We’ve been lucky, here in the Chicago area, to get a lot of really interesting wrestling shows this year. It takes more to get me out to live wrestling of late, because of the crazy amount of lucha libre I’m watching on tape each week, but there’s been no short supply of shows I’d been thrilled to check out. Both the SHIMMER and DGUSA shows made the trip worth it based on just good wrestling matches. CHIKARA and Money in the Bank one up-ed the others, events you just had to be there for, because DVD or PPV wouldn’t truly capture the experience. Friday night, at the debut of Resistance Pro, I was really only expecting the second part; great matches would be a nice bonus, but the unpredictable names involved had me hoping this show would be memorable. And it was! I was also hoping Teddy Hart and the Briscoes would be crazy! And they did! On that criteria, this show was a success.
Unfortunately, it was also a terrible debut show. The wrestlers generally seemed to work hard and the production seemed fine (and maybe better than average for a debut show of a promotion), but their efforts were utterly betrayed by whoever was responsible for booking the show. It was an amazing night for poor finishes, mortally wounding any goodwill for this project. It was a failure as any regular show for a promotion, but as a tone setting premiere, Resistance Pro was a disaster.
But, then, I did see Teddy Hart superplex a Briscoe from the second floor, and that was cool.
The site of the debut show – and the announced location for the second show in January – was the Excalibur Night Club. Should you ever find yourself with time to kill and desire some laughs, please check out the Yelp reviews of the Excalibur Night Club. They make this review seem kind. The area used for the wrestling ring was in the second floor, tightly packed in what most normally be a dance floor. The three feet ringside area was blocked off by barricades, with fans standing behind them. There are also two floors of balconies, wrapping around the small area, where more fans could stand and peer over to watch the action, craning their necks to see around hanging items. There were few chairs to actually sit in, most borrowed from tables which sat empty near the wall, which meant most people were stuck standing and leaning on ledge for two hours. Those were the lucky ones; there seemed to be a good 30% more tickets sold than places to actually watch the show from a decent position, and some were attempting to watch the show over the shoulder of someone who was leaning on a ledge. Those people checked out early. The venue will likely look come off a unique and different on video, but it felt particularly user-unfriendly live. Not really sure it would’ve made a difference in an easier place to watch, but I’m sure the experience of the show was vastly different depending on what space you happened to grab.
Opening segment was not a match, but an introduction of Joel Gertner, who did the Joel Gertner bit. From there, the four wrestlers in the semifinals of their initial title tournament were brought down: the Sheik, El Generico, Harry Smith, and Kevin Steen. They each took turns explaining why they would win – except for Generico. The Sheik and his manager were generic indy foreign heels who drew a USA chant (until the fans remembers the other three guys were Canadian and/or Mexican), Harry Smith was generic face (“I’d rather speak thru my actions, then my words” – kind of in the wrong business then, aren’t you?), and Kevin Steen was Kevin Steen. Steen and Smith walked off, while Gertner decided Generico vs Sheik would now be our opener.
1) The Sheik beat Generico to advance to the Resistance Pro Finals. The Sheik is a old school evil Arab character – wears a headdress, “prays” before his match, does a lot of forearms, may not actually be Arab. The devout Muslim was wearing black and yellow (instead of green) and a star (instead of a crescent moon.) This is like a Buddhist wearing a cross; it’s not opposing the gimmick but doesn’t make much sense, and made me wonder if Sheik was supposed to be a Phony Muslim. It’d give him a second dimension. Fans, largely the same mix of people who turn up for niche wrestling events with a few interlopers, saw indy darling Generico as a big star and Sheik as some guy. Match was nothing at all to write about, something in the ten minute area with Generico getting a big move, being distracted by Sheik’s manager, and then walking into Sheik’s finish. Now Sheik was some guy who wasn’t that good but got bailed out by his manager to get to the final. This was a sign right here.
2) Kyle O’Reilly & Tony Kozina (w/The Canadian Destroyer) beat Hallowicked & Matt Classic – O’Reilly and Kozina are Team Ambition, I think. The Canadian Destroyer is Petey Williams under a maple leaf flag pretending not to be Petey Williams by choosing a name that everyone would realize is Petey Williams. I could not ascertain why, except perhaps someone had decided they wanted more mask guys on this show. That’s generally what the losing pair appeared to be here for; this match was a bit better than the opener, with Hallowicked a large part of the reason (and Matt Classic not being in much – or at all?), but they were treated as largely incidental. Classic might have turned on Hallowicked for the finish; I could not actually tell from where I was standing, and this is also why I’m apprehensive of using finite match ratings. Winning team was not particularly memorable. After the match, the winning team was announced by Wacky Post Match Interview Guy for their thoughts on the win. This was a definite attempt at MMA style – O’Reilly: “I had a really good fight camp coming into this” – but it came off as just silliness whenever they tried it.
Here, I should mention that part of the ring was overlapped by two balcony mini booths, swooping over the hard camera side ringposts and looking sort of like umpire chairs at a tennis event. You could climb to the top rope off that side, and you could even pull guys off, but you had to be a bit careful not to hit the underside. One of the booths had a cameraman, and the other sat a man in a Resistance Pro t-shirt making copious notes thru the show. Around here, special VIPs in the crowd were announced – Mike Adamle was booed vociferously – and the man taking notes was revealed to be Shane Douglas! I was happy Shane was still with us.
3) Lonesome Jay Bradley beat Icarus – while the previous matches had face/heel matches you could suss out, this was loathsome heel Icarus (in his CHIKARA jacket) versus lonesome Bradley, who the crowd had no particular feelings about. Match lasted no more than two minutes, Bradley taking off Icarus’ head with a lariat. Thanks for coming out. Bradley shooed the post match interviewer away, and explained he was Lonesome by choice, he wanted to have everything for himself. This was a good NXT promo. 3 for 3 on heel wins
4) The Briscoe Brothers beat Teddy Hart & Akuma – The Briscoe Brothers were introduced/accompanied by Some Fitness Model. She came to the ring to explain why she was with the Briscoes. That reason will forever stay a mystery. The crowd turned on her in a half minute, her soft spoken voice, her lack of presence and her tight outfit giving people plenty of ammunition. We did get to here the Briscoe’s reasons for teaming with her – they were planning on having lots of sex with her after the show. Someone certainly was, or had, because there didn’t appear to be any other reason she was booked on this show. Akuma & Teddy Hart (“from Mexico City”) were introduced as a team, but only Akuma appeared. It’s tough to tell what really is Teddy Hart and what is Teddy Hart playing Teddy Hart (if such a thing exists), but Akuma gave a great impression of an annoyed man when he asked the crowd if we had seen Teddy somewhere in this smokey room. Teddy was immediately hustled from the lockerroom, still fixing one of the million buckles on his boots as the match was beginning. (Teddy also was checking one of his wrists – I think his left – a few times during the match.) No cats.
Opening segment was Briscoe dominated, before Teddy got a tag and chaos took over. Teddy had seen that mini booth, about the height of the top of a normal ladder, and there was a 100% chance Teddy Hart was going to do spots from it. The Briscoes are not that different. Teddy and one of them climbed a corner, and climbed up to where Douglas had been peacefully watching. He smartly backed away, watching as the two lunatics figured out their footing, and Teddy superplexed the Briscoe from maybe 12 feet up, throwing him across the ring and knocking them both out of action for a while (but not as big turning point in the match, just a random spot.) Later, when Teddy got the hot tag after Akuma was beat on for a while, Teddy returned to the balcony, and moonsaulted off all the way to the floor. Those were two biggest reactions of the night, as I’m sure he knows. The rest of the match largely went as you’d expect; Briscoes did their stuff and Akuma fit pretty well here for a guy who was obviously just around to take the pin. Teddy Hart made sure to get in all his moves when he got the opportunity, including the double underhook Canadian Destroyer on a show where there was a guy named the Canadian Destroyer. Briscoes gave Akuma took the Doomsday Device to get the win. This was, if not the best, the most memorable match of the night. Also, the first match where a side the fans liked actually won, so that was nice.
5) Melanie Cruz beat Cheerleader Melissa, A Man Dressed As A Female Cheerleader, And Six Or So Random Indy Women in a gauntlet match for Resistance Pro Women’s Championship – This is where it turned. The first three matches were disappointing and boring. The fourth redeemed it, but we were all at a bad indy show and knew it. This match is where the show crossed the line into memorable horrendous. All the participants were introduced at once, with only the Man Dressed As A Female Cheerleader getting interview time to explain for the crossdresser to make his it clear that he was a man (if we were too slow to pick up on the giant, misaligned breasts), for the interviewer to mistake the crossdresser for a woman and invite him back to her hotel room, and for both to comment on the idiocy of the fans for giving money to a promotion so interested in entertaining themselves rather than the paying customer. (Parts may have been implied.) As for the actual women, they had Cheerleader Melissa, recognizable indy darling like Generico, and a fleet of complete unknowns who did little to change that. Maybe a couple had been at the last SHIMMER show as jobbers and maybe they’d come off well individually, but they were here together as a indistinguishable mess who were not near Melissa’s level.
Also a mess: the rules of this match. While they had time to say everyone’s name, hometown and weight, they never actually said how this match would work. Melissa and Generic Girl #1 (who’s name might have been Serenity – or I might have changed it to protect the innocent) started. And went, and went, and went. I didn’t time matches, but I believe this part lasted approximately the same length as the most painful dentist appointment you’ve had in your life. Finally, Melissa had GG1 beat, covered, got the one count, got the two count…
Generic Girl #2 dived in to break the pin. That had actually been counted three, but was ignored because it wasn’t supposed to happen and it was direly important to have Generic Girl #1 around for the remainder. See, this was actually a Royal Rumble match (though one where eliminations occurred both over the top rope and by pinfall, depending on what the participants remembered at the time), and the time for the third participant to enter magically happened during the pinfall. There was a gong on the stage, and a gong banger (?), to announce people added to the match. I believe the time between gongs was designated as “whenever the gong banger felt like it”, random intervals that rapidly sped up by the end. No one appeared to be eliminated before everyone came in – so all the woman could attack the man-in-bad-disguise at once – rendering the whole entry bit to be pointless. First people in were last out too, just to add to the illogic. First person out might have been Shane Douglas, who gave up taking notes as the women meandered on, walking to the locker room and hopefully yelling at whoever had this idea.
Even if this match wasn’t bad – it was bad – it was a terrible idea. It seemed obvious either Melissa would win, making this whole match a joke for not having any decent competition, or the Cross Dresser would win, making this whole promotion a joke for putting it’s women’s title on a man on it’s first show. If they wanted to just demonstrate Melissa was much better than the rest – what the fans already believed – they could’ve saved a lot of time and just had her Jay Bradley each woman one by one. Instead, we got a crappy battle royal that went forever. Hooray.
Cross Dresser – who people around me thought was Icarus, but didn’t seem to have the back tattoo as far as I could tell – was actually third out. Melissa was left with GG1, and they resumed having their cold match. Melissa had her beat
Many minutes after the gong had last rung (but explaining why the banger was still standing there), a random woman in street clothes attacked Melissa from behind and beat her. It was not totally clear to me that GG1 was ever beat, but I’m okay with her being gone. Random Woman was announced as Melanie Cruz and given the belt for winning the match she wasn’t ever actually in, then mocked Melissa for being a future legend while she was currently a legend. No one had any idea who this woman was, though she did get cheers when she pointed out how much that match sucked. Four for five on unhappy endings
This match went longer than my recap of this match.
6) The Canadian Destroyer (w/Team Ambition) beat Colt Cabana & Necro Butcher in a King of the Night Time match. Please do not ask me what that name actually means, I could not tell you. I did not look at the card before the show, but I think at some point there were people in this match that would actually make sense for that prize. What we had instead was Colt being Colt, Necro being Necro, and Petey Williams doing mask comedy. And a crowd that was dead from the last match. Any singles combination of the three might have worked – maybe not Petey/Necro as much – but it didn’t work as a three way at all. It felt like they each took sections doing the kind of match they wanted to do, with no real melding and little flow to the match. This match was one of the better ones of the night but not something I’d ever need to see again. Of note, the Gong remained on the stage, and the remaining wrestlers were as dead set at ramming someone in to it as Teddy Hart had been on that balcony. I think Colt took it here. Finish, after a shorter time than the last match, was Necro out of commission outside, Petey & Kozina distraction the ref, O’Reilly hitting Colt with a metal spit bucket, and Petey finishing with the Canadian Destroyer. Crowed loved Necro, loved Colt, and didn’t really care about the Destroyer outside of chanting Petey at him early. Five for six on unhappy endings.
The ref teased overturning the finish, but never seemed to do so. Weirdly, Destroyer acted as if he did, bizarrely turning on Reilly and Kozina for interfering in the match. It did not come off as Destroyer was becoming a face, more than he was angry that it could’ve cost him a match, and heels fighting heels for a while. I have no idea what this was about and could not care.
7) Harry Boy Smith drew Kevin Steen to advance to the Resistance Pro Finals. After the run of horrible finishes so far, I was sure this show would end with generic face Harry Boy Smith getting the win. I was so wrong. Steen tried in this match (and took the shot into gong), getting a burn out and checked out crowd into reacting at points. Screaming “Bret Hart can’t get you pushed now” and doing Bret’s pose was a nice moment. Smith is just so devoid of personality that there’s not much for Steen to work with. Smith reminds me of CMLL’s Metro – similar size, some of the same spots – but Metro is able to express intensity and fire even with a mask that obscures his face. Smith seems emotionless. Crowd was behind Steen, for the same reasons as others, even though he was clearly meant to be the heel in this one. Smith did have a chanting section, they just all happened to be in the VIP area, and not at all in the paying customer places. Douglas was at ringside for this match, and was there when Harry Smith dropped Steen with a sit down powerbomb. He got one, he got two, and –
The ring announcer explained the match had reached the twenty minute time limit. The unannounced twenty minute time limit. (This did not feel nearly as long as the women’s match, too.) This was hysterical, the booking clobbering even my most cynical predictions. Crowd hated this, but did chant for five more minutes. The ring announcer quick explained he had received a message from “the ResistancePro owners, backstage” (many times zones away) to give the match five more minutes. And so they they went.
After about three minutes of action, Steen put Smith in a sharpshooter. And held it, and Smith didn’t move, and the crowd yelled for him to tap, and the VIP Smith fans yelled for their guy, and it felt like a real match, sort of, for a bit. Then, they announced one minute to go (Douglas visibly timing on his watch), Smith got out of the hold, put on his own sharpshooter, and both men just sat there. Waiting. Moving Steen to the center. Waiting. Waiting. Finally, they signaled five seconds to go, and suddenly Steen was in mortal danger. Steen thought about, reached to tap and
Time’s up, again. The tap out was perfectly time to be late, if you ignore them giving up on actually wrestling well before hand. Crowd hated this even more. The ring announcer immediately started to transition into the plug for the next show, and someone must’ve grabbed him and stopped it. Instead, he quickly made something up about those same ResistancePro owners wanting to continue the match Until There’s A Winner (which makes one wonder why these owners put in time limits.) Steen, tasked with taking the blame for a crappy finish, refused – management had promised to take care of wrestlers with injuries, and he was hurting from that sharpshooter, so he wasn’t going to wrestle injured. The Ring Announcer quickly moved on to his announcement – at the next Resistance Pro show, we’d get a three way between Sheik, Steen and Smith. Sheik arrived to argue he should’ve just been given the title – people were walking out at this point, so it was harder to pay attention – and heroic Smith cleared out both heels by himself.
That’s six of seven unhappy finishes to close the show. Almost every match ended with a finish designed to make the fan feel cheated for having cared about it. I’m not even sure you can do that on a regular show, but on a debut show, it was suicidal. First impressions last forever, and the first impression Resistance Pro made was a show of unremarkable matches backed by tremendously unsatisfying finishes.
It’s was a complete misunderstanding of what the ticket buying people wanted and had paid for. People go to wrestling shows because they want to have fun. It’s important to have hooks to get people to come back to, but this was a show of nothing but those hooks – nothing that resolved itself here, and only the tag match worked based on this show alone. Instead, we got a show of advertisements for future shows, banking on us believing they’d tell entertaining stories in the future, even while they could not manage to do so at all here.
Even as bad as it was, I think it might have salvaged a bit by having the Briscoes/Teddy/Akuma match last. At least everyone would’ve left happy. I’m just not sure the people who put this together had realized how unhappy everything else was going to make people, or even that their favorites might not be everyone’s favorites.
This was terrible and disappointing and just plain bad. They can fix whatever they want, and I expect the reaction to this show will be so poor that they’ll try to make it clear they’re doing exactly that, but any goodwill this promotion had is gone and so are most of the people who came to this show. I’ve been to shows that have been more boring, with less experienced talent, but this was the worst booked show I’ve seen.