Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
In an era where everything looks the same, no one dares make significant changes and the phrase “spinning wheels” is beyond unbearable, there are some bright, shining examples of professional wrestling promotions trying to be the cutting edge of the industry.
Beyond Wrestling is definitely one of the brightest and the best examples.
There are lots of parts and lots of room for development, but the working concept seems to be a promotion where the inmates run the asylum, where fans are at home and the audience at ringside are other wrestlers, and where points are earned for wins, so there is a structure in this otherwise anarchistic product.
It’s like Fight Club, but with a video game scoring, even if it is minimalistic.
The wrestling, however, is anything but minimalistic.
What’s awesome is that the guys (and gals) plying their craft in the ring are working for their peers, and while there are smatterings of polite applause, there are a lot more vastly responses of the emotional level, and that energy flows through the TV Screen. There’s little doubt in my mind that the experience earned in this promotion will make the wrestlers a lot better performers.
Now, there’s not a complete re-connection with the heady days of yesteryear when working a match meant telling a story, engaging the audience and wringing emotional involvement from that audience, but it is getting there.
The ‘canvas’ of the ring is a lot more like the blank slate of creativity from days gone by, when wrestlers actually did their thing on the fly, and even if spots are still spots, there’s an inherent seamlessness involved here that defies the inane claims of scripting and rehearsals.
Yeah, call me to the table on that, but this stuff is good enough, most of the time, to be vastly appreciated.
In appreciation, I’ll go back to the old style reviews…. with an eye towards hitting more of a higher level of criticism and avoiding the lower end of the same spectrum.
First up is a dream match of sorts, with the Super Smash Brothers (hearkening to video game!) taking on the always high-flying Aeroform (Mr. Flip Kendrick and Mr. Louis Lyndon). What began the intrigue was the teams heading to the ring, and the various reactions, interactions or lack thereof, of the wrestlers in the audience.
Picking out faces and costumes was a fun part of it all. Was that Pinkie Sanchez? Is that who I think it is? And wondering who’s taking on whom later in the show.
The cynic in me sees this turning into car wrecks, but Beyond Wrestling has a sense of atmosphere, and a strong sense of heels and faces that play out well. While they all interact, there are factions and there are faces and there are leaders involved, and they play out well as the matches go on.
The handhelds were a lot less problematic as I feared at first. Introducing handheld cameras seemed to be a big risk, and while I wasn’t always into the perspectives, those perspectives made it all more up-close-and-personal. Which was the intent, I could easily figure out. There were more fans involved here, and a bigger venue, but Beyond Wrestling’s energy and atmosphere were maintained.
High-flying seems somewhat contained in this place, but don’t count out the ability of these guys in the ring to bring it high, bring it from the ropes and bring it from the turnbuckles.
I think I saw more character in all these guys in this promotion than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Jon Harder (of WSU Fame, and wow, I still have an internet show to watch… sorry Jon) makes a big splash in Beyond Wrestling, and this really played up the face/heel dynamics, with a completely re-thought manager role emerging for Harder. It seemed a bit too much power for Harder up front, but the sense of him (and protégé Leon St. Giovanni) rubbing the other wrestlers the wrong way was extraordinarily brilliant.
JT Dunn as the babyface filled with fire was interesting. I thought it was going too much into the back-and-forth indie style, but there was enough storytelling with the arrogance vs. never-say-die opposing forces that it drew me in.
I’ve never been a fan of intergender matches, but Beyond Wrestling made me think about it all.
Aaron Epic vs Amber was very interesting.
I mean, very physical, very much professional wrestling, and … well, very interesting. There was no foolishness but they were well aware of the gender differences. There was no holding back. This was one of those matches where spelling it out only diminishes the impact of watching it, so I won’t spoil it. Let me just say that if you were like me, turning up your nose at women fighting men, this may just change your mind.
Four way tag team matches are nothing but a lot of craziness in the ring and out of the ring and hard to follow. Not sure if I’d suggest building up name and face recognition with multiple man matches where figuring out who everyone is becomes a major hindrance to the enjoyment.
I will give props to Beyond Wrestling for the graphics, but there’s just no way to keep up with it all.
Beyond that, there’s something very cool about the names D.U.I. (Anthony Stone/William Thorne) and Academy of Anatomy (Nick Talent/Mark Angel). Team Tremendous (Dan Barry/Ken Scampi) and the Connecticut Superstars (Dave Cole/J-Busta) not so creative in names, but excelling in talent.
If you like these sorts of matches, go for it. I thought they did it well enough (setting up the finish was really good), but the concept wasn’t doing much for me from the outset.
RD Evans vs Jarek 1:20
Big and bold is what these two deserve.
If I can condense the possibility, the creativity and the over-the-top potential it would be this match. RD Evans is spectacular here, as the heel who’s more famous than most, knows it, and has talent galore. Jarek 1:20 is a gimmick I’m utterly amazed is not or has not been exploited on the mainstream.
Note to mainstream creative types – go buy the DVD and spend a few bucks, because I’m not giving the gimmick away for free.
This match had story, character, dynamics and … well, professional wrestling. They went in and out of the ring, they engaged the crowd, they played to expectations and they completely exceed everything I imagined.
Evans is a guy who should be front and center somewhere, not just a sidekick. I knew that from his work in CHIKARA, but within a minute, he had me hooked, despite his goofy remnants of Archibald Peck’s costume, because of his insidious grin, and even without being accompanied by his CHIKARA chick.
Jarek 1:20 is more than just gimmick.
Evan’s boast to prove Jarek’s name as a prediction of the duration of the match didn’t pan out, but everything else played out amazingly.
Two more CHIKARA specialists are in the next match, taking on two guys from Jersey (Darius Carter/TJ Marconi). Here, we have the Throwbacks (Dunkerton/Hatfield) taking on yet another awesome name in Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The Throwbacks are just solid workers. Darius Carter continues to show incredible potential and you can easily see that Carter and Marconi and taking advantage of the opportunity of working in front of their peers and showing what they have with a more established team.
Very cool match all around.
Do I have to talk about Johnny Cockstrong?
Let’s just say there’s a lot of interactions and multiple man matches that play upon Beyond Wrestling’s approach and their heel/faces and the factions involved. Corvis Fear is sort of a lead face, general type. This team also includes Chase Burnett and Zane Silver – two smaller but talented guys I’ve also seen in Beyond Wrestling, and they make a talented group even with that other guy at the titular position.
Yeah, that’s what happens with stupid names.
The heels are Davey Vega, Gary Jay, Pierre Abernathy and the always interesting Evan Gelistico. Previous to this is some sort of Carnival Match, but I’m just not a big fan of the crazy comedy of Cockstrong. Sorry.
Speaking of interesting, don’t miss Mat Fitchett vs Jonny Mangue.
Mangue is the promotion’s lead heel type, with talent galore.
Fitchett is getting raves across the indie scene, and deservedly so.
I know I’m prone to saying it, but even the most cynical of fans will get something out of Beyond Wrestling. This is one of those smaller indie groups that is putting passion and talent in the ring, but more so, they are being creative and pushing different buttons than the mainstream products.
Many of the names here are likely to be seen elsewhere (Fitchett and Evans and Darius Carter to name three guys who definitely deserve a big spotlight).
But beyond the wrestling, Beyond Wrestling does things with the core concept and shakes things up to a point where cynical fans can start enjoying the product and not grousing about it.
That’s what I enjoyed most.