Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Resistance Pro Wrestling appears to be a work in progress, but one that has much potential.
Looking back at the “Black Friday”, I see a lot of positives, a bit of confusion, but a different take on professional wrestling from the mainstream – one that combines classic buildup with top level indy talent, and a sense of direction not often found these days.
Case in point?
The opening montage was spectacular. I worried about the DVD when nothing happened for 20 seconds, but the graphic design, music and buildup of the event blew away anything on the indy scene, and was creative and clever enough to match anything on the mainstream.
Another definite positive side is a sense of focus on Champions and specific, marketable talent.
While the Heavyweight Championship scene is immediately at the Semi-Finals of a tournament, it is a tournament, and one with impressive contenders. Harry Smith, Kevin Steen, El Generico and The Almighty Sheik are top notch players.
The Tag Team Title is up for grabs as well, with The Briscoes, heel faction of Team Ambition, Teddy Hart & Gran Akuma, plus a makeshift team of CHIKARA stalwarts Hallowicked & Matt Classic.
And the Women’s Championship is decided on this event.
By the feel of things, these will be Championships of distinction. The matches on the DVD (seven) show that there’s no overdoing it, the match lengths are solid, and there is a sense of building up future contenders. Of course, with smaller tournaments, there are definite possibilities with the talent on the roster, and by watching the latest of out Chicago, I know this promotion is interested and capable of bringing in other notable names.
The names being focused on at this point – Harry Smith, Jay Bradley and some elite talent of the American Indy Scene – are ones that already put Resistance Pro on the ‘must follow’ list. Of course, there is a danger that too much of a good thing could mean offers from the mainstream, but this promotion is setting itself up to be a proving ground, and that’s a very good thing.
Another big positive is the atmosphere and the visuals.
I’ve seen other events (on DVD) from the Excalibur, and this has an interesting layout, but one that shows well. There’s something about the closeness, and the almost definite need for the mostly dark backdrop, but the sight lines being somewhat off-centered and at a bird’s eye view (at times) all present a product that is anything but run-of-the-mill.
There are some negatives that come across as well.
I’ve had some emails with Dr. Keith Lipinski about the announcing, and while I pushed Chris Cruise as a viable potential, I think there was some confusion involved on that. “Rise” wasn’t bad at all, but a bit uneven on the commentary. “Black Friday” was even more uneven – Joel Gertner does the best introductions ever in the sport (albeit rude, crude and obnoxious) but there was something off about Danny Dominion and Gertner in the booth, and some awkward transitions (or lack thereof) that I keyed into… as the event flowed, Gertner came up to speed, especially with Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria, Tara…) and in terms of talking up the talent and explaining things.
While the booking was good on most levels, and especially because it hit on multiple levels, there were some head-scratchers. Of course, in an age where some promoters burn money for the fun of it, it’s hard to nitpick.
One example is having a semi-final that goes to a draw, and then another five minute draw.
It was clever that that heel picked up on the reality that a tournament where the other semi-finalist bracket produces no winner, the one who did win his bracket should get the nod…. But three-way matches are the expectations these days, and not the rarity.
Three-ways were once interesting, but now passé when every promotion takes every opportunity to create the reasoning for one. And sometimes book three-ways just to do so, which never makes sense to me.
Another negative is that while the feel was different in a good way, there was some same-old, same-old stuff, like feuding tag team partners … how does a makeshift tag team make it into the Semi-Final if one of the guys isn’t into it?
Kinda weird when you think of the logic, but logic in pro wrestling went away ages ago, I was told in a conversation just the other day with someone who knows a lot more than I do.
But enough nitpicking…. Let’s hit the matches.
The opening sequence was entertaining and interesting. Bringing out all the Heavyweight contenders was nifty, and having them cut promos on each other was good (even if it exposes Smith and Generico to the shining brilliance of Steen, and even to an old school manager like Rinaldo Piven).
Whatever rat Gertner stole that coat off of is probably better off without it, by the way.
Gertner showed a lot in working on his feet and setting up the opening match as the tourney match, playing off the awesome heel efforts of Sheik & Piven.
Thus we get El Generico vs The Almighty Sheik right away, and it works well. Generico can go, no matter who’s in the ring, but given an old school heel, he plays it up even better. Something was amiss with the announcing, as once Gertner hit the booth, he no-sold a lot of Dominion’s commentary. Sometimes understandably, but others not so much.
Then we get into the Tag Tourney, with Team Ambition (with The Canadian Destroyer, minus Davey Richards) vs Hallowicked and Matt Classic.
Gertner went overboard on how Classic has been wrestling forever, but the “I’m not tagging in” angle was perplexing, at best. There should have been some followup to it, other than the viewer noting Colt Cabana in a three-way later on the card.
Kyle O’Reilly does a great MMA style heel, somewhat like a Diaz brother, but I’m not sure anyone can do Diaz like a Diaz, which is too bad for pro wrestling in this era.
But I like the Team Ambition as heel faction, even though it doesn’t take long to play up dissension.
“Lonesome” Jay Bradley vs Icarus was old school awesome.
The only complaint I had was that Icarus did a 9.9 sell on the clothesline, then lost points every thirty seconds he held it afterwards, down to a 8.5 from this judge.
Bradley has so many mannerisms that scream Johnny Valentine, and while I’m well aware that a 15-20 minute no sell match would choke crickets today, there’s something about playing up that attitude and style for as long as possible, when building him up.
From the T-shirt to the nigh dead-pan promo cutting to the lariat as a finisher, there’s a ton of potential in this guy.
The second Tag Team Title Tourney match pits Teddy Hart & Gran Akuma (billed as Sweet Leaf) vs The Briscoe Brothers, and has plenty to talk about.
(It would have been great to have a Black Sabbath cover entrance song, but the oddly interesting entrance music was enjoyable throughout.)
D’arcy Dixon arrives to talk up herself and how she is guiding the Briscoes. There’s something about Dixon that is compelling – she has a great body and a resemblance to Elizabeth Hulette. But unlike the Miss Elizabeth portrayal, this is vastly more TNA than 1980’s WWF, and there’s something about showing too much, instead of teasing and tantalizing, that seems to be the problem.
It’s not about prudery as much as it’s about creating an image.
Gran Akuma arrives, without Teddy Hart, and that’s a head scratcher how they play up to Hart’s notorious reputation … as if the tag team name wasn’t already one nod.
Hart looks great, in an way that flashes neon, and once again (as always) makes it seem like such an incredible waste of talent that his career path – and business decisions – took him.
Interesting how they introduce Shane Douglas in the balcony during this pre-match.
For one, Douglas and Hart could compare notes, but it was amazingly clever to introduce the balcony before it came into play.
The Briscoes show that double entendres are not the exclusive of Joel Gertner, and then put on a performance that should be expected of the talent in the ring. With Hart and his flashy high-flying and Akuma and his underappreciated talents, it was worth watching.
It will be interesting how Resistance Pro juggles the commitments and realities of booking Champions like the Briscoes, Cheerleader Melissa and others as the promotion grows, but that’s also another reason for grooming talent and using others as guests.
The Women’s Championship was decided next.
Announced: Cheerleader Melissa, Miss December, Sassy Stephie, Simple Luscious, “Arika Cannons”, Taylor Made, Serenity.
Unannounced: Melanie Cruise
Yeah, I just gave it away.
I loved the gong announcing the next participant. I hated the “Arika Cannons” bit, even though the visual of the gals surrounding ‘her’ and beating ‘her’ down did justify it. Problem is, there’s no reason to play this awful disruption and somewhat demeaning angle when there’s a Championship match.
There’s a lot of talent in the ring, and a lot on display, and the match played out well for a gauntlet style. But even with the announcers explaining the “open challenge” aspect, there’s something off putting about the level of ‘official announcements’ and bringing in Melanie Cruise as a “surprise” and putting the belt on her.
Not that bad, but not a way to establish credibility.
We see three men vie for the label “King of the Night Time World” but this was a bit of a mess. The three styles involved were not going to mesh all that while, and while Petey Williams is awesome with the Dick Beyer inspired mask and … yes, I’ll say it again, the best name ever for this guy … well, Petey Williams is not a guy who should be in the ring with Cabana, and while the Canadian Destroyer is an awesome move, there was something not right with the visual of it being applied in this match.
And … what’s up with the Canadian Destroyer taking umbrage over his heel faction friends interfering?
But we then get to the Semi Final of the Heavyweight Championship Tournament.
Kevin Steen vs Harry Smith has some undercurrents of a dream match, with the potential of Steen at this stage of his career, and the reality that Smith may be getting the experience that may take him to bigger stages and to his legacy.
In the long term, Smith will gain much by being in the ring with Steen. In the short term, there could have been a few other avenues of working this match and building to the Championship. With Steen, I’d imagine he’s going to balk a lot more than anyone else on this card about a finish, and rightfully so.
While Smith earning the belt by defeating Steen and The Almighty Sheik doesn’t mean that much of a difference if in successive matches, or a three-way, there is something to be said about establishing clean finishes and ‘to a finish’ while setting the foundation of the promotion.
I’m not sure if Harry Smith will ever be the complete package that is expected of talent these days, but he has the wrestling pedigree, growing experience and definitely a look that will take him far. Does a Champion have to do spectacular promos to get over?
That’s the big question mark about Smith.
The question marks about Resistance Pro are a lot less problematic. Confusions will go away as the promotion hits its stride. From the sense of direction, the concepts of pro wrestling – especially in terms of marketing and building matches – are definitely answers that are understood. The talent is top notch, and the matches are different enough than standard indy fare (not always long, some differences in styles peeking through) that the product will be something to watch.
And I will definitely be looking for more.... and not just because of Billy Corgan's involvement.