This was my first time to see this company live. I LOVED the venue. It’s difficult to find a wrestling company that runs in an air-conditioned building. I really liked the setup. We were introduced by Travis the ring announcer, one of the best in the business. They introduced Sarah Morgan of a local morning show and David Fuller. She looked nice and professional. I would have liked to see her talk more through the night as she was a host. As they were about to announce the first match, we were interrupted by Matt Riviera and Tim Storm, a faction known as The Empire. I really like the promo that Riviera cut. He started out complimenting the arena and the fans and then as he handed the mic back to Fuller, he paused to say, “Just remember who got you there.” And like that, the crowd turned on him. Perfect.
First match: Ashton Jacobs vs. Gregory James vs. Americos for the DFW Championship
Chico Torres was introduced. He was the last DFW champion and a legend at the time of the 80’s. This was originally supposed to be Barrett Brown but he got injured before the event. This was my first chance to see Ashton Jacobs & Americos. Greg, I’m quite familiar with. Ashton had lots of enthusiasm. I still haven’t figured out who he reminds me of. I hadn’t seen Greg without his face paint for a while. And as soon as Americos walked out, a d-bag not too far from me said, “Now we know you’re going over. Just go ahead with it.” This bothered me as a fan. Yes, I will do a report on it where I may talk about the business but I’m not going to yell out inside terms during a match. (Of course they showed how much they knew when they said later on that Gargano was under the Americos match. Spoiler alert: He’s not.) So, about the match. I could have watched Americos and Greg wrestle all day. They have such amazing chemistry. And Jacobs was fine with his work. I called this work excellent. I would put this up against any other Dragon Gate USA opener.
Second match: Li Fang w/ Matt Riviera vs. Seth Shai
I am very familiar with Li’s work. I’ve seen Seth a few times but don’t know him probably like I should. This was not a flashy, flippy-floppy match. This was about the stories. Riviera, who was accompanying Fang to the ring for some reason, cheated like it was going out of style, and Shai had to overcome. I’m not sure why Riviera was down there with Fang. It was nice that Li had somebody down there to help him get heat, but why him? Riviera never appeared with him anywhere else on the show. There were many legendary managers that night that could have helped out Li (cough, cough, Nigel Rabid). We also had Rick Manning as ref. He is just such a legend. I’d probably call him my all-time favorite ref. The finisher was pretty cool. Shai did a Northern Lights Suplex off the top rope.
Third match: Prince Al Farat w/ Ken Kelly vs. Apoc
In the movie “The Wrestler,” Randy the Ram played by Mickey Rourke asks The Ayatollah played by Ernest “The Cat” Miller what they’re going to do in their match. Miller’s character says, “You’re the face. I’m the heel. What else?” (This is my Ruff paraphrase.) This reminded me a lot of this match. I didn’t see Kelly do a lot but I think he was on the other side of the ring. Apoc and Farat have done this many times, and you could tell they were doing the dance. There was the story of the spike. Any time the referee was distracted, Farat would use the spike. As they were trying to flip each other over to get the pin, Farat got the most leverage and won.
Fourth match: Matt Riviera w/Tim Storm vs. Ashton Jacobs
So after Ashton Jacobs lost in the opener, he is now qualified for a title shot? Not sure I see the logic there. I was expecting a squash match. I got more than that. There wasn’t a person in the crowd who thought Jacobs was going to win, but the crowd was into it. Riviera put Jacobs in a killer submission hold and Jacobs gave up.
Jacobs either got seriously hurt or they seriously sold it. They asked for a doctor in the house. It was a bad night for my wife the nurse to not be there. Of course, being 9 months pregnant, she probably wouldn’t have taken too kindly to waddling up there to take care of an injured wrestler. But I digress. Black Bart came out and spoke briefly. A lot of the wrestlers were out signing autographs. I enjoyed getting to meet all the guys I did, especially Farat, Storm & Gargano.
Fifth match: Terry Gordy Memorial Battle Royal
We were introduced to Craig Johnson, an announcer from the days of the Sportatorium. They brought out Terry Gordy’s widow. That was pretty awesome to see Gordy treated like a legend. Battle Royals are always really hard to cover. I know each wrestler contributed but I’m not entirely sure I saw how they did. I will talk about some of the highlights. Dave Dunnings’ weight was listed as “too damn much.” Tex As Red was over like a bone in a dog pound. I dare call his pop the biggest of the night. I’m pretty sure Randy Wayne destroyed Americos’ chest with a few chops. Here is the order in which they were eliminated: Chris Richter, John Famous, Dragon King, Tex As Red (thought the crowd was going to riot on that one), Gregory James, Randy Wayne (looked like he might be the winner early on), Americos, Dave Dunnings, Kevin Cross (whose size has to be seen to be believed) and then the winner Thomas Shire.
It was pretty cool moment watching Mrs. Gordy hand the trophy to Shire. They introduced Kody Kox who had a special interview with Franco D’Angelo. Franco talked about what he’d been through in the last few years, about how he was the last champion and his struggles with the car wreck that should have taken his life. Then Franco announced his retirement. Long-time foe/friend Mike Foxx came out to discuss the situation. He raised Franco’s arms and then, like anybody who’s ever watched Mike Foxx over the past 10 years was expecting, he turned on Franco and did his finisher. Out came Randy Wayne for the rescue and challenged Mike Foxx to a match.
Sixth match: Randy Wayne vs. Mike Foxx w/Katie Foxx
This was a pretty big opportunity for Randy Wayne. Mike Foxx is appropriately nicknamed “The Main Event.” So Randy Wayne essentially got to fight in the main event. And Wayne really brought it. This was the sleeper match of the night. Wayne isn’t a flippy-floppy guy. He’s more like a Texas tough MMA fighter. In a lot of ways, he is the new evolution of the cowboy character- tough, country, pain-giver. Wayne really knew how to shine. Foxx ended up doing his finisher and walking away with the victory.
Wayne may not have won, but he looked like he belonged in the main event.
Seventh match: Tim Storm w/Miss Tiffany vs. Spoiler 2000
Later on in the night, Tim Storm referred to himself as the “Benjamin Button” of wrestling. With respects to Rain & Amber O’Neal, Storm is one of those guys that seems to get younger with time. I had seen Spoiler 2000 wrestle once a long time ago. Somehow these two had never wrestled each other. Miss Tiffany was good, jawing with the fans at ringside. There was two that looked like they were ready to kill her. We had Spoiler get on top of the ring at one point and go all the way across the rope to the other turnbuckle. What I loved most here was the drama of the claw. The claw is perhaps the most sacred move in Texas wrestling history. And here we got to see why it was. Storm would try to put it on Spoiler. Spoiler put him in the claw at one time.
No flashiness. Just two classics telling a story.
Eighth match: Johnny Gargano vs. Thomas Shire
Yes, it stills feels great to see myself having written that I got to see this match live. And quick warning. I’m a huge Johnny Gargano mark. Aside from the earlier battle royal, this was my first match of Shire’s. I found him to be a nice throwback to the days of the 60’s and 70’s. He’s like somebody you would find on an amateur wrestling team, much like a Bob Backlund or a Jack Swagger. This was not a very “smart-to-the-business” crowd (aside from the one d-bag near me who thought he was) so I’m not sure anybody was there to see Gargano other than me. I think Gargano might have noticed that too. So he took a crowd that had no idea who he was and gradually began to win them over. By the end of the match, people knew the name of Johnny Gargano. There were quite a few “Holy s***” moments for me. There was a great dive onto Shire that moved the guardrails back a few feet. I wrote down that it was an incredible match. The fans agreed with me, chants of “This is awesome” and “Awesome match” sounding through the match. Reflecting now, I’d call it Top 5 I’ve ever seen live.
Shire hung with Gargano. I’d like to see more of him in the future. The Code came out to introduce JT LaMotta. Code was in total heel mode. Brilliant. LaMotta thanked them all for his time in the ring and like any retirement speech (aside from Edge’s for some reason), it was very quickly interrupted. He was interrupted by Tim Storm and Matt Riviera because I guess we hadn’t seen them enough tonight. They reminded LaMotta that he couldn’t anymore, he was a quitter, etc. LaMotta walked away.
Main event: The Empire (Tim Storm & Matt Riviera) w/ Miss Tiffany vs. Seth Shai & Americos
Not sure why we got to see these wrestlers again after having them wrestle a match earlier each. Tired from the work he’d put in all night, Riviera offered Seth and Americos the chance to forfeit the match so they could go to McDonalds (right, because wrestlers who spend that much time working on their physiques eat at McDonalds). It was a no-go. Poor Americos took a lot of the punishment in this match. He took a killer back body-drop from Tim Storm that made the crowd cringe. And if that wasn’t punishment enough, they gave him a wedgie. Storm just kind of looked like a gorilla man-handling an attacker. Riviera scoop-slammed him onto the floor. Eventually the hot tag was made and Shai came in and cleaned house. They rolled up both and got the pin.
Winner: Shai & Americos
The victory was short-lived as The Empire began to clean house. Gregory James came out and was promptly choke-slammed. LaMotta was attacked by Storm. Promoter David Fuller was attacked and the night ended with the Empire victorious.
All in all… This was a different kind of card for me. I have a tendency to like more of the flippy-floopy guys and girls. But it was interesting to watch story-tellers like Tim Storm, Mike Foxx and Al Farat do what they do. It’s not surprise I’m going to name Shire-Gargano the match of the night. But I have to give Randy Wayne-Mike Foxx a very honorable mention. Randy Wayne is a guy I like more every time I see him wrestle.
Some of the booking was a little off, like Ashton getting a title shot while losing the first match or why more than one of these guys had to pull double-duty. And WAY too much Empire. I’d like to see that dialed back a little.
What I see here is the best mix of the legends with the workers of today. I feel like there is something going on here.