seats but they didn't put names on the seats so we had to find two together, which wasn't that difficult but it became harder for people as they came in closer to 5.  Also, as I saw the venue now, I know next time to just buy whatever seats get us up off the floor because those seemed to be the best spot to sit in.   Still, every promotion should print out names and tape them to the chairs if you have reserved front row and I'm beginning to think it's a MA thing that promotions don't.

When I say we were told we had six or seven minutes until the show started and I checked my phone to realize that was going to be exactly 5:00 I was stunned.  And then they actually started the show on time as well.   This, to me, is simply unheard of but also good to know for future reference.  What is also funny is that on their website or the ticket site somewhere it said this show was set to run from 5:00 to 7:30 and it pretty much did.  I feel so often like these are just estimates but for it to actually be on time was just crazy but appreciated.

While I remember the match order for the most part, the only place I get fuzzy is matches two, three and four.  I'm going to use CageMatch for reference on this one, but  CageMatch also has matches six and seven swapped so both of us might be wrong here.

To my surprise the show opened with what could have been the main event with Ted Goodz taking on Brett Ryan Gosselin in a grudge match.   I saw Brett Ryan Gosselin years ago in NEW and have hated him ever since.  The crowd was hot on this night, chanting "Justin Bieber" at BRG and fully behind Ted Goodz.  This was such a fun match and even though I thought it was going to be later on in the card, it was what they call a hot opener to get the crowd hyped up.  Always good to finally see Ted Goodz live as well, after seeing him on IWTV so much with Beyond Wrestling. 

The second match was interesting because someone came out named Young Hollywood and he was billed from Los Angeles, CA.  I immediately said that there was no way they brought this jobber in from CA.   Elia Markopoulos got the heel heat just by being a foreigner because professional wrestling is one of the few places left where you can automatically be a bad guy if you're not from the United States but are wrestling here.  At certain points in his match, Elia Markopoulos would just yell "OPA!" and so the crowd would too.  This was what made this match so odd: no one ever really felt like they wanted to get behind Young Hollywood and yet they also felt torn on booing Elia Markopoulos because we just wanted to OPA! along.

What happened next was an interesting match that I feel like took place on an alternate timeline.  Matt Marvel and Sweatboy defeated Wildman Kongo because Anthony Corner was a special guest referee and he cheated.   I'm not sure the history behind this match, but it should have been a simple squash match and Wildman Kongo should have easily won, but he kept breaking up the three count to inflict more punishment.  This eventually lead to a standoff between Kongo and Anthony Corner, who is a football player of some type, and then Corner did a shoulder tackle to Kongo, pulled Matt Marvel over and did a fast three count.

I'm not really sure who this match benefits.  On one hand, Matt Marvel and Sweatboy won, but they looked half dead and not even aware of the win.  Does this set up a match between Kongo and Anthony Corner for some reason?  Is there any interest in that?  I don't really want to see that.  Wildman Kongo is a big dude and it feels like he should just be tearing through the roster, making a statement and not losing in these cheap ploys to a football player who isn't even in the NFL as far as I know (he was announced from a local team, I believe)

Also, I'd like to give a quick shoutout to Sweatboy, possibly one of the best gimmicks in all of professional wrestling right now.  I imagine at the training school, this wrestler was being asked about his gimmick like "So what is your name, what is your gimmick?" "Well, I sweat a lot so I thought Sweatboy!" and someone actually went along with it.  He even has Hulkamania-like shirts and it's just... if I told you it existed and it didn't you wouldn't believe me, but the proof is out there and it's just so ridiculous that I'm starting to like it.

During the next match we saw Garrett Holiday (as previously seen in Test Of Strength the week prior) take on Ryan Waters.   First off, Ryan Waters and Sweatboy need to somehow form a tag team.  They belong together.  But also, it's funny hearing people chant against Ryan Waters because they'd say things like "H2NO!" and it's funny but also like we need water to stay alive.  So it was odd to think how Ryan Waters has positioned himself in wrestling because I don't want to yell out "Waters Sucks!" and then take a drink from my water bottle.  Seems a bit odd. At one point, Waters had the ropes to break up a pinfall but then managed to win by using the ropes for leverage because mostly all referees are partially blind.

When I first saw this poster online it was five matches.  We found out it would be eight matches when we got there and I figured they'd do four matches then intermission.  But we went for the full five matches, intermission and then three more.  What struck me as odd was that right before intermission was the title match between Nico Silva and Matt Magnum.  This was a good back and forth match that I thought Matt Magnum might win, but it ended in a DQ when Magnum refused to break an ankle lock when Nico Silva was in the ropes.  The only reason why I can assume this didn't get the final spot on the card was either because of the DQ ending or because during intermission you could go into the ring and take photos with Nico Silva for ten dollars.

During intermission I went to the bar to buy water and then to the Ted Goodz merch table to talk with him.  I took a picture and bought a shirt because I'm doing merch right.  Intermission said it was fifteen minutes and I didn't time it but I feel like it was fairly close to being exactly fifteen minutes.

The first match back after intermission was "Flex 2.0" Cesar Leo vs Carlos Rosales.  Carlos Rosales had a mask on like a luchador while Cesar Leo came out with a dirty mirror and everything down to his tights design made me think of Rick Rude.   This was mostly a squash match that went on for a little too long and if the idea was to get the fans back into their seats and back into the action this wasn't the match to do it.

Now up until the show (even on the poster) we were under the impression we would see Little Mean Kathleen vs Becca.  When Luscious Latasha came out- who I had seen the previous night at Black Girl Magick- I either thought it was going to be a triple threat or someone wasn't there.  But, LMK had been posting to Instagram so I knew she was there and it quickly turned out that Luscious Latasha would be replacing Becca with no explanation.  It is also worth noting now that throughout the night, the ring announcer would say "The following contest is scheduled for one fall" and that whole deal but once it reached the point of saying the wrestler's name, it was often times drowned out by the entrance music being played.

This played into this match because there were a group of people behind us who were cheering for the heels all night for some reason and they kept yelling at Luscious Latasha "Let's go Becca!" and I had to turn around to tell them that wasn't Becca in there.  It strikes me as so odd but cool in some way that professional wrestling is this way but there are fans out there who can't tell the difference between Luscious Latasha and Becca and yet I've taken photos with Becca, I own merch for Becca, Becca is one of my favorite wrestlers.  And it's not a dig against any fans because I'm sure they feel the same way about me not knowing anyone in the main event tag team title match by individual name.  

It's just funny because I live in this bubble of like "How do you not know Becca" but then they can say the same only ask me "How do you not know Brandon Webb" and that's one of the great things about pro wrestling right now, to me, because we can each have our own favorites and promotions and things without all being the same.  Having these differences can open us up to new wrestling experiences and that, ultimately, helps the business grow.  But I digress.

LMK and Luscious Latasha put on a great match.  I wasn't expecting Latasha to get as much offense in as she did and thought she might actually win at one point.  LMK is over huge though and I was not the only one chanting for her- the entire Eagle Event Center was about to blow the roof off with chants of "L-M-K!"  If Top Rope Pro doesn't have a women's championship, it might be time to make one.

The main event was a tag team title match where The Devil's Doormen (with Sidney Bakabella) took on and defeated The Red And Black Attack.   First off, Sidney Bakabella got massive heel heat, nearly booed out of the building and it was great.  However, he did say that this match was to be contested under their rules which basically meant that there were no rules.   I'm not sure who any of these four guys are but Portuguese Power House was over huge with a lot of "PPH" chants.

Here's my problem with this match.  There were no DQs.  No count outs.  No holds barred.  And yet, when the Portuguese Power House was being double teamed by The Devil's Doormen, his tag team partner Pat Garrett just stood on the apron looking confused.  I yelled at him: "There's no rules, get in there!" and others began shouting similar things at him.  It might just be me, but if you're doing a no holds barred tag team type of match then you might as well have the tornado tag rules where everyone can be in the ring at once.   The ref was making sure there were clean tags and everything but why does it matter?  What would the ref do if there wasn't?

During this match, PPH was over huge and the crowd absolutely was booing the hell out of The Devil's Doormen.   But can you blame Pat Garrett for the loss, as he basically watched his partner get beat?  Absolutely.  The crowd may not have been happy with it, but there is no one to blame other than Pat Garrett.  

The next Top Rope Pro show is July 17th in Brockton, MA and there is a good chance I will work out a way to be there.   It is called Top Rope Roulette and the fans will draw the matches at random live and on the show!  So I'm actually somewhat interested in seeing what comes of it and also who is there.   Through DVDs, YouTube or in person I would suggest checking out Top Rope Pro as well.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Wrestling Review //
Invictus Pro Wrestling
Empire Rising
@ American Legion Post 310, Little Ferry, NJ 

This will probably be the last time that I say this, but nine months after a break from everything because of the pandemic we returned to live pro wrestling at Invictus "In Bloom".   Now, just a few months later we are back at Invictus Pro Wrestling once again for "Empire Rising".  Once tickets were on sale- following "In Bloom"- for this event I immediately purchased them.  What's funny is, after I already had tickets for this show about twenty other shows nearby were announced and so the day which I like to think of as Stitch Day somehow turned into an unofficial live pro wrestling day.

On our way to New Jersey we hit a little bit of rain going into the state.  It was really just sprinkling and we didn't feel anything heavy.   The way the maps app sends us now puts us along the coastline and we see people riding their bicycles a lot and so I figured if people were still out on bicycles it couldn't be raining too badly.  I was somewhat nervous though that we were almost to the show and it might be called off.  Also, the directions literally took us past the road we drive down to get to the Knights of Columbus in Ridgefield Park, so I kept thinking that was our accidental destination.

It was a little bit after 2 pm (doors opened at 2) when we got the to venue and you could tell that it had rained there but it wasn't raining.  While the weather is always a concern for outdoor shows, there is just something about outdoor shows that's so appealing to me.  I'm not a big sports guy, but we do go to baseball a lot and that's outdoors so maybe that's why.  I couldn't imagine being stuck inside watching basketball.  Still, we are also 2/2 on our Invictus shows and them being outdoors and for "In Bloom" the weather was rather pleasant.

Once we got in and took seats next to Wes and his son Kyle, we went to the merch area to buy a t-shirt from and meet Janai Kai.  I was confused for a moment because I thought that Yokai was on the show but then remembered it was only Yoya in a match.  We also somehow found AJ Gray prior to the show starting so it was nice to meet him and talk with him for a little bit because I've seen so much of him on the tv but this was our first time seeing him wrestle in person and we knew we were in for a hell of a fight.

I really should start taking little notes about match order because I don't remember the exact order of matches on this show but when it comes to IWTV (cheap plug) the order will sort itself out.  For now, this has to just go based upon how I remember things and how I remember little pieces of the matches and such.

The show opened with Phil Cardigan vs Stephen Azure and this was a fun match.  The crowd was fully behind Phil Cardigan, which was great, and when Phil Cardigan had the win but Steve Somerset wouldn't make the count the crowd got mad.   Then, when Steve Somerset helped Stephen Azure cheat to win and did the fast count, the crowd got even more upset.  The Even Stevens are positioning themselves to be a huge heel tag team in Invictus (and all over the world) and now it just looks as if Phil Cardigan needs someone to tag with against them.  I think I've seen them together on social media, so I would suggest Pinkie Sanchez.

I feel like the fourway tag team match was second simply because it rained during this match and no other match but I thought it was going to set the tone for random rain throughout the show.  However, it also might have been third and I am mixing it up with the Yoya vs Ray Jaz match.  Either way, I want to type about the tag team match first.  I went into this match of four teams knowing (and loving) one of the teams from seeing them so much- the Kings of the District, Jordan Blade and Eel O'Neal.  One team I have seen on IWTV but not in person before- Milk Chocolate.  The team of PJ Savage and Dennis Morgan was interesting because Dennis Morgan was on the last Invictus show but this was my first time seeing PJ Savage.  And I had just never seen The Mob Squad, as far as I remember, *but* I do believe Tony Chini was on the last Invictus show as well.

While I generally tend to dislike fourway tag team matches this one went off exceptionally well.  When you have eight people in a match, it can often times feel like someone is always going to break it up and as such the match will never end.  This match did a good job of everyone just beating the hell out of each other until only one team was left standing: The Kings of the District.  Now, here's where wrestling gets confusing and the ideas of being a "heel" or "face" come into play and seem to be thrown out the window.  

For one thing, I feel like people (like me) were cheering for KOD but some people seemed unsure as to who they were still which was strange to me.   The crowd felt like they wanted to cheer for Dennis Morgan- complete with "Dangerhawk" chants- but at the same time, PJ Savage seemed to be playing the heel, especially with his post match promo.  I told him he still lost and he said he didn't lose because he didn't take the pinfall but, hey, he didn't break it up either, right?  He didn't win and the record books show that they lost.

On top of all of this you have Milk Chocolate who I feel like people kind of wanted to cheer for but then they also did things to make the crowd boo them so it was tough.  Several times I was told by them (as were others) to stop talking to them since I kept bothering them because along with The Mob Squad they were on our side of the ring.  So if you're not in the match and you'll pay attention, I'm going to bother you.

With everyone else feeling like they got mixed reactions, I will say that The Mob Squad was consistently booed.  Both Tony Chini and Zack Ruby did a great job of ensuring that happened.  I told them to go play in traffic because there was a road nearby but they wouldn't listen.  After being beaten by Jordan Blade and Eel O'Neal I bet they wish they would have.  I'll say this until it doesn't need saying anymore: There are too many ~heels~ in pro wrestling who try to be cool and still have fans.  The Mob Squad is joining my short list of true heels and for that they should be booked everywhere because fans want someone to boo.

Ray Jaz vs Yoya was a good match because they have such different styles.  Yoya, who I've seen on tv but this was my first time seeing in person, has submission skills, kicks and also just moves around like a cruiserweight.  Ray Jaz, who I've seen floating around Twitter in name only, is thick- he reminds me of TJ Crawford a little bit for some reason.  From what I gather he has an amateur background and to just think of him as this Taz-like submission specialist is pretty neat.  Given time and proper guidance, Ray Jaz could be popular in a Kurt Angle sort of way.  Yoya is also on his way up though, as he just gets better with every match, and I'm here for it.

Every time I think about the card I feel even more like I'm remembering it out of order, but alas, I will discuss the Vicious Vicki vs Riley Shepard championship match next.  Back at "In Bloom", Vicki cheated to pick up the win in a triple threat match with Riley Shepard and Vanity.  Then Vicki went on to mostly cheat her way through the Women's Championship tournament and become champion.  This was a bit of retribution for Riley Shepard and the crowd was fully behind her.  At one point, Riley Shepard brought Vicki over near us and had Quentin pummel her with inflatable fists and I'm really excited to see that part back on the replay.

Sometimes I think I take things too personally or I'm being oversensitive but I always feel like if I, as a wrestling fan, know something then someone who works in wrestling and gets paid by wrestling should know it as well, right?  (I really had this problem when Jim Ross was doing commentary for NJPW but I digress)  So how is it that in the year 2021 we still have referees who fall for the old Eddie Guerrero "I got hit by the chair" trick?  This should be something that they teach you in referee school and I'm tired of seeing refs fall for it.  This was how Vicki won the match and if nothing else I suppose this goes towards a No DQ between the two since Riley Shepard was technically disqualified.

Wrestling is wild because I always want to know every match before a show and then up until the day of the show it just seems like things can change.  Milk Chocolate was actually a replacement on this card and when the match happened we realized that Kennedi Copeland was not there and instead the match was Molly McCoy vs Athrun Amada.  The strange thing about this was that it was not a street fight, but at one point Molly McCoy did make reference to that, saying something like "I thought this was supposed to be a street fight".   Athrun Amada did really well and I'd like to see him on more shows but Molly McCoy was really just over with the fans here.

After intermission we went into the final four matches and it was interesting that other than the fourway tag match there wasn't really any rain for the rest of the show.  I really don't remember most of this order so this is me trying my best to remember.

Gio Galvano vs Mike Verna was an interesting match because you had someone who the crowd seemed to be fully behind in Gio but then also Mike Verna is well respected and typically liked.  Whenever I think of Mike Verna (who I have seen in other matches live besides) I think of the two matches he's had- in Northeast Wrestling and Chaotic Wrestling- vs Brian Pillman Jr.  I was live for both of them and do not believe they've done the rubber match yet.  But I like Mike Verna.  We have that history of me watching his matches.   And Gio is someone I only saw for the first time at the last Invictus show and then again at Global Syndicate Wrestling.

Now, let's talk about the importance of a manager.  Jared Silberkleit, who runs the Trust Fund stable, is backing Mike Verna in this match and that makes people want to boo him-- not so much to boo Verna, but to boo Jared and then sort of boo Verna by association.  And, for me, I just haven't seen enough of Gio to be impressed by him and cheer for him so I just want to cheer Mike Verna.  Maybe Gio just needs some matches against the pure heels for me to get on his side but even then it's hard to find someone I will constantly boo.

Personalities aside, this was a great wrestling match.  Regardless of whether you want to cheer, boo or are just unsure what to do, this match delivered between those ropes and when it spilled to the outside.  Even with the ending and after the fact, I think this match really stood out as one of my favorites on the card because move for move it was up there among the best of the day, but that conflict, that drama of the characters is a lot of what wrestling is missing right now and I love it so very much.

In what was a huge tag team match, the Meat Locker took on the team of Mucho Chris Moljo and El Oso Blanco.  There is a lot to dissect in this match.  First off, Wrecking Ball Legursky and Adam Payne are just huge fan favorites.  Between here, Magic, GSW-- everywhere I see them they just get cheered, chants and the crowd is just always so strongly behind them.  Lots of "Meat! Meat! Meat!" chants on this day.  

Then you add El Oso Blanco, the former (?) Meadowlands Monster into the match.  If you have not seen El Oso Blanco before, take this match as your opportunity to do so.  Wrestling needs more larger than life characters who can get it done inside the ring and you're looking at one right here.  And, if we're being completely and brutally honest here, El Oso Blanco is also the rightful Pro Wrestling Magic Champion as Erica Leigh technically never beat him for that belt.  If I was Erica Leigh I'd sleep with one eye open because of Smiley and the other because of El Oso Blanco.

Mucho Chris Moljo is a heel I like to boo but there are a small part of the crowd wearing shirts to support him.  Since my parents basement is finally dry and I could back to sleeping on my futon I'm not as mad at MCM so I will allow these fans to cheer for him without questioning why.  But if you remember from back at "In Bloom", MCM hit Wrecking Ball Legursky with that briefcase he defaced to give "Big Trouble" Ben Bishop the win.   So MCM had a little of payback coming here and I liked seeing it happen.

With some of the fans on the side of MCM and even my conflicting feelings toward El Oso Blanco, this was still a solid match of Meat Locker being the good guys vs MCM/El Oso Blanco being the heels.  The Meat Locker also may have scored the win here, but there is still unfinished business between Wrecking Ball Legursky and Ben Bishop.  That will be settled one day for sure because, well, all will fall to Wrecking Ball.

Big Game Leroy defended his Social Media Championship against Big Callux and this was a match of the BIG.  One of the things which I love most about pro wrestling and Invictus is that we are hopefully long gone from the days of going to a wrestling show because you want to see someone (in this case we'll say Big Game Leroy) and then the opponent is someone you either don't want to see or just don't care about.  I really like Big Callux.   We've seen him live pre-pandemic twice and so it was good to see him live and in big person again.  You don't truly appreciate how big he is until you see him in person.

But if you ask me whether or not Big Callux can be defined as a face or a heel... I don't know.  He's just big.  You can follow him on social media (as I do) and watch him during his matches and then determine for yourself whether or not you like him, but he doesn't really do anything to be booed and I feel like he does more to be cheered than anything else.  So this big match also felt like a dream match of two fan favorites going at it and while someone who is a heel (such as MCM) could face Big Game Leroy with different results from the crowd, I don't mind seeing two wrestlers I love fight each other because that seems to make the best matches.  Also, if you're not watching Big Game Leroy matches yet you need to start now.

After all of this action, the main event still saw AJ Gray vs Jacob Fatu.  I have to get used to seeing Jacob Fatu outside of MLW-- it's still weird to me to think about the possibility of him coming to a promotion and just destroying everyone.   This match also filled me with much conflict because I love AJ Gray but I also love Jacob Fatu.  Neither of these wrestlers really did anything to make them seem like a heel and I feel like the crowd was on the side of both of them.  There really was an atmosphere not of wanting one to win over the other- not a heel vs face scenario- but rather just a celebration that we, as the fans, knew we were experiencing something special.   And we were.   If you don't go out of your way to watch AJ Gray vs Jacob Fatu I will question your wrestling interests.

I don't want to give too much of the match away but at one point they were outside of the ring on the side adjacent to my right.   Jacob Fatu wears this black bead-type necklace and AJ Gray chopped him so hard outside the ring that one of those black beads came flying off of Jacob Fatu and landed near the kids right next to me.  You can choose to be impressed by whether it went as far as it did or just the fact that it came off in the first place, but wow these two beat each other up, hit a lot of wrestling moves and just delivered one of my favorite matches I've seen this year.  This match really only used one weapon (a door) but it was as violent as matches that I've seen that are full of matches.

This was the second Invictus Pro Wrestling show in a row now where I just felt like the main event was Match of the Year quality (along with some of the other matches on the card) and also the show just goes by so quickly.  If you look at it on paper, I would say the start time was around 3pm, there was a fifteen minute intermission and then it ended around 6pm.  The actual time will be on IWTV but even if you say this was nine matches over two and a half to three hours, it didn't feel that long.  There were five matches alone before intermission and I did not feel like we had just sat through nine matches (and they weren't short squash matches either)  But they say time flies when you're having fun and Invictus Pro Wrestling certainly is a whole lot of fun.  

Friday, June 25, 2021

Music Review //
"We Are Getters" //

Having lived in Houston, Texas for most of the early '00's, I feel a special connection with Getters, who are also from there.  Though I only lived there briefly compared to those who spend their whole lives there I explored the music scene enough to know that if you're looking for one of the most diverse places for music Houston is the place to be.  It's not even just that they have some of the best rappers, rockers and everything in between but they have artists out there creating their own style: paving the way for others.

Getters is no exception to that.  The melodic dreamy style of their sound is heavily distorted but I struggle to put it into any genre that ends with -gaze or -wave.   On one hand, there are some less traditional approaches to the verse/style/verse construct of music and for that I think it might be appropriate to place Getters alongside artists such as Gatsbys American Dream and Portugal. The Man (the early years)  But there is also this way where if Getters were just a little bit more pop, such as on the song "Paint Thinner", they could be compared with Neon Trees.

Through elements which might remind me of Blur I am also taken back to a time when Tooth & Nail seemingly ruled my musical worlds.   Bands like mae, Anberlin and Waking Ashland all come to mind as I feel like Getters would have easily fit in well with that crowd but not sounding like any of them specifically.  It was a time when many artists were coming up on the same label and they all felt tied together but also you could pick out their song on a compilation.  I really miss those days, but Getters seems to be taking us back to them.

With lyrics such as "Am I just dreaming because everyone is woke?" you really should be listening closely, even if the distortion can seemingly make you space out.  I'm hesitant to call this future rock because I feel like that existed in the 1980's/1990's and had a very specific fashion sense (and they did The Robot) but this is that type of sound which just doesn't rely heavily on the past for influences, doesn't sound similar to anything out there right now that I've heard and so I can only assume in three or five years other bands will follow suit and sound like Getters.  Fortunately for you, they are available to listen to right now. 

Music Review //
First in Flight

Whenever I hear this song and think about the skeletons I picture the scene from "The Karate Kid"- you know the one- and I think someone should set this song to a video of clips of that scene where Daniel gets beat up by Cobra Kai dressed as skeletons.  First in Flight bring a lot of energy in this song and of the many genres it can cross, punk can certainly be one of them.  This is a fun song and I think perhaps more than anything else it could also be heard as a party anthem- that song you put on when you're with a group of other people and you all just dance to it and sing along.

Different aspects of this song make me think of different artists.  The way it moves and feels a bit gothic makes me think of My Chemical Romance.  The way it can combine a keyboard with the fast paced rock makes me think of Scary Kids Scaring Kids.   The beats and guitar solos with that element of pop also make me think of Panic At The Disco and Fall Out Boy but I just feel like with these different layers and not just sticking with one sound throughout the song, First in Flight has created a mix of genres on their own.

Lyrically, this song really is about skeletons.  The chorus sings: "As the lights go down / Skeletons come out" and it makes me feel like this song is haunted.  What's funny to me is that if I typically hear a song of this nature I will think that it is a good Halloween song- I'll always hear it as being best played during Autumn rather than a summer jam at the beach.  But with First in Flight I do think this is a good song to play at your Halloween party, but it also can be played at the beach or anywhere at any time because it just has that presence about it that it can't be restricted by a certain period of time.

By the end there are whoa-oh's that you will likely find yourself singing along with.   There is just such a way about this song that I imagine First in Flight playing a show where no one is really familiar with their sound, maybe people are resting up against the wall and sitting at tables, but once they hear this song they all come together on the floor in front of the stage.   It feels like it can just lure people in with that "come join us" way and I definitely think you should join First in Flight and just play this song as often and as loudly as you possibly can.  


Music Review //
Blue and Broke
"Night Shadows" // //

When I first listen to "Night Shadows" I hear the sounds of Fleetwood Mac mixed with Natalie Merchant.    There is a rather strong Patti Smith vibe as well, specifically in a "Because the Night" way.   Then the song "As I Can" has some sax which just throws me off and makes me rethink how I think this sounds, even if it remains pleasant rock which could be on modern radio, pop or even classic.

"Bear It All" is a slower paced song which feels a little bit more acoustic and thus a little bit closer to the country side.  "For A Little While" has a nice groove and as the credits suggest, "Most Of The Time" feels like a gospel choir song- something you'd hear in a Southern Baptist church.  There is also this element of rock music from the 1950's/1960's- Buddy Holly era, but also closer to the song "Happy Together" by The Turtles.

As we dive deeper into the album the song "Ready" is just slick and the horn section is not to be missed.  The style of this music can vary from song to song, but it all ties back into this rock way with elements of soul, a little bit of the blues and even a little bit of jazz.  A lounge singer aspect exists as well, just fully not being able to put Blue and Broke into one genre but rather having the sound eclipse multiple genres to craft its own.

I'm always a big fan of albums having a plan when they are listened to from start to finish and feeling like more than just a collection of songs.   "Night Shadows" has that, but it also ends on the perfect song in "We Survived".  It's such a lovely song, but it wouldn't work if it opened the album or was halfway through.  The end is the perfect place for it because it leaves us with that sense of hope.  That sense of moving forward.  And after the year 2020 was, I think we could all use a little bit more of that.  

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Music Review //
Delyn Grey
"Daddy's Love"


Right away, I love the sound of Delyn Grey.  When you have this largely guitar-based rock sound that I can't quite put my finger on, odds are I'm going to play it loudly and thoroughly enjoy it.   Artists like Evanescence, The Courtesans and PJ Harvey come to mind right away but it's just the way these distorted melodies rock which create a sound I feel is unique to Delyn Grey.  This is a definite case of the artist combining their own influences (including some which I can't place) and adding their own twist to it.

The music video provides an interesting angle for this song.  We see Delyn Grey tied to a chair, bag over head and it feels like she is about to be tortured.  And yet, with her face looking beaten up, her hands bloody, there are still scenes where she is playing the guitar and singing her song.  This paints that picture of someone being held down, silenced and yet they still got back up, found a way to overcome the odds and do what they felt was right and made them happy.  We should all have such a strong will after listening to this song.

Lyrically, the idea in this song (hence the title) is: "Drain me of all / It ain't gonna replace the love that your daddy never gave you"  While this may seem like something that one can overlook as "Well, I have a good relationship with my dad", within the context of the verses it can be revealed as something more than a literal take.  That idea of "daddy's love" can be any number of things, whatever is missing in your life that makes it so you feel the need to cut other people down instead of trying to help build them up.

There are a lot of layers to this song.  Whether you have been bullied online (and we all know that online trolls are everywhere) or somehow scarred in real life, I think you can find a way to listen to this song and come to the realization that you are not broken- the person who did this to you is broken.  Hearing that over the sounds of these dark guitars is perhaps the best way which I can think of to go about it.  

Music Review //
"Figment That Was Me"

The sound of Blueanimal can be described as dark rock, which at times can bring about comparisons to a band such as Metallica, but I find that throughout these songs Blueanimal just seems to be forging their own path.  With whispering-like vocals starting us off, there are melodies and during the chorus it just really kicks in.   "Only A Man" has starts and stops which remind me of Stone Temple Pilots and then "This Side of Me" has a more upbeat chorus, so there isn't really one artist you can accurately compare this with.

As I listen to this album more and more, I begin to realize that it fits perfectly within this genre of rock music which became more present in the early '00s.   Between the year 2000 and 2010 was such an awkward time for rock music because it was really when MTV had almost officially stopped playing videos (I still remember some from that time though) and it felt like rock was looking for that next big thing to create the same type of buzz that Nirvana did.  A lot of what was so popular and mainstream in the 1990's was fading and it felt like it might never be replaced.  

Bands from that time which I feel like Blueanimal would have fit in perfectly with as a part of a radio festival include but are not limited to Cold, Evans Blue, Chevelle and Seether.  I feel like at some point this sound was either abandoned or just not as present and that always struck me as a sad thing.  The less I heard these bands on the radio, the more I began to miss them and so I am glad that Blueanimal has found this genre of rock I once thought to be forgotten.

During the song "Rock Bottom" the mood really picks up, though it can still have those Metallica undertones, while "Because of You" feels like the softer, sort of acoustic ballad.  "Searching" has this rhythm and with the lighter percussion feel I'm reminded of Godsmack and just miss that whole era of rock which came and went too soon.   After "Better Than This" ends the album (which is both live and acoustic) there is this little outro that I also find to be delightful and think more bands should do.

There are two specific lyrics I have pulled from this album to discuss.  The first is: "The voices are angry / they sound just like you" and it's worth thinking about how you can be happy, sad, any range of emotions really, but when you get angry, whether you yell or break things- however you handle it- that just seems to be the most serious and intense time for some people so for others it can become how they most remember them.  Those memories of someone else being angry can really be what sticks with you above all else.

I also enjoy the line "Money won't make you happy / This too shall pass" because many times we feel as if having any amount of money could make our problems disappear.  This might be true in a literal sense since you could pay your bills, and since if someone gave me a million dollars I could use it to travel the world and that would make me happy, but still, that travel is what would make me happy, right?  And thus far I've lived my life without being a millionaire and I'm doing fine so I don't think money is the answer as much as just finding your own happiness.  Hopefully by listening to this album Blueanimal can help you find yours.  

Baseball Review //
Record-Journal Expos 10, Vernon Orioles 1
@ Ceppa Field, Meriden, CT

Additional photos can be found on Facebook here :::

As the Record-Journal Expos began to find their groove, they were faced with their toughest opponents of the season: the undefeated Vernon Orioles.  The Orioles have long been a team who have had a modest record but don't always finish in first place and yet still go on to win the championship in the playoffs.  The Orioles are also the one team in the league everyone other than Orioles' fans seems to dislike, perhaps because of their attitude.

This was my first time seeing the Orioles this season but on paper (the GHTBL website) their roster looked fairly similar to what it has in years past, so I expected them to be that same championship level team here.   I will say though that Mike Matthews was the starting pitcher for the Orioles and I'm not sure if he was on their team last year or not but he definitely isn't one of their pitchers who I recognize by name.

After an inning and a half there was no score and with Charlie Hesseltine on the mound for the Expos this seemed like it could become a tough game for either team to score in.  Then, in the bottom of the second inning, Owen Papciak hits a double to drive in the first run of the game.  The third inning is where things fell apart for the Orioles.  A HBP and two BBs loaded up the bases and then on a pitch that went by the catcher, Jonanthan Walter (who was HBP) scored.  

Following yet another BB, Sebby Grignano would walk over homeplate.  With bases loaded, Kameron Hartenstein would single to drive in two more runs.  Will Kszywanos would hit into a double play, but another run would score putting the Expos up 6-0 after just three innings.  The defense and pitching of the Expos seemed to shut the Orioles down offensively.   The top of the fourth saw two batters strike out at the pitching of Charlie Hesseltine.

During the bottom of the fourth inning, there were two BBs and then a double by Kyle Hartenstein drove in a run.  Jay Sullivan hit a single to bring in Sebby Grignano (who seems to walk more often than not this season) and a sac fly by Jack Rich would ultimately score Kyle Hartenstein to give the Expos a 9-0 lead after four innings.   Mike Matthews would somehow give up nine runs with six walks and two HBPs.  This felt like a matter of the Orioles loading up the bases for the Expos and then the Expos just driving them home, but again, runs were walked in.

In the fifth inning each team would plate just one run and that would keep the score at 10-1 when the game came to its end.   One of the reasons, perhaps, why the Orioles are so unlikeable is because after a called third strike to Ian Halpin in the sixth inning he began loudly arguing with the umpire.   The Orioles manager also then began arguing from the dugout.  

I get it.  You're down nine runs.  You're frustrated.  But you're down to your last handful of outs and it isn't likely that within the time given to you that you will be able to make up for what you've already lost.   You know you're going down, go down with some dignity.  If it was a tie game, sure, argue and yell.   If it was a close game maybe vent your frustrations as well.  But what would this really change when you're already losing so badly?  If the manager gets thrown out with only an inning left to play, you still lose.

Fun Fact: I have only ever seen two people thrown out of games in the GHTBL and one of them was the Orioles manager.  

What bothered me about this game for the Orioles is that it made it seem as if they didn't care if they won or lost.  At some point (maybe when they were down six runs) they just seemed to give up and accept defeat.  I wondered why the starting pitcher was allowed to give up so many runs (with walks and HBPs) and not be pulled.  They had other players there available to pitch.  I thought maybe they wanted him to pitch enough innings to be able to qualify for the playoffs, but if this is how he's going to pitch in the playoffs what good will it do?

The whole game felt surreal as well, as I knew going into it that the Orioles were undefeated and this seemed like such a strange way for them to take their first loss: they weren't just losing, they were going down hard.   I believe that the season games should be taken seriously though and not as practice for the playoffs.  I would have liked to see the Orioles put up more of a fight, but perhaps they just couldn't.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Wrestling Review //
WWR+ / Beyond Wrestling
To Wrestle, Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth
@ White Eagle, Worcester, MA 

As soon as this show was announced I was eager to buy tickets and the fact that it was on Father's Day also played a big role in that.   Some sons take their fathers out for lunch or even to a baseball game for Father's Day.  This year, for what feels like the first time ever, Quentin and I went out and celebrated in a style which I never have before: doing something that we both like.

There were six matches set going into this show as well as the Little Mean Open Challenge and I was excited for all of them.  In some ways this felt like the same roster as the previous show with the matchings shifted around but at the same time, we have Masha Slamovich in and Jody Threat out, for example.   It was a nice combination of sticking with the formula which worked on the first show, but slightly adjusting it so that it didn't feel like the exact same show.

When we got to and then inside the White Eagle we saw Love, Doug and bought merch from Veda Scott.  I will continue to plug this every chance I get but Veda Scott (and they admit this) has merch which is very much cat-themed and, well, Quentin likes cats so this works perfectly when buying him a shirt.   We also saw Little Mean Kathleen just wandering around and she was one of the first people to greet us, which was neat.  I told her Quentin was going to answer her open challenge.

I was thinking about this show a lot because the two main matches would be Trish Adora vs. Davienne and Willow Nightingale vs. Masha Slamovich.  I thought, for some reason, that one of these matches would open the show and the other would close it out.  Davienne opened the previous show, so I thought she might get that headlining spot (which she did) and then that could mean Willow-Masha would open, which I was literally on the edge of my seat for just thinking about it.

Realizing that Megan Bayne vs. Riley Shepard was opening the show was a nice surprise because it was set to be the hot opener.   Riley Shepard got a lot of cheers and I heard people other than me yell out "Let's go Riley!"  Megan Bayne is... something else.  Partly she gets cheered and partly she gets booed.  I think she has a great look as a character and gets the job done inside the ring.  She's on the taller side, so she's intimidating: she really executes those power moves.  But I think the crowd just needs to decide whether or not to cheer her.   While I don't feel like we need the "face vs heel" aspect of wrestling any more, I think either having the crowd fully behind her or against her would just elevate her so much.

In the second match of the night we saw Ashley D'Amboise pull off the victory over Tina San Antonio.   Tina San Antonio goes to 0-2, while Ashley D'Amboise goes to 1-1.  Interestingly enough, since these first two matches just switched opponents from the last show, why not have Riley Shepard (who is also now 1-1) vs. Ashley D'Amboise at the next show?  It would be fun and could tell the story, but at the same time I'm starting to like Ashley D'Amboise because she told me that she liked my t-shirt so maybe she should be up against someone I will boo.  This match with Tina San Antonio really brought out the side of Ashley D'Amboise which is to be cheered though and I enjoyed that.

Both of these opening matches were really well fought.  There were moments where I thought Riley Shepard would win, but then there were also moments when I thought Megan Bayne might win and she kicked out.  Neither Riley Shepard nor Tina San Antonio looks bad in defeat as they both fought really hard.  I also yelled "Go back to The Alamo" at Tina San Antonio when it was quiet and I'm not sure what she did in response because the ref was in the way but the fans near her laughed.  I hope the replay caught it.

While this was the second show in the WWR+ reboot, it perhaps already has the record for loudest boos heard during a match and they were directed towards Alisha Edwards.  The crowd was really behind Kennedi Copeland during this match and they were heavily booing Alisha Edwards.   Always the professional though, Alisha Edwards played into it and seemed to elicit even more boos by taunting the crowd.  The fact that this ended in a DQ makes me hope for a rematch where there are no rules and Kennedi Copeland can get some revenge.

The Little Mean Open Challenge was answered by Kaia McKenna, which brought about the rematch from the previous show.  With Kaia McKenna getting the win, this made the rivalry 1-1 so I'm only assuming they have to do the rubber match, right?  I feel like at the last show people didn't know what to make of Kaia McKenna or Little Mean Kathleen- maybe it was their first time seeing either of them.   Kaia McKenna was getting a lot of cheers and chants, but so was Little Mean Kathleen.  During the opening match, it felt weird to have both women cheered but during this match it just worked. I think it would be different if the crowd was 100% behind Megan Bayne but sometimes she did heel things and got booed.

I distinctly remember at the last show when Little Mean Kathleen came out I tried to start an "LMK" chant by myself and no one else was sure what I was doing.  This time though, I didn't even have to start the "LMK" chants.  They were already there.  People were on board and knew what was up.  I love that since the last show the fans have just embraced Little Mean Kathleen and she is just on her way to becoming such a huge star.  And Kaia McKenna is right there with her, so it feels only appropriate that they're taking this ride together.

I remember when I was growing up I used to go to every WWE show in Connecticut (and sometimes MA) and then there would be these local shows that I would go to as well.  Most of the time the show would be sold on "Featuring this former WWE superstar and a bunch of names you never heard of before".   Not to date myself, but we did go to at least one show where Doink the Clown was the main attraction.    I feel like wrestling has evolved in this way now though where it's no longer just one person who has you buying a ticket but the entire roster and this couldn't be more true than in the tag team match of Kings Of The District vs. Scrunchie Pals.   

How do I cheer against Jordan Blade? How do I cheer against Becca? How do I cheer against Erica Leigh?  It's something my mind can't comprehend.  When The Higher Society came out, I was hoping they would be put into the match as a triple threat so I would have someone to boo.  But this was one of those matches where you knew it was going to be good going into it, but after seeing it you just realized it was more than you ever expected it to be.  The Kings Of The District are legit and one of the best tag teams out there today.  Erica Leigh is the Pro Wrestling Magic Champion for a reason and Becca has been on a hot streak recently, the likes of which we haven't seen for quite some time.

I also really enjoyed how this told the story of The Higher Society attacking after the match but then being attacked by Sea Stars to set up the next match.  Either The Kings Of The District or Scrunchie Pals could return to vs The Higher Society and yet at the same time both of those teams could also vs Sea Stars.  Sea Stars perhaps received the most applause of the night and I think it just worked so well because they are so loved and Higher Society is so hated.  I wouldn't even mind a fourway tag match with all the teams, though that can sometimes be a bit of a mess.

Through all of this, you have to also remember The Outfielders- Boomer Hatfield and Molly McCoy- who were on the first show and victorious.  There are also any number of other tag teams which exist out there that can seemingly come into WWR+ at a moments notice.   So for having only three tag team matches over the two different shows, the WWR+ tag team division is already miles ahead of many other promotions and I love it.  Some mixed teams we could see come in include Bussy, Petty In Pink and the team of ABBS/Abby Jane, but there are also tag teams of women I'd enjoy seeing such as Allysin Kay & Marti Belle.

The first of the two main events saw Willow Nightingale vs. Masha Slamovich.  As soon as Masha Slamovich's music hit I said- rather loudly- "Oh shit!" and Quentin turned at me and asked "What did you just say?"  Sometimes at wrestling you are allowed the swear pass.  I didn't know how I was going to handle this match going into it, but I knew Willow Nightingale was tough and this match just showed that side of her so well.   Both of these wrestlers just went out there and left it all in that ring.   Even in defeat, Masha Slamovich still looks like a star and that's not easy to say these days.

While other fans were chanting "Here we go Willow here we go" I was part of the fans countering it with "MA-SHA!" but I think that is also part of what made this match so special.  I realized as soon as Masha Slamovich came out and some fans were cheering while others were booing that I was not alone.  The internal conflict I felt during this match was not solely on me and others felt the same way.   It is impossible not to love Willow Nightingale.  If you boo Willow Nightingale you just shouldn't be around live wrestling because it's not even one of those ~cool~ things to do (like the way some fans cheer for RSP)

Masha Slamovich tends to play the role of the heel, but in this specific match too it should have been clear cut to cheer Willow and boo Masha.  Willow Nightingale didn't get booed at all, but Masha Slamovich did get some cheers (not just by me) and I think that's one of the many reasons why this was just such a huge match and is going on my MOTY list.  It's one thing when you expect a mixed reaction or a certain amount of cheers or boos, but I felt like this could have and should have been an easy cheer-boo scenario and it wasn't.  What other two wrestlers could generate such a scene?  I struggle to find their names.

We weren't even at the main event yet and out comes Davienne to vs. Trish Adora.  I respect Davienne, but when you're up against Trish Adora, I'm going to cheer for Trish.   I first heard about Trish Adora on Twitter and the first match where I really saw her and thought "That's the future right there!" was the Iron Match against Tony Deppen.  Since then I feel like Trish Adora has just become one of the fastest rising stars in all of wrestling and the crowd just loves her.  Davienne almost hit DaviEND Your Life right in front of me but Trish Adora moved out of the way at the last second.

The ramifications of this match were quite interesting as well.  With this loss, Davienne goes to 1-1 (which could put her against Riley Shepard or Ashley D'Amboise) and with this win Trish Adora goes to 2-0.  Trish Adora has had two huge wins over Willow Nightingale and now Davienne, but do you know who else is 2-0 since WWR+ came back?  Megan Bayne.  I'm going to have to watch the replay to see if commentary mentioned this, but Megan Bayne came out and confronted Trish Adora and apparently we're going to get the match of the undefeated at the next show as well as Willow Nightingale vs. Tina San Antonio and I'm already prepared for both of them.  New faces, same faces, the next show is going to somehow find a way to be bigger and better than this one and I can't wait.

After the show went off the air (I didn't find out until later this wasn't on IWTV) Willow Nightingale came out and challenged Wheeler Yuta for the Independent Wrestling Championship.   I love WWR+ because they are (mostly) women only but the fact that we have names like Willow Nightingale, Trish Adora and Masha Slamovich vs. Jody Threat on the next Beyond Wrestling show, "Masterclass", just makes me excited for that as well.  I realize continuity and storytelling in wrestling may go against the norm, but Beyond Wrestling and WWR+ do it and I am here for it.

As always I must point out that Beyond Wrestling shows are fan-friendly to the point that after the show everyone comes out to sell merch and take photos so if there is a particular wrestler on a Beyond show you want to meet you are 97% guaranteed that it will happen. I will end this review the only way I see appropriate and that is by saying that when I went up to Masha Slamovich at the merch table she said "Buy my merch or I'll hurt your favorite wrestler" to which I replied "But you're my favorite wrestler".  

Music Review //
Chris Ianuzzi
"Infinite Prize & Setagaya" // //

These two singles from Chris Ianuzzi could be the modern version of a cassingle (or a 7" record or CD single, depending upon your age)  I remember such a time as when I was going to record stores, seeking out CD singles by Pearl Jam because they had a radio song on them first but then the second song was one which was only available on that particular CD release.  I feel like something to that effect could return one day but it would have to be in a way which someone like Chris Ianuzzi would release "Infinite Prize" digitally and as the A side of a cassingle but then make it so you have to buy the physical music to hear "Setagaya" on the B side.  Still, I think it could be done.

Through minimal electronics, some dark strings and vocals which have as much singing in them as they do speaking, Chris Ianuzzi brings out a somewhat trippy, somewhat threatening chorus when singing "I don't need your mercy / You're my infinite prize".   This song comes from a dark place and I feel like it is as close to being a traditional electronic song as it is to being a traditional rock song.  Because of that and the overall vibe I get from this song, I feel like if I had first heard it in the 1990's it would have been on the soundtrack to "The Crow", somewhere between Violent Femmes and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult.

On the other side of this digital cassingle is the song "Setagaya" which is largely instrumental but not too much unlike "Infinite Prize" in the qualities which is possesses.   Electronics come beeping in with these oooh's and ahhh's but not actual words.  This goes to a darker place, much like the song before it, and it can feel like the soundtrack to a television series such as "Twin Peaks".   In contrast to "Infinite Prize" it is interesting how much of a different mood this one can set simply by not having words to guide it but rather being lead by electronics which drive you to your own influence.

While these two songs share components- they feel as if they are made of the same substance- they are also different enough and not just because one has lyrics and the other is largely instrumental.  I could imagine them being on the same soundtrack but they would have to be at different parts of the movie, where different emotions were concerned because each song takes me to a different place.  "Infinite Prize" could be more about love while "Setagaya" could be more about escape.  Whether you want to experience the love or the escape first is up to you and how you listen to these two singles but I would find that love and then run away with it.  

Music Review //
Les Techno
"In The Sunshine"
(Solid Bass Records)

Music can often be about the mood as much as it is about the genre in which you might place it.   While listening to "In The Sunshine" I can feel like there is a definite mood to this song- which the lyrics also suggest- but the sound which goes with it might not be along those same lines.  I am generally a fan of music which has a happy sound to it but feels the opposite (such as Poppy) but this doesn't even have that type of contrast-- it's something new to me.

On one hand, the sound of music being played by Les Techno is guitar driven.  You can really hear the guitar more than anything throughout this entire song.  There is this genre I want to put it in somewhere between shoegaze, post punk and new wave.  But the sound really feels more like an attitude.  It's from the time of the 1980's when music was still on MTV.  I imagine shorter hair with the sunglasses and leather jacket look.   It's not mod but it has these rock underscores which you must hear to believe.

At the same time, as the title suggest, this song is about sunshine.  There is a line I particularly like that says: "I'm dreaming of a hayfield in the sunshine / where I'm gazing at the flowers in your hair"  This has an overall sunny, summer type of feeling to it.  Lyrically, it could be a song by the Beach Boys, for example, or just a band who wants to have that party hit of the summer where you're at the beach.  

This summer so far has been filled with quite a bit of rain.  There has been some days of a heatwave as well, so it's kind of funny because the weather makes me think about this song.  On one hand, the music kind of makes you want to stay indoors on those rainy summer days.  But then the lyrics make you want to go out and keep cool during the heatwave.  When you combine them, well, that's what summer has been like so far here and it just feels like such a smooth contrast that everyone should be singing along.  

Monday, June 21, 2021

Live Wrestling Review //
Test of Strength Wrestling
2 6/19/21
@ Columbia Club, Torrington, CT

One of the certainties within professional wrestling is that the show will rarely start on time.  Unless it's a live broadcast, the time for doors and show to start are generally wrong but even sometimes when it is live on FITE TV, for example, fans still aren't let in on time.  The Facebook page for this Test Of Strength Wrestling event said show time was 5pm so I figured we would get there a little bit before 5, with the doors likely opening at 4/4:30 and then we could go right in.  As we drove by the venue we saw a sign that said the show was at 6 and there wasn't a lot of easy parking (we ended up parking a few blocks away)  

By the time we parked and walked to the line to get in it didn't feel like we were waiting outside in the heat for that long as the fans were brought in around 5:30.   This was the first time Jess had been to a live wrestling show in years so I was excited to not only see Test of Strength for the first time myself but also for her to see it and what she thought about it all.  I knew going into this match who a handful of the wrestlers were and others- even in complete match form- I didn't know and hadn't even heard of before.  But sometimes that can make wrestling a bit more exciting, having that unknown factor.

Once inside and after buying waters we found our seats as they had my name on them.  I really like that Test of Strength gave us actual bracelets that we can keep forever as opposed to the typical ones which are sticky and you have to cut them off after the show.  As we waited in our seats, a man with another man approached us and said we were in his seats.  I showed him the papers taped to the chairs and asked him if he was "Joshua M".  He said he was.  I informed him that I was also Joshua M and so these were my seats.  Had the roles been reversed- had he been sitting in the seats when we got there- I would have gone to the woman in the white dress who checked us in and asked for clarity.  He didn't do that though and eventually found other seats which makes me doubt he is also Joshua M and just made the whole situation weird.

I might not remember all of the matches in exact order, but I still feel like I need to go out of my way to say a little bit about each of them.   We opened with Cold Cash vs. The Stepdads and on one side of the ring (not our sides) there was a group of fans with shirts and signs supporting The Stepdads while on the other side of the ring was a group of fans with shirts and signs supporting Cold Cash.  Talk about a how opener.  There were step ladders in this match as well and I thought on more than one occasion that someone was going to get seriously injured because they just threw them around the ring.  It was all of the violence and destruction you could've wanted in an opener and the crowd loved/hated both teams.

In a six man tag match I saw everyone in that match for the first time, I'm not even sure I've heard any of their names before.  Jordyn Rowe seemed to be most over on the heel side, taking his time putting the straps of his singlet on, and everyone on the face side was hot with the crowd.  Dicky Moon (who is a hippie and got "Peace" chants) came out with a backpack and the heels questioned at one point what was in it.  After the match I asked Jordyn Rowe to show us what was in the backpack but he just took it and left.  

I've seen Jiggie Sosa once before and he competed in a triple threat here where no one chanted for him and he got upset.   We were also sitting next to a father and son who traveled four hours to see Garrett Holiday so that was pretty cool.  Garrett Holiday is what would happen if James Storm and AJ Styles became one wrestler and that isn't a bad thing.   The crowd was hot for this match but really the crowd was hot the entire night and I feel like that really helped make the show.  If this was a show with less fans in attendance or if they were just sitting on their hands all night, this could have been a different vibe.  But everyone was so into it that if you didn't know someone it was hard not to get into it because the crowd was just infectious.

Richard E Stone and Dan DeMan teamed up to take on Ichiban, who was to have Gabby Ortiz as his tag team partner but she wasn't there so Ichiban worked most of this match alone before Dicky Moon came out to help.   This was a fun match and Ichiban is way over with this crowd as well.   I've also seen Dan DeMan once before (same show Jiggie Sosa was on) and this time he was full on dressed like Cruella and I'm going to need him to sell me an 8x10 in that gear because it was so good.

I was looking forward to Mike Skyros taking on Steve Pena because I had seen Steve Pena wrestle the week prior (no spoilers) and I had seen Mike Skyros online but never live before so he was one of the people I came here to see.   This was a hard hitting match where they just beat each other up until they couldn't anymore and Steve Pena had to tap.  I'm not sure how to describe Mike Skyros to someone who hasn't seen him yet.  He's a little bit MMA, he's a little bit Tommy End, but he's a lot of something else and that just makes him a standout because he brings something so unique to him to his matches.

Test of Strength made the interesting choice to take an intermission prior to the final two matches- I thought after three or four matches they'd do intermission to sort of split the show in half as best as they could- but I'm always happy to have an intermission because I usually drink a lot of water.  

The co-main event saw two of the best at what they do face off in the ring together.  Alec Prize- who I see every weekend- came in to take on Karen Bam Bam for the TOS Championship.  This was such a contrast in style but it made for such an amazing match.  I love Alec Prize and he will yell at me for cheering him but on this night I had to boo him because I was on the side of Karen Bam Bam.   You need to go out of your way to see this match when it's made available to the viewers at home because it was that damn good.

What can I say about Karen Bam Bam?  I feel like I'm living in the future.  Karen Bam Bam is a star.  The rest of the world might not realize it yet because maybe they just aren't aware of her, but she is a star and she will be for as long as she wants to be in professional wrestling.  Years from now, someone will look back at these words, at the stardom that Karen Bam Bam has created for herself, and they will think that I am a time traveler.  

The main event was a fourway for the tag team championships and with eight men involved it was a long match because there was seemingly always someone there to break up the pin.  I'm not going to give my New Age Outlaws take on this match though because it was just too good.   Seeing Sean Maluta live for the first time was a great experience.  Seeing TJ Crawford for the second Saturday in a row (no spoilers) was also an experience I want to get used to.  But man the tag champions are just on another level.   Slyck Wagner Brown and Jay Freddie are just two old school wrestlers who look like they will beat the respect out of you (hence why they are Kowalski Guys)

This match- with all eight people- had such a different vibe depending upon who was in the ring.  But TJ Crawford vs. Jay Freddie was something else.  I want to see those two wrestle one on one and there's money in it for whoever books it.   They have a certain chemistry and mindset for wrestling.  I love it.   I also felt like The Firm spent a lot of the match not participating, which eventually lead to them getting the win.  I wouldn't mind seeing the first title defense for The Firm be against The Stepdads but I'm not really sure what the future holds for the tag team division.  Perhaps an even better question is could The Firm defeat Kowalski Guys two on two? Maybe we need to settle that in a sort of rematch first.

This was my first time at a Test of Strength show and it was Jess' first time at a wrestling event in some odd years but we both left the show feeling like it couldn't have been better.  Test of Strength has their next show also in Connecticut- on July 11th- and we will definitely be in attendance for that.  It's funny because I seem to always drive two or more hours to wrestling shows in NJ and MA.  I feel like if the quality is there the drive is worth it.  Torrington is about an hour from me, so even if you're two or three hours away from Naugatuck (which is where the next show is) you should definitely make the trip.  Seeing Karen Bam Bam defend that title is worth the price of admission itself.