Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Doc Riot's Aussie matches of 2007

PWA Elite's Blakestone
- photo courtesy of http://prowrestlingoz.com/

HAVING moved to Parramatta - the geographic centre of Sydney - in December 2006, I have been attending far more local wrestling shows than ever before. With that in mind, I feel I'm perfectly qualified to cast some votes for my fave matches of 2007.
In no particular order - and for sheer entertainment value just as much as in-ring action - they are:

1. CIMA vs Steve Ravenous vs TNT (AWF, Blacktown RSL, January 6): Cima was flawless in the ring and forced the other two guys to lift their wrestling to his level. A surprise ending, too - no-one expected TNT to do the job
2. Alex Rudka vs Mikey Lord (UWF, Merrylands RSL, May 27): Best cruiserweight match of the year. Not just a bunch of spots, this was a great wrestling match that included high spots
3. Masato Tanaka vs “Jag” Hartley Jackson vs Bruce “Havoc” Mills (International Assault Global Attack, Adelaide, August 10): Tanaka No. 1! Hard-core mayhem at its finest
4. Flaming Tables Match: Bruce “Havoc” Mills vs Jayson Cooper (EPW Adelaide, Clovelly Park, August 11): Havoc and Jayson take ultra-violence in Australia to a new level. Great bout, great twists, great ending to a great card
5. Bishop Sommers b Crofty (PWA Elite, Marrickville, NSW, September 8): I have not laughed so much at a match in years...and the humour was ALL intentional.
6. Mason Childs vs Ash Riot (UWA "Hallowikkid", October 28): Technically brilliant bout. I loved it, even if other fans didn't
7. Blakestone & Mark Williamson vs Maverick & Striker (PWA Elite, Marrickville, NSW, September 8): Blakestone and MS were Aussie tag team of the year, just on the strength of this one vicious squash (poor "security" guys). Mark channelled the spirit of "beach bum" Don Muraco as he munched on his Subway sandwitch throughout the contest, leaving Blakestone to do all the work. Awesome brutality mixed with even more awesome comedy
8. Blakestone vs Sean O'Shea (PWAE, Liverpool, November 30): Chop city! Blakestone and O'Shea meshed well together and brought out the best in each other
9. Ryan Eagles vs Mikey Broderick (PWAE, Liverpool, November 30): A fantastic match that maintained a strong storyline. Ryan turned heel and everything flowed nicely from the start. The upset ending, along with the man-on-valet bloodletting, really elevated this bout
10. Powerhouse Theo vs Gamma (AWF, Blacktown RSL, October 7): Theo' a new force in wrestling and probably the best thing going in AWF today. Gamma's a Dragon Gate dude who worked fast-paced comedy and really made this bout sing. He made Theo look a million dollars, but Theo didn't need that much help either

- photo courtesy of www.awfwrestling.com.au

PREVIEW: "The Triumph & Tragedy Of World Class Championship Wrestling" (out Jan. 12)

BACK in the early 1980s, the hottest wrestling promotion in the US wasn’t the WWF. It was the Dallas-based World Class, headlined by the mega-popular Fritz Von Erich and his sons, David, Kerry, Kevin and, later, Mike and Chris.

The company scaled new heights of success through such innovations as the introduction of entrance music for its wrestlers, state-of-the-art camerawork, exciting matches and compelling feuds, led by the Von Erichs vs the Fabulous Freebirds, which lit a fuse under the Texas promotion.
Kevin, Kerry and David Von Erich...only Kevin is still alive today

Fritz takes on the Fabulous Freebirds

The Freebirds: Michael "PS" Hayes, Terry "Bamm Bamm" Gordy and Buddy "Jack" Roberts

But within 10 years all the brothers except Kevin were dead - as were Terry Gordy, Gino Hernandez, Bruiser Brody and others - and World Class went quickly out of business. WWE's two-disc DVD The Triumph & Tragedy Of World Class Championship Wrestling examines the reasons surrounding the company’s speedy rise and equally as speedy destruction.
OK, the documentary's quite good even with all the WWE spin and bullshit – Kevin Von Erich is an hilarious liar, by the way.
The Freebirds in 2007 are tragic to look at - Buddy Roberts uses a buzzbox in the throat to talk, Jimmy Garvin's a fat fuck and Michael Hayes looks like he's eaten half of the WWE roster. At least Hayes is still interesting when he talks.
And, frankly, they're just about the only guys from the glory days of WCCW still alive to talk about it, so it's good they're on this DVD. At least they're more honest than Kevin.
Gary Hart's good value, too, as is "Wild" Bill Irwin. Even Mick Foley drops by to throw in a few thoughts.
But the doco gets hazy with the facts (surprise, surprise) and the World Class timeline at times. It’s also loose with history when it suits the story (e.g. they pretend Michael Hayes' final babyface run in World Class in 1987 never happened. Admittedly, he'd probably want to forget about that disastrous run, too).
The documentary hints that David died of a drug overdose, but it's mainly the same kayfabe "stomach burst" bullshit we've read elsewhere. WWE can't hide it, but they let slide a lot of the bad-taste angles Fritz did to exploit the boys' deaths and illnesses. The Lance Von Erich debacle is also glossed over.
Triple H takes on the Steve Lombardi role in this DVD - he's all over it and, for some reason, takes great delight in dissing "the hard-core style...well, I don't even like to call it a style" while talking about Bruiser Brody and Abdullah The Butcher. He also says the classic lesson learned from the Von Erich story is “don’t do drugs”…I found that an ironic statement.
Overall, Triumph & Tragedy is an adequate doco. WWE and Kevin can put as much spin on the subject as they like, but it's so powerful and tragic that the truth still cuts through all the crap.
I’d recommend the DVD although I was disappointed with the extras. At least they have the full Christmas Day 1982 match between Kerry Von Erich and Ric Flair - where the Freebirds turned on Kerry - which is an absolute highlight (I’d only ever seen it before as a blurry 25th generation dub).
It’s also nice to see a classic Midnight Express (w/- Jim Cornette) vs Fantastics match (whatever became of “Little John”, I wonder?) and Brody vs Abdullah in a cage. Plus the "Jimmy Garvin and Sunshine as David Von Erich's valets for a day" skit and the music video for the Freebirds' Badstreet USA are priceless.
But there are so many other great, important matches WWE could have included that were left out. And tons more Freebirds promos, too.
Maybe they're saving them for a second volume?

This is...masked wrestling, mofos!

Sam Hayne with mini-Sam Hayne (aka Hornswoggle)


Ofune

Delirious with Chikara's Men At Work

Mistico!

"Love Machine" Art Barr

Sunday, December 09, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Extremely Strange by JR Benson

FIRST things first, I’m mentioned by name on page 196 of Extremely Strange, the self-published autobiography of controversial indy wrestling manager JR Benson.

With that admission out of the way, let me say that this is the second-best wrestling book I’ve ever read (just behind Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day).

I’ve known JR and his cohort in crime Peter Hinds for 15 years – mainly through the many videos they’ve sent me. I covered their backyard promotion CCW, which was an integral part of San Francisco promotions Incredibly Strange Wrestling and Extremely Strange Wrestling during the 90s, quite a bit in my zine Betty Paginated.

Reading Extremely Strange brought back a lot of great memories of ISW and ESW, which pushed the boundaries of good taste when it came to pro-wrestling (long before ECW and WWE did). You want examples?

* Wrestlers being revived by their valet peeing on them? Check.

* Valets being raped by heels? Check.

* A wrestling commissioner played by a drooling street bum called Paul E? Check.

* Tub-full-of-used-syringes match? Check.

* Wrestlers with such names as The Abortionist, The Rapist, The Great NAMBLA and Natural Born Molester? Check.

* Ultra-violent wrestling that included moments when even the fans were in danger of being hit by thrown objects? Check.

* Major drug use by wrestlers just before a match in full view of the fans? Check.

Any perversion you can think of was probably performed on tape in front of a crowd by the CCW crew involved with ISW and ESW. And the ringleader was the drug-scoffing, extreme violence-loving bump machine JR Benson.

This book is JR’s life story, interspersed with his thoughts on the national and international wrestling scene as he grew up.

Let me state for the record that JR is one damn entertaining writer. It took me a couple of weeks to plough through 420 pages of EXTREMELY SMALL TEXT, but I still didn’t want the book to end. That’s about as big a compliment as I can give any book.

JR’s wrestling upbringing hit a chord with me right from the start. He grew up watching old-school San Francisco wrestling, while I watched Jim Barnett’s WCW in Australia with Mario Milano, King Curtis and Mark Lewin.

His thoughts on the American wrestling scene in the 80s and 90s are eerily parallel to mine. An obvious example is that I always thought NWA blew away WWF. It was clear Flair was THE MAN, not Hogan. Of course, JR benefited by the fact he actually LIVED in the USA so he got to see NWA, AWA, WWF and many other groups live, which I never did growing up.

He was also obsessed with tape trading and wrestling sheets, same as me.

Of course, where JR and I differ is that I didn’t get involved in the business (beyond reporting on it) and I didn’t get into drugs. He did and it’s chronicled in loving detail in Extremely Strange.

He may have only been an indy wrestler, but JR did far more than most indy guys could ever dream of: He booked his own promotion, wrestled and managed a bunch of talented folk on the West Coast. He got to know people like Jim Cornette at Smoky Mountain (even working a few spot shows) and also hooked up with XPW and APW (certainly more high profile than most indy groups at that time). He got in the ring against such great talents as Sabu, Al Snow and Vic Grimes, and partied with the Sandman, New Jack, Chris Jericho and more.

Other reviewers seem to get hung up about JR’s enthusiastic drug, sex and hard-core wrestling violence stories. Personally, I found them fascinating – I’ve always wondered what drove hard-core wrestlers to destroy their bodies in such painful ways and JR gave me some interesting insights into the mindset of a “garbage wrestler”.

JR’s behind-the-scenes look at the politics and bullshit surrounding small promotions like APW and XPW are truly fascinating and make this book an essential read for any true fan of the business.

Now, don’t think I’m being 100% positive here. There are faults in Extremely Strange – a prudent editor at a proper publisher could’ve trimmed out a lot of the repetitive sentences and easily edited the book down to 300 pages without losing any of the juicy, meaty stories. And as much as I agree with his anti-Bush rhetoric, I didn’t think it was relevant to a wrestling book and probably could’ve been excised, too.

However, if the book WAS edited and legaled by a publisher, then 99% of JR’s anecdotes would have been cut out due to potential lawsuits. So I guess self-publishing – with all its inherent problems – was the only option.

Some of JR’s opinions and recollections made me raise my eyebrows, too. I saw all the ISW and ESW tapes – he raves about a lot of angles and matches as being groundbreaking or much better than they truly were. Having watched those matches, I came away with a COMPLETELY different opinion. ISW/ESW was crap, but it was entertaining crap. JR was a horrible wrestler, but he took an ungodly amount of punishment and I respect him for what he put his body through for his art.

Basically, this is JR’s story and he has the right to put whatever spin he wants on his life and wrestling career. Hey, it wouldn’t be a wrestling autobiography if he didn’t.

OK. Do I recommend Extremely Strange to wrestling fans? Absolutely…if you’re open-minded enough to deal with frank, at-times offensive (for some) views on drug use, violence, sex and politics. Conservative, anti-drug Christians should avoid this book like a plague.

Everyone else will find it a blast. How much is a work and how much is real is up to you to decide.

You can buy Extremely Strange direct from JR Benson at http://www.jrbenson.com/WhatsNewbook%20release.htm.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

PWA Elite: Farewell to Fozzy

Eagles puts the hurt on Mikey in the main event, while ref Fozz watches closely
- all pics courtesy of www.ozwrestling.cjb.net

THERE were four good reasons to go to PWA Elite's big card last Friday night in that lovely part of Sydney known as Liverpool:
1. To see Steve Corino live in action (I've seen him twice over the years and he never fails to deliver the goods)
2. To be there for Australia's No. 1 referee Graham "Fozzy Young" Tripp's retirement show
3. To hang out with some great folk like Fozz, Ed Lock, Rodders, Nick, the Manboob Choir, Marty, etc, AND
4. To see PWA, 'cos at the moment this promotion probably has the most impressive crew of guys from top to bottom.

I was let down by Corino (who was injured and couldn't fly to Oz, I've been told), but that was the ONLY disappointment on the night.

The SCCC was probably one of the best cards I've attended this year, ranking right up there with EPW Adelaide's "Burning Bridges" (August 11) and UWA "Hallowikkid" (October 28).

It was a night of hard-hitting action, way too many chops, shiny belts and shiny pants - just what you'd expect from PWA.

It was also the most interractive wrestling show I've ever been to, which made it a helluva lotta fun on a personal level. Maybe it was the intimate atmosphere, maybe it was 'cos all the heelish shit I've yelled at PWA guys over the past few months finally came home to roost, but it seems I copped more than my fair share of verbal barbs, particularly from Ryan Eagles and Bishop Sommers. It made for an interesting night.

O'Shea clobbers Blakestone
Back to the action: big props to Blakestone vs O'Shea for their match of the night. Some people didn't like seeing the impressive Blakestone lose in the first round, but I thought it made sense on the night and I was happy to see the equally talented O'Shea progress to the semis.

I enjoyed Eagles' long-overdue heel turn in the main event and his shock loss of the Cup (and two shiny belts) to Mikey Broderick. The women's match was fun, too. What wasn't there to love about Jesse's outfit?

Mike Burr
I thought Mike Burr was the quiet achiever of the night...and he was a cool guy to talk to after the show as well. The Melbourne wrestler was a fine replacement for the absent Corino.

Jass after being eliminated from the battle royale. Off to the hospital for you, mate

There was plenty of collateral damage during the show. I was sorry to see Jass dislocate his shoulder in the battle royale, but he seemed pretty chipper later in the evening (the drugs do work, clearly). Jesse copped a nasty blow to the snout in the finishing sequence in the main event. And all the boys looked pretty beaten up and a few were limping after the event.

Ya gotta respect the amount of punishment they took to entertain us fans.


And, of course, it was a memorable show to say goodbye to Fozz in his final reffing gig. As always, he was a consummate professional and proved why he's the best there was, the best there is and the best there ever will be when it comes to the Aussie refereeing scene.

30/11 PWA Elite "Steve Corino Commemorative Cup" (Liverpool Masonic Centre - 70): FIRST ROUND: Ryan Eagles b Fumanchu, Sean O'Shea b Blakestone, Mikey Broderick b Justin Cross, Mike Burr b Adam Gambino; Jessie McKay b Madison Eagles; SEMI-FINALS: Ryan Eagles b Sean O'Shea, Mikey Broderick b Mike Burr; Bishop Sommers won the Battle Royale; SCC CUP FINAL: Mikey Broderick b Ryan Eagles to win the SCC Cup & PWA National and Heavyweight Championships

Madison vs Jesse...who's complaining?

That's gotta hurt, Fozz

Pic courtesy of www.ozwrestling.cjb.net

AUSTRALIA'S greatest referee Fozzy Young gets a bloody nose while battling Kathryn Nixxxon at his final UWA show late last month.

One word, Fozz: "OUCH!"