Game Changer Wrestling
Nick Gage Invitational 6
November 13, 2021
Summit, Illinois
Summit Park District

Watch: FITE

GCW is back for one of its final major events of the year – the Nick Gage Invitational 6. The second of the company’s annual deathmatch tournaments, the Nick Gage Invitational has traditionally had more foreign talents and has often been the more violent of the two. Will that keep up here?

Meet our reviewers

Jon Hernandez: Jon Hernandez was in the mood for watching men perform heinous acts of violence against their competitors, but Obi Toppin is off tonight so he’ll have to settle for a deathmatch tournament. Follow on Twitter @OldJonHernandez.

Kevin Hare: Kevin Hare has decided to hit his yearly quota of GCW reviews and return to review the second major GCW tournament of 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @stan__hansen

Nick Gage Invitational First Round
Atticus Cogar def. Rina Yamashita

Jon Hernandez: The sixth Nick Gage Invitational wasted no time getting down to business. Cogar, now one of the promotion’s top performers, made fireworks in a big spot against Yamashita. Rina’s moveset popped out on a show like this, annihilating Cogar with a ripcord lariat and, later, a slick Dudebuster. Light tube theatrics were on high with a tower propped in either corner and two contraptions best described as oversized handfans made of light tubes.

Rina Yamashita was made for a Game Changer crowd. Her time as a member of UNCHAIN in Pro Wrestling FREEDOMS, which included a stint with the tag belts, was marked by a willingness — almost eagerness — to take punishment. Cogar, likely pegged for a deep run in the tournament, was happy to supply it. Down the home stretch, under a shroud of light tube dust, Yamashita kept kicking out of Cogar’s best shots until he shoved skewers into either side of her head and hit the Headlock Driver. It’s fun to type sentences like that. Very fun opener. The crowd was predictably head over heels for Rina. ***½

Kevin Hare: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: Yes!!! This match was awesome. It was a perfect opener for a tournament like this: a fast sprint that was all action with a bit of an underdog story and a molten crowd. Light tube smoke was swirling as both competitors brutalized each other. Cogar has turned into a much more complete character wrestler over the past year or so and is now one of the best heels in the company. That pays off here as he is now the perfect opponent for the traveling babyface outsider to go against in the company. 

The crowd really got behind Yamashita. The first-ever woman entered in an NGI, she took a lot of punishment and kept coming back for more. She got a huge nearfall with a Jig and Tonic onto tubes, destroyed Cogar with a light tube fan, and followed with a crossbody splash onto tubes for a nearfall. After that, Cogar hit an air raid crash into a tube tower in the corner and kept destroying Yamashita with tubes, then impaled both sides of her head with skewers devil horn style and finally finished her off with a headlock driver. A cool and brutal finishing stretch. This rocked and is hopefully a great indicator of what’s to come.

Nick Gage Invitational First Round
Charli Evans def. SHLAK & Kit Osbourne

Jon: Kit Osbourne’s surprise opponent turned out to be two people – Charli Evans and SHLAK. Both were greeted warmly. In the show Rocko’s Modern Life, there was a cartoon-within-a-cartoon called “The Fatheads,” where a grotesque couple would take turns smashing each other over the head with parking meters. This match was a lot like that. 

Things fell off the rails early and often, but I’d lying if I said it wasn’t a compelling watch. In a span of 90 seconds, the following happened to conclude the match: 

  • SHLAK struggled to lift Osbourne for a top rope powerbomb and dropped him on his head on a barbed-wire door. 
  • Evans snuck up and tossed SHLAK off the top rope into a pile of chairs on the floor. 
  • SHLAK got up in a blind rage, flinging chairs at a fleeing Evans
  • SHLAK was only stopped when Osbourne flung a bundle of tubes flush into his face.
  • Back in the ring, Osbourne hit Evans with a sleeper suplex and a pedigree onto a barbed-wire door 
  • Evans beat Osbourne with a small package, natch. 

Kelly Harass in the VOW Slack channel: “Thank god that ended with nobody dying.” 

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: Only if you have time. This wasn’t a bad match, and there were some cool spots, but there were a lot of sloppy parts and miscommunications. SHLAK was absolutely reckless. My favorite part was when he speared Osbourne through a board while holding tubes in the most careless way possible, mangling his arm and causing blood to squirt absolutely everywhere. Blood was just draped over an unbroken lighttube bundle in the corner (until, of course, it was broken. A decently entertaining car crash but non essential.

Nick Gage Invitational
First Round: Alex Colon def. AKIRA

Jon: “Oh, that’s nice. There’s knives in the tubes.” 

– Kevin Gill, shortly before the bell. 

It only took three matches for one to start with a knife fight. Of course, these are deceptively skilled pro wrestlers, so the effort to disarm one another turned into a neat grappling exchange. A mat battle armed with knives; I can’t think of a better symbol of what these two men represent. 

Colon is consensus best deathmatch guy in America, and with good reason. With Alex Colon, things like knifeboards aren’t crutches – he’d be an excellent pro wrestler without them – they’re simply accessories. In that regard, AKIRA’s a kindred spirit. AKIRA has a fluid submission foundation to pair with an aptitude for losing blood. If you’re a deathmatch nerd, I imagine this is a matchup you’ll circle every time. 

You had to sit through some schtick to get to the goods. A clothesline to a seated AKIRA looked shitty, so Colon set the spot up two more times. I’m sure this was a blast for the crowd (they were chanting “one more time!”) so I don’t blame them one bit, but I was itching for this match to get going. 

Once it did, this was fantastic. Colon gave AKIRA a ton of offense and succeeded in making him a fast star to the Game Changer crowd. Crisp suplexes and mat exchanges soon escalated to include chairs, glass, and knives, and it was easy to fall for a nearfall or two. Finally, Colon won by wrenching AKIRA’s body at a sickening angle with the Half Camel Clutch. There was a lull, but they were able to turn this into a miniature classic. ****

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: YES!!! This was the second great match on this show. Before I get any further, I just need to reiterate that Alex Colon is the best deathmatch wrestler in the world right now. He usually delivers in these tournament settings and did again here.  AKIRA did a great job of holding his own with a deathmatch legend. AKIRA has been set up as the next generation of US deathmatch wrestlers. He’s delivered every time I’ve seen him, but still, this is a big spot in a company he is pretty new to, and he didn’t disappoint. Colon specializes in the “workrate” deathmatch style – he moves very fast and his matches feature a lot of high points and big moves. AKIRA was able to keep up and turned in a star-making performance. He’ll be one of the future deathmatch stars of this company. 

I thought that this struck a great balance of introducing both Colon and AKIRA to the crowd in their respective roles. Colon is the crowd favorite and hit his usual crowd-pleasing spots (even if it took few times to hit his running light tube smash into a seated opponent. Luckily, it ended with light tubes flying into the snack stand, adding more than salt to anyone’s soft pretzel). AKIRA just wouldn’t give up and presented himself as a future winner himself. A great match and another feather in the cap of Colon, who is low-key making a Wrestler of the Year case.

Nick Gage Invitational First Round
Masashi Takeda def. Eric Ryan

Jon: Before last night, Masashi Takeda hadn’t wrestled on an American GCW show in two and half years. This match largely served as a refresher course, a quick reminder of exactly how much ass Masashi Takeda — probably still the world’s best deathmatch wrestler — kicks. This was fun and fast. Maybe Eric Ryan deserved a little more out of his 2021 Nick Gage Invitational but there are worse gigs than getting in there and doing cool spots with Takeda. ***½

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: Only if you have time. It was nice to see Takeda back, but it was a comedown after the last match and felt like more of a Takeda exhibition to just get him back in front of a US crowd. It was worked at a slower pace than the previous matches. 

Takeda is the GCW Ultraviolent Champ after defeating Drew Parker in Japan. He brought the belt back and defended it in every match on this show. GCW has a history of belts going somewhere else and disappearing. One last note on Takeda: watch his match against Violento Jack from Freedoms this year. A Match of the Year contender. 

Ninja Mack def. Nate Webb Gringo Loco, Cole Radrick, Brayden Lee, ASF & Yoya

Jon: It’s tough to write about the GCW scrambles and, as this match was designated as a break from the tournament, I’d like to treat it as one. This was expectedly messy but Gringo Loco and ASF, on the heels of a singles bout the night prior, did admirable jobs holding things together. I’ve been really into ASF since he stole the scramble at the GCW/Loko Houston show back in July, and Gringo Loco may never get enough credit because his name is Gringo Loco. As someone who also tries to reward himself for quitting smoking, I had a soft spot for Nate Webb tonight. The closing spot where Ninja Mack and Brayden Lee performed synchronized 630’s was pretty to look at, even if Lee totally whiffed on his. In short, this was a GCW scramble. 

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH? No. With rare exceptions, if you’ve seen one GCW scramble, you’ve seen them all.

Nick Gage Invitational Semi-Final
Alex Colon def. Charli Evans

Jon: With this match hitting the ring, it’s tough not to just think ahead to the likely Takeda-Cogar and Takeda-Colon matches to come. Charli Evans worked hard here to make her moment count. She brought the physicality, hit a gorgeous tilt-a-whirl DDT, and took one of hell of a superplex through a pane of glass in the match’s closing stages. 

I thought the match missed an opportunity to capitalize on the goodwill Evans had earned. When Charli kicked out of the aforementioned superplex, the crowd went berserk – including Rina Yamashita, who’d come to ringside for support. Seemed like a great moment to give her one last burst of offense for the crowd to eat up, but mere seconds later, she was submitting to the camel clutch. Either way, she left the ring to a full room chanting her name. Not bad. 

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: Sure. I’ll almost always recommend a Colon match. In this case, it was a great example of his ability to bring up another wrestler and make them look good. He did whatever he could to make her look good in what amounted to a sink-or-swim moment. 

Nick Gage Invitational Semi-Final
Masashi Takeda def. Atticus Cogar

Jon: This is a cool matchup and moment for Cogar. Over the past year, Atticus has stepped into the upper echelon of American deathmatch workers, aided by a very strong pair of matches with Alex Colon. Here, he finally gets to put his upgraded chops and reputation to the test against a certified legend in Takeda. 

The opening stretch was just what you’d hope for. A knee from Takeda to a tree-of-woe’d Cogar seemed to shake the latter up but, given a moment to regain his composure, Cogar returned fire with a headbutt and plunged Takeda through a glass pane in the corner. Things were continuing to heat up, and then 44OH hit the ring. 

It was a bit of a bummer from the perspective that I’m a nerd who just wanted to watch Cogar and Takeda go off, but this sort of is Cogar’s M.O. Jordan Oliver turned up to aid Takeda and cleared 44OH from the ring. From there it wasn’t long before Takeda closed things out with a Reverse U-Crash on a light tube bundle. I was hoping for a banger, got a taste of one, ended up with a fun enough match. Let’s get this main event going. 

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: Sure I guess. Immediately, Takeda came out at a different speed than in his first match. They both went at each other aggressively and were building a great match. Unfortunately, 44OH interfered right when Takeda was going to skewer Cogar’s head. Jordan Oliver, injured the night before, hobbled awkwardly to the ring on crutches, revealed he wasn’t actually injured, and ran off 44OH. The crowd was still hot after this spot, but it hurt the momentum of an otherwise good match featuring guys that certainly didn’t need help. I can’t help but be a little disappointed that a Masashi Takeda match is used to help progress a Jordan Oliver feud.

I would have given this a much stronger recommendation without the interference spots, but still, everything else in it was pretty good.

Nick Gage Invitational Finals
Alex Colon def. Masashi Takeda

Jon: It’s a matchup that always feels weighty. Colon is essentially the American Takeda, isn’t he? And his cache has only grown in the years they’ve been apart. A superplex to Takeda from the top rope to the outside left Colon’s head bleeding so badly that they ended up taping a rag to his head to keep the match going. 

Once things returned to the ring, it was a total bombfest. U-Crashes, top rope Spanish Flies, the works. Takeda seemed, at times, to be walking Colon through the mayhem, which is understandable; Colon’s vision was likely obscured by the sopping blood rag dangling from his head. Possibly out of concern for Colon’s safety (or trying to wrap things up before people tuned out for the AEW pay-per-view), the closing stretch felt a little rushed. That’s a quibble I only raise because of how high the ceiling on this match was. Still, this was a total blast and a worthy tournament final despite being a victim of lofty expectations. Colon wins the Nick Gage Invitational and regains the GCW Ultraviolent Title with his Half Camel Clutch. ***¾

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS MATCH?: Yes!  This was the obvious match to make, but also the right one. Takeda and Colon have met once before in the Nick Gage Invitational, with Takeda taking the win. Since then, Colon has won the Tournament of Survival three times in a row and continually called out Takeda for another rematch. Finally, we got it. Promotions sometimes try to get too smart for their own good, but GCW didn’t here and delivered the match that everyone wanted.

After hitting a gigantic superplex through class and doors from the top to the outside, Colon just started pouring blood. His head was bandaged by the referee immediately, using duct tape and towels. He looked absolutely insane, but it really reinforced the severity of the match and provided a cool visual. Unfortunately, the match ended on a few minutes later. While it was still a good match, it didn’t quite meet my expectations and didn’t quite exceed their previous encounter.  

One last thing:  I love Colon, as evidenced throughout this entire article. I have absolutely no problem with him winning this and bringing the Ultraviolent belt home. However, I think he’s reached the max number of major GCW tournaments he should win. He’s won four of the last six. He should absolutely always be in the mix of these things, but it’s probably just about time that some fresh blood takes it.

Jon: In the postmatch, ICW No Holds Barred champ John Wayne Murdoch made his first Game Changer appearance in over two years, attacking Cogar and laying down a challenge. For some, this might not meet the lofty bar set by other recent cloaked title challengers. Deathmatch weirdos will be hyped though — JWM has been doing excellent work as the ace of the hugely underrated ICW-NHB. Great way to end the night. 

Final Thoughts

Kevin: SHOULD I WATCH THIS SHOW?: Absolutely! GCW followed this year’s great Tournament of Survival with another show that was almost as great. Every tournament match was some level of good, a few were great, it culminated with a great winner and a big angle going forward. A must-see show.

Best match: Alex Colon vs. AKIRA or Rina Yamashita vs. Atticus Cogar

Jon: Credit to Game Changer, this year’s Nick Gage Invitational had a really fun lineup and was easy to watch in a way that I think would even appeal to non-deathmatch folks. Having foreign talent come in is such an important component to GCW’s tournaments, so having Takeda and Yamashita went a long way. A hot closing angle (something we’re saying more and more about GCW these days) didn’t hurt. If you even have a passing interest in this sect of the pro wrestling world, watch this shit. 

Best match: Alex Colon vs. AKIRA