“It used to be better.” – The Lapsed Fan Pro Wrestling Podcast
Every match reviewed here is available on the Highspots Wrestling Network.
IWA-MS Simply the Best 2
October 6, 2001 – Charlestown, IN (Louisville, KY metro area)
Up to this point on the calendar, this footage is by far the highest-quality prior to ROH’s birth, and honestly, it’s even better than ROH’s turned out to be at first.
Early on the show, Dave Prazak steps out of the commentary booth to allow CM Punk a promo opportunity in the ring. They spew lousy excuses for Punk to avoid his scheduled match against his “friend” Chris Hero tonight. Punk is such a breath of fresh air for the 2001 underground in the promo department, completely exposing Reckless Youth for his mediocrity in that regard.
Hero arrives and says the match is still on, bringing up a declined or neglected handshake from before. Hero’s gear is absolutely abysmal as he wants no punches, kicks, or eye pokes. As Punk retorts with a monologue, they get cut off and clear the ring for some garbage wrestlers to compete in their match. Hero still opts to stay ringside to display a turn on his part.
This becomes a truly white-trash pathway to turn Hero into a sympathetic babyface, as he’s struck with a fireball that was intended for Ian Rotten’s wife. Prazak, Hero, and Punk are too superior to have been involved in a segment with these other individuals. Hero gets helped to the back with a towel and some water on his face.
Chris Hero vs. CM Punk
This event is the sequel to the same-named event earlier in the year, with this being their rematch from that same card, which Punk won.
The commentators are so annoying talking about over Punk’s pre-match promo, as he’s on par with Christopher Daniels at this point on the stick. He proclaims that’s he better than everyone else due to his Straight Edge lifestyle. Hero arrives with his head bandaged, including his left eye being covered.
This is my first time seeing this rivalry, and they’ve definitely got good chemistry. Surprisingly, Hero controlled early despite his disadvantage, being more riled up than the chickenshit Punk. It would take using the ref as a shield and getting his vision elsewhere so Punk would deliver a low-blow to gain control. Dave Prazak also threw in a kick for good measure to ensure Punk didn’t lose momentum.
At times, Punk used Hero’s bandage to completely blind him, and the referee openly allows a chair shot and interference in the ring. With this being my IWA-MS intro, I’ll assume that’s promotion protocol going forward.
Even with all that, Hero regained control, moving the bandage behind his head, only to get cut off moments later, Punk attacking the burned portion. They had an incredibly sloppy moment, going for a badly-placed Hurricanrana that resulted in a botched attempt at a Powerbomb counter. At least the counter landed logically enough for a believable near-fall.
Chairs pile up outside as Hero’s is pouring blood. After cutting off Hero, Punk then tackled him, driving both onto the chair pile and not getting the pop it should have. That tells me that this was too earily into the Hero vs. Punk program to try escalating it to that hardcore level yet.
They also tried channeling the Dean Maleno vs. Eddie Guerrero rivalry at one point, sloppily so. Hero definitely deserves credit though for his exceptional expressions of pain while Punk worked on him. Hero showed great fire when he had control, but simply had too much damage. Once Punk locked on the Texas Clover Leaf, the referee called the bell as Hero had no valid response.
A flawed and at times sloppy match, but definitely a great storytelling performance from Hero. I’m astonished he wasn’t involved with ROH for so long, as he showed the ability to viscerally tap into the audience’s emotions, which more than made up for any youthful sloppiness at the time. I’m looking forward to seeing this program progress. Rating: ***1/2
IWA-MS Bloodfeast 2001
November 22, 2001 – Charlestown, IN (Louisville metro area)
Big notes since Simply the Best 2:
- Chris Hero dethroned Trent Baker for the IWA-MS Heavyweight Title on 10/20/2001 @ the 5th Anniversary Show in Charlestown
- CM Punk dethroned Tarek the Great for the IWS-MS Lightheavyweight Title on 11/3/2001 in Charlestown (event not named)
Lightheavyweight Title – 30-Minute Iron Man Match
CM Punk © vs. Colt Cabana
The first several minutes of this are just even-steven, neither sustaining an advantage on one another. As soon as Cabana appears to get momentum, Punk powders and favors his right knee. At the 10-minute mark, Punk still can’t maintain the advantage, eventually taking chops inspired by Ricky Steamboat from Cabana.
Even when Punk seems like he might finally have the advantage, he accidentally crotches himself while walking the top rope like Undertaker. As Cabana worked on Punk, he cut off the champion with a low-blow (legal in IWA-MS.) Not even a Hurricanrana from Punk could keep Cabana down, just serving as a hope spot. Even Dave Prazak’s distraction attempt is for nothing. Without any official falls yet about halfway into this, Cabana is just completely kicking Punk’s ass.
After having introduced a chair for a highspot, Cabana finally falls victim when Punk slams him face-first into it. Cabana takes a hit on his head when Punk hits an ugly Quebrada, the champ holding on to his momentum. But that is ultimately short-lived, as Cabana evades a corner dropkick, forcing Punk to land in a Tree of Woe position and take attacks with more chairs.
Punk cuts off Cabana on the top rope, successfully hitting a Super Hurricanrana for a near-fall. The commentators are amusing in their marking out, saying that spot makes their nipples hard. But after a few minutes, the champ is cut off via a gut-buster, although that’s a rope break near-fall. That’s followed up when Punk lands in the corner abdomen-first, allowing Cabana to set him up to go through a table. Instead, Punk hits a low-blow and scoop slams Cabana through it. Prazak throws them both in the ring, not realizing Punk also took some damage, but the champ finally goes up 1-0 about 25 minutes into this.
Although interference is allowed, I’m not a fan of Prazak blatantly interfering, but Cabana afterward is solid when he fires up for a comeback and successful Colt 45. However, Prazak distracts to avoid the tie, and they hit a double-team on Cabana.
Flash pin attempts don’t work for Cabana. He hits a Reverse Superplex with 30 seconds remaining. Rather than going for the pin, he foolishly hits a Top Rope Moonsault, and Punk kicks out at literally the last second to win. I seriously can’t believe that in 2001, one of the commentators found the applause to be described as similar to an “appreciative Jap pop.”
This was good but nowhere close to anything special, never once hitting the high-amount of drama that should be readily available for a match of this length. In addition, when considering that 18 months prior to this, these fine folks in the Louisville metro area witnessed one of the best Iron Man matches ever between the Rock and Triple H, this had to be considered a disappointment. Perhaps the participants in this match should’ve studied that all-time classic a bit harder rather than just taking surface-level sports-entertainment inspiration from it. Rating: ***1/4
IWA-MS Christmas Carnage 2001
November 22, 2001 – Charlestown, IN (Louisville metro area)
Big notes since Bloodfeast 2001:
- IWA-MS Lightheavyweight Champion CM Punk became a double-champion, dethroning Chris Hero for the IWA-MS Heavyweight Title at the promotion’s Indianapolis debut on 12/5/2001. Punk is now 3-0 against Hero in one-on-one matches.
IWA-MS Heavyweight Title Match
CM Punk © vs. Chris Hero vs. Colt Cabana
There’s no microphone present, so Punk amusingly, narcissistically pretends to have one so he can talk shit about the audience before the intros. The commentary also amuses me at the start, claiming the Punk vs. Cabana 30-Minute Iron Man match a couple of weeks earlier was phenomenal,” that Punk won it clean, and it had so many cool-looking moves as if that’s what defines excellence.
Cabana voluntarily steps aside to rest, leaving Punk vs. Hero to kick it off. After they double-team the champ, he powders to leave it to Hero and Cabana. After a couple of minutes of action, he reinserts himself via a missile dropkick on both.
Hero’s Corkscrew Plancha is much more impressive than Punk’s Springboard Crossbody, but it’s blocking a Tombstone Piledriver that gets Hero control. The challengers get Punk eventually tied in the ropes, forcing him to eat stereo dropkicks on each side. They follow that up by lining a chair in each corner, forcing him to be rammed into each of them.
The story becomes that the challengers double-team the champ, but won’t let one another go for the pin since this isn’t an elimination match. This definitely takes a sloppy path to a definite peak, which was a double German Suplex, a near-fall for Hero. Another peak comes minutes later when Hero hits a Super Reverse Powerbomb on Punk, allowing Cabana to place Punk on the top rope. This led to Cabana giving a Sunset Powerbomb to Hero, causing Hero to also hit a Superplex on Punk. As spectacular as these moves are, the in-between essentials are missing to maximize their potential drama.
More big moves get delivered, none of them triggering a fever pitch from the audience. There’s also no crowd reaction when Prazak attacks Cabana. That’s the cost of interference being allowed at all times in this federation, as it leads to no heat.
The biggest heat is when Punk hit Hero’s valet with a Powerbomb. Not even that can be sustained, nor is there any attempt to vilify Punk for it and milk any crowd heat. At least the match ends at its appropriate peak, Punk hitting a Pepsi Plunge on Hero, with them landing on Cabana, who ate the defeat.
Overall a good match, but it’s clearly obvious why these three weren’t picked to rematch this as the main event of The Era of Honor Begins. Punk’s definitely a good shit-talker to a fan post-match at least. Rating: ***1/4
IWA-MS House of Hardcore: 2nd Anniversary
February 9, 2002 – Charlestown, IN (Louisville, KY metro area)
This is the final event at this dog-shit venue. #LeaveTheMemoriesAlone
Big notes since Christmas Carnage 2001:
- On yet another unnamed Indianapolis event that isn’t available to stream on HSWN, Ace Steel dethroned CM Punk for the Lightheavyweight Title the night before this event.
IWA-MS Lightheavyweight Title Match
Ace Steel © vs. Mike Quackenbush
Warning: when I said on the first edition of Some Lapsed Ultraviolence that I would mince no words should any exposed assholes from #SpeakingOut have shitty or sloppy performances, well, Spillane is exactly the type of motherfucker that I’m talking about. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those because the daggers are ready.
Oh lookie there, Quack is sporting the sleazy Jeff Kent porn ‘stache. Maybe he should’ve kept that all along since it suits him so well. Steel using Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It to Me)” is one of the oddest music selections I’ve heard and he apparently lost the title overnight.
With all of that said, this match is a breath of fresh air in the first few minutes, as I’d been underwhelmed overall so far with what I’ve seen of this company. Quack pulls out a Kneeling Torture Rack Submission, which I’d never seen before, then they have some heated strike exchanges, including spinal kicks and chops. Quack’s handspring corner basement dropkick and modified bulldog on the apron are new to my eyes too.
Steel earns a brief “Holy shit” chant when he turns his Gory Special into a modified Colt 45. The more this match unfolds, the more I wonder where this version of Ace Steel was in the years to follow, as this is easily the best singles match I’ve seen for him, in large part due to his own individual performance.
This is the first time I can recall seeing a tire used as a weapon, Steel throwing it on Quack after a suicide dive. Quack attempts a comeback upon returning to the ring, and I liked that Steel cut him off with a Spinebuster, intelligently continuing the story of Steel’s dominance. But Quack hit a sudden STO to get the heat, also hitting a Springboard Senton for a near-fall. Quack pulls out much of his unique material, only to just hit a Pearl River Plunger for a near-fall.
They battle on the top, ending with Steep hitting a textbook Superplex. Rather than go for the pin, went with a Spike Tornado DDT off the top to finish off the challenger. A bit too lopsided to be considered a “good match,” but I’ve got nothing to complain about here whatsoever.
Steel cuts a verbal blowjob promo to give himself closure for his time at this venue and also puts Quack over for his effort, both receiving a substantial standing ovation.
IWA-MS Heavyweight Title – Tables and Ladders Match
CM Punk © vs. Chris Hero
This is Hero’s last chance at Punk, although it’s not specified if that’s the end of this program, or just the final shot during Punk’s reign. Punk is 3-0 so far in the rivalry’s one-on-one matches.
The match doesn’t get any real heat for about 15 minutes, when Punk finally goes to grab the assigned ladder against the wall. Hero’s valet Nadia Nice, having hit a low-blow on the champ earlier, was targeted for Punk. This looked like it could draw some substantial heel heat, but he takes too long and gets cut off by Hero. After getting an advantage, Hero goes for the ladder only for Punk to cut him off and regain the heat.
Punk talked too much shit after hitting a powerbomb off the ladder, allowing Hero to throw him around on the ladder. But Hero takes too long to introduce a table, as Hero makes a comeback to continue dominating 25 minutes into this. However, Hero should have the advantage after putting down the champ down with a Blue Thunder Powerbomb on the ladder.
I expected a much louder reaction when Punk came back again by hitting a Super Reverse Hurricanrana, forcing Hero through the introduced table outside. Perhaps had they sold it more, the crowd would’ve reacted more. Instead, they move on to the next sequence, with Hero being guillotined between ladder rungs as he’s driven in the corner and now sporting blood.
The ultra-heat reaction finally comes from the crowd and commentary booth when Punk gives Nice a Tombstone Piledriver off the apron through another table. The crowd rallies behind Hero finally as he hits a Super Reverse Powerbomb on Punk through another table. I think they’d have gotten more emotion from the crowd had Hero just used generic strikes on Punk for visceral vengeance immediately, building to that spot instead.
They have another big moment when Hero slams Punk on the floor with a Black Hole Slam. Hero spends more time setting up a table and goes up the nearby balcony, but Punk cuts him off. At this point, they should be taking this shit home more than 35 minutes in, going for a crazy finishing stretch in front of a frenzied crowd, but instead Punk is just stacking another table on top of the other. This is fucking masturbatory.
They return to the balcony to duke it out. Hero blocks a Piledriver attempt, instead crashing himself and Punk through both tables with a Russian Leg Sweep off the balcony. This doesn’t come close whatsoever to getting the crowd reaction that the Hardy Boys, Dudley Boyz, and Edge & Christian had gotten over the past couple years in the ladder match genre. This certainly doesn’t belong in the conversation with those classics like Low Ki vs. Xavier does.
The belt is shown hanging from a venue rafter, and the way they have to approach the belt by using the rafter like a monkey-bar is a foreshadowing of a gimmick match that would be one day introduced by a certain Nashville company that didn’t exist yet. They both fall with one of them getting crotched on the top rope below. The Hero’s Welcome on a ladder gets a pop, but it isn’t sustained, and I certainly don’t give a shit about anything in this match anymore, not even Punk giving Hero the Pepsi Plunge on the ladder about 45 minutes into this. The commentary erroneously claims the match has hit the 50-minute mark at this point.
Punk attacks the ref, who fights back and gets put down with a Pumphandle Reverse Piledriver. This is done for screwjob sports-entertainment purposes, as the ref misses Hero climbing the ladder and removing the belt. Instead, Punk pulls the ladder down, causing Hero to crash through a table and the champ grabs the belt. The ref regains consciousness to declare Punk the winner, and he’s now 4-0 against Hero in IWA-MS one-on-one contests.
Colleagues arrive in the ring as the crowd idiotically chants “IWA” and gives a standing ovation to both. As they’re both hoisted on shoulders, they embrace for a huge standing ovation and more “IWA” chants. I really hate the audience that IWA-MS draws. I also can’t believe that Hero isn’t fucking fuming after getting screwed. Everyone also goes quiet to allow Punk to deliver a verbal blowjob promo, showing respect to the audience. He also puts over the belt strongly; this would mean so much more if the match had been organically laid out and gone a reasonable length.
Ian Rotten also cuts a verbal blowjob promo, saying these guys don’t have a love for money, but for the business. Are we sure that’s not a code way to say that they stick around to be “paid in pussy?” The piece of shit also puts this over as the greatest match ever to the Louisville crowd’s approval. Fuck off, cunt.
But there’s exciting news: on March 1 in Indianapolis, Punk is defending the title in a three-way against Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Eddie Guerrero!
As we sit here 18 years later in 2020, there’s not a gimmick match staler now than the ladder match. They’re overdone, they’ve lost their box-office appeal, they also tend to go on too long, rarely condensing and doing anything unique with them to stand out and not wear out their welcome.
I think this match was 18 years ahead of its time. It was masturbatory, went way too long, didn’t build to a hot finishing stretch, rarely got any heat on Punk as the heel champ, and despite the backhanded way he won, somehow turned him babyface with a post-match that was totally incoherent to what took place during the match itself. The post-match respect and embrace was also totally insipid, making the story told in this approximately FIFTY FUCKING MINUTE LADDER MATCH ultimately meaningless.
For those very reasons, this match had no business taking place in 2002. It should’ve taken place in 2020.
So much for the claim that #ItUsedToBeBetter.
For all of the wretched fat that would be a part of ROH’s birth, many of them worse than the stars chronicled on this particular review, Gabe Sapolsky was right not to bring any of them in on Day One.
Let’s hope that the insertion of some real stars and world-class performers can raise the game of this federation, as this has been by far the most indy-riffic content on the journey to date.
I also badly, BADLY need a palette-cleanser, but it’s not gonna be the second chapter in ROH or any other company that’s been featured yet. It’s time to go the other side of the globe and even deeper back in time, to cover the first 18 months or so of the best work from a new, hot federation out in the Far East.
Before the underground coverage of this journey can continue, another trek must be made to get full texture on this journey’s Lapsed ROHbot flagship. It’s time for one of the most historic federations in all of puroresu, one that calls itself “King of Sports,” to finally get my spotlight for the first time ever.
Coming up on this journey, we hop on that green-and-white ark to embark on The Lapsed Navigation, as well as kick off The Lapsed Lion King of Sports.