I’m trying to put in perspective my night with the IHWE. It was a really long wrestling experience but that’s ok (unless you are my wife). It opened up with a Jim Cornette Q&A. And just wow. Jim Cornette could have held us captivated for hours. After the Q&A session, there was a meet ‘n’ greet. All the wrestlers were great and enthusiastic to be there. Before the actual show began, we had two, I guess, dark matches.
First match: Joey Garcia vs. “Too Much Metal” Gregory James
Imagine Mark Wahlberg wrestling like Chris Benoit. That is Garcia. I don’t use the Benoit name a lot, and he’s not exactly Chris Benoit yet. But he has a lot of the same mannerisms and ring style. I’ve had the chance to see Garcia before but this time it was a lot different. He was looking more ripped and crisper. I’ll make no mystery that I had the chance to see Greg ever since his career began. He has probably come the farthest of anybody I’ve seen. As for the story of the match, they went with the crescendo from the friendly back and forth to the really loud slap from Garcia. It was a very nice opener to get the crowd going.
Winner: Gregory James
Second match: Old School Assassins (“Bad” Brad Michaels & Striker) w/Ken Kelly vs. Ruben Rivera & Tex As Red
I remember watching a Bad Brad match around 10 years ago in an NWA Southwest ring. I honestly had not seen him since. Tex As Red is probably one of the most over wrestlers in the company. I love seeing him because he’s such a good character. These guys knew their role. They weren’t going to be all flippy-floppy and crazy. They let Red do his comedy. He was great. He also bumped and sold like crazy. He took a lot of punishment. The Assassins attacked the official and were disqualified.
Winner: Rivera & Red
After the match, Team Extreme came out to the rescue. Kit Carson was unable to compete tonight but they were going to have a match against the Assassins. So Khris Germany had to pick between Red or Rivera. Since Rivera took a less amount of punishment, Rivera was going to join Team Extreme later on. The real show then began. Jim Cornette came out to introduce this match. He was dressed carrying a racket. 1996 Justin died of excitement. It was billed as a battle of Texas vs. Missouri.
Third match: Submission Squad (Pierre Abernathy, Evan Gelistico & Gary Jay) vs. Team Texas (Thomas Shire, “The Unholy” Gregory James & Ashton Jacobs)
James Beard was the ref. It is so great to see the Submission Squad in person rather than DVD as I’m usually forced to. Pierre looks like he’s lost some weight since I last saw him. And yes, “The Unholy” Gregory James is the same as “Too Much Metal” Gregory James. He is a Dude Love away from being the next Mick Foley. The Submission Squad was everything you’d want from them. They were crisp and stiff (just ask Thomas Shire’s chest) and got the crowd to hate them. They were great at crowd engagement with the people around me. Greg did a lot of the selling and bumping in this match. He was one of the night’s unsung heroes. The finish was incredible. Shire picked up of the SS members in a fireman’s carry takeover and spun him around a few times and then a few times without using his hands.
Winner: Team Texas
It was a huge emotional exclamation point. And as a wrestling fan since 1996, I’ve gotta say it’s something I have not seen before.
Fourth match: Seth Shai vs. Jiggle-O James Johnson
Rick Manning was the referee. (I don’t often list the refs. I do when it’s Manning or James Beard.) So Shai was in total heel mode. That meant that Johnson was going to bump and sell like crazy, which he did. I think he’s one of the best in Texas at bumping and selling and making people look good. There was a crazy dive from Johnson onto Shai. Mike Foxx came out and interfered in the match causing a dq.
Winner: Johnson by dq
Franco d’Angelo came out to his rescue and cleaned house. Next was the ladies match. We were introduced to Karen Merritt who would present the award to the winner.
Fifth match: Delilah Doom & Peyton Gates vs. Miss Diss Lexia & Jessica James
I had the chance to meet both Gates and James earlier in the night. Both ladies were lovely and great. I have previously described Doom as “sunshine in human form.” She reminds me a lot of Leva Bates. I could see those two having a nice tag team. Gates is a gorgeous, stunning blond. I haven’t seen her work much yet, but she has a look that could take her very far. James is a few months removed from her tour of Japan. There is a difference of focus and presence in her work. And Miss Diss Lexia is probably the most improved wrestler in Texas for the past year, male or female. She recently got a chance for WSU/CSZW and hopefully will continue on their level. A name who comes to mind is Melanie Cruise.
Now onto the match. The stipulations were that the winner of the tag match would face their opponent. So you think that Miss Diss Lexia would stand on the apron and make Jessica do all the work. But no. Lexia did all the work. She was showing off and that confident. It was pretty creative. Delilah did a lot of the bumping here. Finally Jessica tagged in while Lexia wasn’t looking. She came in and got the roll-up pin. It was now Miss Diss Lexia vs. Jessica James. And this is where the match got good. Both of these ladies wrestled a match that was as good as anything you’d see on a SHIMMER, Shine or WSU show. These two ladies tore the house down.
Winner: Miss Diss Lexia
Sixth match: Tim Storm w/ Miss Tiffany vs. JT LaMotta
For those counting, this is the second LaMotta match I have seen since his retirement. He was wrestling Tim Storm. Both of these guys have wrestled each other in so many places it was old hat for them. They knew what story to tell and exactly how to tell it. The crowd was really into this match. LaMotta was super-over, lots of “Mind of Wrestling” chants. The highlight for me was the stiff chops. I don’t know whose I’d have rather taken.
There was a Hall of Fame Ceremony for “The Grappler” Len Denton (wearing his mask of course) and Jim Cornette who was a surprise inductee. The ring was a who’s who of Texas wrestling history: James Beard, Rick Manning, Team Extreme, Todd Diamond, Barbara Goodish (the widow of the late Bruiser Brody), Stan Hansen, Gorgeous Gary Young, Black Bart, members of the Cauliflower Alley Club. It wasn’t an angle. Everything turned out well and it was an extraordinary moment.
After the intermission, they brought out Lance Hoyt. Hoyt/Vance Archer has wrestled in Texas for the greater part of 10+ years (give or take a few years). He talked about his long, storied career, some of the places he’s been and talked about what a wonderful night of action we were getting. He said he wanted the champ, didn’t matter who it was.
Seventh match: Old School Assassinsw/Ken Kelly vs. Ruben Rivera & Khris Germany w/Kit Carson & Tex As Red
I used to watch Team Extreme back in the old NWA Southwest days. They were one of the top tag teams there. I remember them because they came out with a barb wire baseball bat. My mother used to tell me they shouldn’t carry that around, that it is dangerous. (I’ve always said my mother needs her own blog or podcast about wrestling. It would dwarf everything.) Watching this match I was back in the Texas Indoor Arena in North Richland Hills all over again. If you wanted technical beauty, this was not your match. This was a crowd brawl, plain and simple. I loved Kelly as the manager. He spent a lot of time jawing with the crowd around me. They went out into the crowd and it’s not very often, but I moved. This was my nostalgia. Khris Germany did a huge DDT to walk away with the victory.
Winner: Rivera & Germany
David Fuller came out with The Grappler to honor him. The Empire (Matt Riviera & Tim Storm) came out to interrupt them. “Why are you honoring the old people? Why not honor your present?” After a back and forth, the Empire attacked both of them. James Beard came in for the save but was quickly put away. That brought out Black Bart and then Gorgeous Gary Young for the save. After The Empire came out, Hoyt, Shire, Kyle O’Reilly, Charlie Haas all came out for the save. Fuller announced that champ Matt Riviera would face Thomas Shire that night. Jim Cornette came out and said that since he was guest commissioner for the night, he was going to be in Shire’s corner to counter-balance The Empire’s manager Boyd Bradford. Cornette was given a mic. The Peanut Head and Elmer Fudd chants began.
Eighth match: Franco D’Angelo vs. Mike Foxx
This was the big match. For those who have never followed the story of Franco D’Angelo, he suffered a life-threatening car wreck and was never expected to survive, much less walk, run, competitively body-build or wrestle in the ring. This is my first time to see him wrestle live since the wreck. And Franco looked great. He refers to himself as the Bionic Beast. I call him the Human Cyborg. It was great seeing him back in the ring. And it was great seeing him back in the ring against Mike Foxx. These two guys have faced each other so much it’s old hat. Foxx worked over the shoulder. I wrote down that I felt a lot of emotion here in this match. Franco had him in the Boston Crab and Foxx was one tap away from losing. Then Seth Shai ran in to interfere. Then Jiggle-O came in to even the score.
New Eighth match: Mike Foxx & Seth Shai vs. Franco D’Angelo & Jiggle-O James Johnson
Now referee Rick Manning could have disqualified him, but no. In honor of the great Theodore Long, he made a tag match. So the four of them beat the stuffing out of each other. Foxx and Franco went to the back. Johnson climbed up the top rope and was about to hit the O-Face on Shai. Shai pushed Rick Manning into the ropes and Johnson lost his balance. Shai did a Northern Lights Suplex off the top rope to get the win.
Winner: Foxx & Shai
Ninth match: Mat Fitchett vs. Kyle O’Reilly
I have never gotten to see an active Ring of Honor champion in action so I marked out for this a little. Fitchett was the perfect guy for this match. To be honest, I didn’t write down notes on the actual match. Sometimes you get so involved in reviewing that you forget to enjoy the match. And I definitely wanted to enjoy this. I remember that O’Reilly kept going back to the armbreaker. DDP could make the Diamond Cutter come out of nowhere. But that was no submission hold he put on. I counted the chants. We had one “This is wrestling,” one “Awesome match” and THREE “This is awesome” chants.
What the fans neglected to do was a “Please come back” chant. Hopefully he will.
Tenth match: Americos (c) vs. Charlie Haas for the DFW Championship
I was really worn out by this time. So forgive me for not taking good notes. You have an established top name talent going up against a kid who is on his way to being one. I also had a hard time rooting for a person. I like Americos and his family. But Haas is one-half of one of my top 3 favorite tag teams of all time. It was hard for the crowd too. There were dueling “Americos” and “Haas” chants. Haas ended up with the win.
Winner and new DFW champion: Haas
I was wanting Americos to have a long reign, but Haas with the belt adds some prestige to it.
Main event: Matt Riviera (c) w/ The Empire vs. Thomas Shire w/Jim Cornette for the IHWE championship
I don’t think there’s a single person in that arena who thought Riviera was walking out the champ. Cornette was out there to equalize the threat of Boyd Bradford. I remember a Survivor Series when CM Punk beat Alberto del Rio for the belt in Madison Square Garden with Howard Finkel as the ring announcer. This was the feeling I got from this. My inner 1996 Justin was totally marking out for Shire getting to have Cornette in his corner. I’m sure there was a match going on inside the ring. I’d be lying if I wasn’t waiting for the Empire’s manager to interfere so I could watch Cornette whoop up on him. As the match reached its climax, Riviera gave him every move and Shire kept kicking out. Every dirty belt shot, every finisher, I said this is it. But Shire was able to pull off the upset win and win the belt.
Winner and new champion: Shire
All in all: 11+ matches. Not bad for what we paid. I’ve seen wrestlers look like there is any other place they want to be. None of those wrestlers were out tonight. Everybody was cordial and appreciative. It’s not every day that you get yesterday’s superstars like Stan Hansen, Gary Young, Black Bart, Len Denton, Karen Merritt & James Beard on the same card as top talent like Kyle O’Reilly, Charlie Haas & Lance Hoyt and wrestlers on the cusp like Mat Fitchett, Miss Diss Lexia, Jessica James, Gregory James & Thomas Shire. And did I mention Jim Cornette with a mic?
If this isn’t one of the best events top to bottom that I’ve seen live, I’d really have to examine myself to see what was better. Thank you to all the wrestlers and talent who contributed to making this an incredible night.