After watching Lockdown 2005 a couple of weeks ago, and seeing what ended up being Chris Candido’s last match before his untimely passing, it seemed worth firing up Impact Plus and checking out the Memorial tournament the promotion ran in his honor in the August and September of that year. Indeed, the fact we’re almost 15 years on from Candido’s passing made it seem all the more poignant.

I’ve always liked tournaments in wrestling. They add an air of legitimacy to the product in front of you and I’m someone who has always liked that sports type presentation in wrestling, enjoying things like win-loss records and a true sense of roster hierarchy. Tournaments can be a simple but effective storyline device, furthering old program and developing new ones and creating new challengers by virtue of clean victories. Recurring tournaments also add a layer of history that a nerd like me always appreciates.

I knew of the Candido Cup’s existence but I could honestly not have told you any of the participants with any degree of certainty or conviction. The premise was simple enough – an eight-team tournament where the pairings, which saw a more experienced wrestler partnered with a younger talent, were determined by a blind draw. The winners would be inserted into the tag title match at Unbreakable.

The teams were: Chris Sabin & Shocker, Simon Diamond & Mikey Batts, BG James & Cassidy Riley, Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings & Sonjay Dutt, Abyss & Shark Boy, Alex Shelley & Sean Waltman, Konnan & Lance Hoyt and Kip James & Petey Williams.

Bizarre, I know.

That I was able to watch all seven tournament matches in a shade over 50 minutes tells you a lot about the depth of the matches. None are bad per se but none really jump off the page either – in a lot of the matches there’s a subtext that makes them particularly short and for those without, the matches only go to about seven or eight minutes and come in around the gentlemen’s three.

For example, the first quarter-final between Sabin & Shocker and Batts & Diamond is decent. There’s a hot start between Sabin and Batts that shows just how good Sabin was before it settles down into more standard fare. Shocker has his weird little celebratory dance and after doing some damage Sabin hits the Cradle Shock and that’s that.

Shelley and Waltman make it through to the second round by virtue of Abyss not wanting to play ball and laying out everyone at the behest of Father James Mitchell, while the 3 Live Kru have, at this point, just reunited, which leads to shenanigans in the second quarter involving BG James and his partner, Raven acolyte Cassidy Riley, which gifts Ron Killings and a young Sonjay Dutt the win.

The final quarter-final is possibly my favorite. You’ve got a functioning K-Dog and a wonderful sign in the crowd that says “That’s gotta Hoyt!”. The match itself is pretty formulaic but Big Lance gets some shine and eventually the win. It’s crazy to think that it’s only now that he’s getting his big push in front of an American audience…

The issues between the 3 Live Kru and Kip James saw Konnan and Hoyt’s run end in the semis though, as Kip runs interference that allows Waltman to hit a low blow and the X-Factor on Hoyt.

They’re joined in the final by Sabin and Shocker, who see off the spirited challenge of Killings and Dutt. The match is again quite short but the exchanges between Dutt and Sabin are cool and it’s worth noting how slick Killings was too. The match is fun, they have a tease of Shocker and Sabin malfunctioning as a team but they still get the job done, Sabin getting the three with a silky magistral.

That leaves Sabin and Shelley, future partners in the Motor City Machine Guns, on opposite sides in the final in the go-home show for Unbreakable. Those two are the obvious stars of the match and they do most of the work, although everyone gets involved in a fun little dive sequence. Shocker and Waltman add something different though with a more veteran presence and in that sense the format of the tournament pays dividends.

Shocker and Sabin once again have a malfunction at the junction, which allows Waltman to steam in, hit the low blow and X-Factor and seal the tournament victory and place at Unbreakable. Post-match, Shocker beats down Sabin and seemingly sets the table for a future match between the two…

However, that match never comes. Sabin got injured in the match (back and jaw) and was out for a while, while Shocker doesn’t work for the promotion again until the X Cup the following year, teaming with Magno and participating in the gauntlet. Waltman and Shelley ultimately don’t get their title shot, or have any further matches together, because Waltman didn’t turn up in time for Unbreakable, which led to Johnny Candido partnering Shelley before they were eliminated first as The Naturals retained their straps.

There was a sense at the time that Waltman and Shelley could have been a new team to build around but alas, that was not to be. Perhaps it was the issues with Waltman that never saw them return to the tournament in the future, even though it’s something that I think would have been perfect for them to use as an annual staple with the tag title shot as the golden carrot at the end.

Without trying to delve too far into the realms of fantasy booking, you’ve easily got enough teams to do an eight or 16 team tournament with the current roster – The Rascalz, Cancel Culture, The Deaners, The Desi Hit Squad, oVe, Dreamer & Rhino, TJP & Fallah Bahh, XXXL, Reno SCUM. That’s without adding teams from partner promotions, or singles competitors working together in search of tag title glory. A tournament like that could get over some of the newer teams (XXXL, Cancel Culture), bolster sides lower on the totem pole, or finally put The Rascalz in a position to win the belts. It could even be the best way to give Jake Something his big break out singles run in the promotion…

Anyway, back to 2005.

The fact there’s no pay-off to the stories coming out of the final is a blow and the mixed pairings somewhat restricted the quality of the in-ring product because of the background stories. The work itself is fine, if nothing to write home about (for the sake of completion I’ll put my accurate star ratings at the bottom).

That said, though, it’s a breezy watch at under an hour and there is some quality there. It tells the story of remembering a friend and valued member of the locker room effectively. Most importantly, it’s a fitting tribute to the late Chris Candido, and that’s all that really matters.



Matches

  • Shocker & Chris Sabin def. Simon Diamond & Mikey Batts, 19/08/2005, **3/4
  • Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings & Sonjay Dutt def. BG James & Cassidy Riley, 19/08/2005, **
  • Alex Shelley & Sean Waltman def. Abyss & Shark Boy, 26/08/2005, **
  • Konnan & Lance Hoyt def. Kip James & Petey Williams, 26/08/2005, **1/2
  • Shelley & Waltman def. Konnan & Hoyt, 02/09/2005, **
  • Sabin & Shocker def. Killings & Dutt, 02/09/2005, **3/4
  • Shelley & Waltman def. Sabin & Shocker, 09/09/2005, ***1/4

If anyone has any Chris Candido match recommendations for me on the 15th anniversary of his death, I’d be very grateful. Send them my way on Twitter @AMSinclair97.