BENNO’S REVIEW: WrestleMania Week Day 3 & 4 Highlights
By: Richard “Benno” Benson
This year has been the most stacked WrestleMania weekend yet with an incredible line-up of shows streaming live as they happen across services like FITE.tv, IndependentWrestling.tv and Club WWN. Benno of POST Wrestling’s British Wrestling Experience looks at some highlights from the final shows of the weekend.
GCW: Orange Cassidy is Doing Something, Or Whatever
Kicking off Day 3 was Game Changer Wrestling’s first Orange Cassidy curated show, a late replacement for the slot originally occupied by the now-defunct NOVA Pro. A blast to watch and the perfect answer to some of the laborious cards of the weekend, the aptly named Orange Cassidy Is Doing Something Or Whatever made up for what it lacked in action with a slew of bizarre matches and segments befitting of its namesake.
The show featured both a highly entertaining “Best 7 out of 13 Falls” match with Chris Brookes and Logan Easton Laroux and a wacky “One Minute Time Limit” match well worth seeing between Best Friends duo Chuck Taylor and Trent?. The “match” was a hilarious performance art piece where neither wrestler touched before the one-minute time limit expired, necessitating 5 seconds of additional time to determine a winner. Also notable on the show was their strongest bell to bell in-ring match with sweet science from Jonathan Gresham and Shinjiro Otani, a ridiculous 15 minute segment in which Teddy Hart read out loud a children’s book to chants of “read forever” and superb performances from MJF throughout the night, first in his rejection at not being picked for either team in the Dodgeball Challenge match, and then later getting his comeuppance and sending the crowd home happy, after Nick Gage and Ultramantis Black’s oddly timed “Christmas Deathmatch”. A show that may have gone under the radar, but well worth seeing via replay on FITE or IndependentWrestling.tv.
House Of Glory Culture Clash
In the lead up to WrestleMania, New York’s House Of Glory promotion looked to be putting together a card that could have been a sleeper hit of the weekend with a slew of unique names announced for it. Hampered by the retirement of company founder Amazing Red earlier in the week through injury, however, the show’s most anticipated match pitting Red against Fenix was canceled at late notice. This left behind an underwhelming undercard that didn’t take full advantage of the names contained in it, that together with a poor low-level indie presentation, largely disappointed more than it entertained.
The show’s most star-studded match took place early on the card to allow Great Muta in his only other weekend appearance, to head over to the G1 Supercard, as he teamed with Pentagon Jnr. and Tajiri vs. Low Ki and LAX in a match that delivered on some nice moments for the live crowd, even it didn’t bell to bell. Elsewhere on the show Fenix’s match with replacement opponent Ken Broadway was a solid if unspectacular affair and Anthony Gangone versus often forgotten Bullet Club member Robbie Eagles was a good match with a poor finish. Though not the best evidence here, Gangone is one to watch as a very strong heel act who these last 12 months have been one of the better-kept secrets on the independent scene. The less said about a poor CZW invasion angle on the show and the odd appearance of XPW founder Rob Black who appeared in an in-ring promo segment though, the better.
Ring Of Honor and New Japan G1 Supercard Of Honor
It’s fair to say the G1 Supercard, presented by two promotions, was also a show of two halves, with many of its highlights coming from the New Japan side of the partnership, as opposed to the often bizarre booking decisions and drawn out angles provided by the Ring Of Honor side on perhaps the biggest stage the promotion will ever have.
The strongest match of the night and a contender for Match Of The Weekend was Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito, a war of a match as good as any the two have had, that felt particularly significant with Ibushi winning the IWGP Intercontinental Title for the first time. Elsewhere Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White was a strong main event if one that was not near the upper echelon of Okada matches, as Okada reclaimed his spot at the top of the card in another significant moment for the show. Zack Sabre Jnr vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi was also a very good match on the New Japan side of the card that was unfortunately hampered by a crowd distracted by ROH’s bizarre Enzo Amore and Big Cass invasion angle coming before it.
Other bright spots included a superb Will Ospreay vs. Jeff Cobb match and a three-way match between Dragon Lee, Bandido and Taiji Ishimori that brought the house down after a lengthy Bully Ray open challenge segment and a poor Mayu Iwatani v.s Kelly Klein match – those two segments collectively almost taking up an hour of the card. An unnecessarily long show, this was one best watched on VOD where the aforementioned lowlights, as well as longer matches like the disappointing three-way ladder match between Jay Lethal, Marty Scurll, and Matt Taven can be fast forwarded or outright skipped altogether.
GCW Joey Janela’s Spring Break 3 Part 2
The second installment of this year’s GCW Spring Break events began immediately following the conclusion of the G1 Supercard and whilst it did not quite hit the heights of the first part, it was another worthy addition to Joey Janela’s warped brand. The show was headlined by this year’s Clusterfuck Royal Rumble style match. Marketed as the “Greatest Clusterfuck” it lived up to its billing, with almost too many highlights to list and in all fairness, some lowlights befitting of its name.
The match was an epic affair taking up the bulk of the three hours plus of the show featuring appearances from the Necro Butcher, Mantaur, nWo Sting, Swoggle, Tracy Smothers, a naked Sexxxy Eddy and even Wheatus frontman Brendan B. Brown, being played out to his own Teenage Dirtbag song by Spider Nate Webb – a reverse of the many times Webb himself has entered indie shows and even previous Clusterfucks to said song. Though likely a tougher watch on VOD, live this was a blast, even if it’s finale – the show being taken off air as a group of female wrestlers abruptly invaded taking out the remaining field, didn’t quite land as the crescendo finish to the weekend that was intended.
Elsewhere on the show was a fun tag match between LAX and the Rock N’ Roll Express. Better than any right it had to be, the match was capped off by a Canadian Destroyer from Ricky Morton and an emotional post-match where the legendary team paid tribute to LAX, ceremoniously tying their bandannas to the wrists of the young team. Also, on the show, Jungle Boy was put in another big spot, beating show curator Joey Janela in a strong opener and ECW legend Masato Tanaka took on Lucha legend LA Park in a hard-hitting and highly enjoyable first time ever match.
WWE WrestleMania 35
More detailed thoughts can, of course, be found in plentiful supply elsewhere on this show, but as the last of the weekend and being streamed live on WWE Network, it is worthy of at least brief mention here. An extremely long event even by now normal standards, this year’s entry was a mixed bag of a show highlighted by perhaps the best WrestleMania match in a number of years, as #KofiMania ran wild with Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan bringing the house down in the WWE World Title match.
Other highlights on the show included a fun stunt fest of a match between The Miz and Shane McMahon, a surprisingly good four-way tag with The Usos, Sheamus & Cesaro, Ruzev & Shinsuke Nakamura and Ricochet & Aleister Black, as well as solid if mildly disappointing Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins matches. Unfortunately the record long run time of the show meant the second half of the show could not live up to the first, with the main event of Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey, and Charlotte Flair, as well as the much pushed Triple H and Batista match, both suffering because of issues in their execution, but also because of an extremely tired crowd. Also in the second half of the card, Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre and most unforgivably, Kurt Angle’s retirement match versus Baron Corbin were thoroughly forgettable affairs in front of an exhausted unreceptive crowd, again making a case for a shorter, or even split across two days WrestleMania card next year.
Best Of The Rest
Elsewhere, Pro Wrestling Revolver had it’s now annual Pancakes and Piledrivers show (that drew the ire of fans as the promotion did not deliver on its promise of serving pancakes for live fans this year) with the show featuring a fun Tessa Blanchard vs. Ricky Shane Page match and two memorable multiperson scramble style matches. The show was though perhaps most notable for featuring the last independent match of Shane Strickland who delivered an emotional post-main event speech.
Also, on Saturday, WWN Live’s Wrap Up Party was made up of the weekend’s second Kaiju Big Battel show and featured the usual cast of costumed characters from Dr. Cube, to a Burger Bear, a Silver Potato and the patriotic American Beetle. Kaiju is an acquired taste but usually delivers an entertaining show, even if the cameras on this occasion were unable to leave the building and shoot the Falls Count Anywhere in New York match for those streaming at home, making for an awkward section of the iPPV. The other notable show of the final day of live streaming was International Wrestling Syndicate’s Unstoppable show, with the Montreal based hardcore company delivering an authentic main event befitting of the promotion as Arik Cannon and Sexxxy Eddy went to a draw in crazy weapons filled “Alcobrawl” match, up there with best matches of its type this weekend.
Benno co-hosts the British Wrestling Experience here on POST Wrestling. You can find his other podcast GRAPPL Spotlight at Grappl.podbean.com where he has provided daily podcasts covering all of the shows streaming this WrestleMania Weekend.