Action Wrestling & Southern Underground Pro
Have Fun Be Sad
Friday, April 9
81 Bay Brewing
Those who regularly watch ACTION Wrestling know. Those who watch Southern Underground Pro know. Just about anyone who watches these promotions with any regularity knows that they have the ability to change that negative feeling many of us have toward wrestling in 2021. In their little corner of Independent Wrestling TV, both promotions present a wrestling product that takes the sum of past promotional influences and turns them into a cohesive, comfortable, relevant product for wrestling fans. The two promotions share a lot of the same talent, they share the same announcer, AC Mack used to hold both titles simultaneously, but they are also their own distinct promotions.
I wrote in my preview that for myself and many wrestling fans “in the know” that this was the most anticipated show of the weekend. The card that was presented to fans had a logical basis that was based on shows that were released in the lead-up, featured only a few “outside talent”, and presented matches that many have been long waiting for. And that’s why both ACTION and SUP are great. The wrestling is solid, often very good and even great. Many of the wrestlers that wrestle for these promotions do their very best work for these promotions—maybe because of the atmosphere of the feeling of importance, or even the smart booking, but it is unlikely that either promotion is going to be able to compete with something like the top-tier of NJPW, Dragongate or AEW on a purely in-ring basis. But we get shows that tell simple stories, matches that don’t overstay their welcome and a chance to see new talent rise up and become something. It is classic wrestling and honestly, whenever either promotion releases a show, they are the only ones in the world right now that I have to watch as soon as possible.
So did Have Fun, Be Sad deliver? Yes. Talk to anyone who watched, and they will probably tell you that front to back, it was the most solid, complete and overall enjoyable show of WrestleMania weekend.
*note* I haven’t reviewed anything for the site in a while. Not all matches will have star ratings at the end. I only post a rating if it gets 3.5 stars or above for me, which means almost nothing to you! It’s worth saying that there isn’t a single skippable match on this show.
SUP Bonestorm Title
AJ Gray (c) def. JD Drake
What a way to start a show. It seems commonplace these days for independent promotions to give that first match on a card to the young-guns, ideally high-flyers, that can really get a crowd to come alive with some big moves and bumps, but here – we started with a big title match as two of the best independent wrestlers in the world squared off and just beat the piss out of one another. By this point, most people reading this are well aware of these guys, with AJ being one of the most visible wrestlers on the scene and JD Drake being a former WWN Champ and recent AEW talent. Drake has a long history with independents in the South and I wouldn’t be shocked if this was his last big match for awhile – and it totally delivered. This match was built around nasty chops, shoulder blocks, and big boots, but since both of these big men move as quick as many cruiserweights, you had your share of running dives, cannonballs and moonsault attempts. One thing I love about both of these guys, is that while they are undoubtedly “BIG MEN THAT CAN FLY, that isn’t their gimmick. They still work matches where their strength and power is the most important part in a true hoss sense, but use flying moves as those last “death knell” moments. AJ Gray retained his title after a monster lariat, which is what he has been using to finish people off lately, despite the near fucking up from the referee. Really fun opener for fans of hard-hitting, simple wrestling. ***1/2
The Good Hand (Kevin Ryan & Suge D) def. Brett Ison & Cabana Man Dan
The work that Suge D is putting in on the indies right now is at an extremely high level. Realizing that a lot of these wrestlers have passed him by in the ring (though he isn’t a slouch), he’s using his name, his experience and his ability to cut really biting promos to create this near cult-like persona and has become perhaps the top heel in the two promotions right now. He took young wrestler Kevin Ryan under his wing after totally dominating him at an ACTION show and the two have been brutalizing people since, from AKIRA to Nolan Edward to their opponents here. Ison and Dan are two SUP OG’s, having many matches together but really both being two of the faces of the company. The story here was whether they had the experience teaming together to take on a cohesive unit in The Good Hand. In singles competition, you would expect both Dan and Ison to be able to beat either wrestler, but as a team, the communication factor limited their ability. All 4 wrestlers looked solid, though there were a couple of sloppy spots here and there. For his part, Ryan was perhaps the standout, really filling in the gaps and working his young, shithead character perfectly. The match ended with an errant backfist from Ison to Dan, knocking him out cold. A really fun match that told a good story and could lead to increased stories from here on out, especially with Cabana Man Dan’s “bitter and angry” character work lately.
Damyan Tangra def. Adrian Alanis, Liam Gray, Bobby Flaco, Rob Killjoy, Jaden Newman & Graham Bell
Listen, I’m a total sucker for any competently worked scramble and with the wrestlers involved here, this was more than competently worked. This particular combination of SUP & ACTION undercard guys gelled extremely well, with each wrestler playing their part and the right wrestler getting the win in the end. Jaden Newman played the annoying, sneaky shithead and continued his streak of improving character work, but ultimately got his comeuppance throughout the match. Flaco and KIlljoy took insane bumps and dives as they often do, sacrificing their bodies for the sake of the fans. Alanis and Gray of The Skulk continued to show why they are one of my favorite young tag teams and busted out some truly tremendous double teamwork, while maintaining the fact that this match isn’t about them, since they were heels. Bell and Tangra were the focal points for much of the match, with Bell kind of being the scary muscle, and trying to kick people’s heads off while Tangra, a relative newcomer continued his meteoric rise in my opinion, somehow making a “shooty/technical” gimmick work in a high-flying scramble match. This was just a lot of fun, smartly booked and gave Tangra a big win with this amazing European uppercut counter and DISGUSTING flatliner/ddt to Liam Gray. Expect to start seeing him more and more in the coming months. ***1/2
— 1 Called Scottyda78ERS (@scottyda78) April 9, 2021
AC Mack def. Myron Reed
A fun exhibition match with some insane spots here. Mack is in an interesting holding pattern right now, once the face and champion of both promotions, and maybe the best true heel on the entirety of the indies, except for RSP, since losing the titles and turning SEMI-babyface, he’s putting in work that is more wrestling-centric, but it will be really interesting to see where he goes storyline-wise. Turning him into the guy that wrestles “outsiders” in ACTION or SUP would be a fun way to go, because he can get serviceable to very good matches out of most people and show of his underrated athleticism, like he did here against one of the most athletic wrestlers in the entire country in Myron Reed. Now, I’ve said it a million times, and so has everyone else – but I hate Reed’s look. I understand it’s part of his character and storyline in MLW and elsewhere, and I don’t want him to just be another character-less high-flyer, but it really stops from thinking he’s the world-class talent that he absolutely is. That said, this was a real fun match, with both guys giving and taking the best from the other. Lots of reversals, lots of kicks, some insane stuff from Reed, including leaping cutter over the top rope to the floor. Mack got the win with a reversal into his cross-armed Pedigree, the Mack 10, in a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t a match of the night, but was the perfect match to put in the middle of the show, featuring a big name and big moves—really smart card placement here.
Alex Kane def. Logan Creed, Manders & Derek Neal
Alex Kane is the one to watch. He didn’t have the highest-profile matches coming into the weekend, but he delivered for every single one he was booked for and has people who had never seen him really taking notice. He took the weekend seriously, as I expected and is someone that you will undoubtedly see in more places and in bigger spots coming out of this weekend. This match was 4 of the biggest regulars in these promotions just going at it. Creed, a giant of a man, hasn’t dropped a fall in ACTION, Kane is the fastest up-and-comer and has got some really big wins recently, Neal is the New South champion and has been beefing with Manders in SUP, both of them costing each other wins. My prediction was for Neal and Manders to go at it really aggressively and cancel each other out, which they did a bit, but they also worked together early in the match, which I did not care for storyline-wise. Creed, a wrestler who has a tremendous look, was a step behind the other 3 wrestlers, though he did have some impressive chokeslams. Kane was the star though, suplexing everyone, including all 3 wrestlers at once, hitting dives and just showcasing his skills. This was a fun match and gives a glimpse at 4 wrestlers you should pay attention to, but really this was the Alex Kane show.
Arik Royal def. Daniel Makabe
There is a contingent of US independent wrestling fans that had been waiting for this match for years. Through the dissolution of Nova Pro, through travel restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a match that has been scheduled a handful of times for two tremendous wrestlers from opposite corners of the continent, that are both big fans of the other, that we finally got.
And it delivered.
I’m a big fan of both guys, in and out of the ring, as I find them to be two of the more thoughtful wrestlers with their character work and ring-work going. Both guys have their signature spots, but also clearly think through their matches and their abilities to tell compelling stories, which was on full display here. Makabe, the technical wrestler, is used to tying his opponents in knots and delivering mean strikes while on top, but he rarely has a chance to face an opponent as big as Arik Royal, one of the true hosses of the indie scene. Royal is used to being the bigger, stronger wrestler, but Makabe is more sneaky than his usual opponents, and bigger than you would think, himself. What we got here was a match that felt like a struggle, it felt like a match between two people who had watched the entire career of the other wrestler and doing all they could to avoid the pitfalls most opponents face. Makabe continually tried to get nasty headlocks and upper body submissions on Royal, but Royal was able to use his strong base to suplex Makabe off him multiple times.
Eventually, it transitions to Royal being able to exploit the knee of Makabe, and then dodge a top rope knee drop, causing even more damage. Royal followed that up by clipping Makabe at the knee and sending him over the top in an outstanding sequence. The finish had Makabe in control, just about to lock in his cattle mutilation, before Royal got the angle to smash his knee one more time, breaking the hold and springing of the ropes for a HUGE springboard Kobe (his finish) for the win. The match had high spots, but more than anything it’s a match of struggle and smarts and should be on the watch list of any seasoned fan. Hopefully, we get to see these guys go at it again in the future. ****
Adam Priest def. Matt Makowski
I wasn’t sold on Adam Priest for months, but since the turn of the new year, the dude has been delivering as consistently as any wrestler that I watch and has gone from “yeah, he’s fine” to “must watch”. For those unfamiliar, Priest is a short, muscular, throwback wrestler. A dude from the South who loves to fight and truly feels like a throwback to one of those unheralded, but great workers from WCW Saturday Night. He’s good on the mat, he throws good strikes, he has a good frogsplash, etc. He also won the New South Wrestling HOSS tournament, so it made sense for him to go up against the man who just won Beyond Wrestling’s “Greatest Rivals” Round Robin in Matt Makowski, another wrestler who has improved in the ring quite a bit in the last year. This was just two tough, technical wrestlers going AT IT for 10 minutes and I loved every minute of it. Where Makabe Vs. Royal felt like they were really trying to outsmart the other wrestler and had this calculated nature about it, this match was two superb athletes using their strength and quickness to just outdo the other, a perfect complement to the prior match. This match was almost a sprint with it’s pace, but it was worked as more of a technical match with Makowski trying to grab armbars out of nowhere, Priest transitioning into sharpshooter combinations and suplexes everywhere. If you love good smash-mouth wrestling, you have got to check this one out. It hasn’t been the most hyped match of the weekend, but was as well worked as just about anything I’ve seen. Priest got the sneaky win with a rollup, so I’m hoping that we can get these two going at it again soon. ****
O’Shay Edwards def. Jon Davis
Following up two technical matches with a complete bomb-fest is smart booking and that’s what happened here. Two giant dudes busting out EVERYTHING. This is another match that has been built up for some time and was canceled prior, and these two big dudes really delivered. For a fun experiment, if you watched every available show that happened this weekend, you would not be wrong in thinking Jon Davis is one of the true MVPs of the weekend. The veteran wrestler really came back with a bang here and everywhere he was booked, showcasing that he hasn’t lost any of his strength or spryness and truly surprising me. He doesn’t work all around the country anymore, but man, I wouldn’t be upset if he did. O’Shay is someone who has been really fun to watch improve over the years. When he first came on the scene, you could get really into the look and the size and the strength, but the footwork and the storytelling wasn’t quite there, but he’s been able to really embrace it all and learn from match to match to steadily be the highlight of just about any card he’s on. If the opening hoss match from this show between AJ Gray and JD Drake was told through chops and shoulder blocks and lariats, this match was a hoss fight told with insane throws, drivers and more. If you want to see two big dudes drop each other on their heads, this is one to watch. Davis’ in particular had really impressive kicks and strikes, but also nailed O’Shay with an impressive pop-up powerbomb/sky high. O’Shay was able to counter the veteran wrestler with his own strength and hit big moves like an Air Raid Crash. The finish came out of a flurry of strikes when O’Shay was able to quickly lift Davis up for a Fire Thunder Driver right onto his head for the win. The third match in a row where you think “hey, these guys need to go at it again” – which Jon Davis says on the microphone. For VOW fans, this is a true “Dumb Jock” match, and I absolutely loved it. ***3/4
Nolan Edward def. Angelus Layne
This match wasn’t BAD, but for me, it was the definite low-point of the show. Story-wise, it was a good match to have and does a lot to keep Nolan Edward strong in these promotions, as well as showcase the toughness of Layne, but the execution of the random “deathmatch” here, 2.5 hours into a show just didn’t quite work. The match was really built around thumbtacks, as Edward dumped a full bag of them out onto the ring to start the match and both wrestlers continually taking bumps and being dragged through the tacks for the match duration. Seeing tacks stuck in each other’s arms and bodyparts was a gnarly sight, and while this match did have some blood and heat, the work just never quite got there. It was supposed to be a fight, and it was, but with a weekend full of super gnarly deathmatches, this one just didn’t cut it. Again, story-wise this will hopefully make sense for both wrestlers in the future, but on this card, it was the one misstep in the ring.
FinJuice (Juice Robinson & David Finlay Jr.) def. Violence is Forever (Dominic Garrini & Kevin Ku)
The announcement of FinJuice working this show was a big deal. Two standout talents in NJPW and IMPACT coming into this little US Indie Scene and working a single match against the most consistently great tag team of the last couple of years was and is super cool. And the match delivered. Coming in, I think most people would’ve expected FinJuice to win, due to their higher standing in the world of wrestling, and with VIF being the “bookers” of the show, it makes sense for them to get shine and a great match, but they don’t necessarily have to win for any storyline purpose. This match was fun, the longest match on the show and featured a lot of hot interactions. I haven’t seen any of FinJuice in IMPACT, but their baseline of wrestling matches is pretty high, so even if they had an off night with Garrini and Ku, the match would be pretty good. This wasn’t the best match I’ve seen either team have, but it was certainly a good capper to a great show. Juice’s size was overpowering, the double-team moves of both teams were crisp, Ku came out of the match looking like a million bucks and like he could be wrestling for just about any company in the world and yeah—this was just a hard-hitting match that went back and forth, featured smart work and allowed all 4 guys to look good in the end. It’s not my favorite match of the show, but it’s something that everyone should watch to just prove that Violence is Forever is no joke and when people include them in the conversation of best tag teams in the world (like I do), they belong there. ***3/4
As expected by myself and many others, front to back this was not only one of the most solid wrestling shows of WrestleMania Weekend, but of the entire year at this point. Almost every match was VERY good, nothing was outright bad, and though the highest points don’t quite reach match of the year level, the overall consistency with the work in the ring, storytelling around the matches and the general level of excitement make this a show that should be in the running for “show of the year” when it comes time for awards. It is rare for US Independent Wrestling to have shows where everything is solid. This is the exception. Bravo to the ACTION team, the SUP team, Violence is Forever and all the talent involved, this was a really great two and a half hours of wrestling.