Tales from the Eastside Directory

IWA Mid South "Quote the Raven" (3/28/03)

Tales From the Eastside by Patrick McGovern

-Well, it's been a while since I've written ANYTHING for your enjoyment, let alone an IWA-MS review. TPI Night 2 should be up as you read this [Edit on 7/1/03: I wrote this intro a week ago, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for TPI night 2...], but as an apology for my lateness- again- I'm throwing in a bonus review: "Quote the Raven", from 3/28/03. I was trying to review everything in order but it would take a while to get to this one, so I'm being all crazy and spontaneous and going OUT OF ORDER! here...I'm gonna try not to spoil too many angles and stuff for those who are reading my reviews in order (all two of you who are reading the reviews and haven't seen the shows, of course), but occasionally some exposition is necessary.

-They must've cut out the usual Ian chatfest that opens the show, as the cameras start rolling with Jim Fannin reading off some of the night's card to the crowd. Your announcers start off as Fannin and Dave Prazak, but midway through the show Fannin drops out and is replaced by The Toolman, who's an old IWA-MS ring announcer that sadly shares the same nickname as Tim Allen. Fannin joins Prazak again for the semifinal match.

-Ryan Boz (with Eryn) vs. Hype Gotti. Boz is your average roided-up looking angry guy, Eryn is your average ratty looking smarmy valet (she also manages Brad Bradley), but Gotti's a standout because he has a cool gimmick: He's the Karate Kid! The crowd immediately picks up on this and starts up a "Mac-chio" chant. As for the match, it's a total "WWF Superstars" enhancement talent match, with Boz dominating the smaller man with power stuff. Gotti sells really well and shows nice fire, but all he really gets to show here is a tornado DDT and some forearms before being spiked on his head with a jumping Piledriver. Gotti has appeared before in IWA-MS on 12/21/02 (the show with Hero and Punk going to a 60:00 draw) and he's shown some nice submission stuff, but here he was pretty much a punching bag. A plate of SQUASH isn't the worst way to open a show, but it's certainly not the most exciting either. (5:51, 61)

-Simon Sezz vs. JC Bailey for the #1 contendership to the IWA-MS Light Heavyweight championship. Sezz is an unwashed and annoying kid, while Bailey (who you'll read a LOT more about in my future IWA-MS reviews) is one of the most promising young workers in the company who's proved himself in both bloodbaths with guys like Pondo and Corp as well as straight-up wrestling matches with Hero and Punk. This match obviously leans more towards the technical side of things, both guys keeping it fairly simple on the mat for the most part. Sezz is an alright worker, he bumps big and draws a lot of heat, but Bailey is clearly the breakout guy here. Bailey carries the chain wrestling that starts things off, working every hold effectively and even pulling out a British reversal out of a half-crab attempt (he uses his free leg to pick off Sezz's arm and to maneuver into a counter). Sezz ends up drawing heat on Bailey, looking pretty good throughout (although he overshoots on a Quebrada). The pacing of the match is a nice change, as they throw in a little more hope spots than usual for Bailey so it's not just cut-and-dried "heat segment, double KO, ending" type of stuff. Bailey ends up taking the match by countering Sezz's attempted knucklelock 'rana off the second rope into a vicious Michinoku Driver II from there- that and Bailey's tope suicida early on were, really, the only major highspots in the match. As a result, the highspots meant more; there's a lesson in there that a LOT of young workers could learn from. Bailey definitely has a future if he doesn't kill himself in some crazy deathmatch spot, as here he guided Sezz to a decent match and he's already proved he can hang with the main eventers in more high-end matches. (10:13, 76)

-Brad Bradley (with Eryn) vs. Jaiden Draigo. Ready for a second helping o' squash? This one was better than the opener, though; it moved at a faster clip, Draigo got in more offense and Bradley's attack was better-looking. Bradley (a student of Ace Steel and Danny Dominion, and likely the worst of the Steel Domain guys except for maybe Ricky Nova) was someone who I've never thought much of at all, with his previous efforts in MAW and IWA-MS being real underwhelming. Recently in the IWA, however, he's turned up his work ethic and has started to show me some potential. First there was his good match with Ian at "Simply the Best 4" and now this one, certainly not a real good match but a fine squash. He puts a lot behind his strikes while not being careless with them like some other big guys (Shaun Hernandez, I'm looking at you). Draigo was acceptable in his role here, and his one bit of offense at the end- a Sliced Bread #2/Shiranui which ends in a Stunner instead of an inverted DDT- was cooler than Gotti's move. Bradley finishes things with a SICK AND WRONG delayed Brainbuster, spiking poor Jaiden right on his neck. Nothing to complain about here, call it a "WWF Action Zone" match. (4:09, 67)

-Lemonjello and Orangejello vs. Mitch Page and Rollin Hard vs. Steve Stone and Tracy Smothers. Exposition time! I'll try to keep it brief: The Jello Brothers are the former D-Von Fury and PT Hustla, who joined the Nation of Islam and changed their names (they're pronounced Le-Mongelo and Oran-gelo), and they'd been giving Steve Stone a hard time for several months. Stone kept looking for a partner to even the odds, but he could never find a teammate. Page returned at the "When Hero Met Punk" show as rotund as ever; since then Mean & Hard have had issues with Stone and the Muslims in Training as well. Anyway, this starts with Stone making the last entrance and not having a partner. Stone insists he can go it alone, Fannin says he won't let him and forces him to bow out- until TRACY~! strides out to be his partner. With all that out of the way...

This match was a goddamn boatload of fun. Technically it was no classic, but it was a supremely entertaining ECW-style brawl, minus the blood and the mindless building tour. There's a little of everything- comedy at the start with Page trying to nogotiate with Tracy while all Smothers does is dance, plus a great spot where Page teases doing the WORLD'S FATTEST PLANCHA SUICIDA but Tracy and Rollin talk him out of it; lots of great brawling, mainly from Tracy who provides some spirited strike flurries; entertaining false finishes; and some good old-fashioned brainless weapons shots. Lemonjello was the only guy that looked really bad (doing little but walking around and throwing bad punches), as even Rollin was spirited here- I wouldn't go as far as to say 'good', but he was certainly motivated and didn't blow anything, and he even busted out the fat boy tope suicida. Orangejello was impressive here, as he was kinda like an even sleazier Asian Cougar (yes, that is a compliment) with all the legdrop variations he was doing. However, all that is moot as the reason this match was great fun, and the reason that it's great to be alive and in Clarksville, IN, is because of Tracy Smothers. Tracy's offensive flurries are real fun to watch, and we get two here, as he goes nuts with backfists at one point and later on he goes crazy dishing out something like ten sidekicks and enzuigiris. Also, in the highlight of the night, Tracy teases doing a dive only to Tiger Feign his way in...call it a "412" I guess. Throw in some hilarious commentary from Prazak (when they start using weapons he goes nuts about how they're adding stipulations, "It's fans bring the weapons now, what's next, two out of three falls, Tennessee chain, lumberjack match, they're not in Texas, can they have a Death Match? CAN THEY?") and you have a keeper. This gets a JILLION stars. (12:26, 73- plus a million points for sleazy entertainment)

-Bull Pain vs. Corporal Robinson in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Corp turned on Pain and the BMFs a few months back to set this up; I won't go into detail so there's some surprise left for when I review those shows. Anyway, these two had an awesome Texas Death Match on night one of the Ultra Styles Clash weekend, that match having just the right balance of brawling, suplexing and dramatic nearfalls. This one wasn't nearly as good, but it was certainly not bad, especially as far as IWA-MS deathmatches go. This is a rather one-sided match for Bull, dishing out among other things a snap suplex on the floor through a window. They actually use some psychology here with Pain trying the suplex on the floor through some more glass later on, but Corp sees it coming and counters with one of his own. Things pick up around the end with Pain doing some more flashy offense (the Bullfrog Splash, a light tube legdrop) but his methodical style bites him in the ass as his reluctance to put Robinson away leads to Corp staging a comeback and dropping Pain with a Boot Camp off the apron onto a massive pile of chairs (and a wheelchair; I didn't know Wheelchair Guy went to IWA-MS, maaaan) for the fall. Throw in some more offense for Robinson and this is better- actually, if you do that and add ten more minutes, you have their USC match. Watch that instead. (13:06, 72)

-Bull, as you can imagine, does not take losing well and he destroys Corp some more after the bell, almost giving a second fall to the match (ala Hero/Gooch at Bloodfeast '02). The usual great beatdown from Pain here, who is second only to Kazunari Murakami in being able to play a complete and total psycho. Highlight of this brawl is Bull squashing Robinson with a Bullfrog Splash off the bleachers. He dishes out another suplex on the floor drawing out some cruiserweights (Nate Webb, Hype Gotti, JC Bailey) to try and make the save, but they're all too scared to actually approach Big Bad Bull Pain. Webb manages to bump even in between matches as he's on the recieving end of a sick chairshot. Eventually, the heavyweight reinforcements arrive, with Chris Hero, Mark Wolf and Steve Stone, all packing chairs, eventually scaring Pain off.

-Adam Gooch (with Michael Todd Stratton) vs. Jimmy Rave. "Ravishing" Adam Gooch has both the funniest and creepiest gimmick in a long time: He's the Narcissist IV, except anyone who's ever seen Gooch can tell you he's the farthest thing from Rick Rude or Lex Luger in physique. You have Stratton doing the customized introduction for him, and then there's the pre-match posedown (Gooch having to warm up for it, of course; he falls on his face doing the "clap your hands" push-ups). It's all quite funny, except for the part where you have to see Gooch shirtless and dear lord, is he the whitest man in the world. He also has his head completely shaved here (well, he was already suffering from male pattern baldness) so he looks not unlike Mr. Clean.

The match has a lot to live up to, since it followed the posedown and all, but it's the best match of the night thus far and a good change of pace after all the brawling stuff. Rave, as usual, focuses the match around destroying Gooch's arm, but he finds new and exciting ways to do it. He still goes for the same three big submissions (the Fujiwara armbar, Cross Armbreaker and the Crossface hold), but now he manages to get to those holds in different ways. Here, he does a very cool Cross Armbreaker out of a knucklelock, a Fujiwara armbar counter to a monkey flip, as well as applying another Fujiwara later on to respond to a sunset flip counter. Gooch is quite clearly outclassed on the mat, and they make that part of the story; he has to cheat to get the advantage, whether it be by eye rakes or Stratton interference. Gooch has a lot of cool-looking offense but he keeps that to a minimum here, save for his guillotine leg lariat and an inverted DDT counter to From Dusk 'til Dawn. Despite not being too terribly exciting on offense, Gooch does get a lot of credit for his selling of the arm: He never forgets that it's hurt, and in fact does a good job selling accumulated damage as each quick hold Rave applies leads to Gooch using the arm less and less until he's pretty much holding it at his side the whole time by the last couple minutes. Solid finish too, as Rave disposes of Stratton on his comeback and gets Gooch into a nearfall exchange on the mat, and since it's already been established Rave is the superior wrestler he has no trouble countering a schoolboy with a Cross Armbreaker for the submission. You gotta wonder why Rave hasn't been invited back, as he was really over here (especially with the females) and was clearly the one carrying things here. Bring him back, Ian; he can't help that he's Hat's favorite wrestler, don't hold that against him. (9:57, 81)

-Mitch Ryder (with Michael Todd Stratton) vs. Mark Wolf (with Patti) in a Throw in the Towel match. These two have a lot of history, as I covered in the Sixth Anniversary show review. They've had several matches since then, Wolf getting screwed out of victories in both an I Quit match where he destroyed Ryder's knee but biased ref Brent Blades counted Wolf yelling "Say 'I Quit!'" as a concession, and on night two of the Ultra Styles Clash weekend where he had the win but Blades stopped the match due to minor blood loss. The two had their best match at Simply the Best 4, a Last Man Standing match with Wolf winning after a vicious Nevermind DDT (inverted DDT- Wolf's a huge Nirvana fan) where he repeatedly dropped Ryder onto his knee before landing the move. This is intended to be the blowoff to their two year rivalry, as after this match the two aren't allowed to be in the same ring again for one year.

Like I mentioned above, these guys have had a ton of matches, most of them brawls, and all of them of varying quality. The matches are at their worst when it's just a brawl around the building; it's certainly not lacking for intensity and I'm sure it's exciting live, but those matches don't translate well to tape that often (this goes for a lot of Memphis matches, and some Wildside and Stampede matches as well). I've seen most of the matches these two have had since October and this is definitely one of the better ones, helped a lot by the stipulation. Stratton and Patti spend a lot of time yelling at each other on the mics to throw in the towel for their respective man, adding to the drama; throw in the extremely loud crowd with almost constant "Go Mark Go!" chants and the match feels important. Wolf plays off of the I Quit match (and the Stratton & Ryder/Ian & Wolf match from 3/21 as well) a lot here, as after the initial brawling segment he targets Ryder's knee again. Wolf has always been a decent worker for his role, regardless of what some people say, it's just that his role as a brawling, Southern-style face doesn't really lend itself to many classics, especially since he spends most of the time selling and using the most basic of offense. He's improved a *lot* this year, though, adding more fire to his offense and getting into better shape. He's still pretty basic at this point in time, but he works a figure-four for all it's worth (including a ringpost variation, which was what he used for a finish in the I Quit match). The conclusion to this match is appropriately dramatic, although the actual finish leaves something to be desired. Stratton slides in a chain for Ryder to use to break the figure-four, and Ryder proceeds to give Wolf THREE cringe-inducing Piledrivers onto the chain. I watched the Piledrivers in slo-mo and they are sick, Wolf landing right on his neck each time; I hear he got a ligit concussion from one of them and it's not hard to believe once you see the tape. Patti refuses to throw in the towel, despite Wolf looking like death and Stratton urging her on the mic. Eventually Stratton gets sick of Patti's reluctance and he goes to choke her out with the towel, so Ian Rotten runs out to defend his wife and Stratton sprints away...dropping the towel in the ring by accident as he leaves. Weak finish, especially for the blowoff, but I can understand how you don't want Wolf to get up after being Piledriven three times. Despite my whining about the ending, this was still prolly their second best match, providing everything you'd expect out of a Wolf/Ryder encounter (blood, brawling, chains) with a surprising amount of actual wrestling used to enhance the drama. If you like the style you'll love this match, and if you don't like the style you at least won't be bored. (12:15, 80)

-Jimmy Jacobs vs. Alex Shelley in a best two-out-of-three falls match. Much like Bailey, you're gonna see a lot more of these guys in future IWA-MS reviews, but they've been developing some well-deserved good buzz on the internet so you've prolly heard about them already. Jacobs has my favorite gimmick in a very long time: He's the "Barbaric Berzerker", complete with oversized fuzzy boots and HUSS! calls. Shelley is your more basic young lion-type face, but he's skilled way beyond what you would expect for someone with under a year's experience. As of this show they had wrestled twice in IWA-MS, Jacobs winning their first encounter (which opened the Ultra Styles Clash weekend) with a diving senton, while Shelley won the return match on 3/21 with a snap Flatliner DDT (Frankie Kazarian has dubbed that the "Wave of the Future" and since Shelley hasn't bothered to name it himself, I'm sticking with that one).

Primera Caida: Not much to this fall, as Shelley starts the match by leading the crowd in a "Shave Your Boots" chant. SACRILEGE! Jacobs is rightfully offended and tries to floor Shelley with a big Berzerker Boot, but Shelley catches it and locks Jacobs in a half nelson, taking him down into a Gedo Clutch for the flash pin. (0:37)

Segunda Caida: We get to the meat of the match here. Shelley is so, so good on the mat, and I'd venture to say he's already ranking up with guys like Doug Williams despite his relative inexperience. What makes Shelley's matwork impressive is that he's so fluid and logical, and the moves he uses are real unorthodox with nods to both Lucha and British wrestling. Jacobs isn't the wizard that Shelley is on the mat but he's more than competant, and his heel work is integral to the matches these two have had. Here, Shelley pretty much dominates Jacobs on the mat, targeting the back with moves both relatively conventional (a bow & arrow) and freaky (a bow & arrow...where Shelley is STANDING and somehow manages to tangle Jacobs in the hold; something which is best described as a more logical-looking version of Ric Blade's SFJ submission). Jacobs manages to keep pace with Shelley on the mat, but Shelley is always one step ahead of the Barbaric Berzerker when it comes to counters. The two basically do ten minutes of straight, intricate matwork, with the first highspot not coming in until about the 11:00 mark. Of course, when Shelley does do his big flying move, it's a good one: A frustrated Jacobs bails to the floor and Shelley leaps out onto him with a double springboard corkscrew plancha, the first springboard being from the inside of the ring to the outside. Shelley does make one mistake in this fall, and that's with repeating moves. He repeats the bow & arrow and Jacobs is able to flip out of it, and after he does his big flippy thingy he returns to targetting Jacobs' back, but when he tries doing a second back suplex it's a mistake, as Jacobs sees it coming and counters to the Contra Code (sitout Sliced Bread #2; Ikuto Hidaka uses a similar move called the "Misty Flip") for the fall. Solid storytelling, impressive matwork and a twisty dive for good measure, what's not to love? (11:37)

Tercera Caida: The deciding fall is kind of short, but we do get to see more high-impact moves from both guys here (including the dreaded Berzerker Boot from Jacobs, although he fails to use the Tornado Backrake here). The biggest move in this fall is a beautiful Superplex from Jacobs, and in a great touch Shelley sells the back like death there, and remembers his hurt back while on offense even though Jacobs didn't really work it over. Really, why shouldn't Shelley's back hurt? Both the Contra Code and the Superplex dropped him hard onto his back at a high rate of speed. Soon after, Jacobs goes in for the kill with the diving senton, but Shelley has learned from their previous encounter and gets the knees up- a counter which also plays off the previous fall where Shelley stretched Jacobs' back for the better part of ten minutes, and leaves him open for the Wave of the Future to give Shelley the victory. Not as long or involved as the second fall was, but definitely effective with great selling from both guys and exciting false finishes. I'm impressed with how these guys paced themselves, since it's common to see indy juniors throwing out their big moves early in a match (after the obligatory chain wrestling to start), thus leaving them with points where they have nothing to pull out later on and will just stand there and idly punch or irish whip each other. Not here. A fine finish to a fine match. (3:36)

Jacobs is unhappy after the match ("there had to be ten of em out there...twenty of 'em...and they had forks and knives!"), and he's especially upset about the absolutely profane "Shave Your Boots" chant that started him on the path to losing. So as a response he challenges his rival to a "Hair vs. Boot Hair" match for the April Bloodshowers show in a few weeks. I defy you to watch these matches and NOT be impressed. There are very few of the flaws you'd associate with green indy guys, plus in addition to being exceptional workers already both men also have entertaining personas (Shelley being more interesting than your average "fiery young babyface"; Jacobs being someone that references both John Nord AND old-school Konami games). I may seem overly enthusiastic, but if you ask anyone who's seen Jacobs and Shelley they'll pretty much tell you the same thing. Best match of the night right here, but the best part is that this isn't even the best match these two have had all year. HUSS! (15:52, 86)

-Austin Aries vs. Spyder Nate Webb (with Lollipop) for the IWA-MS Light Heavyweight championship. Aries is a worker out of other Midwest indies who only has one other IWA-MS match to his credit (vs. Ken Anderson at night one of Ultra Styles Clash). Webb does one of his best entrances ever- and that's saying something. First, he enters to the Simpsons take on the "All in the Family" theme as the lead-in to "Teenage Dirtbag", then he brings out Lollipop, causing Prazak to go through puberty again immediately. Finally, Webb organizes a spot where Lollipop and Crazy Pipe Guy dance together, which is just too cool for words. As usual, Webb dances on the Spyder's Nest (the announce stage, and I'm not gonna spoil why it's called that for those that don't know- you'll have to wait for the #300 review). By the time all's said and done, Webb's entrance clocks in at (4:52), running the course of "Teenage Dirtbag" for only the second time in history.

The match, while it doesn't quite live up to the greatness of Nate's entrance, is still pretty decent. The early moments are all Webb, with the usual spots (Nebraskan Tumbleweed, the Shining Arachnid apron enzuigiri and the tope con queso...with extra onions). Nate then gets really crazy and goes for a Moonsault to the floor; not an Orihara Moonsault but a Mark Briscoe-style one with the victim lying on the concrete- it doesn't end up well for Nate, as Aries moves and Webb ends up splatting on the concrete in a thoroughly nasty spot. This gives the match a story, as Aries targets the ribs. The problem is, Webb doesn't really sell the ribs except when Aries is working them over. It's not a match-killing flaw, since the contest is still pretty entertaining despite Nate's selling problems, but it does detract a lot. The other problem here is that these guys don't get a lot of time to do their thing, so the match feels kind of condensed. Give this fifteen minutes and have Nate sell the ribs more and it's great; as it stands, it's merely pretty decent. (8:31, 76)

-Colt Cabana vs. David Young. Before we start, COLT HAS SOMETHING TO SAY: "Hold up. I took the Range Rover all the way to Chinatown, and no one's tellin me what's goin on. I studied all the Bruce Lee movies...and David Yang isn't even Chinese?"

'Bana seems to have settled into the role of the "regular that tests the outsiders", since on all the big shows- and he rarely works IWA-MS outside of big shows anymore, sadly- he's been taking on relatively new guys. He's worked Josh Prohibition (at #300), Chris Sabin (night one of Ultra Styles Clash), AJ Styles (night two of USC), and now he gets to take on the Messiah of the Spinebuster. Young looks good here, but he's less serious than he is in Wildside; maybe it's because he's working in a foreign environment, maybe it's because he's working someone for the first time or maybe he's just not comfortable (he certainly looked ill at ease with the ring when he first got a look at it). Still, just because he's not the machine he is in Wildside doesn't mean Young's not still a good worker in this match. He hits all of his big moves, save the Spinebuster and Moonsault, and Cabana gets credit for putting over the Spinebuster as a killer by doing everything he can to avoid it. While Young is serviceable and mainly there to show off what he can do, Cabana really makes the match. His cowardly heel work early on is great, as is his interaction with the crowd- yelling at a rat to shut up and watch his match, doing Bruce Lee mannerisms when he's dominating Young, playing off of a "Colt's got cameltoe" chant, etc. Cabana could make David Flair interesting. Anyway, this match is a good light diversion, not the great match that these two could have given the proper buildup and time, but it's certainly nothing bad. Everything is executed well, there are some really good sequences (the best of which has Cabana going for his swinging [corner-walk] suplex while Young tries to counter with his signature Northern Lights into the corner), Cabana's hilarious and Young gets himself over with the crowd...sadly, Young must've been really skeeved out by that ring, since he hasn't been back since. (10:58, 81)

-Ken Anderson vs. Jorge Estrada. I have nothing against slow-paced, basic matches. I enjoy 80s territory wrestling more than I enjoy a lot of current wrestling, I love Muga, and I can appreciate someone working holds for ten minutes at a time. The problem is when you work slow and you're not really doing anything...which is what kills this match. It's just a bunch of stuff, competantly held together but not particularly interesting, and dragged out for five minutes too long at least. Estrada in particular looked bad here, his offense was good but his selling left something to be desired. Really, just a dull match where when you watch it you can't really put your finger on WHY it's boring, it just is. Maybe it's because the feeling out process matwork was the best part of the match, yet it still felt kinda mechanical and had no real point aside from being time-filler? Chop off five minutes and put this way down on the card and it's easier to digest, but this late in the show with so little in the way of substance? I enjoyed Bradley/Draigo more, even if the scores don't reflect it. (13:18, 68)

-Danny Daniels vs. Truth Martini vs. Chris Sabin in an Elimination match. For all the effusive praise that the ROH three-ways (Ki/Dragon/Daniels and Ki/Styles/London) have drawn, I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more attention. It's the same style of match- a fast-paced sprint- but with more emphasis on the speed and execution and less on the striking. Daniels is the best here, keeping the match together and adding direction to it- the match starts out with Daniels establishing himself as dominant when he takes out both Sabin and Martini with suplex combos as well as a combination bulldog/lariat, so Sabin and Martini team up to take him out. Later, Martini establishes himself as a threat, so Sabin and Daniels form an unwitting alliance to take him out. You could call Martini "Truth MIKAMI" here, since he's the one that does most of the big spots and he introduces a ladder into things. Technically, he's the weak link, as his selling is the worst of the three, but he's still a lot of fun here with his spots (including a nifty somersault tope out onto Daniels and Sabin where he uses the ladder to vault himself out of the ring).

Sabin and Daniels had an awesome match at #300, and they show off a lot of that chemistry here. About 13:00 in, Martini's attempted ladder-assisted swinging DDT was countered with a Northern Lights, then Sabin spiked him with a J-Driller for the first elimination. Sabin isn't content to dance on the corpse's ashes, as he goes for the J-Driller again on Daniels, but Daniels counters into the Tombstone...for two?? Daniels is shocked, as that was his move and all, but he fails to follow up beyond some basic forearms and such, leaving him open for the J-Driller from Sabin and a delayed cover for another nearfall. This was borderline finisher-killing, but the two counts were close enough (and at least Sabin delayed after the J-Driller) to make it somewhat plausable. Also, the Sabin/Daniels conclusion is real good, so it's hard to fault it too much; they use the ladder well and put together some intelligent nearfalls before the finish, where Sabin vaults over Daniels to avoid hitting the ladder, only to be pulled down into a Rubic's Cube (sitdown Anger Management/Electric Chair driver) for the pin.

On paper, this looked like a total spotfest, but in execution it was something more. It had spotty moments, sure, but all of the spots were hit cleanly (save for a sloppy attempted bodypress over the ropes to the floor by Martini), most of them were original, and the match wasn't exclusively about the spots. There may have been little in the way of matwork but ther was also little in the way of dead time, plus they didn't make the mistake made in so many elimination three-ways and break up any pins. Sabin and Daniels' issue was at the forefront, whether they had to grudgingly team up to take out Martini or when they were busy trying to kill each other in the finishing sequence. This has been called the standout match of the show and while I disagree with that- Shelley & Jacobs get that honor- it's still something highly worth seeing. Call it the "thinking man's spotfest", or just call it highly entertaining. (17:15, 84)

-Michael Todd Stratton vs. Ian Rotten in a Last Man Standing/I Quit match. Much like their entire feud, this is heavily steeped in Southern brawling but adds some newer touches for good measure. Stratton's not quite as evil and vile as Bull Pain is, but he still knows how to bring the hate and Ian, as usual, plays the against-the-odds face really well. He's like Dusty Rhodes, minus the wierd charisma that Dusty had but he's also less selfish and a far better worker than Stardust, if you weeeel.

There's a large portion of the match where the two slug it out in the crowd, but since their strikes are so convincing and they never stop to drag each other around by the hair it works. The trick to keeping a crowd brawl interesting is to make the audience believe that you want the other guy dead so badly that you'd take the fight into the crowd and beat on him until he can't stand up any longer; Ian accomplishes this very well. There are two great visuals during this part as well: First, Ian grabs one of the industrial strength chairs and LAUNCHES it at Todd, full speed, but Stratton ducks out of the way in the nick of time, leaving the chair to careen into the wall. The other one is after Stratton uses a light tube shard (don't worry, that's the extent of lightbulbs in this match) to slice open Ian's forehead and then bash him with a chair, so Ian is instantly weakened and he tries crawling away from Stratton while blood pours out of his head and onto the floor. Wrestling is a visual artform and these guys take advantage of that, making the blood and the chairs meaningful as opposed to throwaway props in an attempt to up the ante. Stuff like that is the difference between Blanchard vs. Magnum TA and Wifebeater vs. Lobo (well, that and talent).

These two achieve a nice balance of brawling and actual wrestling. After the lengthy crowd brawl, Stratton takes it back into the ring and tries to wear Ian down with a Cross Armbreaker, but it's pretty clear that Ian hates Todd too much to submit to him. Much of the match after this point consists of Ian just DESTROYING Stratton, but instead of using weapons he just uses his fists. It's a focused beating, though; rather than punching away wildly, Ian targets Stratton's ribcage and pummels it relentlessly with headbutts, shoulderblocks and straight uppercuts. It leads to Ian working a bodyscissors, a hold he also used to good effect on Chris Hero on 5/4/02 in a much more wrestling-intensive match. Yet, despite having all the air driven out of him and having Ian forearming him in the face while the bodyscissors is on, he doesn't give up- the hate between the two is mutual and Stratton doesn't want to give Ian the satisfaction of a submission victory either.

The finish of the match, like in the Throw in the Towel match earlier, is weak and drags things down. As Todd appears to be in the most trouble (he's pretty much out on his feet after barely surviving the bodyscissors and having to endure tons of hard forearms and headbutts), his cronies Brent Blades and Adam Gooch run out for the save. Blades occupies referee Mickey (or is it Mickie?)'s attention while Gooch tries to choke out Ian with an ether-soaked rag. Ian gets the better of that and chokes out the Ravishing one instead, but Stratton is able to get the rag himself and he strangles Ian with the rag until he blacks out. Blades makes his exit and Mickey has no choice but to count Ian out. To be fair, Ian's selling here is great, as around the count of seven or eight he starts coming to, blinking confusedly and desperately trying to reach the ropes- he doesn't quite know what's going on but he knows that, for some reason, he has to get back to his feet. It's all for naught, though, as he's too weak to get back up and Mickey hits ten, giving the match to Stratton.

That finish is classic Memphis booking, and it does work to extend the feud, but I've never been a fan of the rag of ether. It always came off as too contrived a foreign object for me, plus Ian and Stratton did such a good job with the match leading up to it that the finish is a letdown. Still, one minute of goofiness at the end isn't enough to drag down fourteen minutes of a solid, convincing, hate-filled fight. (15:16, 83)

-After the match, Ian is out of it and needs Mickey and the crowd to explain what happened to him. Once all the details come together he decides to book himself and Wolf vs. Gooch, Stratton and Blades, so all the BMFs are together and can't try and cheat their way to another victory. Funny bit here as Ian's talking about how Stratton's victory is meaningless because he cheated and Stratton pokes his head through the entranceway and says "I beat him fair and square with the sleeper! I got the best sleeper in the business!". It gets funnier, as Ian notices someone in the audience with a 'Jim Fannin's love child' shirt on. As Fannin said on commentary during the match, "Well, that kid is fourteen and I'm twenty-six, so all I have to say is that I must've been one amazing twelve year old." Fannin decides to charge the kid in the shirt three times the normal ticket price from now on (ha!) and Ian gets a good line off: "Who's the mother? Tell her if she swallowed she wouldn't be in this situation." There's a debate whether the kid is actually Corporal Robinson's ("Half the people in here are Corporal's rat or Corporal's kid...") and Fannin says he wants the last five minutes edited off the tape. Funny as hell, the kind of unplanned, funny moment that you don't get from ROH or CZW or anything. Oh, and somewhere in here, this is said:

Dave Prazak: "People love us, just ask ichibanpuroresu dot com."

BEST. SEGMENT. EVER.

-To make things even better, Tracy Smothers joins Prazak to do commentary for the final match. "Dave Prazak, I watched you when I was a kid, and you're killin' me. You're killin' me, Dave."

-Raven (with Lucy) vs. Chris Hero for the IWA-MS World Heavyweight championship (Second Defense). This is a much-maligned match, as the best I've heard it called is "okay" and a few people have said it's the worst Hero match they've ever seen (no, that's Hero & B-Boy/H8 Club from CZW, which should've been better but Nate Hatred is an unprofessional douchebag). While this certainly isn't the best Hero match I've ever seen, and it's not on the level of Raven's match with Punk in ROH either, it's a perfectly fine match. These two had to deal with a tired crowd that also gave the heel Raven a face reaction, and by the end of the match they were loudly behind Hero and booing Raven- that's gotta be worth something.

Tracy pushes heavily on commentary that Raven's an old-style, psychological wrestler, and that's certainly the kind of match he wrestles here. He gets the crowd to turn on him right after the bell by taking the mic and demanding that ref Mr. Lemke clean up the blood in the ring, then calls the crowd 'a bunch of degenerates' and chides them for not cheering Bull Pain. He says he's gonna go to the headlock and stay there, but Ian Rotten- after relating a funny anecdote about Raven's first time bleeding in ECW- says that he can't keep Hero in a headlock. Raven seems to take that as a challenge, as the first few minutes are all him trying to grind Hero down with the most basic holds, and each time Hero outwrestles him. It's kind of like the reverse of what happens in the Punk/Raven ROH match where Punk starts out by outwrestling Raven but Raven sticks to it and pretty soon he's keeping pace with Punk. Here, he gets frustrated early on and tries to get in Hero's head with stalling, but Hero doesn't fall for it.

It takes Raven using plundah (sidestepping a pescado attempt from Hero and tossing a chair at him on the way down) to take the advantage. Raven was never the most exciting guy to control a match and it gets kind of dull as he methodically picks apart Hero here, but it doesn't go on for too long- just long enough to get the crowd warmed up for Hero's comeback. When the comeback does come, it's nothing fancy, but Hero has a way of making even the simplest of offense very effective. He has the best powerslam in the world currently (Goldust's is a close second), as well as great lariats and Yakuza kicks, all used to good effect here. Raven fires back with his standard WWF offense (you know, the bulldog out of the corner, clothesline, Mr. Wrestling #2 kneelift), but through Hero's selling it works (admittedly, Raven also looks a lot less sleepy on offense here than he did in the WWF/E). They even work in a great, unexpected false finish as Hero goes for the Hero's Welcome but Raven manages to counter to a Tomikaze for a close nearfall. The last few minutes are very ECW-ish, with Hero paying back Lucy (aka Daffney, aka the object of Dave Prazak's obsession) for interfering by giving her ten countalong spankin's, Raven making him pay for that by DDTing him and clocking him with a chair, both getting nearfalls. Soon after, Hero locks in the Hangman's Clutch for the second time in the match, and Raven gives before Hero can even full hook the cravate on. Wierd finish, but I can understand the logic as a few minutes earlier Raven had to struggle to the ropes while in the Clutch, and that prolly heavily wore down his neck.

Definitely a flawed match, but if you don't mind the slow pace and the ECWish finish (neither bothered me too much although Hero getting the Hero's Welcome right after being DDTed was kinda annoying) it's more than watchable and a decent match, helped a lot by the crowd and the commentary. It's not the kind of match that made me dying to see more of Raven in IWA-MS, but for a one-shot deal and a main event intended to put over Hero as a strong champion, it served it's purpose. I can see how some people would be really down on this match, but it worked for me. (20:51, 80)

-The great thing about IWA-MS (much like ZERO-ONE or ROH at their best) is the variety. On any given show you'll get scientific wrestling, stiff Puro-style (please don't say 'Strong Style', I'm sick of hearing that) work, Southern-style brawling and gore. This was a good example of that. There wasn't a whole lot in the way of deathmatches here, but that doesn't really phase me and is prolly a plus for a lot of people, so it's no great loss. Other than that, you have matches of every kind here, and for a show lacking the muscle of Punk, Steel and Whitmer there was a lot of good wrestling. Definitely one to pick up, especially if you're new to the whole IWA-MS thing and want to see what it's all about- you get a good look at most of the major players here, most of the styles on display and there's not too much to keep track of angle-wise, yet it's not stagnant in that department.

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