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January 9, 2015
-It’s become a New Year’s tradition for me to try to get back on board with the good folks at WWNLive. Here we go again.
-From Ybor City, FL. Our hosts are Lenny Leonard and someone who’s name I couldn’t catch over Johnny Gargano’s music.
-New Open the Freedom Gate Champion Johnny Gargano comes to the ring to talk. He recently reclaimed his coveted Freedom Gate title during WWNLive’s uber-successful tour of China. Gargano thanks the fans for their support throughout 2014 and helping them put on the best wrestling in the world. Gargano puts over the young, hungry locker room but states that he wants more fresh talent to join the WWNLive family. Therefore, members of the official roster will have the chance to endorse new wrestlers for opportunities. FIP Champion Rich Swann joins Gargano in the ring and reminisces about how they climbed to the top together as part of RONIN and as rivals. Since Gargano’s scheduled opponent is out, Swann endorses Shane Strickland as the replacement. Gargano is open to giving a title shot to the unproven challenger.
DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Championship:
Johnny Gargano © vs. Shane Strickland
They feel each other out with some chain wrestling and Gargano wins the exchange. Gargano gets the upper hand in a Roman-Greco knuckle lock and applies a crossface variation. Gargano throws some nice knife edge chops, which wakes Strickland up to maneuver into a drop-kick. They tease dives, but Strickland kicks Johnny in the face and lands a flying cross body for 2. Strickland repays the chops and nails a “brain kick.” Gargano catches Strickland on the turnbuckles and hits a backstabber. Gargano applies a modified cloverleaf and wrenches the fingers. Strickland looks shaken as he absorbs jabs and chops. They block suplexes and trade stiff shots until Shane rolls into an Ace Crusher! Gargano counters with a double stomp to the head, but Strickland SWERVES with a gut-buster for 2. Gargano avoids a moonsault on the floor and nails a suicide dive! Shane counters with a twisting slam for another 2 count. They trade more stiff offense until Strickland nails a DDT off the turnbuckles. Gargano gets his knees up on Strickland’s Red Arrow, but Shane still makes the cover. Strickland springboards into a super-kick and Gargano lawn darts him into the turnbuckles. The GargaNO Escape ends it at 14:25. Fun match with an appealing story, though a tad INDIE-RIFFIC, ***.
Winner and still DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Champion: Johnny Gargano
-Gargano shakes Strickland’s hand in respectful fashion. Gargano continues his celebration, but Moose storms the ring and puts him down with a spear. Rich Swann runs in for the save and the Bravado Brothers rush in to back up their “Offensive Lineman.” The Bravados are upset about things that happened in China and are going to make Gargano’s life a living bad time (they don’t like to curse).
Trevor Lee vs. Biff Busick
I’ve heard some good things about Lee but this is the first time I’ve seen him in action. He comes across as a Wildman during his entrance. Busick (also known as Frances O’Roarke) is getting a WWE tryout, so keep an eye on him. They have a feeling out sequence but neither man gains a clear advantage with their submission attempts. Busick finally finds luck with a side headlock. The pace quickens and Lee lands a standing moonsault for 2. Busick answers with a hard Irish whip and running elbow. Lee gets dumped to ringside and crawls back for a vertical suplex. My VOD repeatedly freezes at this point, forcing me to change browsers, and thus killing some confidence with the site. Lee runs into a hard lariat for 2. Lee forgets to sell and eats an overhead release suplex. Lee defiantly spits at Busick he absorbs hard offense in the turnbuckles. Lee surprises with a spinning power slam variation and attempts a comeback. They stiff the hell out of one another as the announces make hilarious comparisons to Ibushi vs. Nakamura from Wrestle Kingdom 9. Lee scores a dead lift German suplex for 2! Biff angrily delivers open hand shots and applies a choke. Lee counters into a pinning predicament, but Busick reapplies the choke for the win at 13:45! Impressive exhibition match from two future stars, ***.
Winner: Biff Busick
The Bravado Brothers (Harlem and Lancelot, with Moose) vs. AR Fox and Uhaa Nation
Nation is WWE-bound, so this will be one of his last appearances. He looks more comfortable working holds in the early going than he has in the past. Lancelot shows off with some push-ups. Nation does some push-ups too and continues while avoiding an elbow drop. AR Fox enters with a double springboard drop-kick, and Nation scores a big-time drop-kick on Harlem. Fox tags and scores a flurry of flying attacks on Harlem. Fox shows off his balancing abilities on the ropes and lands a tornado DDT. A Moose distraction allows Harlem to power slam Fox off the top rope onto the apron! Fox settles in as the Face in Peril and gets destroyed for a while. The Bravados have become smart heels who avoid high spots and disrespect their opponents while in control. Fox uses a 450 to escape the corner and throws a missile drop-kick. Fox’s double Ace Crusher allows a hot tag and Uhaa Nation cleans house. Nation goes on a suplexing spree and lands a standing moonsault off the apron! Fox follows with a springboard back senton to the floor! Lancelot survives a Fox Swanton bomb and Nation frog splash. The Bravados overwhelm Nation and hit a German suplex for 2. Fox catches Lancelot with a Codebreaker and assists Nation in a power bomb combo for a stupid near fall. Harlem takes rapid fire offense in the corner and Fox leaps over the ring post to wipe out Lancelot! A Lungblower/Powerbomb combo on Harlem connects, but Lancelot breaks the cover. Harlem suplexes Fox onto Nation. Fox suffers a string of moves, culminating with a Buckle Bomb/Enziguri combo. Nation gets Fox power bombed onto him but still kicks out (my eyes are rolling to the back of my head). The match has completely broken down and bodies go flying until the Uhaa Combination finishes Lancelot at 16:31. This was such a smartly wrestled match up until the obnoxious kick-outs started happening. Kicking out of finishers that no one has any business kicking out of in random midcard tag team matches don’t help anyone. Still, it evens out to about *** for the pure athleticism.
Winners: Uhaa Nation and AR Fox
Timothy Thatcher vs. Ricochet
Ricochet (also known as Prince Puma in Lucha Underground) seems like a bigger star here than he has in the past, thanks to the China tour and TV exposure. Ricochet holds his own trading holds with accomplished technical wrestler, Thatcher. Ricochet scores a drop-kick and soccer kick off the apron. Thatcher angrily uppercuts Ricochet and applies an ankle lock against the apron. They jockey for position on the apron, with Thatcher wrenching Ricochet’s arm into the canvas. Ricochet has a lot of fight in him but Thatcher continually targets his arm. Like Gargano, Thatcher stretches the fingers, practically snapping one off. Vertical suplex by Thatcher gets 2, so he rolls into a cross arm breaker. Thatcher doesn’t like Ricoche’t rope break so he fires uppercuts. Ricochet comes back with a power slam, but remarkably remembers to sell his arm. Enziguri by Ricochet and a Regal-plex gets a 2 count. Ricochet rolls through a suplex, but Thatcher counters with an armbar. Butterfly suplex by Thatcher and back into the Fujiwara armbar. Ricochet surprises with a standing Shooting Star Press but Timothy kicks out because this is indie wrestling. Ricochet’s top rope SSP misses and Thatcher reapplies the armbar! Thatcher attempts the London Dungeon, but Ricochet counters with a SSP for the win at 17:15. This was a great display of technical wrestling vs. high flying stunts. I liked Ricochet having to gut out Thatcher’s arm attacks, ***¾.
-Ricochet shows respect with a handshake and puts over the fight. Ricochet amusingly handles a couple of hecklers. A woman says her ears are bleeding from his promo and he asks to see. When it turns out that her ears are indeed not actually bleeding, he calls her a liar. Anyways, Ricochet vows to regain the Open the Freedom Gate title.
-Anthony Nese and fellow Premier Athlete Brand members Su Yung and Caleb Konley come to the ring for Nese’s match. So Cal Val interrupts and makes a case that she should replace Su Yung as their manager.
10 Minute Flash:
Anthony Nese (with Su Yung and Caleb Konley) vs. FIP Champion Rich Swann
The stipulation is whoever gets the most pinfalls in 10 minutes is the winner. That’s a nice way of saying this is an incredibly short Iron Man match. Bell rings and both men trade punches with a real sense of urgency. Swann nails a scissors kick and splash for a near fall. Swann catches Nese with a roll-up at 0:36. They continue at a fast pace, with Swann landing a cannonball off the apron. Some fans reward Swann for his dominance with by singing “All night long.” Nese counters a Dragon Suplex with a piledriver, but Swann kicks out. Nese mocks the fans’ singing and nails the nastiest back body drop ever. Nese hits a moonsault off the second rope but still can’t score a pinfall. Swann kicks out of several moves that are acceptable for one to kick out of. Su Yung distracts the referee while Nese sets up some chairs. The ref catches Nese in the act, but the chair shot happens anyway. Nese is disqualified at 7:20, but he doesn’t mind as he scores a submission via Half Crab at 8:01. Swann limps through a comeback but can’t seem to score any more pinfalls. They botch their finish, as Nese was going for a Styles Clash counter in the turnbuckles. They go over the 10 minute mark and a smart-ass in the crowd calls them out for it. Swann survives Nese’s submission attempts and the bell finally rings at 10:25. The in-ring work was very good, but the stipulation was goofy and the finish was a credibility killing mess, **.
Winner: Rich Swann
-After the match, The Bravado Brothers and Moose storm the ring and intimidate the Premier Athlete Brand out of the ring. They prepare to put a hurting on Swann, but Johnny Gargano rushes in with a chair for the save. Swann and Gargano clear the ring. Gargano proposes that he and Swann reunite to face the Bravados and Moose the next night in Winter Park. Swann suggests they fly in their old friend, Chuck Taylor, to bring RONIN back to take care of these pieces of sh!t. Harlem Bravado adds the stipulation that the losing team never be allowed to team again. A handful of fans heckled this entire segment, hurting it’s effectiveness, but it was a nice set up for a match I’d like to see.
-Drew Galloway looks downright intimidating during his entrance, with a scowl and hair covering his face. A tentative Roderick Strong tries to reason with him before the match. Strong wants Drew to calm down long enough so he can apologize to him for recent wrongdoings. Roderick doesn’t want this to be a grudge match, he just wants to shake hands and have a clean mat wrestling masterpiece. I love this transparent heel chicken(bleep) stuff. Strong tries to start a “shake his hand” chant but gets a “kick his ass” chant instead. Drew reluctantly offers a quick handshake to move things along and Strong is happy.
Roderick Strong vs. EVOLVE Champion Drew Galloway
Strong runs into a clothesline and Galloway pummels him into the corner. Drew fires away with knife edge chops, but Strong chops back at ringside. They brawl into the crowd, chopping the hell out of each other. Back to ringside, Roderick scores a running drop-kick through the ropes. They brawl into the VIP seating area and Galloway apparently drives Strong into the wall (the lighting is terrible, so who knows). They brawl out into the road and Drew lawn darts Roderick into the brick wall outside! This is awesome, you can see traffic driving by. Strong drops Galloway on a park bench (a fan got in the camera’s way though, boo). They head back into the building and Drew drops Strong on the bar counter. Drew enjoys a shot in between dishing out punishment. They trade chops on the bar counter and this is turning into the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. Roderick takes a big swig but Drew super kicks him. They brawl to the apron and Strong scores a nasty belly to back suplex! Both men crawl in with chairs and engage in a duel. The referee tosses out the match at 9:07 after letting a lot go. I really wanted to see this continue, it was shaping up to be something special before the sudden finish, ***.
-Strong and Galloway don’t care and keep brawling. The crowd chants “F*ck this ref” as the match is declared a no contest. Strong pleads the decision but drops ring announcer Heather Lynn with a bull hammer! Galloway is devastated by this attack, but Strong seems pretty pleased with himself. Galloway carries Heather to the back but returns to continue the brawl. Referees spill out of the back to separate them. Order is finally restored, so Drew grabs a microphone and demands that the match continue. There’s a loud “let them fight” chant but Strong decides to flip everyone off and take a hike. Drew calls Roderick the “biggest (female cat) in Tampa” but tries to end the show on a positive note by putting over the company and fans.
Final Thoughts: This was a start to finish fun show, albeit full of the usual bad habits of indie wrestling. The way Strong vs. Galloway played out makes me want to see a rematch, and the fight up until the non-finish was so inventive and fun that I didn’t feel cheated. Mild thumbs up, though this brand is definitely not for everyone.
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