It used to be better.” – The Lapsed Fan Pro Wrestling Podcast

Founded in 2001, the Pittsburgh area’s International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) had established itself as one of the homes for the CM Punk vs. Colt Cabana rivalry, in addition to showcasing other top underground names, some that went on to become big stars on stages as big as WWE. Even some mainstream names would eventually find their way in IWC, performing in dream matches that were politically impossible on bigger stages. In addition, there were some underground dream matches held in IWC, some that could’ve drawn big bucks on more prominent indy federations back in the 2000s. At least one as of this moment has been added to the IWC Network, apparently at my indirect request.

But any federation worth a damn has to culminate at some point, maybe once a year; for those lucky enough, multiple times a year. So in lieu of the underground all-star tournaments that took place in 2001, one federation saw fit to try it themselves, but with a new wrinkle. In what had been a staple before and would continue afterwards all the way out to SoCal, we now had another indy promotion that would hold an annual all-star flagship tournament… with the winner being crowned with a championship that would be defended until the annual tournament took place the following year, vacating it to begin a new reign.

Thus, the Super Indy tournament for the Super Indy Championship.

Like was done with NJPW, starting at the Tokyo Dome around this time, this event just seemed to be the best way to introduce the Steel City’s finest underground promotion on this lapsed journey. Nothing before this really stands out that much, so now we start with the inaugural flagship, and my expectations are a bit high. Can this come anywhere close to the acclaimed, game-changing King of Indies tournament that had taken place five months earlier? Will the unique championship concept stand the test of time, or does such a concept, by theoretically giving its champion a chance to never be defeated for it, only end up watering it down? Time will tell, and there’s only one way to find out.

Time to dig into the International Wrestling Cartel vault.

The following content is available on the IWC Network.

IWC Super Indy
March 22, 2002
Monroeville, PA (Pittsburgh metro area)

Only the Super Indy tournament matches are being reviewed.

Wrestling commentator Jeff Gorman kicks off the event by explaining what’s at stake in tonight’s tournament.

Super Indy Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
Chris Hero vs. CM Punk

Punk actually comes out to “Ole! Ole!” as his theme song, months before a certain generic luchador would even have his debut match in the business. A shame that dream match never took place so the winner could have the rights to the song. As a reminder, in IWA-MS, Punk is 4-0 against Hero.

Gorman is calling the action solo, and he’s far more of a professional than I am, putting over their 50+ minute ladder match from IWA-MS as “tremendous” and “a classic.” Gotta help your fellow Smart Mark Video colleagues sell some DVDs, I guess.

They have some back-and-forth early, each cutting the other off until Hero catches Punk and gives him a backbreaker, then follows that up with a Fisherman’s Shoulderbreaker. However, Punk dodged Hero’s Top Rope Moonsault to deliver his Double Underhook Backbreaker to gain control.

Hero manages to put Punk down with a Release Tiger Suplex; he must’ve been a big puro film student from the time he started in the business. Punk comes back shortly after with an ugly Buff Blockbuster, and at this point I wanna see one of them have a lengthy control segment as Hero cuts off Punk on the top rope, only to eat the Pepsi Plunge for the finish. Much shorter than I expected, but it was a quick, decision victory and protected Punk’s finisher, so the lack of lengthy control for either makes sense.

Super Indy Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
Orion vs. Super Hentai

Before a certain preachy vegan would become synonymous with it, Orion came to the ring to the tune of “Born of a Broken Man.” In this case, we didn’t a “dream match” between them for that song’s rights.

This is my intro to Orion, and it’s been so long since I watched my IWC Best of AJ Styles DVD that may as well be my intro to Hentai as well. His mask is incredibly indy-riffic and generic without any of the simple charm of the vaguely mentioned generic luchador in the previous match review.

The early action is quite impressive, delivering stiff strike exchanges and fluid mat wrestling that would’ve made this a natural fit for the King of Indies several months earlier. Some of the transitions are a bit creative as well, especially the way Orion goes for a jackknife pin.

Hentai also pulls off a surprising cut off, powerslamming Ortion that leads to a strike exchange that goes in Hentai’s favor. He hits another powerslam, but misses the Super Splash, only for Orion to miss a Quebrada. Hentai eventually hits a Super Northern Lights Suplex, then a standard one with a bridge for the victory. Good stuff and better than Hero vs. Punk. Rating: ***

Super Indy Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
Colt Cabana vs. Christopher Daniels

Daniels gains control early, only to get surprised with Cabana giving him a brief trip to Suplex City. Daniels teases a surprise jackknife pin, but Cabana manages to get him in a Pendulum submission, maintaining the heat over the former WWF and WCW prospect.

Cabana maintains control, blocking a Crucifix attempt and delivering a backbreaker. Daniels tries cutting off Cabana on the top rope, going for a Superplex and being shoved off. However, Daniels evades Cabana’s Corkscrew Leg Drop, making a comeback. Watching Daniels work here is just beautiful; why exactly is he on these indy shows instead of working the Skydome just days before this event?

Cabana keeps the control that Daniels has brief, delivering a Tornado Suplex and Side Slam. Daniels manages to hit a Reverse Hurricanrana for a dramatic near-fall. Cabana still comes back and goes for the Colt 45 but that’s blocked, falling prey to the Angel’s Wings. The more Christopher Daniels in this tournament, the merrier. Rating: ***1/2

Super Indy Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
Low Ki vs. Kid Sensation

This is my intro to Sensation, and everything about him screams that Low Ki is about to demolish him; the choice to use 112’s “Peaches & Cream” for theme music only adds to that.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a complete squash, as Ki gives a bit to Sensation. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising considering he didn’t demolish Vinny Massaro in the King of Indies first round. Ultimately, it was still an obvious mismatch, Ki’s intensity and explosiveness just too much for Sensation and that frosted lettuce hairstyle which has NOT stood the test of time.

Once Low Ki delivers a sudden Backdrop Suplex, it feels like it should be time to take this first round home. He doesn’t really crank in the Dragon Suplex like he’d done on bigger stages, which allows Sensation to tease a comeback.

Sensation tries a Shiranui but it doesn’t land, instead hitting a spinning heel kick. This is far more competitive than it should be, as nothing Sensation does on offense gets over to the same degree as Low Ki. HIs strikes are so much softened (and perhaps actually safer in real life.)

I can’t believe Sensation hits a Superplex on Low Ki. Another Shiranui attempt is blocked, allowing Low Ki to hit a Tidal Crush that the Pittsburgh crowd loves, but it’s a near-fall. I want a killer finish pronto for Low Ki now.

Sensation counters a Ki Crusher attempt and goes for the Shiranui, but Low Ki lands on his feet, finally planting his finisher instead. The crowd absolutely loves Low Ki and rightfully so; they’d have loved even more had this been the squash it deserved to be. However, had a narrative been pushed that perhaps Low Ki was a bit cocky (without being an overwhelming heel) and looked past Sensation, it’d have been a bit more logical and palatable.

At least we’re getting Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels in another tournament semifinal, and a week before their scheduled singles encounter in ROH? Will perhaps the antics that closed out ROH’s debut show just weeks earlier come into account?

Super Indy Championship Tournament Semifinal Match
Super Hentai vs. CM Punk

Hentai has completely changed his attire, still looking generic and indyriffic. As long as he’s as crisp as his first-round performance, I don’t care in this instance as I’m not expecting polished majesty here.

Hentai controls early, focusing on Punk’s left arm. Their chemistry seems good, perhaps helped by Punk working with Rey Mysterio, Jr. earlier in the month. He evades Punk’s chops, going on a chopping frenzy himself until Punk catches his hands to cut him off. However, Punk can’t maintain control, eventually leading to a chopping exchange until Punk just forearms him.

Punk dropkicks Hentai to the floor, following up with a Springboard Senton Splash on the gym floor. Hope that was worth it. Punk delivers a delayed Vertical Suplex, but after the near-fall, Hentai teases a comeback before eating a Tilt-a-Whirl Backbreaker for another near-fall. However, Hentai gets Punk into an Octopus Hold, but a Sunset Flip is blocked by Punk, who plants him with what Gorman says is a Mexican Suplex.

The lack of crowd drama is noticeable after Punk’s Double Underhook Backbreaker, serving as a near-fall. The same can be said when Punk cuts off Hentai with a clothesline. As Hentai gets a rope break on submission via his teeth, it’s becoming obvious that while Punk was already excellent as a promo, his in-ring still had plenty of room for improvement.

Hentai cuts off Punk’s Top Rope Crossbody attempt with a dropkick, both mean briefly getting the crowd going. Hentai’s Top Rope Splash is also a near-fall. He gets caught in a Fireman’s Carry position, allowing Punk to roll forward to drop him for a Split-Legged Moonsault near-fall. Punk goes for it again moments later, so Hentai hits a desperate Sunset Flip Powerbomb, but once again, there’s no drama for the near-fall at all.

Hentai’s left shoulder hits the corner post when Punk dodges him, leading to a successful copy of the finish from the Bash at the Beach 1996 classic between Mysterio and Psychosis, as Punk goes for a Super Release Crucifix Powerbomb, only for Hentai to counter it in mid-air with a Hurricanrana. That’s the peak of the match and its rightful finish, ending a mechanically good but dramatically disappointing semifinal on a high note with the audience. I’m not bummed about Hentai reaching the final either, as at that point, I see him having better chemistry with Low Ki or Daniels in the final. Rating: ***1/2

Super Indy Championship Tournament Semifinal Match
Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels

They don’t show any animosity from their ROH situation at the beginning, just keeping it a clean match on the mat. I suppose I shouldn’t be disappointed, as in this environment, there’s no stressed Code of Honor for it to be an issue here.

All of the early stuff is good as expected, clearly the most polished action of the night so far. But it starts getting a bit chippy when they charge into each other, leading to Daniels getting control. Daniels targets Ki’s abdomen after a Gordbuster and drops him on that body part with a suplex on the top rope. After Low Ki makes a comeback with the Krush Combo, he’s selling the pain in his abdomen.

Low Ki wastes time celebrating some kicks to the spine, allowing Daniels to cut him off and tease a comeback, but Ki shoves him on the top rope in the corner, leading to a Dragon Sleeper briefly, a callback to their classic three-way the month before involving Bryan Danielson. Daniels tries cutting Low Ki with knees to the gut, but does so moments later with an STO.

Low Ki evades the Best Moonsault Ever, Daniels landing on his feet and then avoiding the Ki Crusher. They have some excellent near-fall exchanges and when Daniels blocks another Ki Crusher, Ki goes for the Dragon Sleeper, but Daniels shrugs him off. Low Ki blocks the Angel’s Wings, and Daniels counters another Ki Crusher with a small package for the win, but it doesn’t look quite convincing even for a sudden pin finish, as Low Ki looks like he may have kicked out right at the count of three, but he’s a good sport afterwards, no animosity even after what took place in ROH a month earlier. Rating: ***1/2

Super Indy Championship Tournament Final Match
Super Hentai vs. Christopher Daniels

Hentai has again changed his gear; the third time’s the charm, as it looks the most major league of his attire tonight.

After the opening bell handshake, Daniels immediately goes on the assault, wanting to get this over with quickly. He hits various unanswered bombs to Hentai, including a Pumphandle Exploder Suplex for one of many near-falls to wear out Hentai. However, Hentai teases a comeback with a Bulldog, only to quickly eat a leg lariat from the Fallen Angel.

When Hentai won’t tap out to a Boston Crab, Daniels drags him to the ring and switches it to an STF, then a Bow-and-Arrow Stretch. Daniels looks extra motivated; perhaps this is fueled by failing to dethrone Doug Williams in England, as well as finally getting one over on Low Ki after failing to repeat as the King of Indies tournament winner and losing the first-ever ROH main event.

Hentai though tells Daniels to keep bringing it, eventually cutting off the former King of Indies with a DDT and getting the crowd briefly pumped. When Daniels stops corner punches, Hentai just clotheslines him to remain in control, and even repeats a powerslam counter from earlier in the night.

Daniels doesn’t allow multiple Northern Lights Suplexes, blocking the second one with a pin variation before planting the smaller Hentai with a Uranage and delivering a Best Moonsault Ever for a near-fall. Daniels his the Angel’s Wings but he gets inexcusably sloppy, doing the pin right in the ropes. This leads to Hentain hitting the multiple Northern Lights Suplexes to pull off the upset to win the tournament and become the first-ever Super Indy Champion!

The post-match is pretty much the same as when Danielson defeated Low Ki in the King of Indies several months earlier, with the participants and other showing up to congratulate Hentai and briefly hoist him up. Daniels is incredibly classy as they all pose together, giving props to Hentai. Rating: ***1/2

A solid tournament with good matches throughout, and obviously not up to par with the all-time greatness of the 2001 King of Indies. Definitely worth a view.

IWC (Event Unnamed)
March 23, 2002
Uniontown, PA

Orion vs. Christopher Daniels

Daniels has his right trap and shoulder bandaged. They have some stalemates early until Orion hits a corner clothesline. Daniels cuts him off quickly though to get control, and I expect him to be in that position for most of this match considering his superior resume. After a leg lariat, he tries pinning Orion multiple times, getting frustrated at each being a kick-out.

Orion has a hope spot with a small package near-fall, only for Daniels to cut him off with an Enzuigiri and then applying a rear chin-lock. When Orion tries elbowing out of it, Daniels uses the opportunity to let him run the ropes and cut him off again.

Orion cuts Daniels off on the top rope, delivering a Superplex and rallying the crowd. After some back-and-forth that gets Daniels on the mat, Orion hits a Quebrada, reminding me of a dream match the Fallen Angel has yet to have and could politically take place any time his current boss wants.

Daniels hits an STO to regain control, following up with a Blue Thunder Driver and then also hitting the Best Moonsault Ever for near-falls. Orion blocks the Angel’s Wings, hitting a Fisherman Buster and then a Pumphandle Powerbomb for a near-fall. Daniels still manages to his the Angel’s Wings for the obvious win. In the post-match, Daniels gives Orion the typical verbal blowjob. Good undercard stuff that didn’t try stealing the show. Rating: ***

Low Ki vs. CM Punk

Chicago’s finest going up against NYC’s finest, this is one of the very few times this match-up took place, I can only hope that this is one of the earliest gems for Punk. He’s got one of the best on the underground at the time to help him out with that.

They start on the mat early, and Punk holds his own with Low Ki. Perhaps the matches involving Eddie Guerrero have paid off for both’s seasoning by this point. Low Ki seems focused on Punk’s right arm, applying multiple Hammerlocks and keeping the taller Punk grounded, no matter how much the Chicago native breaks a submission hold.

Whereas Punk can use his size to get out of holds, Low Ki has his kicking experience to get the job done. Ki switches his focus to Punk’s left leg. This is a smart strategy to break Punk down in height and keep him from getting out of submissions, while the arm work can marginalize Punk’s various double underhook signatures.

Punk’s lock-up technique could use work, but otherwise, he’s putting one of his best performances captured so far on this lapsed journey. His control segment is believable, certainly in good part thanks to how much Low Ki gives him. But Low Ki’s comeback is even more believable, so explosive in everything he does. In this case though, Low Ki’s fire only wakes up Punk’s fire to tease a comeback before Ki hits a Hurricanrana to stay in control.

Punk scouts another Hurricanrana, managing a beautiful counter certainly learned from Eddie, somehow throwing Low Ki up in to perfectly place him in a Gory Special.. However, Low Ki gets a loose leg, kicking Punk’s left leg and targeting the knee again. Punk can’t stop Ki’s Krush Combo, but still kicks out.

After kicking Punk in the spine, Low Ki goes for a kneeling Dragon Sleeper; this positioning allows Punk to still get out of it, but Low Ki still comes up the better end on a suplex stalemate. Punk evades the Tidal Crush to take control; unfortunately, he falls on a springboard move attempt. While that’s likely a fuck-up, it can be explained as Punk’s left knee being a bit too damaged, but Gorman doesn’t mention that, nor does Punk really sell it.

Low Ki goes for a Hurricanrana but gets dropped with a beautiful Seated Powerbomb. Punk though can’t go for the immediate pin, instead wearing down Low Ki with a delayed Vertical Suplex. He goes for a leg lock submission that I”m not familiar with and also hits a Guillotine Leg Drop.

Ki comes back with the Tidal Wave, and Punk gets the crowd to rally behind him to a degree. Ki kicks Punk’s left leg and then goes for the Kawada kicks, causing Punk to collapse in pain. Moments later, Punk scouts a Roaring Elbow and Roundhouse Kick, ducking both and cutting off Low Ki, giving him a Forward Roll Slam and Split-Legged Moonsault for a near-fall.

Punk maintains enough control to try going for the Pepsi Plunger, but instead Low Ki dumps him with a Super Overhead Suplex in what could have been a terrifying bump for both men. Low Ki hits another Tidal Crush and goes for the Phoenix Splash, successfully hitting it for the pin. Both men receive applause, but only some of the crowd gives them a standing ovation. That tells me this clearly deserved a different audience.

It’s a shame this never took place on a more prominent underground stage. But that’s what makes this special, unique, and for this company’s on-demand service to be worth the price of admission. This is my pick for easily Punk’s greatest match in this journey, an actual great match that with just a little bit more seasoning or some quality improvisation from him or Gorman on commentary, could’ve made this a really memorable classic.

This is a defining example of a hidden gem, one that lived up to my hopes. My expectations were tempered after how poorly Punk was booked to look against Eddie weeks earlier in their IWA-MS singles encounter; instead, these two delivered something that I consider on par with Low Ki vs. Eddie months before in ICW (not to be confused with this company, IWC), a match I was definitely complimentary of.

Punk looked like he belonged in the ring with a world-class performer like Low Ki. Rather than be a styles clash that I feared it could be, Punk’s size played the key story in this match, as it allowed him to escape out of submissions and hit big bombs to cut off the much more polished, aggressive Low Ki. I can only imagine if this had taken place in the Pittsburgh metro area, or of course a city like Philly, Boston, NYC, or Chicago,that this would’ve gotten a hearty standing ovation, one that it certainly deserved.

Punk has now officially arrived as an in-ring performer on this journey. Rating: ****

Super Indy Title Match
Super Hentai © vs. Chris Hero

Hentai dominates early, and it’s obvious at this point he’s this federation’s version of Rey Mysterio, Jr. Hero has to avoid Hentai in order to have the chance to cut him off with a lariat, rather than use his size advantage to do so like Punk in the previous match. Hentai has a hope spot with a Sunset Flip, only to eat a Yakuza Kick from the larger Hero.

Hentai has another moment of hope with an Octopus submission, but Hero still cuts him off and delivers a Piledriver for a rope break near-fall. Hentai hits his signature powerslam counter, surprising on someone Hero’s size. They then have a strike exchange and Hentai gets the better end of it. Hero still cuts him off, hitting a trademark Facebuster move for a near-fall. In the end, Hentai hits the Multiple Northern Lights Suplexes, bridging for the win. Rating: ***

Glad this company has been added to the lapsed journey, and there will be more to come involving stars from WWE, TNA, and ROH. This served as a nice supplementary appetizer, and as mentioned, Low Ki vs. CM Punk is definitely recommended viewing.

That’s enough for me to say that yes, the statement that “it used to be better” holds true in this review.

This is finally it. It was supposed to happen two months ago; but now, we return to the Murphy Rec Center. It’s flagship time. The lapsed table setting. The charity spotlight. Everything.

How will Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels compare to their tournament semifinal matches? What about the King of Indies rematch of Low Ki vs. Bryan Danielson? Can it live up to such MOTYC expectations? What about the first-ever singles encounter between Danielson and Daniels? What will come of the shitty sportsmanship the Fallen Angel displayed after their three-way masterpiece last month? That and much more get answered on the next chapter of this journey.

The Lapsed ROHbot Flagship finally returns next time with ROH’s Round Robin Challenge.