OTT Wrestlecon 2016 Night 2
Watch: Vimeo on Demand
Tivoli Theatre, Dublin 8
Every man has his limit. Some can and will tolerate more than others. But there comes a point in every man’s life where he reaches a point of no return. Where he is driven to look deep into his soul, to examine who he is, what he stands for. To go to those dark places we don’t like to admit even exist. For Ryan Smile, that limit came at OTT’s Fringe festival as he stood across the ring from “The Villain” Marty Scurll.” His arm, his whole body was wracked with pain from the dreaded Chicken Wing to which he had just tapped, but his pride, his sense of self was hurting even more. His normally cocksure and flippant demeanour had been replaced by anger. Stinging, searing, raw rage and anger. The promo he proceeded to cut was straight from the heart. Every word, every syllable dripped with frustration and rage. Not only had Scurll now beaten him twice – and comprehensively at that – but now the Villain had succeeded in getting into his head. He demanded, he begged for one more match at Wrestlecon in October. Because this time Smile wasn’t going into battle alone. This time he was bringing his demons with him too. The demons within.
OTT returned to The Tivoli on October 29th for the second night of their Wrestlecon double header. During the afternoon a Q and A Session was held, featuring Marty Scurll, Abyss and Justin Shape and B Cool of the Gymnasties. The event was fun with all four proving engaging and chatty as they fielded questions from the fifty odd fans in attendance. The show took place on Halloween weekend and the undoubted stars of the afternoon were the two legends who showed up dressed as Los Conquistadores and who kept character all day, even asking questions with Spanish accents and using all the mannerisms you would expect from a masked luchadore. They were worthy winners of the “Best Costume” competition that was held during the show itself later on. Afterwards there was a meet and greet session with Abyss and X Pac, where signed posters were handed out. All in all things ran smoothly and there was none of the queue related chaos of the night before.
Lads From the Flats (Paddy M and Workie) def The Social Elite (Paul Tracey and Charlie Garrett)**
This was a tag match set up following on from Paddy M’s debut on Night 1 and Workie’s subsequent defection from the Social Elite. This was a decent opener and a nice showcase for Paddy to show he hasn’t missed a beat in his couple of years away from the wrestling scene. In particular there is a lovely sequence of chain wrestling between he and Tracey, who of course would have wrestled each other literally dozens of times down through the years. The match is filled with the usual Social Elite shenanigans. Garret tries to bribe Workie into laying down for him only for Workie to fool him into a nearfall with a roll up. We are once again treated to the always unwelcome sight of Charlie’s bare arse. There is a nice extended sequence where the heels isolate Paddy and expertly cut the ring in half with underhand tactics in classic tag team fashion. Workie’s hot tag is suitably explosive and the match breaks down a chaotic free for all. The Social Elite steal a win after a cane shot by Tracey to Paddy and the victory is underscored by Garrett hitting a brain buster on Workie after the match. This was a fun opener which furthered the feud between the Lads and the Social Elite. The addition of Paddy M to the roster has transformed the Lads from purely a comedy team to an act that can still get up to their usual high jinks but also put on more workrate heavy matches on the undercard.
Kings of the North (Darren Corvin, Bonesaw & Dunkan Disorderly) def X-Pac, Abyss and The Big Clown*1/2
If you thought the tag team of X Pac, Grado and Martina was as bizarre a trio as you’d ever see, then OTT may have outdone themselves on Night 2. This was an unannounced match, so there was a cool moment when Abyss’ music hit only for him also to be joined by the gargantuan Clown, who made his way to the ring through the crowd. The as-of
-yet unnamed Clown (Northern Irish former WWE trainee Tron) has featured sporadically for OTT over the years, usually as part of the mysterious trio The Munsens. He is a genuinely fearsome sight in person and seeing X Pac dwarfed by both he and Abyss on the ring apron was pretty hilarious. Corvin takes a chokeslam onto the outside onto his partner to get us underway. Throughout the match X Pac wears the bemused expression of a man who has no idea what’s going on as the crowd’s “Brexit” and other passport-related chants directed at the Kings go way over his head. At another point he tries to get a chant for The Clown going only to realise he has no idea what his name is. Hilariously the crowd are equally baffled as to what he’s called and are unable to help the grizzled veteran. It is fun to see Bonesaw, usually the hoss of the OTT roster, having to work from underneath when faced with the giant Abyss. The story of the match is basically the heels using every trick in the book to isolate the Big Clown, before getting the victory with a rather sudden roll up on X-Pac. This was a quick match which did not outstay its welcome. Indeed the match is really memorable only for the post match action, where Corvin eats the customary Abyss chokeslam onto a bag of thumbtacks scattered across the ringmat. The match continues the big push the Kings have been receiving since dropping the tag titles, as their win here follows victories against War Machine and The Mega Nasties (amongst others) in recent months. A rematch for the tag titles surely looms on their horizon.
Jordan Devlin (w/ Paul Tracey and Charlie Garrett) def Chris Hero***
This match-up placed Hero in a unique situation of being something of an underdog, as he constantly had to deal with not only Devlin but constant interference from the Social Elite on the outside. It’s nice to see him in a different role as usually he’s very much booked in dream match type scenarios with little story behind them. When the match is confined to just Devlin and Hero he is able to go into his usual bully mode with stiff strikes and slaps sending his smaller opponent reeling, much to the delight of the crowd. At other times he is outnumbered three on one and gets to play the face in peril, launching some really great comebacks. Fun as it is to see Hero show his range of versatility, the constant interference really affected the quality of the match, which quickly deteriorates into a fragmented stop-start affair. Every time the pace picks up and things get interesting, the flow of the match is interrupted by Garrett and Tracey on the outside. Even when Devlin’s cronies are eventually evicted from ringside, the relief is only temporary. Devlin throws OTT referee Niall Fox right into the line of a huge bicycle kick from Hero. With Foxy out cold, Tracey and Garret of course return to the ring and there is another extended sequence where Hero has to battle impossible three on one odds. The rather anticlimactic finish to the match comes when Devlin gets the win by pinfall with a backslide.
For me this was the most frustrating match of the weekend. I understand why OTT booked the match they did: Devlin getting a massive upset victory thanks to the Social Elite playing the numbers game is a perfect way to advance the promotion’s own storylines (which should always be the most important thing). But I can’t help but feel that the sheer amount of interference was unnecessary and the presence of Garrett and Tracey at ringside for such a large portion of the took away too much from the story being told in the ring. As we saw at Survivor Series in the Miz v Sami Zayn match, it is quite possible to have an excellent match but still book a screwy finish while telling the story of a heel who will win at all costs. I felt here we were beaten over the head with the Social Elite a little too much. Sometimes less is more. At the end of the day, OTT managed to book the best wrestler in the planet in a mediocre *** match which is the weakest by far of any I’ve seen him have this year. In the little cameos between Devlin and Hero it was obvious they have a much better match in them than this and I blame the booking rather than the two guys involved for what transpired.
Post-match there was a nice moment between Hero and referee Foxy (who struck up a really fun little relationship over the weekend) where Hero allows Foxy a free bicycle kick on him by means of an apology for him inadvertently knocking him out during the match. It is clear that Hero enjoyed his weekend in OTT and entered fully into the spirit of the promotion with little cameos such as this.
OTT Women's Title Tournament 1st round Match: Martina def Bea Priestly *
Martina comes to the ring looking much more focused than normal and she dispenses with a lot of her usual routine to put over the importance of the match and tournament. This is Priestly’s debut in OTT and unfortunately it is one she will want to forget. She comes across as extremely green throughout this match and not quite ready to perform on a stage this big. She doesn’t yet have much ring presence and her heel routine consists of noting more than giving the crowd the middle finger at any given opportunity. Thankfully the match is kept short. Martina does her best to sell for some weak looking kicks before launching her comeback for the win. Post match, Bea launches a further beatdown on Martina, positioning her as the face in peril for the final match of the tournament which starts straight away.
OTT Women's Tournament Final: Martina def Katey Harvey *1/2
Unfortunately this match fell completely flat. It was rushed and sloppy and did not feel in any way like the big, special event it should have been. Again, I’m not sure the two girls involved are to blame. I question the wisdom of booking the match in the way it was, putting it on straight after the semi final. Surely they could have spaced the tournament out over more than two shows and given the final a chance to stand alone as the important occasion it could have been? These women are two of the hardest working regulars on the Irish scene and they deserve better than this. Because of time constraints, the match was a brief affair with a very anti climactic finish. Furthermore the finish itself was poorly executed with Katey getting the pinfall while blatantly lying under the ropes.
I’m also not sure that putting the title on Martina straight away is a very good idea. There is no doubt she is one of the most popular acts in the entire company and on the surface, the obvious choice to be the inaugural champ. However, she literally has no regular opponents in the promotion except Katey. Katey’s credibility as a future challenger is pretty much shot as she was booked to lose despite coming in fresh against an opponent who has just had a match and was further weakened by a post-match beatdown. Surely putting the title on Katey initially and having Martina chase her for the belt over an extended period would have been more sensible? There’s a lot of mileage left in the feud if you position Katey as the heel champion who constantly cheats Martina out of victories month after month, before eventually being vanquished at a big show like Scrappermania in 2017. The story pretty much writes itself. As it is, the feud is pretty much dead and we’re left with a champ but no challengers: short term booking for the sake of a big pop on the night without seeing the wider picture. The post match announcement by Gerry Humperdink that Martina is going to face Joey Ryan at the November show further emphasises this point – they’ve gone to all this trouble to create a Women’s Championship and the first thing they do is line up a male opponent for her. Is there even any point in having a Women’s Champion if she has no one to wrestle?
Tyler Bate and Angel Cruz def The Body Bros (Carl Curl and Brian Abs) **
This was initially slated as the “Tyler Bate Squat Challenge.” Tyler makes his way to the ring to be greeted by his now customary sea of waving hands in the OTT crowd. Almost predictably, resident OTT jobbers The Body Bros are the first to answer Tyler’s challenge. They make their way to the ring without their leader Adam Maxted. A video had aired earlier in the show in which we see Angel Cruz describing to Bate how he has rendered Maxted incapable of wrestling this evening (the details of which are not revealed to us). Cruz’ gripe with The Bros dates back to The Invasion Supershow when Maxted humiliated him by taking a selfie with his foot in Cruz’ mouth (don’t ask). We get the usual heel promo from the bodybuilders where they question Bate’s physique before launching a two on one beatdown. Cruz makes the save and we have ourselves an impromptu tag match. The match is again your typical OTT midcard comedy match, without being in any way memorable. The highlight sees Bate squatting repeatedly with Abs on his back while Curl unsuccessfully attempts the same. Bate has the match won for his team when, in typical Cruz fashion, he tags himself in so that he can have the glory of a the pinfall. It seems as if Bate and Cruz are going to be a long term pairing moving forward. The tongue in cheek self deprecating humour of Bate is a good foil for the more over the top comedy in which Cruz excels and I look forward to seeing them team together more in future. After the match they appear to cement their friendship with an in-ring selfie using Cruz’ typically over-flamboyant selfie stick.
Ryan Smile def Marty Scurll****3/4
An incredible video airs, recapping the feud in its entirety: how Scurll has had Smile’s number since he debuted in OTT, how he has gotten into his head, how he sees him as beneath him and unworthy of his respect. Smile makes his way to the ring, a different Ryan Smile to the happy go lucky, arrogant Smile we know and love. His face and torso are painted: his entire demeanour is serious, focused, almost lost in a trance. He has come to war and his warpaint symbolises the demon he has had to summon from within to surmount this greatest of challenges. Scrawled across his back are the chilling words “Die Villain Die.” This is a man who has been pushed to the brink of insanity by his desire to vanquish his nemesis. This is Ryan Smile as we have never seen him before. A Ryan Smile that for the sake of his own mental health I hope we never have to see again.
As Scurll makes his way to the ring, we are greeted with one of many incredible images this match will conjure up. Over The Villain’s shoulder, the camera manages to capture the demonic, skeletal Smile standing in the ring, the dry ice from Scurll’s entrance routine billowing around him, giving him the air of a ghostly specter emerging from beyond the grave. The air in The Tivoli crackles with electricity. Despite Scurll’s positioning as the heel in this feud, and Smile’s as the valiant underdog, the crowd’s loyalties are very much split. There is a magnetism and aura about Scurll that draws people in no matter how despicable his words or actions. When Smile’s name is announced, he is greeted with more than a smattering of boos. This is an unexpected turn of events, and one that on any other day would have thrown the babyface off his game, even momentarily. Tonight however, he seems impervious to everything and everyone else in the building except Scurll. His stare never leaves the Villain for a second. He is obsessed. Even when Scurll tries to trash talk his opponent (a tactic he has used to good effect in the past) his mind games have no effect on Smile, who appears completely devoid of emotion.
The bell rings and Smile leaps into action like a man who has thought about nothing but this moment for the past month. He sends Scurll scurrying to the floor with a huge kick to the face and follows it up seamlessly with his trademark ring post dive, taking out not only Scurll, but half dozen trainees on the floor. It is a breathtakingly frenzied way to start the match, made all the more unique and memorable by the cold, almost calculated way that Smile goes about his business. The insanity continues as Smile teases a superplex from the top turnbuckle to the outside. It is almost as if all notion of safety and the norms of pro wrestling have been lost to him in his desire to destroy his opponent. For his part, Scurll manages to regain control of the match, hitting his own superplex back into the ring. He claws desperately at the eyes and nose of Smile, almost animal like in his desperation to regain the upper hand. A tilt a whirl backbreaker is followed by a disrespectful slap to the face by Scurll, his contempt for Ryan unabated by his opponent’s furious start to the match. Whether the slap even registered with Smile we may never know, as he stares down his foe with a look on his face that begs The Villain to hit him again. It is almost as if he gains strength from Marty’s offence. His defiance continues, as Scurll tries to wear him down with repeated strikes to the turnbuckle.
Even when he is selling Smile has an unhinged look on his face, almost as if he is enjoying himself. He screams “Fuck you!” at Scurll as he continues to work him over and for the first time we see doubt in the eyes of Scurll. Ryan turns the tide with a vicious headbutt. In desperation Scurll reverts to his tried and tested finger-break spot, one that Smile has had to endure on three separate occasions in this feud. To a man, the entire crowd recoils as the disgusting snap of Smiles finger cracking pierces the Tivoli air. Where before he has reacted in agony however, this time Smile keeps his focus. In a tremendous moment he grimaces and cracks his mangled fingers back into place, all the while fixing the Villain with a look of almost maniacal glee. He nails a massive superkick for an incredible nearfall that has the crowd on their feet.
The action moves to the ring apron for what will become known in time as one of the defining sequences of this feud. Scurll rocks Smile with a series of superkicks from the apron, one of his trademark moves. It is Smile’s reaction however, that sticks in the mind. He reacts to every kick by laughing like a deranged comic supervillain. As each kick lands, one harder than the next, his laughter becomes more unhinged. He bites the ring ropes like a man possessed. He seems impervious to pain. As the action returns to the ring Marty hits his “Just Kidding” kick, but to little effect. In a glorious turning of the tables, Smile seizes his opponent by the hand and snaps his fingers in a move that I can never recall Scurll having had to endure before. It is as if Smile realises that nothing he has had in his own locker has been good enough to put the Villain away thus far. Something exceptional, something special is necessary. He tries to lock on the Chicken Wing, the move to which he has succumbed more than once, but Scurll is wily enough to evade it. Scurll then steals from Smile’s gameplan and hits his own cutter on him for a nearfall. Desperate and running out of ideas, Scurrl tries to attack Smile with his umbrella, only to be foiled by the vigilant Foxy. However while his back is turned, Scurll hits a low blow for another incredible near fall.
The last weapon that Scurll has in his locker is the one that has yet to fail him in OTT – The Chickenwing. As he locks it on the air seems to suddenly escape from the room as the audience collectively undergo a sharp intake of breath. The move is locked in deep and Smile’s head and neck are twisted into an impossibly grotesque position. Perhaps Smile is just destined to never beat his nemesis? Perhaps Scurll was right all along. Perhaps he really isn’t good enough. It is these moments of doubt that separate professional wrestling from other art forms. Yet somehow, from somewhere deep within, Smile summons the resolve to continue. This was the night that things were going to be different. Tonight was the night that failure and giving in were not an option. He breaks the hold, emitting a chilling, almost guttural scream and the crowd joins him in this release of emotion, emitting a throaty roar of their own. The drama is not yet complete however, and Scurll is not one to give up so easily. He further weakens Smile with a series of Danielson MMA type elbows and locks on the Chicken Wing a second time, deeper and tighter than before. The drama is incredible. Every single person in the building is on their feet. After a prolonged struggle, Smile again reaches the ropes and again emits an agonised scream almost in celebration of another in a series of psychological victories over Scurll.
The finish to the match is as climcatic as it is appropriate. Scurll, panicked at the failure of his usually reliable finsher, scrambles underneath the ring for another umbrella as Smile lies prone on the mat, semingly spent. As Foxy is distracted by taking the umbrella from Scurll, Smile seizes the one he used earlier and strikes his foe to the midriff, a crippling blow in more ways than one. It is almost as if in order to defeat The Villian. Smile has been forced to become one himself. He scales the turnbuckles on unsteady legs, before nailing his trademark splash. Even before the referee’s hand has struck the mat, Smile knows that he has finally vanquished his most hated enemy. Like a man who has rid himself of a terrible burden, he emits a final scream to the heavens, a scream filled with relief at the great victory that is his and pain at the lengths he has been forced to go.
As his theme tune blares out, Smile collapses to the mat. There is no celebration here, no playing to the audience, just a man alone with his emotions. He sinks to his knees, weeping openly almost like a child. He seems overcome by what has transpired and the suspicion lingers that he will never quite be the same again. He turns to face his defeated opponent. It seems strange that a handshake could ever occur between two men with such a mutual hatred, but shake hands they do. Respect is sometimes only earned when you’ve taken a man to hell and back. These two will, for better or worse, forever be inextricably linked by this feud and each has left a permanent mark on the other’s soul. There is nothing left to do now but shake hands. It is the only way they can even think about moving on. Smile’s post match promo is as emotional as it is heartfelt. He had considered retiring in the run up to this match, disillusioned by being told he was too small to succeed in this business, or that his attitude wasn’t good enough. He points to the OTT logo, a logo he designed himself. He is a part of this company as much as this company is a part of him. He believes in himself because the fans believe in him. The show ends in a poignant moment with Smile kneeling, emotionally and physically spent, in the middle of the ring.
As a feat of storytelling, drama and the culmination of a long running feud, this is the best match OTT have staged in this, or any other year. While the likes of Ospreay have produced spotfests and exhibitions of the highest standard, the sheer emotion and psychology on display here sets it apart. This was surely Ryan Smile’s career performance as he told us a compelling story of a man driven to the dark side in his desire to defeat his arch nemesis. Tremendous stuff. Everyone should go out of their way to watch this match: Ryan Smile’s finest hour.
OTT WRESTLECON NIGHT 2
Good - 7/10
This show was the epitome of a one match show. Much of the undercard (especially the Women's Title matches) fell a little flat and Hero v Devlin was a huge disappointment. The main event is a match of the year contender in any promotion in the world and is worth going out of your way to see, even if you're not a regular OTT fan. Thumbs up based on that one match alone.