Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
The hype is certainly there for the professional wrestling project called Resistance Pro: they’ve made waves, hit the scene hard, and the Baron brothers (Gabriel and Jacques) have brought in one of the most intriguing mainstream names ever to guide the creative end of a professional wrestling promotion.
Billy Corgan is the lead singer and lead guitarist and driving force of The Smashing Pumpkins, and noted in many circles as a huge professional wrestling fan.
Which, by my understanding should be the first asset in becoming a credible creative force in an industry known by most fans as “pro wrestling”, but hey, we live in a crazy time and guys who hate the business and people who know nothing about the industry’s history have made millions and have deeply influenced mainstream products, so what do I know?
Resistance Pro, from the outset, is different.
Different because there is a palpable passion for the artform, a definitive investment in making the product worthwhile and an organization and roster filled with experience and potential.
All that is meaningful, but no guarantee of success in an industry with a history strewn with the failures of notable investors and celebrity appearances and promotions that seem poised (and all but guaranteed) for greatness.
One DVD does not make for consistency, and I’ve got the Black Friday offering cued up on my cheap DVD player. But Resistance Pro shows anything but cheapness in their offerings. The web site is state-of-the art and not just glitzy. The visuals are creative and clever. The talent on the roster and the guest stars and the surprising jobs done by two major, indy world Champions show that there is a lot of money being thrown around.
The product is a work in progress.
But that’s what should be expected. Resistance Pro still needs to establish itself, it still needs to find its identity, and it definitely needs to work out some production values. But what it doesn’t need is direction or drastic revamping. What I saw were weaknesses will work themselves out, and while there are some questions I have about a few approaches, I definitely have to say that the approach is commendable and interesting, and there’s very little in the way of insulting the audience, very much in the way of creativity, and a definite approach to building up matches, building up stars and building upon the building blocks available to this Chicago based company.
To extent the generalities before I hit the matches, one aspect that needs addressed is the announcing.
Before watching the DVD, I exchanged some emails with the always coy but erudite Dr. Keith Lipinski. Had I known he was ½ of the announce team, I may have taken different takes on things, but hey, we’re all here to criticize each other, and most of us take constructive criticism the way it should be intended.
The announcing was by no means a distraction, but it wasn’t always the enhancement it should have been. Mike “Supernova/Simon Dean” Bucci is knowledgeable, experienced and has lots of great stories. Lipinski is entertaining, knowledgeable and sly as a fox.
What’s weird is that their voices sound way too similar and in the middle of the action, there’s no way to figure out who said what. The pair added to a lot to most of the matches, but there were a few spots where they talked too much and may have let the action speak for itself.
Production values were much more of a disappointment: I love the over-the-turnbuckle perspective (ala Absolute Intense Wrestling), and a darkened club (The Excelsior is the venue) can be a cool thing, but when the atmosphere is so dark that a hulking member of Da Soul Touchaz can only be identified by his white boots, there’s something amiss.
Beyond that, there was a mixture of indy feel and mainstream approach. Some of the matches screamed indy, but the builds and the approach were much more than that. But let’s explore that a little deeper with the matches.
The DVD opens with a lady in the ring, dressed like a bodybuilder, with a body that looks vastly impressive – a lot different than the typical wrestler, but nowhere near the Phoenix/ODB direction. Darcy Dixon is the woman wrestler, by the graphics. She’s a decided heel, and establishing that seems to be the purpose.
There was something jarring about this as the opening, and the darkness of the background worked on some levels, but also gave it too much of an indy feel.
Melanie Cruise (RP’s Women’s Champion) and her entourage crash the party, but Dixon departs without a fight. Cruise is a large lady, not like Bertha Faye but somewhat in the direction of Awesome Kong. She’s imposing. Her entourage is interesting, to say the least, with a secretary type toting a small dog and another woman wrestler.
The segue into the opening match was clever. Melanie Cruise vs Serenity was a match where Serenity just didn’t look like she had a chance, and I did like the squash-like feel of it.
The kiss at the end was definitely to raise controversy…
Next up was a match billed as part of the Tag Team Title Tournament.
The P-Dawg Millionaires vs Robert Anthony and Mr 450 features the biggest mainstream name in Shawn Daivari, with his brother Arya, against “The Ego” of Anthony and a high-flyer. Anthony has a lot of potential, and he’s a taller guy and was “in Development”.
When the Briscoes talk about makeshift teams, this feels one of them!
The Daivaris are a solid team, but there’s a weird vibe when they seem to be playing tweeners, and the only way to call attention to Shawn is via his short WWE stint when he was one of the most hated guys on the scene by his gimmick. This gets played off reasonably, but just odd.
The match itself was way, way long.
I’m a huge indy wrestling fan, but it’s bad enough when top indy stars and notable mid-carders go 20 minutes in every match. With this match, it felt like an hour and was also the part where the announce team seemed to drone on as well.
Be forewarned on this one.
The Special Attraction Match follows: El Generico vs Pac vs The Canadian Destroyer vs Matt Cross
This match showed all the potential of Resistance Pro, and the failures at the same time. With some playing out of the product, this sort of thing should work itself out, but the point I’d make is this: El Generico vs PAC is a top flight indy match. It doesn’t need two more guys.
In essence, adding Petey Williams (who’s gimmick as The Canadian Destroyer is one of the most awesome evolutions of modern wrestling history, taking a guy who’s main weakness was his lack of personality, and marrying his biggest asset – the most creative finisher of the modern era – with a historical name of great significance) shouldn’t be a bad thing, and adding Matt Cross shouldn’t be a bad thing, but why not announce it as a four way to begin with?
While this saves El Generico vs PAC for a one-on-one down the road, it was disappointing to see the match marred by one interruption then another, and it also exposes the lack of structure of the product. With an ‘authority figure’ this can work. Without it, it means the wrestlers call the shots, and why should they?
Bad? No – not with this level of talent in the ring. But it wasn’t much of a ‘match’ with all the interruptions.
If there’s a potential home-grown superstar on this roster, his name is Jay Bradley.
I’ve waited decades to see someone do the Johnny Valentine gimmick, and there is a definite approach here. If Jay Bradley isn’t studying tapes of Valentine, Billy Corgan needs to buy them all up and hand-deliver them to this guy.
The methodical – almost no-selling – distinct and dry wit, plus the indifference (as in, not a tweener, but actually, demonstrably indifference) attitude just oozes from Bradley. The “Lonesome” thing is weird, funny and unique and adds another layer of mystique to it all.
Let’s watch the DVD to get the description explained, I’m not spelling it out here.
Jay Bradley vs Steven Walters worked on many levels. The squash like nature was awesome. I’m not so sold on the Walters having a head injury-and-being-goofy-because-of-it injury gimmick, but its fine.
Jay Bradley, however, is a superstar in the making, if he develops and delivers the Johnny Valentine thing, which he seems more than capable of doing.
Next up is what could be called a dream match, but seemed to be the place where Resistance Pro doesn’t have quite the identity yet. Colt Cabana vs Davey Richards is a different match in Resistance Pro than in Ring of Honor. But so different that I’m still trying to figure out if Resistance Pro wants to establish itself as a national level top indy, or a Chicago regional indy.
It might be splitting hairs to all but the most hardcore of fans, but there is a difference.
There is a perverse irony in that Cabana is a world class talent in terms of entertaining and sheer wrestling capability, that got two looks in that Development system, but despite making Santino Marella look like an amateur, never made it to the big stage. On the other hand, Davey Richards is the current “Best in the World” candidate not on that same stage, but would likely be treated less like CM Punk and more like Low Ki if he ever made it that far.
Here, Richards is the keystone of Team Ambition (with Tony Kozina & Kyle O’Riley) and no mention seems made of his New Japan Jr. Tag Team Championship or ROH World Championship belts.
Here, Cabana is the talk of the town, Chicago’s most favorite son, and a definitely worthy indy name.
The finish is surprising unless Resistance Pro is to be a more regional promotion, or if not, there needs to be more to this than was played out. But there was little chance of any sense of style clash despite the vastly different styles of these two guys, because of the mutual passion and knowledge of the sport the two bring to the ring.
The semi-main is a Number One Contender’s match with Cheerleader Melissa vs Sassy Stephie. The match pits two of the best looking women wrestlers, with two of my most un-favorite names, to set up a match with the monstrous Melanie Cruise.
This is a match I loved to watch.
Mainstream fans can have their plastic looking pretenders; give me two gals who can bring it in the ring, who look like these two, and who bring it with a passion. I’m not all for the looks, but I’m all for watching wrestling as it should be, between two real women with real talent, and there’s nothing embarrassing here.
The main event is what makes Resistance Pro a player.
A three-way (no DQ, no Time Limit, no Count-Out) with Harry Smith vs The Almighty Sheik vs Kevin Steen shows that the promotion is knowledgeable, hip and able to create some interesting dynamics. Harry Smith is a guy who should be on top of the world, and if he can get valuable experience, he could take Resistance Pro to notoriety, or put himself back on the map pretty quickly.
Kevin Steen is just everywhere.
Steen is an understated promo, an awesome heel in an era where “heel” is a term horribly misrepresented, and a top notch worker as well.
The Almighty Sheik is a throwback to an era where heels were heels, and heels were business. This is yet another gimmick waiting to be used on the big stage with big presence and big results, but remains far too edgy for modern times. Ironically, we can look back to Shawn Daivari for what happened the last time it was attempted on the big stage.
There’s a definite two-on-one feel here, but anyone who knows Kevin Steen knows he’s not a team player, even if the insinuations of big money rewards are played out to mostly comedic fashion.
This is another match that really didn’t need the extra faces, but in the end, the right result came into play. Watching Harry Smith and seeing gold around his waist is worth the price of admission here. It would be mockery to pretend like I’m the only one to say how badly the WWE dropped the ball on Smith, but that’s a long line of dropping the ball on potential for that company.
I find it amazing how so many have forgotten about the late, great Davey Boy Smith, and while I’m not one to knock the British Bulldog, when was he ever regarded as a talker?
Smith doesn’t need to talk, he either needs a creative voice to keep his words succinct and short, or he needs a mouthpiece.
I’m not so sure Billy Corgan in the ring with Smith is the way to go, but one thing I’ll say for the setup was that they pushed the ability to have pictures taken with the Champion and Corgan (announce duties by Chet Coppick were handled awesomely!) and set up the angle perfectly.
The Rhino appearance and promo has hit the hype machine hard, and much of it is deserved, but there’s an aspect a bit contrived after it all. For anyone to complain about the nature of the industry, piling those complaints on Harry Smith is rather perverse, to overuse that word.
But in terms of set up and more so, even to bother to set up the next match, it does prove that Resistance Pro is in the game at a level where most other startups utterly fail to achieve.
There is great synchronicity in Harry Smith’s position in the promotion. This is a promotion steeped in history, in understanding and potential, but with some glaring weaknesses and some notable confusion. But at the core, the promotion, like Harry Smith, looks awesome and given time, it should fill out its potential.
Resistance Pro is putting on another show this upcoming weekend, and if you’re in Chicago and can hit The Excalibur I’d say to jump at the chance.