Benno’s Review: GCW Joey Janela’s Escape From L.A.
Taking place from a sold-out Ukrainian Culture Center in Los Angeles, GCW’s contribution to Summerslam week took place outside of the Toronto area but still delivered what may be the strongest, and what was definitely the craziest show of the weekend. Commentators on FITE.tv were Kevin Gill and Eli Everfly.
Jimmy Lloyd vs. Jungle Boy
This was Jungle Boy’s return to GCW for his extended goodbye tour after signing with AEW full-time and he got a huge ovation back here in the promotion that arguably put him on the map. A bad PA system and the very loud response sadly meant that his superb Tarzan Boy theme by Baltimora was inaudible.
Jungle Boy controlled the early stages with some great babyface fire and high flying, hitting a number of head-scissor variations before Llloyd took over with a Brainbuster on the corner of the ring. They brawled into the crowd with Lloyd taking a Jimmy Havoc style spill into the first few rows of chairs, with Jungle Boy then hitting a Senton over the production table.
Jungle Boy hit a Tornado DDT in the ring for a near fall, followed by a Death Valley Driver and Superkick combo near fall for Lloyd. A strike exchange in the middle ended with a Reverse Rana by Jungle Boy and a huge lariat from Llloyd that brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Other near falls from Jungle Boy included a springboard Canadian Destroyer and Sunset Flip Powerbomb, with Lloyd responding with a Destroyer DDT and an Iconoclasm off the second rope. Jungle Boy would come back with a Crucifix Bomb for the win and a massive pop from the GCW faithful.
This was a very good opening match, filled with the type of excess and kick-outs that may not be to everybody’s tastes, but was perfect for both this show and this crowd. With Jungle Boy on the way out, it may have made sense for Llloyd to go over, but I’m not sure this crowd would have accepted that and in reality, such a loss will never hurt Lloyd who has a lovable Mick Foley quality and is beloved within the promotion.
Winner: Jimmy Lloyd
Chris Dickinson vs. Kris Statlander
As far as intergender matches go, this was a strong match with relative newcomer Statlander working well as the plucky underdog and Dickinson as always, being reliably good value as the much larger powerful heel in the match.
Statlander controlled much of the early going with a long shine section of the match, hitting a number of hard punches to Dickinson, a Superkick and beautiful Moonsault off the apron. Dickinson would take over with big Powerbomb and Brainbuster near falls before Statlander hit an impressive looking Finlay Roll and ducked a Dickinson clothesline Matrix-style hitting a kick that got over huge with the capacity crowd. Statlander followed with a Blue Thunder Bomb near fall and a Canadian Destroyer (number two for the show) that was met with a huge Dickinson lariat for a near fall in response.
Dickinson then introduced a door but wound up being Speared through it by Statlander before rallying with Superplex and Canadian Destroyer (three) near falls. Statlander replied with a 450 splash for a suspiciously close looking near fall drawing boos from the crowd, before trying and failing to Powerbomb Dickinson through a second door, as Dickinson powered out and hit a crazy Razors Edge of his own through said door for the win.
Statlander looked great here in a fun match that perhaps went 5 minutes too long but was still well received by the live audience with a brutal finish. Dickinson put Statlander and the company over on the microphone after the match, calling her the best female wrestler in the country.
Winner: Kris Statlander
Kikutaro vs. Mance Warner
What was looking to be a standard comedy match with the former Ebessen, Kikutaro against GCW’s beloved Mance Warner, went to another level with “interference” from breakout stars of WrestleMania weekend – “Invisible Man” and “Invisible Stan” – the two invisible men that had a “match” at Joey Janela’s Spring Break, that was as much performance art by referee Bryce Remsberg as it was anything else.
Not all of the comedy landed but Warner and Kikutaro were great selling the “offense” of both invisible run-ins and the crowd lapped up the invisible spots that included a door being broken by the two interfering invisible men, even if it was slightly mistimed and not caught properly on camera. Warner would win the match after the shenanigans, with a running knee to Kikutaro.
Winner: Mance Warner
Alex Zayne vs. Blake Christian
Relative unknown Alex Zayne broke out with an incredible (and highly giffable) performance against Tony Deppen at GCW’s well-received “Backyard” show in July, and this – potentially the nights most insane if not best match, continued that momentum here, with Blake Christian himself a newcomer to GCW matching Zayne in the innovation stakes.
This moved at a million miles per hour from the beginning with crazy spots from both men with Zayne hitting a running Shooting Star Splash on the apron, Christian responds with a Pumphandle Driver on the floor, Zayne missing a dive from the production table and Christian, upping the ante with an absolutely insane 20 foot dive off a ledge on the side of the building.
The match continued as it started with Christian innovating a flipping Bulldog into the corner, a Starship Pain style springboard Moonsault and what can only be described as a Moonsault Russian Leg Sweep from the top rope. Zayne would hit some big moves of his own culminating with a big Shooting Star Double Knees to the back of a standing Christian, also hitting a hammerlock assisted Canadian Destroyer (number four of the night) at some point within the mayhem. Christian would remove the top rope, using the buckle as a weapon before hitting a 450 splash off the second rope, only to be one-upped by a Zayne 630 splash off the same middle rope for the win.
This was insane, with the commentary at many times in the match struggling to come up with names for much of the moves pulled out by both men. GCW’s excels at finding diamonds in the rough and both of these men will likely be all over the indies worldwide by years end.
Winner: Alex Zayne
Six-Way Scramble Match: Egotistico Fantastico vs. Lucas Riley vs. Matt Vandagriff vs. Nate Webb vs. Shane Mercer vs. Tyler Bateman
Back from a much-needed intermission was GCW’s typical crazy Six-Way Scramble match, which had a tough act to follow but still got over strong, bringing the crowd to life for the second half of the show.
The highlights of the match were the interactions between impressive looking high flyer Lucas Riley and the “Iron Demon” Sean Mercer, who with his size, power and surprising agility always stands out in these matches, hitting big power moves including both a Belly to Belly Suplex on Riley over the top tope to the outside and a Gorilla Press, again to poor Riley, from the top rope to a crowd of bodies on the floor. Nate Webb hit the biggest spot of the match with a Moonsault holding a ladder from the top to the outside, later taking out the whole field Terry Funk-style with the ladder, before getting German Suplexed by Mercer, still with the ladder wrapped around his head.
Mercer would eventually win the match with a second rope Moonsault Fall Away Slam to Lucas Riley (again) onto a ladder. The crowd gave a standing ovation to all the men in the match, who were played out by Webb’s Wheatus Teenage Dirtbag entrance theme.
Winner: Shane Mercer
Masato Tanaka vs. Tony Deppen
Having been the “other guy” in matches with Dustin Thomas at Spring Break and at Backyard Wrestling against Alex Zayne, Deppen who himself is a fantastic heel and the underrated worker got one of the biggest matches of his career here against ECW and FMW legend, Masato Tanaka.
The crowd were with Deppen from the beginning, with him against type as one of the biggest babyfaces of the night at the start of the match, but through good work and long control periods over Tanaka, slowly turned the crowd in favour of the Japanese native, getting big heat for refusing to hit Tanaka over the head with a chair, instead opting for an eye poke.
Tanaka hit all his big spots with a Diamond Dust, DDT and hard Lariat combo bringing the crowd to their feet, before a pair of strike exchanges and a double down led to a Homicide-style Tope Con Hilo to the outside by Deppen and then a brutal looking Brainbuster on Deppen from Tanaka to a door on the outside of the ring. Deppen came close with a number of near falls before the match concluded with the two exchanging chair shots to the head on each other, with Tanaka getting the eventual win via Rolling Elbow through the chair and a Seated Lariat.
The chair shots may be too much for some in 2019, but having engaged in such spots since the mid 1990s, Tanaka is a walking wonder to still be working at this level now. This was a good match to add to Deppen’s 2019 resume and it’s no wonder he wound up on PWG’s radar for this year’s Battle Of Los Angeles.
Winner: Masato Tanaka
Dustin Thomas vs. Joey Janela
“No Legs” Dustin Thomas was yet another success story of WrestleMania weekend, having an incredible match against the aforementioned Tony Deppen, having been disguised as a fan in a wheelchair in the crowd that shocked the world with his incredible ability despite his handicap. This was Thomas’ biggest booking since his inexplicable use by All Elite Wrestling – as just another body in the ring in their Casino Battle Royale, where no back story or particular attention was given to the unique grappler. Joey Janela, like Jungle Boy earlier in the night, is currently on his leaving tour of GCW, at least as a full-time active member of the roster – another curious AEW decision considering so much of Janela’s buzz and credibility, comes from appearing on and sometimes curating, independent shows like this.
The match was rough in parts, with highlights being some creative chain wrestling counters from Thomas at the beginning of the match and some good selling as Janela took up a role as a temporary heel for the bulk of the match. Thomas’ big spots included a slingshot Senton to the outside, a Tornado DDT and a “trust fall” dive to the outside. Janela heeled it up removing the bottom ring rope to stop Thomas being able to use it for springboards and hit a “Super Humman” style Elbow Drop from the top in tribute to the viral video stuntman, before being caught with a Sliced Bread near fall from Thomas. After a slow period where Thomas appeared to be legitimately hurt, Janela hit both a Package Pile Driver for a near fall, as well as a Powerbomb, before Thomas replied with a second attempt at a Crossface for a tap out win.
This was tough to watch in parts with some brutal offense from Janela in the match but was still worthwhile viewing as Thomas is such a unique act. Janela cut a promo after the match putting over Thomas and GCW, turning the crowd back on his side after a smattering of “you sold out” chants. He is going to be hugely missed when he goes to AEW full time.
Winner: Dustin Thomas
GCW Heavyweight Title Match: Nick Gage (c) vs. Jimmy Havoc
As is standard with these “destination” big GCW cards, after a show filled with high spots, wackiness and big move wrestling, the night closed with a much more typical marquee Game Changer Wrestling match, with long-serving company champion and beloved cult hero Nick Gage, defending in a Deathmatch against the also soon departing for AEW – Jimmy Havoc.
This was a match typical of the style with light tubes, doors, chairs, double juice and lots of crowd brawling, with big spots including a Half Nelson suplex and Death Valley Driver into light tubes from Gage to Havoc and a Havoc Frankensteiner onto light tubes laid across chairs from the second rope to Gage. Gage got the win after hitting a Chokeslam onto a light tube set across his knee and a Piledriver on Havoc onto chairs.
In truth, this was likely the weakest match on the show but it was a worthwhile endeavor, with there being a no more compelling man at the style than Nick Gage, with his unique charisma. Gage was super over here, sending the crowd home happy with the match in the main, delivering in the ultra-violence stakes. Gage and Havoc both cut promos after the match with Cage doing his usual schtick putting over the crowd and Havoc saying goodbye to independent wrestling for the time being.
Winner: Nick Gage
Despite having taken place in LA, this show should not be lost in the conversation of Summerslam week. In a time of uncertainty for independent wrestling, GCW continue to outdo themselves and find new unique talent and matches and are always the highlight of these big weekends. Alex Zayne vs. Blake Christian, Jimmy Lloyd vs. Jungle Boy and Tony Deppen vs. Masato Tanaka were the night’s best matches but pretty much everything on this show ranged from good to very good to must-watch, dependant on your tastes for this kind of high impact, car crash style of independent wrestling. Another very good show from Game Changer Wrestling.