Saturday, April 10
The Cuban Club
Ybor City, Florida
- WrestleMania Weekend Schedule: voicesofwrestling.com/wrestlemania-weekend-2021-full-schedule-map
- WrestleMania Weekend Coverage: voicesofwrestling.com/category/wrestlemania-weekend-2021
My first real foray into the North American Indie wrestling scene in a number of years, and I chose a card that featured death matches from top to bottom. Maybe I’m a bit crazy. Maybe I’m a masochist. But maybe, this was an inspired choice. As much as I love a match with workrate, flawless execution, and impeccable storytelling, there’s another facet to my psyche as a wrestling fan. I enjoy the occasional indulgence in brutality and bloodshed. There are times I like hardcore wrestling. So maybe if I was going to be getting a reintroduction to the American Indies, Alex Colon’s Planet Death might give me the most brutally honest introduction I could ask for.
Kevin Gill and GCW World Champion Nick Gage were on the call, and were a credit to themselves as well as the show, when it came to commentary. Gage not only provided legitimacy with his own deathmatch bonafides, but his hardened ex-con character was the most appropriate color commentary for a show such as this. Likewise, weather seemed to add a bit of a poignant quality as the show went on. From the bright sunshine one finds typical in Central Florida, the skies darkened as storm clouds rolled in. And by the time of the main event, there was a dark and ominous coloring to the environment around the so-called Planet Death. The perfect accentuating touch for the violence of a non-stop litany of deathmatches.
Markus Crane def. Kit Osbourne
The show opens with Kit Osbourne making his way to the ring demanding a spot on the card. Taking a moment to deliver a verbal potshot to Nick Gage at the booth, the champion explains that he was more than willing to face Osbourne in the opening contest, but the request was denied by the show’s producer (and main eventer) Alex Colon. So instead, we have a situation of Osbourne delivering an open challenge.
The challenge is answered by a returning Markus Crane. Gage does an excellent job of trying to build hype for this returning hardcore competitor, in spite of Crane not looking in vintage condition. The match itself is short: a few brief, high-impact spots, delivering some punishing offense to Osbourne, before the inevitable three count. Truly, the biggest takeaway from this match was the outright reliance on light tubes this show was going to have down the stretch. **
SHLAK def. Nolan Edward
I have to credit this match as having perhaps the best psychology and match structure out of any show to be had on Planet Death. While the physical execution of moves left something to be desired, this match successfully told a story in my view, but also paced itself well, and most importantly when it comes to a hardcore contest, didn’t overstay its welcome.
This was a classic story of power vs finesse, with Nolan Edward showing that he has an understanding of in-ring fundamentals and brings something to his game beyond ultraviolence. This isn’t the case with SHLAK, but it isn’t supposed to be. He’s a simple brute that relishes in savaging his opponent. In the end, despite the valiance shown by Edward, SHLAK was simply too experienced and powerful, and netted a decisive victory after an enjoyable, if imperfect performance. **¾
Orin Veidt def. Damon Spriggle and Ricky Noren
As matches go, this three-way contest is an example of why I no longer am quite so ready to admit that I like hardcore wrestling. If the only criterion one has to qualify as a great hardcore match is that it be gruesome, then this would certainly be up there. However, that’s all it was: gore for its own sake, with no meaning behind it. A match utterly devoid of wrestling psychology. Or as Larry Rivera, commentator of XPW infamy would call it: ‘violent crap’.
The three use what looked like cheese-grater surfaces to gouge one another’s torsos to get the blood and guts going early. From there, is a combination of the worst three-way match tropes, blended with meaningless moves and spots, that leaves broken bodies, broken booby-traps, and broken spirits in the ring, without an iota of investment to show for it. Given that every effort is made to engineer reasons to keep one of the three competitors selling on the outside at all times, and that Ricky Noren is actively terrible in everything he does in this match, they should have simply kept things to Veidt and Spriggle, and my impressions on this match might have improved by several orders of magnitude. *½
Mad Man Pondo def. Matthew Justice
After watching this match, my initial impression was, ‘this is what happens when every aspect of a wrestling match’s booking is bad and/or wrong’. As the match gets underway, Matthew Justice is here to put on a show. If this were another Wrestlemania weekend, the level of energy he shows at the start would be expected. But given the shrinkage in crowds this year, his level of effort is notable. It’s unfortunate that his dance partner is Mad Man Pondo. While a storied figure in deathmatch circles, Pondo at Planet Death seems like he can barely move, no less match Justice in terms of output.
This is fine in the opening ⅔ of the match. Justice has the upper hand through most of the segments both inside the ring as well as out, and Pondo in turn is selling for him, such as it is. This leads us to the spot of the entire show, where Justice lays out Mad Man Pondo on a door suspended atop two barrels, before coming down from a splash from a second-story balcony. However, from here, the match transitions back to the ring, where Pondo manages to gain the upper hand, and subsequently the victory after some brief, if impactful offense. This match puts me in an uncomfortable position, because the star rating doesn’t reflect what Justice contributed to it, which doesn’t even begin to speak of what this match potentially could have been if he’d been paired with the proper opponent. **
Jimmy Lloyd & Gory def. G-Raver & Brandon Kirk
According to the commentary booth, this match stems from previous issues between Jimmy Lloyd and G-Raver, and to their credit, there’s some sense of that pre-existing tension as both teams get into the ring. However, what is not well-established is why these partnerships for Jimmy Lloyd and G-Raver have significance or meaning as they converge here to face each other at Planet Death. And sadly, this is another match where booking missteps hamper what would likely have been a better and more satisfying match overall.
G-Raver is head and shoulders the superior worker to the others in this match, with Jimmy Lloyd coming in second. Gory and Kirk are far less impressive, and to me, a drag on the match overall. This is unfortunate, because they’re the extraneous pieces to this story. If this match focussed squarely on Raver and Lloyd, not only would it have been better worked (and likely more entertaining), but the emotional tension of their feud would have come through stronger without stretches of the match where Gory or Kirk are taking up space. **¼
Eric Ryan vs MASADA (No Contest)
This match continues a story from earlier in WrestleMania Weekend where MASADA faced off against Atticus Cogar, and now he faces Cogar’s fellow 44.OH! stablemate Eric Ryan. And as it would turn out, this little bit of extra storyline juice did go on to be a value add to the match as the commentary booth did a worthy job of tying the story threads together. In addition, the match was decently worked, especially from Eric Ryan’s side, and I found myself getting a bit of faith back in being able to enjoy this spectacle of gore and violence that was Planet Death.
Unfortunately, the poorly booked finish would go on to spoil yet another match from being as good as it could have been. As MASADA began to bring a new level of sadism and punishment to Eric Ryan, Ryan’s allies in the 44.OH! would arrive to intercede: Atticus Cogar, Gregory Iron, and Bobby Beverly (who was Ryan’s second at the start of the match). As the bulk of 44.OH!’s troops would come on the scene, MASADA is sent to the back packing, but this is only prelude for what is yet to come… **½
Second Gear Crew (Effy, Mance Warner, and Nate Webb) def. 44.OH! (Atticus Cogar, Gregory Iron, and Bobby Beverly)
Effy comes out from the back calling out 44.OH!, who had been responsible for the chaos closing out the match immediately prior. Alongside Effy is Mance Warner and Nate Webb, all three men spoiling for a fight. It is announced that an impromptu street fight between the two teams is immediately sanctioned, and we’re underway with a donnybrook. This match is all over the place, and in truth, it’s difficult to keep track of anything that’s happening from one spot to the next. It’s a frenetic frenzy, but the energy does remain notably high throughout. This is an important touch as this show has flagged in enthusiasm at points, with a few matches having gone too long at this point.
Effy scores a pinfall win over Gregory Iron, perpetuating their ‘series’ if one can call it that from Wrestlemania Weekend. Unfortunately, the match that served to set up this six-man was made to suffer in its finish for a follow-up that was simply not as good. **
AJ Gray def. Conor Claxton
AJ Gray comes to the ring after the carnival of chaos that was the six-man match, mic in hand. He’s lacking in an opponent, so he’s proposing an open challenge here at Planet Death. While similar in set up to the opening bout on the card, the tenor here is different, with AJ Gray full of defiance and vigor. Conor Claxton comes to answer the call, and it’s only a moment of the pair sizing one another up before the match is underway.
Given AJ’s physique, I was a bit excited to see how this match would develop, however, it was mostly a walk and brawl on the outside of the ring. Connor Claxton did not seem to be having a great match, his movement throughout slow and sluggish. This gave a fairly clear impression that AJ Gray was in the driver’s seat the entire time. Sadly, this would drain the match of excitement, because it felt that everything was an inevitable progression to an AJ Gray victory, and with little credible offense coming from Claxton, I’m left feeling that for a squash match, this was egregiously long. **¼
GCW Ultraviolent Championship
Alex Colon def. Lucky 13
As the competitors make their way to the ring, Markus Crane seconds Alex Colon, and makes his way to the ring announcer, knapsack in tow. With little fanfare, it’s announced that the main event of Planet Death will be for the newly christened GCW Ultraviolent Championship title. Immediately, Nick Gage goes out of his way to put this title over as something he very well may desire more than the World Title he currently holds.
The ring ropes are lined on two sides with fluorescent light tubes, and there are far more elements of plunder here than in any match before it. And it all gets put to use. Colon and Lucky 13 break an innumerable quantity of light tubes in this match, and get the blood flowing quickly. Colon does a solid job of being in just the right place to not only make Lucky 13’s athleticism look impressive, but to deliver punishing shots at just the right times.
My critique of the match is that both men are just too tough. With the amount of physical abuse each competitor endures, it starts to lose meaning, because nobody sells. As well, Colon gets a lion’s share of the offense, making a win from Lucky 13 seem fairly hopeless by the midway point in the match. And although the amount of punishment Colon and 13 both withstood is a bit shocking to reflect upon, it doesn’t feel that Colon’s win to become the first Ultraviolent Champion was something he needed to claw, scratch, and bite for. If the psychology in this match were adjusted, it had the potential to be resonant and amazing. Instead, it was simply well worked. ***
“It reminds you how low your world is. That when you sit on your little internet, when you’re in between your porn sites at your mommy’s house. And you email your buddy, and you say, “I’m hardcore,’ and he emails you back, and says, ‘I’m hardcore, too’.” – JBL, ECW One Night Stand June 12, 2005
I wonder if anyone behind the making of Planet Death today will look back and realize just how close they were to having a real banger of a show. As I look back, I think of just how many matches could have simply been better if just a few, slightly different choices were made. As well it underscores the importance of simple things like sound, fundamental wrestling psychology can have profound influence on just how well a match can land and have emotional impact. For years, I’ve heard that hardcore wrestling is at best a side show attraction, and at worst, an abomination on the art of pro wrestling. But that’s not true. The hardcore/death match genre very much has something to offer – if given the chance to tell thoughtful and poignant stories amidst the blood and violence. Planet Death very much had that chance to be an example to others. A chance it squandered.