Four hour road trips are common at all stages of pro wrestling.
They are slightly less common when it is the fans making such a trip to check out a promotion mostly featuring younger, little known regional workers. However, when that promotion starts putting on the best indie shows seen in the area in the past 20+ years, such trips are a pleasure not a chore. So on September 24th, as Limitless Wrestling celebrated its one year of survival on the independent scene by putting on a show entitled “Past Your Bedtime” at American Legion Post 84 in Orono, Maine, four hours packed into a car sounded well worth it.
If you are a certain type of pro wrestling fan, Orono is the kind of place where the best wrestling shows take place. It has a year round population just a shade under 10,000 people, but it doubles in size during the school year as the student body of the University of Maine invades. That combination of University students and the type of people make small town Northern Maine their lifetime home creates some interesting mixes.
It is a mix that makes the crowd that gathers outside waiting for American Legion Post 84 to open site to behold. You will hear everything from purple haired ladies discussing the finer points of the Young Bucks, to loud arguments regarding how dumb Donald Trump building a wall to keep Mexicans out is when everyone knows Mexicans are excellent diggers. And once the doors open, overweight disability recipients with single digit tooth counts who plunked down their $10 end up next to undergrads with high triple digit IQs and they proceed to high five each other when the likes of “All Good” Anthony Greene makes his way to the ring to what might be the best entrance theme in wrestling – Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth”.
Greene is the kind of wrestler and personality who makes shows like Limitless something special. If you live outside the Northeast, you have probably never heard of him. Hell, even if you’re a wrestling fan in the Northeast, you still not have heard of him. That may be slowly changing though, as he was part of Donovan Dijack’s entourage at the ROH PPV this week. He is a four year veteran who has some legitimate talent to go with a personality that comes across big in such a small room. From the second Belinda Carlisle starts singing, to the inevitable moment when Greene pulls glitter out of tights, and right up to the final three count, Greene has the crowd in the palm of his hands the whole time.
Limitless is one of the first places to really give him a prominent place on the card, with hard fought wins over some of the bigger named competitors in the area. Past Your Bedtime was supposed to be one of his biggest matches to date as he was to take on the debuting “Kentucky Gentleman” Chuck Taylor in what would have been one of the top billed matches. Unfortunately, the morning of the show, one of the less endearing features of attending indie shows reared its head. The promotion had to tweet out that Taylor and his travel companion “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams had suffered a slashed tire and had no time to A) change the tire, or B) rent a car, and therefore cancelled the morning of the show. There were several other changes of talent in the lead up to the show, but these were two of the big three or four names being brought in for this show and their absence could be expected to hurt the show. But if the audience was upset about missing out on them, the loud “Fuck Chucky T” bellowed from the crowd as Greene started to talk on the mic was the only time he got mentioned.
Part of that reason is because Greene and Williams’ original opponent – Xavier Bell – were partners in another one of the real true charms of indie wrestling. While they were not supposed to face each other, they stepped in together on short notice and put on the best match of the show. Getting to watch two young, talented, motivated wrestlers get a chance to perform and taking full advantage of it is always a pleasure.
— O.G. TC (@tctapes) September 26, 2016
For his part, Bell is kind of a negative image of Green. Over the six shows Limitless has put on, Bell has had the opportunity to step up against the likes of Jonathan Gresham and Tommaso Ciampa but comes up short every time he does. The match with Williams would have been the next step in that evolution, but instead he lost to Green in the opener.
— Jon Couture (@jonnyfashion) September 26, 2016
After the opener showed some of the best things about indie wrestling, the second match showed some of the worst, at least in terms of crowd behaviour.
Veda Scott was one of the ‘names’ brought in for the first time, and she was taking on the Northeast based Davienne. While expectations of some may have been low regarding the quality of the match, these two really showed that the median level of women’s wrestling in North America continues to rise. These two had a good match that does not need “for women” tacked on as a qualifier.
— Veda Scott (@itsvedatime) September 29, 2016
Unfortunately, what most in attendance will remember about this match was not that the 22 year old Davienne can put on a good match, or that Veda is more talented than you might realize. No, what most will remember is the garbage spewing from one asshole in the crowd who decided to make multiple off colour remarks about Davienne’s weight (and other worse subjects), all the while drooling over Veda. Weight comments coming from a morbidly obese man may be ironic, but hearing the degrading and misogynistic comments coming from a man sitting next to his wife and son was something really special.
After the women’s match, then next trope of independent shows made his way to the ring as IMPACT Wrestling Superstar, “The Miracle” Mike Bennett made his debut for Limitless. Two things about Bennett were over with the crowd: his shiny jacket and his wife Maria. The only problem with that is the jacket came off in the first 2 minutes of the match, and Maria stayed home in Boston. Had he left his jacket on, this match would have been considerably more fun and we would not have been subjected to the odd amount of acne on Bennett’s more muscular than usual back. I am sure those two things are not directly connected to each other…
— O.G. TC (@tctapes) September 29, 2016
At shows like this, for every “star” like Bennett slumming it for a night, you get the joy of watching guys like “Top Shelf” Troy Nelson trying to take advantage of what is legitimately their biggest opportunities to date. Nelson is a referee in CHIKARA, but in Northern Maine he is a lovable, slightly bumbling, surprisingly athletic alcoholic who is working through the 12 steps to career success. Up to this point, he had not been too successful as he had eaten pins on every show so far. But the crowd loves Top Shelf, and the biggest reaction of the night was his first win in the promotion over the “White Delight” Scott Wild. While it is the bigger names like Bennett that typically sell first timers on checking out a show like Limitless, it is characters and stories like that of Top Shelf (and Greene, and Bell…) that can hook them to keep coming back. Limitless has been doing a very good job of slowly building these younger (and presumably cheaper) guys in the eyes of the local crowd and that work is really starting to pay off.
— Troy Nelson (@TopShelfTroy) September 30, 2016
Indie wrestling trope #47 happened next – the send off for the star bound for the big time. The last match before intermission was Lince Dorado’s last independent show before debuting on RAW two nights later. Via his exposure from the Cruiserweight Classic, Dorado was the big name on the show, with the crowd into everything he did. Lucky for him, he was in the ring with Travis “Flip” Gordon who made Dorado look like a million bucks. Gordon is only about a year into his career, and showed all the personality of a wet nap, but everything he did was clean, crisp and looked good. He legitimately saved Dorado’s miscues from being overly apparent a couple of times. Once he is a little more comfortable in the ring (you could almost see him thinking about the next sequence or spot to come) and lets a little personality come through, Gordon is someone to keep an eye out for. (Though, rumour is that he has some personal biases which may come back to haunt him at some point).
— Jon Alba (@JonAlba) September 25, 2016
Intermission at shows like this are a spectacle in and of themselves. Everything from people lining up to congratulate a man in a cat mask for getting signed to wrestlers in full gear standing awkwardly at tables full of merchandise as people go everywhere but get in line for them. Part of the charm of shows this size for a lot of fans is the mingling with the performers. While it may kill the mystique that used to exist, it also adds a bit of personal connection that may just as important for modern crowds.
After the intermission Brian Milonas got on the mic and went from unknown to utterly hated in under a minute. The fun part was that he did not do it by swearing, being a bigot or a homophobe, he just talked like a jerk and got the crowd riled up. It is the kind of old school heeling you cannot experience watching on TV, or watching wrestling in an arena. It is not the kind of thing that is going to get Milonas invited to somewhere like PWG, but sure makes for a fun bit on a live show. The underrated and hilariously named Flex Rumblecrunch was the Jeff to Milonas’ Mutt here in a solid if unspectacular match.
Unfortunately, at this point the show lost some momentum and started to feel a bit long. The lineup likely was switched up due to two big matches falling through and being replaced by the opener, but a five way elimination match featuring three debuts, a return from a very early show and the return of one of the strangest wrestlers I have ever seen live did not do much to ramp the crowd up.
The competitors were an impressive cross section of not only generic wrestling gimmicks, but society as a whole. A short rundown:
- Scotty Slade: Short and cocky, and the best guy in the match. This is the short guy who was somehow good enough to be the QB on your high school team and just likeable enough you forgave him for being a dick so often;
- Connor Murphy: Short and powerful, an angry Irishman (probably from Northy) who came to the ring in a green and orange Deathstroke mask and Shillelagh. Hard to tell if he was any good or not, but had the fun role of the guy who popped into the match to hit high impact moves, all of which looked really good.
- Sully Banger: The greasiest moustache and the best mullet I’ve seen anywhere in years. Kind of like the child of 80’s metalheads, who spent some time in jail getting prison tats, but got out and really wants to try out this hipster thing, but can’t commit to a haircut;
- Johnny Torres: Torres may not be very good, but goddamn if he isn’t the most sincere wrestler I have ever seen. You don’t dislike him, but there isn’t much there to like either, plus he makes you feel a bit awkward at times, but boy is he trying; and
- Tyler Nitro: The flip side of Scotty Slade – short, cocky, good enough to be the wide receiver on the high school team and, even though he tried out to be the QB, he will tell you he turned it down because he decided it would be dumb to get hit all the time. Not likeable enough for you to forgive him being a dick so often.
So many unknown faces – and noticeably newer/inexperienced wrestlers – really took a crowd that was ready to get geared back up out of the show for the opening few minutes and eliminations. When it got down to the final three however, the match itself picked up and was fun, though the ending was ruined by the worst ref distraction/cheating finish ever.
The distracted ref turned around in time to stare at Nitro low blowing Slade (in the ref’s defence, this took forever to happen), then happily counted the three while staring at Nitro holding the tights. An eight year old knew this was dumb. I’m not using that as a figure of speech – the eight year old next me knew this was dumb.
— O.G. TC (@tctapes) October 1, 2016
Then came the most perplexing match of the evening. Brick Mastone and Christian Casanova – known as Brick n’ Bad as Casanova does a Michael Jackson tribute – took on the new team of Danger Kid and Aiden Aggro, the Maine State Posse.
— O.G. TC (@tctapes) October 1, 2016
Kid and Aggro started out on ring crew on the first Limitless show, and their stories have intertwined to where they are now both regulars and essentially rookies with some decent potential. They formed this tag team after the last show where they reunited their friendship.
All of which is to say the Maine State Posse were the good guys here. They are the plucky underdogs the crowd wants to cheer and is emotionally invested in. As soon the match started though, they switched rolls with Casanova and Mastone, who came across as sympathetic to the crowd. I won’t say this killed the crowd outright, but it levelled off a crowd that would have reacted nicely for a hot comeback win for Kid and Aggro. Not the vibe you wanted going into your main event.
And then, immediately after the match, Scott Wild and Johnny Torres came out and attacked Kid & Aggro. This turned into a story that played off of Wild’s actions over the course of the past year, as well as Torres’ loss at the previous show. Kudos on setting up an angle some folks may want to come back and check out, but no kudos for that angle making the promoter an in show performer.
Limitless’ promoter, Randy Carver, is a 18 or 19 year old kid who is busting his ass to bring good wrestling to an area that has not had much of it for a very long time. He has even managed to get himself local TV news time to promote his shows. And when the Orono crowd started to get a bit unruly at times, he took proactive steps to correct the issues without alienating anyone in the fanbase. It looks like Limitless is going to be expanding in its second year, and Carver deserves all the credit in the world for that.
— WFVX WVII News (@FoxABCMaine) March 18, 2016
And to be fair, he cut a really good, fired up promo here. But I would love to see more promotions escape from the cage that is the “authority figure” and move shows along in other ways. This certainly was not an overbearing example, but it might be the most annoying thing in wrestling that 99% of promotions feel the need to use the authority figure as a crutch.
Finally the main event of the evening was two men going a little bit above and beyond what any reasonable human should be doing in front of 187 people in an American Legion Hall.
Ace Romero may not be the atypical choice for the role, but he is the local golden boy – from Saco, ME – that the promotion has made the focal point. Coming into this match Romero was undefeated, with wins over JT Dunn, Donovan Dijak and AR Fox, who is getting a rematch with him tonight. Romero, if you haven’t seen him, does not look like he should up to much in the ring. He is carrying a solid extra 80lbs of not solid weight on him. But while that is true, he is also the kind of overweight guy who would make a good lineman in football – big but athletic and mobile.
Since he was taking on AR Fox in a street fight that involved a ladder and a hand mixer up the arse, that athleticism was needed. The most disturbing thing was that they used a four foot ladder that was sturdy. When you prop a sturdy, short ladder up between two chairs and a 200lb man hits a shiranui on a 300+lb man across that ladder, it does not bend. When the 300lb man is laying on that ladder propped up between the ring and a chair and gets hit by the 200lb man coming off the top rope on him….the ladder does not bend.
— Harry (@HarryAaron) September 25, 2016
Fox is someone who is unlikely to show up in WWE anytime soon, but he is a treat to watch in these kind of surroundings. He got the win here, surprisingly ending Romero’s undefeated streak and challenging the big man to a rubber match.
And that was it; the night was done. The crowd filtered out, the promoter stood by the door thanking everyone for coming.
And then we were in the car, making the four hour trip back home, the itch for indie wrestling scratched until next time.
*Limitless Wrestling is back in action next Friday, October 7th , debuting in Westbrook, ME with “Risk it for the Biscuit with a main event of Donovan Dijack vs Brian Fury. They return Orono with “Who Watches the Watchmen” as part of the BanGoreFest II featuring the debut of Eddie Edwards on October 29th.*