OTT: Wrestling is Art
Dublin Fringe Festival Speigeltent Merrion Square – Dublin, Ireland
March 26th, 2016. Scrappermania 2. One of OTT’s biggest shows thus far. A show that happened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916, the act of rebellion that ultimately would secure Ireland’s independence from the British Empire. The main event pitted Luther Ward, the massive hometown babyface against Pete Dunne, the reviled champion who had held the belt for many months. A pulsating main event, in which Ward was lustily cheered on by a rabid crowd, carried away on a tide of nationalistic fervour. It was one of those nights where the babyface was not to be denied. When Ward locked in his crossface submission hold, Dunne had no choice but to tap out cleanly, fair and square in the middle of the ring. On that night, in front of that crowd he was never going to leave the Tivoli as champion. Some things have an inexorable inevitability about them. Some things are (or in this case aren’t) meant to be.
Fast forward six months to the Dublin Fringe Festival and OTT’s show in the world renowned Speigeltent. Dunne is finally availing of his rematch clause. Since the show referenced above, he has been on a tear, beating every challenger put in front of him, from El Ligero to Joe Coffey to Zack Sabre Jr. That fateful night at Scrappermania remains his one and only defeat in almost two years of competition in OTT. Where many would have been overcome by the pain and humiliation of that night, Dunne has been energised and revitalised by it and has come back a better man, a better fighter. While it would be an exaggeration to say that he has become an out-and-out babyface, he has slowly begun to earn the respect of the OTT faithful. Dunne is now widely recognised as one of the very best talents on the planet. Even those who despise him at least respect him. He is a bastard, but he is our bastard. This is the night where he has his chance at redemption and a chance to put the demons of Scrappermania to rest for once and for all. A chance to finally prove to those that hate him most that his talent is undeniable, that he is the top man in OTT once more.
OTT Wrestling returned to the Dublin Fringe Festival on September 10th after a successful stint there 12 months ago. Similar to last year, the show was a sell out and took place in the impressive confines of the Speigeltent with 600 fans in attendance. From both a live perspective and on VOD, the tent makes for a really visually beautiful venue for pro wrestling. The ring was well-lit, and there were clear sight lines of the action from all areas of seating. Compared to their regular venue, the Tivoli, the high ceilings and presence of a lot of casual fans attending their first show, the atmosphere was somewhat muted (more of which later) throughout. I was accompanied by my good lady wife to this show. She is not a wrestling fan in general and this was her first live OTT experience. I will include some of her thoughts throughout as she gives a good insight into how a new fan perceived the action and company in general.
Charlie Garrett & Katey Harvey vs. Martina & Rocky Mac*1/2
Our opener sees some intergender action. Harvey and Garrett have the look of a more settled long term duo, following Garret’s rescue of Harvey from the clutches of the Mega Nasties and Martina last month. Unlike Martina and Rocky, they come to the ring together and Harvey joins Garrett in wearing the thick rimmed glasses that have become a feature of his gimmick in recent months. Rocky Mac is introduced as being from his home county for what I believe is the first time, which warms the heart of this proud Waterford man. For OTT newcomers this match is a good introduction to the type of Irish-centric comedy that is a key feature of OTT undercards. We get the usual heel schtick from Garrett and Harvey, who revel in the anti-British chants from the audience. Martina is great on the apron here, constantly entertaining the crowd with wise cracks and eyeing up her opponent Garret “as a bit of alright” and begging him not to hurt Rocky’s “lovely country face.” We are treated to an extended comedy sequence where Garrett wrestles with his trunks and underpants down which the crowd seems to enjoy, but which leaves me wishing they’d get on with the actual wrestling. The match is structured is your basic heel vs face tag team match, with Martina making the hot tag after some good selling by Rocky. Garret and Harvey steal a win after Martina is knocked out cold by a stiff right hand from Charlie. The punch was so well executed and realistic that the poor ambulance man on standby legitimately had to be restrained from rushing to her aid in the ring!
Intergender matches are invariably a source of controversy and debate: my main criticism of them is that they are rarely if ever outstanding and this match is no different. As a continuation of the Martina/Katey rivalry in advance of the Women’s Title tournament in October, this was fine. Martina continues to be the most over and popular act on the OTT roster and it is interesting that she was by far Mrs. Jamesie’s favourite act of the evening. It was good to see Rocky getting some ring time here: one of the negatives to OTT ‘s use of so many great overseas talents in 2016 has been a reduction in in-ring experiences for the likes of Rocky and some of the other local talents, many of whom worked so hard to get the company established in the first place.
As a side note here, it would be remiss of me not to mention the commentary from Don Marnell during this match. While it would be a little rich to complain about his comments in the context of an over 18’s promotion and in a match that involves a wrestler pulling a used condom from her person; his comparison of Garrets punch to a date rape drug (amongst other comments) is bound to cause offence to many. I’ve been a big fan of the addition of commentary to OTT’s VOD product but Marnell doing his best Jerry Lawler impression from twenty years ago had me reaching for my mute button. He is a great talker with a fantastic broadcasting voice and quick wit, but he’s far better than this, as he went on to prove over the course of the rest of the show.
Official Result: Katey Harvey and Charlie Garrett over Martina and Rocky Mac via pinfall.
Logan Bryce vs. Travis Banks ***
Our next match-up sees Travis Banks returning to OTT after a successful debut last month, to take on everyone’s least favourite rugger-bugger Logan Bryce. Bryce is another severely underrated local talent who has the potential to be a main eventer if used correctly. He is an experienced performer, with great presence, solid fundamentals and some unique power offence. It is clear that he loves his gimmick and relishes his role as a heel we all love to hate. The match itself is a solid affair with Banks’ speed and agility blending well with Bryce’s power offence. At one point Bryce breaks out some unique and impressive back breakers using his own shoulder. Banks, for his part has a very impressive missile-like tope which he uses to good effect here, and his stiff strikes are particularly enjoyable when seen live and in person. He also shows a little charisma that many similar indy workers lack, in drop kicking Bryce’s rugby ball in to the crowd before finishing him off with a flurry of kicks to the head. One of the more significant elements of this match is Banks kicking out of Bryce’s lariat finisher. The finisher had been built up for more than a year as one of the more devastating moves in the entire company. To see a newcomer in Banks kick out of it here clearly shows how much the company thinks of him. To me it felt a little rushed and slightly wasteful as this could have been built up to be a bigger moment in a more high-profile match in the future.
As with many of the matches on the card, this suffered from the time restrictions imposed on the show by the Fringe Festival. This was two-hour show with six matches, with many of them feeling a little rushed as a result. Add another five minutes to this match and it could have been something really great. Both men came out of this match looking good. Banks is rapidly establishing himself as someone who can have a good match with anyone and I really hope he becomes a regular moving forward.
Official Result: Travis Banks over Logan Bryce via pinfall.
The Kings Of The North (Bonesaw, Damien Corvin & Dunkan Disorderly) vs. The Mega Nasties (Danny Butler & Justin Shape)**
Next up was a handicap match between all three members of the Kings of the North (KOTN) and Danny Butler/Justin Shape who have both fallen victim to their penchant for amateur hairdressing in recent months. Butler and Justin spent many years on the Irish wrestling scene teaming together as Team MEGA with great success, a fact not emphasised thus far in OTT storylines. It was gratifying to have this past history played up on commentary as there will be many newer fans watching from beyond Irish shores who did not follow or were even aware of an Irish wrestling scene back in the 00’s.
The match itself is decent, though I felt it could have been more heated given the animosity that has been built up between the teams over many months. Justin Shape looks to have slimmed down considerably in recent weeks and gave a good account of himself here. Some of the three on two exchanges looked a little awkward as the odd man out often spent a little bit too long awkwardly waiting for his turn to join in on the action. The Kings continued their strong response to losing the tag titles with another win here, as per usual via their patented roll up. Post match we see the Gymnasties come to ringside, taking out Bonesaw and Corvin with a pair of low blows. This leaves Dunkan Disorderly at the mercy of Beast and Justin who proceed to shave his head. If this is the culmination of a storyline that has run for many months it came across as a little flat and anticlimactic. I had hoped for a big blow off match with a Hair vs Hair or similar stipulation. Nonetheless the crowd are happy with the outcome and post match we see the classic Team MEGA celebration in ring.
Official Result: The Kings of the North over The Mega Nasties via pinfall.
Mark Haskins vs. Marty Scurll vs. Ryan Smile vs. Tommy End****
This match was initially slated as End v Haskins. Just as they are about to lock up, Ryan Smile’s music hits and he cuts a brief promo leading to the match being changed to a triple threat. Again, just as the match is about to begin, Marty Scurll’s music hits. Hot off his victory at PWG’s BOLA, he is here to continue the recent angle where he is portrayed as Smile’s nemesis. This was a great surprise for the live crowd and lead to one of the biggest pops of the night, even if the OTT twitter account had pretty much given the game away during the week. Scurll comes across as an absolute superstar here. His ability on the mic and the aura he has about him are those of a wrestler at the very peak of his game. The match itself is a high-class sprint, with Smile looking very much like he belongs in such world-class company. There are a number of little stories that intertwine throughout the match. As Haskins arrives into the company to make his debut, seeking to impress, Tommy End is here for his OTT swansong, on his way to NXT. The Scurll/Smile feud is furthered, with their interactions and exchanges having some great intensity and hatred built in. Mrs. Jamesie was very impressed with the quality of the striking in this match, noting, (much to my pride) how realistic Tommy’s kicks look in particular compared with some of the thigh slapping of previous bouts. There are numerous spectacular sequences and exchanges, too many to recount in detail. The highlight, as always, is Smile’s suicide dive over the ringpost, a jaw dropping feat of athleticism and bravery that never fails to get a huge reaction. The finish sees Scurll catching Smile in the Chickenwing, causing him to almost immediately tap out. The story once again is Scurll displaying his superiority over Smile, who seems unable to get the job done against the Villain. A top class match. If it had been given another five to ten minutes it could have been a Match of the Year contender.
Post-match, Scurll cuts a great promo belittling Smile and calling him a loser, including the great line “Ryan Smile, You say “Yes You Can”. Well no, Ryan. No you fucking can’t!” Smile proceeds to cut the promo of his life, passionately declaring his belief that he is good enough to beat Scurll and challenging Scurll to another match at Wrestlecon next month. Scurll duly accepts. This segment was fantastic and set the match up at Wrestlecon as a big deal. Based on his performance both in and out of the ring here, it continues to baffle me why Ryan isn’t booked all over the place and regarded as at the same level as the biggest stars in Europe. We also get a nice moment where Tommy End receives the adulation of the fans on his last night with the company. While never a true OTT regular, he has always put in top class performances on his sporadic appearances and he will be sorely missed across the European scene.
Official Result: “The Villain” Marty Scurll over Ryan Smile via submission.
Big Damo vs. Jordan Devlin***1/2
Our next bout sees a grudge match between Damo and Devlin. Damo is out for revenge after Devlin split him open badly with a chair a few months previously. The story here is the size and power of Damo going up against the speed, agility and technical prowess of Devlin. To even things up, Devlin’s fellow stablemate from the Social Elite, Charlie Garrett, accompanies him to the ring. They start off with some great chaotic brawling in the crowd with Damo clearly getting the initial upper hand. Alas the constant interference and distraction provided by Garret from the outside swings the momentum Devlin’s way. There are some really memorable spots in this match. At one point, Devlin manages to get Damo (who must be twice his size) up for a brainbuster, an extraordinary feat of strength. At another point he takes a massive bump from the ring, over the ropes straight to the floor, with no one to break his fall. It looked a particularly scary bump live on the night, but thankfully no injury appears to have been sustained. The finish comes with the Social Elite playing the numbers game to perfection as usual. A ref bump allows Garret into the ring with a chair. While the ref recovers in time to grab the chair from Devlin, he is sufficiently distracted for Garret to hit a low blow and Devlin gets a huge win with a springboard cutter.
This was an excellent match that came across better on VOD than it did live on the night. It was during this bout in particular that the true magic of OTT’s regular home, the Tivoli was most apparent. Beautiful and all as the Speigeltent is, it’s wide open spaces are less conducive to a hot crowd that the cramped confines of the Tivoli. In addition there were clearly a large number of casual fans who were attending their first show and were unfamiliar with the performers and the face/heel divide amongst the talent. This contributed to a somewhat muted crowd during this bout especially, though the two wrestler did brilliantly to get them involved by the end. This match is further evidence of the huge talent and potential of Jordan Devlin. He has future OTT champ written all over him and once again proved he can deliver in the bigger matches here. Post match we get a nice promo from Damo (who is also NXT-bound), where he laments the fact that there wasn’t a hot promotion like this in Ireland ten years ago when he was starting out as a wrestler.
Official Result: Jordan Devlin over Big Damo via pinfall
OTT No Limits Title Match: Luther Ward (c) vs. Pete Dunne****
Our main event sees Pete Dunne looking to reclaim his title from Ward. This match is fascinating on many levels. Firstly the crowd is very much split in terms of who they are supporting here, a far cry from their first match six months ago. For the first time I can recall, Ward was greeted with a significant smattering of boos on entering the ring. Dunne for his part, received a loud “Bruiserweight” chant as he made his entrance. Dunne’s demeanour also has subtle differences. He is nowhere near as aggressive towards the audience and even acknowledges those cheering for him with a little nod and wave of the hand. This was another match that clearly suffered from a lack of time. They go about 12- 13 minutes but they,managed to pack a huge amount of storytelling and drama into the time they had. The familiarity between the two is played up throughout; they are evenly matched in the opening exchanges. The visceral hatred that was palpable in their last match is absent here, with Ward at one point wryly smiling at Dunne doing a kip up. That is not top say that the intensity here isn’t of the charts however.
The match is clearly designed to set Dunne up as a babyface going forward. Structurally it is Ward who enjoys an extended period of working Dunne over, allowing his opponent to fire back from underneath in classic babyface fashion. One of the more memorable spots of the match is when both are perched on the ropes, with Luther heeling it up further by biting Dunnes’s fingers, as Dunne has done himself so many times to others. Ward proceeds to hit a huge reverse rana (there’s no such thing as a Pete Dunne match without a reverse rana after all) for a great nearfall. The escalation of drama towards the end of this match is exceptional. When Ward catches Dunne in the same cross face he used to beat him in March it feels like a seismic moment. Dunne shows his evolution by refusing to tap out as he did before, managing to roll Ward over for another great nearfall. Callbacks like this so rewarding for the long-term viewer and it is so gratifying to see a match where little details like this are woven in to the fabric of the story being told. The finish comes when Ward barely survives a tombstone piledriver and a Drop Dead, only to tap out cleanly in the middle of the ring to the very same crossface with which he beat Dunne six months previously. Even the way Dunne makes sure to apply the finisher while directly facing the Ward Section is a brilliant little detail, the kind that separates the good wrestlers from the great. The image of Dunne, the new champion blowing kisses to Ward’s stunned fans while the rest of the audience erupts with joy is one that will live long in the memory. Dunne’s status as a babyface is further cemented by a respectful fist bump from Ward. Twelve months ago the Fringe Festival show show ended with Dunne having laid out Ward from behind. This time he leaves having beaten him fair and square and having earned his respect.
The last few minutes of this match are as well executed and planned as any of the best matches in any promotion this year. I love the Japanese-style booking used, where the best wrestler in the company loses his title, regroups, comes back stronger and regains the belt six months later. It really felt like we saw not just the crowning of a new babyface champion, but the true ace of OTT being made before our very eyes. Indeed, if the match had had ten more minutes it could have been the greatest match in OTT history.
Official Result: Pete Dunne over Luther Ward via submission
OTT: WRESTLING IS ART
Good - 7.5/10
It says a lot about the kind of year OTT are having when this is one of their weaker efforts yet it STILL produces four matches out of six that were very good or better. Most of the issues I had with this show such as timing and atmosphere were as a direct result of their involvement with the Fringe Festival and beyond the company's control. There is more than enough here to please regular fans and fans of good independent wrestling in general alike. The storytelling in the main event and the four way are reason enough for everyone should go out of their way to see this show. Thumbs up.