JULY 28, 2019

Watch: IW.TV

The American indie supercard is becoming more and more of a rare breed, especially in a non-tournament format. Beyond has done a great job using their Unchartered Territory episodic weekly show to build hype towards Americanrana. Americanrana is used as a launching point for new viewers of Beyond. My first Beyond show was Americanrana 2016 because I was hearing hype surrounding the Zack Sabre Jr. vs Jonathan Gresham series of matches. With one off guests like Daisuke Sekimoto, rare fly ins like Bryan Alvarez and feud enders with the women’s cage match and David Starr vs Joey Janela, Americanrana 2019 on paper had a great variety show feel that included something for every wrestling fan.


Former tag team partners collide in this opener. The Beaver Boys had a longstanding history of matches in a variety of promotions including CZW, EVOLVE and PWG. Silver is more well known as a singles competitor but after a pretty violent breakup, I was looking forward to how this match would play out to start the show. The match told an effective story of Silver being the aggressor and wanting to lay into Reynolds and his “handsome devil” face. Reynolds initiated the split so he is overly confident, but does take advantage of some openings throughout the match and slows the match down while in control. Beyond has a great crowd dynamic with fans standing right outside the ring and they are happy to oblige to the face/heel dynamic that this match needed. The conclusion has Silver get a close nearfall off of a Blue Thunder Bomb only to miss his punt kick and wipe out the referee. Mark Sterling comes out and gives the international foreign object to Reynolds who waylays Silver and picks up the win. Good first chapter into what I expect to be a long-term feud for Beyond. ***


Bear Country are easily the biggest breakout stars of the Uncharted Territory concept. Unknown to most (including me) before the show began, they are now cult favorites in Beyond and more than likely will be getting more exposure in other indies in the weeks to come. EYFBO had a similar plight of anchoring the Beyond tag division for numerous years before getting more exposure through Impact and PWG. This match is worked as a showcase spotfest with traditional tag structure mostly taking a backseat. EYFBO have great energy and double team moves that complimented the husky Bear Country team. Too many highlights to name but the action was constant and entertaining throughout the matchup. The finish is one big run on sentence of double team moves and ends awkwardly with Bear Country winning with the elevator drop but it looked like Ortiz broke up the pin. Overall, a really fun scramble spotfest match. Afterwards, Team Tremendous comes out and attacks Bear Country setting up their next feud. ***1/4


Chuck is an interesting worker in that he has legit credentials and has charisma but seems to derail a lot of his momentum in wrestling just as it starts up. Only a three-minute match here but a nice change of pace as they went after each other tenaciously and O’Neil landed a brutal knee and then did ground and pound forcing the referee to call off the match. Smart booking decision that makes Chuck look vicious and shows a match involving him can stop at any point. **1/2


Let’s cram every niche comedy indie worker into one ladder match and have a complete clusterfuck. I was happy to see Cheeseburger since I quit ROH like any good boy should in 2017. This went on too long. It had some amusing stuff like Kikutaro climbing down off the ladder vs Darling, Ken Doane being a detestable asshole and PUF looking like he robbed PN News of his gear and moveset. Even though the Anthony Greene gimmick does nothing for me, he probably deserved a better spot on this card given his placement in Beyond the past year. The finish had Doane on the grasp of victory until Darling came in, tied him up on the ladder and then stepped on his penis to retrieve the Feast championship to a big pop from the crowd. **


Josh Briggs seems destined to be in Full Sail by this point next year given his size and look. Foxwoods (Johnny Nitro/Morrison/Hennigan) was a good opponent for him to get some rub off of. They went out and had a match that would fit quite nicely on any NXT house show. I don’t mean that as a negative. They knew they were the fifth match out and worked accordingly. They worked a dynamic that would get over with Briggs using his size and Foxwoods using quickness and sudden aerial moves to gain an advantage. The most important thing was that they didn’t try to do too much. As we just saw in the Feast ladder match, some overachieving moves can create great moments and reactions from the crowds like Alex Zayne’s 630 but others can create confusion and derail a match. There is something to be said about staying in your lane in the current indie landscape. Now please allow this old man to climb down from his cloud. Briggs got a nice nearfall off of a big boot and chokeslam combo. Foxwoods gets a low blow shot after the ref is distracted and hits the Starship Pain for the pin. That was clever is putting Briggs over with his hometown promotion even though he lost. Johnny Asshole chant breaks out. Good match. The lights go out and MJF emerges hitting the Cross Rhodes on Briggs in a great troll job. ***


I don’t know when the current reunion tour for the Rock ‘n’ Roll’s will reach its expiration date for my enjoyment but it hasn’t happened yet. This was the least ambitious of their matches that I have seen as Butcher and the Blade did a basic beatdown on Ricky Morton leading to the Robert hot tag and the Express finish them off in just under five minutes. I can see some thinking this sells Butcher and the Blade short but they have been used and mere gatekeepers in their Beyond run so far so I am not too bent out of shape of the booking here. I do think The Butcher and the Blade have potential in their gimmick and overall work moving forward. **


Comedy in wrestling either lands for you or falls flat on its face. The build up to this match and R.D. “Quitman” Evans has landed for me. Orange Cassidy is someone that I think is waning in the general consensus, but I thought this overall angle and execution helped breath new life into Cassidy. R.D. hails from Vince’s doghouse. The match starts with the usual Cassidy shtick and then Cassidy quickly rolls up R.D. after three minutes to pin him and end Evan’s career. R.D. gets on the mic and says he has some ring rust. R.D. goads Orange back by besmirching the Fast and the Furious movies. R.D. destroys Cassidy’s glasses but no problem as he has a spare pair. Those gets smashed and Orange must rely on Bryce Remsburg’s pair. R.D. smashes those saying he doesn’t care. Orange calmly reaches into Evan’s tights and pulls out another pair. Amazing. R.D. locks on the sharpshooter but Orange is able to hulk up with a sip of orange juice. R.D. hits the spear and goes for the jackhammer but gets rolled up for a nearfall. Jackhammer gets kicked out of to the amazement of Evans. Evans misses two splashes and goes for another jackhammer. Cassidy goes for the small package again and this time it is successful sending Evans into retirement for good. As dumb as star ratings can be, one of the things I have taken a cognitive effort to change in 2019 is how I rank comedy matches. If they are great, they should be rated as such and this was a great comedy match. ****


A match built around Nick Gage beating the ass of Bryan Alvarez. What a time to be alive. Gage starts a mosh pit on the way out. The match structure itself was superbly put together. Santell gets worked over for a long time and is bleeding at the chest from the arsenal of the Chop ‘N’ Roll Express. Lawlor does a good job in cutting off the ring and they tease the hot tag to Gage in multiple unique ways. The hot tag finally goes to Gage and he uncorks on Lawlor with a multitude of high impact suplexes and a TKO. Lawlor retrieves back into the corner and inadvertently tags in Alvarez and we get the violence that we craved. Alvarez has a blemish of hope with a small package but falls prey to a brutal backbreaker and spike piledriver giving the unlikely duo of Santell and Gage the victory. ***1/2


Dirty Daddy is having one of those sprawling, random Chris Hero 2005/2006 years where in about a decade I will spend a couple of hours at work pouring over his Cagematch profile in amazement at the random assortment of talent he faced in a given year. There is even the built-in narrative that is similar to the Hero not being involved in ROH one. Chris Dickinson had a bad match in PWG in 2016 and hasn’t been back since. Much like CM Colt Punk and Cabana becoming standouts in ROH in 2004/2005, EYFBO is headlining PWG anniversary shows and their team Pazuzu running mate is left behind. When thinking about a Japanese wrestler from the last decade that has a variety of opponents and is kind of seen as a travelling peddler, only one name comes to mind: Daisuke Sekimoto. The match can be described in one word, BEEF. These two beat the shit out of each other and this would fit right in happening in the Strong Climb tournament in Korakuen. The waning moments featured a chop exchange where the visual of the sweat flying off both men was captivating. Dickinson is then able to gain control and hit a huge Pazuzu Bomb to pick up the big win. Sekimoto had a great match with Eddie Kingston the night before for ICW so he certainly didn’t mail in his first weekend in America. ****1/4


Statlander has become the poster child of the depletion from talent over the past few years due to contracts. A relative unknown just a year ago, here she is co-maining one of the biggest US indie shows of the years. This match was short but sweet clocking in at just under eight minutes. Kimber Lee has been aggressive throughout the feud and starts out attacking Statlander opening up a gash. The camera work was shaky throughout the match but in some ways that added to the intensity and frantic nature they were trying to portray. The cage stipulation worked as we didn’t have any escape attempts or chases and it really felt like two women that didn’t like each other at all were trapped in a cage. Both Statlander and Kimber Lee had great blade jobs. The only negative I can throw onto the match was that Statlander winning with the 450 splash felt weak and a departure from the previous violence of the match. I didn’t really know what to expect with this match going in but it overdelivered for me. ***3/4 


One of the best booked indie feuds of the decade. They have interacted enough with each other to have a deep sense of history and hatred. However, they have only had five singles matches against each other so nothing feels too played out. It is no secret that Denver Colorado (Beyond promoter) was an avid IWA-MS fan and I do think you can easily find parallels in the Punk vs Hero feud in 2002/2003 and the way this feud has been built up. Janela is ending his indie run and even though I waxed poetically about Chris Dickinson up above, David Starr is currently the best US wrestler without a contract.

Iron man matches can be tricky but letting the crowd know initially that a match is going a specified time can also alleviate some of the anxiousness that a natural time limit draw can cause. Also, between the Judgment Day 2000 match, Beach Blast 1992 and the Iron Woman NXT Respect match, some of my favorite matches of those respective years have been iron man matches.

Janela starts off this match not wanting to devolve into violence. The opening mat work is gritty and spot on and it naturally progresses throughout the first ten minutes into strike exchanges. Starr introduces a chair that Janela initially throws away. Eventually in battle, you rely on what you know best. For Janela, that is violence and he goes toward the chair and has Starr seemingly reeling until we get a back suplex into two chairs delivered by Starr to gain the early advantage. Starr just builds momentum on top of that for the next 15 minutes picking up two more falls and really decimating any comeback attempt done by Janela. Janela builds up a tremendous amount of sympathy with the crowd and Starr is a supreme dick really working over the knee of Janela. The time helps emphasize the damage being done as everything in Starr’s attack is given extra time to breathe while still being compelling. Starr has the kendo stick that Janela threw out to begin the match and goes to town on the leg of Janela. Janela really seeing the match slip away, ducks a kendo stick shot and the absolutely unloads on Starr with a sickening head shot to make the match 3-1.

Starr is bleeding a gusher now and the commentary team picking up on Starr’s vision being blurred is well done. Janela is sadistic in driving the broken cane into Starr’s face. Janela has a stack of chairs and goes for a top rope move but in a callback, his leg gives way. Starr is able to then deliver a German to the chairs and they trade figure four holds. Starr is trapped in the reversed figure four and gives up a fall to break the hold and still holding a 3-2 advantage. With the match nearly half over, the next few minutes are a set up of the final half with Janela setting up his doors in the corner and Starr retrieving a table and setting it up outside. Janel against the advantage and delivers a deadly combo of two package piledrivers on a stack of chairs to even the match up at 3-3.

The second half of the match starts with a bang as Janela is now shimmying around and brimming with confidence as he delivers a fisherman buster through the doors for a close two count. Janela then locks on the crossface with an assist from a chair. Starr taps but his foot is on the bottom rope. This was a neat callback into their Heavy Lies the Crown match. Janela is distracted by all of this and Starr somehow rolls Janela up for the pin to gain the advantage. Janela is impervious to pain at the moment and runs through a brutal sequence where he sends Starr through another door and when Starr hits a Canadian Destroyer that is no sold by Janela, Janela delivers a Canadian Destroyer through a table on the outside from the apron in a legit holy shit spot. Janela’s greed gets the best of him as instead of going for the pin to even up the match, he retrieves a piece of the cage. Janela then puts a ladder inside the ring and starts climbing. Starr musters up all of his strength and delivers a superplex through the cage piece in yet another sick looking bump.

Starr is on offense for the first time in a while and has the lead. The pacing was done well as with Janela on top, it was strange to still see Starr ahead. A trash can is placed in the ring and Starr takes a powerbomb right on his back on top of the can allowing Janela to even the score at the 50 minute mark. Starr’s glazed over selling is magnificent and really amplifying the war he has been through. Janela lights up a cigarette. Starr has some resilience and gains the advantage driving the ladder into Janela’s balls  then a standing piledriver through a table getting a really close 2.999 count. Five minutes are left and referee Kevin Quinn takes a piece of the table from Starr. Starr responds by slamming a chair against his back. Janela has perspired so much throughout the match he is losing his pants. Sensing some desperation, Janela runs through a series of plunder shots and covers. Starr locks on the choke with two minutes left and Janela is able to poke Starr in the eye. Janela gets a choke of his own that Starr fights out of with a piece of the door. Slugfest with one minute left, Sharpshooter by Starr with Janela fighting out and Janela lands the superkick to get the pin with one second left. Hugs and respect after the match as Janela gives a heartfelt promo. Money is thrown into the ring by fans to show their appreciation.

Overall, this was the encapsulation of Janela’s vision of wrestling. Plunder, drama, and character work were all abound. There are certain aspects of the match like the Canadian Destroyer being no sold, some of the transitions and the overall use of weapon shots as spectacles that will never fully resonate with me on a deep emotional level pushing a match like this as my match of the year. However, for this crowd and this iteration of American indie wrestling, this was a bonafide classic and a surefire moment in time match. ****1/2 


July 2019 has had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great shows. Peter Pan, Kobe World and G1 Night three all have claims as being the show of the year. Americanrana can now be added to that list. Clocking in at over five hours, it is bloated and an experience but for a once a year spectacle featuring every single facet of wrestling, you are not going to find a top to bottom better variety show than this one.