OTT Wrestlecon 2016 Night 1
Watch: Vimeo on Demand
Tivoli Theatre, Dublin 8
They say you should never meet your heroes. That the reality could never possibly live up to the exalted status you have lent them in your mind’s eye. I don’t necessarily disagree, but perhaps an exception should be made when that Hero’s first name happens to be Chris.
Anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter will be all too aware that I have been begging OTT to book Chris Hero for at least twelve months now. The man is the greatest independent wrestler of all time, has a strong claim to being the best on the planet and he is someone who’s career I have followed since the early 2000’s. It takes a lot for this jaded, cynical old wrestling fan to get legitimately excited these days, but when Chris Hero’s music hit on October 28th for his match with Ryan Smile, I may as well have been ten years old again. There is a presence about Hero when he comes to the ring, an aura about the way he carries himself that I can honestly say is matched only by Kenta Kobashi amongst the wrestlers I have had the pleasure of watching live in person. Getting to see him in arguably his prime, in my local promotion, was an experience I will never forget and will always be grateful to OTT for making happen. My God, I love professional wrestling.
OTT returned to the Tivoli Theatre on October 28th for the first of a three night festival of wrestling entitled Wrestlecon. As well as two shows in the Tivoli Theatre, there was also a third night of action in Galway at the Comedy Festival as well as a number of activities throughout the weekend such as meet and greets, a Q&A session and a video game competition.
There was a meet and greet for VIP ticket holders prior to the show commencing. There was the usual OTT queue chaos outside where no one had any idea which queue was for general admission and which was for VIP holders. This is a recurring problem month after month at the venue. I’m not sure if it is the responsibility of the venue or the promotion themselves but surely a simple sign on the wall would save everyone a hell of a lot of frustration. Grado, Martina, Melina and Hero were present on night one to meet and greet us as we awkwardly stood beside them to be photographed. All four were extremely relaxed and approachable. I had a good laugh with Grado about his recent spectacularly drunken appearance on the AIW podcast (you really need to listen if you haven’t already). Hero was a complete gentleman. I had the opportunity to chat to him both before and after the show and he comes across as such a lovely humble man who was genuinely excited to be in Ireland for the first time. His love of wrestling shines through whenever he speaks. He truly is one of a kind and we really must never take him for granted.
Prior to the action commencing, a superb video was aired live in the arena (and on the VOD release) which recapped the year so far in OTT. It was a proper goosebumps moment, which highlighted just how far the company have come in a very short space of time. These excellent video features are fast becoming a staple of the OTT product and this was no different. Credit must go to Matthew Macklin for producing what was a real feel-good way to kick off the biggest weekend in Irish wrestling history.
Paddy M def. Charlie Garrett (w/ Paul Tracey and Workie)**
This match had been built up with a hilarious video in the weeks prior to the event. Basically Paul Tracey had enlisted the help of Social Elite dogsbody Workie to find him a “common working class scrote” from the flats who would face Charlie Garrett at Wrestlecon, with the incentive of him winning €500 if he managed to last more than three minutes in the ring. They eventually settled upon Paddy M, who, unbeknownst to the Social Elite is The Session moth Martina’s storyline brother. Paddy M is in fact “The Suicide Machine” Paddy Morrow, a legend of Irish independent wrestling who retired a couple of years ago but has clearly been tempted back into action by the rise and success of OTT. It’s a real pleasure for long term fans of the Irish scene to see guys like Paddy who toiled long and hard for many years getting this opportunity to display their skills to a wider audience.
The match itself is of course based around Garrett and the rest of the Social Elite completely underestimating Paddy until the slow realization dawns that he is a more skilled grappler than they had initially bargained for. Garrett is in full on English buffoon heel here, coming to the ring sipping tea from a China cup and engaging in his usual abuse of the OTT faithful. He looks in particularly good shape ahead of his WWE tryout in the second week in November. Garrett dominates the early exchanges, but paddy manages to hold his owne and shows that he hasn’t missed a beat in his absence from the ring with a lovely suicide dive fake-out, before hitting a suicide dive and a swanton bomb. Paddy is just beginning to get the upper hand when Tracey interferes hitting Paddy with his finisher for the disqualification. A post match beat-down on Paddy ensues before an irate Tracey vents his anger via promo at Workie. He blames Workie for knowing that Paddy could wrestle all along and gives him a chair, instructing him to attack his friend. Of course, Workie instead turns on the Social Elite and runs them from the ring with chair shots to a great pop from the crowd. Workie eventually breaking free from the clutches of the dastardly Tracey was a storyline that the OTT fans had been dying to see and the introduction of Morrow to the mix was a clever way to bring it about.
This was a fun opener and the reintroduction of the Lads From the Flats with a new character in Paddy M will freshen up the OTT undercard which had become a little stale in recent months. I was a little perplexed with the complete lack of continuity with the “Paddy needs to last three minutes” stipulation. Tracey specifically referred to it in his pre match promo but it was completely ignored once the match started and wasn’t really mentioned again.
Martina, Grado and X-Pac def. The Gymnasties (B Cool, Sammy D and Justin Shape)N/R
In years to come people will be idly browsing Cagematch and encounter the glorious team of Martina, Grado and X-Pac, wrestling on an independent show in Ireland in 2016, with a mixture of amusement and bafflement. It would be unfair for me to assign a star rating or delve too deeply into workrate and other such boring and self-important matters in a match that was purely designed for comedy, nostalgia and to pop the live crowd. As a match with these aims in mind, this was a roaring success. The ring entrances live on the night were tremendous fun. Firstly Martina, in new ring attire is carried to the ring Cleopatra style by four youths in hoodies. Then are treated to one of the most iconic ring entrances on the UK scene as Grado struts to the ring with the plaintive tones of Madonna ringing in our ears. Finally, X-Pac brings us all back to our teenage years as he enters to his old DX theme. It is gratifying too to see the Gymnasties being welcomed with every bit as much love as the flown in talents. Pre-match Justin Shape treats us to a word perfect rendition of the old X-Pac rap before everyone remembers that there has to be a wrestling match at some point. The match itself is a short affair that does not outstay its welcome. We are treated to a double Mr. Durexo spot by Martina and Grado, B Cool manages to help himself to a handful of the uncomplaining Martina’s boobs and X-Pac rolls back the years with a Broncobuster, spinning heel kick, and an X-Factor on Justin for the pin. Post-match X-Pac cuts a promo in which it is blindingly obvious he has no idea who his partners are: but no one cares as the usual Session Moth rave begins.
Street Fight: Abyss def. Logan Bryce***
This match continues the ongoing theme of Logan – one of the powerhouses of the company relative to the rest of the native roster – being put in matches with flown-in oversized monsters (having already locked horns with Rhyno and Bull Dempsey). It is a clever booking tool, as it makes Bryce himself look a big deal and even in defeat he has shown that he can go toe to toe with these bigger men without taking a step backwards. Abyss is an absolute beast of a man, the extent of which needs to be seen live and in person to be truly appreciated. Early on, Bryce is frustrated by his complete inability to overpower the Monster. The match quickly spills to the outside where some rather listless brawling loses the crowd a little. Bryce uses some chairshots to even matters up, before further weakening the giant with some stiff shots to the arms and legs with a kendo stick. However, Abyss is only too happy to return the favour, destroying Bryce’s back with the very weapon he introduced himself. Bryce manages to lift the behemoth onto his shoulders in a remarkable feat of strength. Alas Abyss slips free, and Irish whips the rugger bugger face first into a chair wedged between the turnbuckles. The big finish comes when the Irishman is chokeslammed from the turnbuckles through a table on the floor outside the ring. This was a decent hardcore brawl in which great credit must got to Bryce for the bumps and punishment he took in a match that is far from his forte. I say it every month but Bryce should be more involved in the OTT title scene. he is an experienced, fundamentally soun and accomplished wrestler who showed in this match that he is prepared to put his body on the line for the company.
Chris Hero def. Ryan Smile****1/4
This was the first match in a massive double header in the career of Ryan Smile and the true main event of Night 1 of Wrestlecon. Smile has found a home in OTT where he has been given a platform upon which to shine which has been denied to him in most other promotions. He is as naturally talented as anyone on the UK scene and has a genuine claim to being involved in most, if not all, of the top 10 matches of the year in the company. For all the great matches he has had however, a recurring theme of Smile’s story in OTT has been his repeated failure to win the big matches. Here he has a chance to buck that trend against the very best in the business.
There was unfortunately an unsavory incident prior to the match that perhaps gives a little insight into why Smile has struggled to get major bookings elsewhere. The pre-match formalities had been carried out in a somewhat light hearted fashion, with Smile and Hero engaging in some comedy around their handshake, even including OTT referee and legend Niall Fox in the hilarity at one point. At this point Smile turns towards a man in the front row of the crowd and out of the blue, without provocation, compares him to Hornswoggle. Perhaps he got a little carried away, perhaps he felt the need to heel it up with Hero being the obvious babyface on the night – whatever his motivation, the “joke” went down like a lead balloon. Thankfully very few people, if anyone laughed and there was a heavy smattering of boos. It was just a completely unnecessary and rather cruel jibe at someone else’s expense and my heart went out to the poor guy concerned, who clearly didn’t see the funny side of it.
As alluded to earlier, the rather unexpectedly light hearted tone of the opening to the match meant that it was a little slow to get started. Here we see a little glimpse of the greatness that separates Hero from the rest in his remarkable ability to read a situation. Sensing the crowd’s restlessness, he hits a stiff bicycle kick out of nowhere. In a split second, the match has escalated from friendly banter into the serious affair a match of this importance warrants. Hero goes straight into the role of bully in which he excels. We get a great countout spot after he destroys Smile with strike after strike in the front row of the crowd. The unhurried, methodical way he goes about his business is s a lesson for all young wrestlers everywhere.
Smile, for his part shows great babyface fire throughout. He takes whatever punishment Hero dishes out and keeps coming back for more. He teases his signature ring post suicide dive at one point, before evading a number of Hero’s strikes on the ring apron, hits a springboard moonsault to the outside before finally giving us the dive he previously promised. It is a breathtaking sequence and flurry of offence which shows the spectacular Smile at his very best. Another memorable sequence sees Smile struggling to get the much larger Hero up for a suplex. After numerous failed attempts he finally lifts him for a Blue Thunder Driver to a huge reaction from the crowd.
The finishing sequence is classic Hero with near fall after near fall. There is great sequence where Hero destroys Smile in the ropes with stiff strikes and elbows, only for Smile to fire back with a huge brainbuster. In a terrifying spot, Hero has Smile in position for his arm trap piledriver, but thankfully leans backwards when hitting it to protect Smile rather than dumping him on is head. The finish to a breathless encounter comes when Smile goes for a splash from the top only to be caught in a cravate. Hero suplexes him on his head out of the cravate and hits his jumping piledriver for the win.
This was a match of the highest caliber. The strikes were crisp, stiff and clean, both guys showed great fire and there were numerous spectacular near falls. This is what you get when you book Chris Hero and put him against your promotion’s MVP. The story of Smile continuing to come up short on the big occasion was advanced here. Hero for his part, delivered on the huge hype surrounding his appearance. Both men were elevated by being a part of this match, which really is what wrestling should be about. Post-match, Hero puts over the OTT crowd and praises Smile for his persistence and resilience. Smile cuts an excellent brief promo where he says that losing tonight was the best thing that could have happened him going into his huge match with Marty Scurll on Night 2.
Marty Scurll def. Tyler Bate***1/2
What a nice young man Tyler Bate is. He makes his way to the ring for his match waving at us all and smiling like a proper gentleman and his politeness is reciprocated with a sea of waving hands from the crowd. I’m struggling to think of a more accomplished wrestler at age nineteen than Tyler. It’s almost unfair how good he is. Him against Scurll is a first time match up to the best of my knowledge. Scurll comes off as such a star from the moment his scummy techno intro hits and he is immensely popular in the Tivoli. The match starts off hot with Scurll blindsiding Bate with an umbrella shot and the pace never really relents throughout. The ludicrous power of Bate is in evidence early on when he hits a delayed vertical suplex with a squat thrown in for good measure. They tell a nice little story, with Scurll attacking the arm to soften it up for the Chickenwing, adding in his sickening finger snap spot for good measure. Bate works well as a fiery babyface working from underneath, hitting an insane standing dropkick at one point and following it up with a suicide dive through the turnbuckles. The finish comes when Scurll seamlessly reverses an airplane spin into the Chickenwing for the tap out victory. The Chickenwing has been built up well in OTT as a killer finisher from which very few escape, a fact that would play beautifully into the story told in the main event on Night 2. This was a quality match between two of the very best in the UK. It suffered somewhat for being a little on the short side but they crammed a hell of a lot into the time they were allotted. They definitely have a really great match in them if get had ten more minutes to play with in the future. Post-match Marty cuts a quick promo including the killer line “Today, Ryan Smile, you had a hell of a time dealing with a Hero, but tomorrow you step in the ring with a Villain.”
Katey Harvey def. Melina**1/2
This was a first round match in a four person tournament to crown the first OTT Women’s Champion. Melina gets a good reception for her OTT debut and definitely carries herself like a superstar. Katey, sporting new ring gear, got the usual hostile reception. This was an enjoyable match which was a little sloppy in places. At times the action was pretty brutal, especially when they take turns hitting unprotected curbstomps on each other. Harvey applies an impressive looking surfboard at one point. Her effort at a pendulum stretc is a little less successful, but she manages to lock it in at the scond attempt. Melina treats us to some of her better known WWE offense including the headscissors axe kick and a botched Primal Scream. I’m not sure if they cut the match short due to injury (Melina was bleeding from the mouth from early on) but the finish felt very sudden and rushed as Harvey hit a snapmare onto the ropes for the pinfall victory.
Pete Dunne def. Dave Mastiff***1/4
Pete Dunne was a fully fledged babyface to the crowd here following his apparent turn last month at the Finge Festival. There was a funny moment when one member of the Ward Section, obviously still sore at the result, greeted Dunne with he usual two-fingered salute, only to be scolded by one of his buddies. It felt like this match (and indeed the entire second half of the show) really got screwed for time. The Tivoli is used as a nightclub immediately after the OTT show and there is always pressure to be out the door by the allocated cut off time. I guess the guys have the plethora of post-match promos in the first half to thank for getting barely ten minutes to work with here. Similar to the Bate/Scurll match, they worked this at a fast pace with The Bastard Mastiff hitting a huge German to get us underway. It was interesting to see Dunne working a slightly different role than usual here against the larger man. He realy leans into all of Mastiff’s strikes and never backs down from him for a second. He still uses his underhand tactics like wanting to bite every and any body part, but now it’s a spot that pops the crowd rather than incurring their ire. At one point he sinks his teeth into Mastiff’s forearm and even tries to take a bite out of Foxy for good measure! Later he even tries to pull Mastiff’s beard off his face. He also breaks out some offence that he rarely uses, like a top rope double stomp, and does the Bryan Danielson turnbuckle flip over Mastiff’s head. The finishing stretch is really good: Dunne lands on his feet out of a release German by Mastiff, they exchange stiff forearms, before hitting an enziguiri, a German of his own and takes the won by submission by biting Mastiff’s hand while stretching it out in an armbar. For the paltry amount of time they had this was a really fun match. Mastiff is always good value and a win over a wrestler of his size and stature was a great way to establish Pete as the dominant ace of the company.
OTT WRESTLECON 2016 NIGHT 1
Very Good - 8/10
This was a very good top to bottom show with a nice blend of different matches. From comedy, to hardcore, to technical wrestling to big lad action, this show gave a lot of variety. Live, this was an absolute hoot. On VOD, running at two and a half hours this was a really easy watch. If it were not for timing issues in the rather rushed second half this could have been a contender for show of the year. Thumbs way up.